DEARBORN, MIThe 2009 Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner compact sport utility vehicles added to Ford's top-safety-rated vehicles by earning five stars in each of the government's crash-worthiness tests. The results top the Toyota RAV-4 and, with the 2009 Escape's improved fuel efficiency, offer better combined safety and fuel efficiency ratings than the Honda CR-V, according to the company.

2009 Escape Hybrid and Mariner Hybrid also achieved five-star ratings, the highest possible scores, in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tests to outpace the Toyota Highlander Hybrid and Toyota Prius. The Escape Hybrid arrived in 2005 as the world's only hybrid sport utility vehicle and today remains the only sport utility to offer at least 30 mpg city and highway ratings.

The 2009 Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner feature feature a full array of standard safety equipment, including dual front airbags, headliner mounted side curtain airbags, four-wheel anti-lock brakes, Ford-exclusive AdvanceTrac with RSC (Roll Stability Control), and tire pressure monitoring system.

Ford and Mercury compact SUVs get some of their core strength from selective use of high strength steel in the body structure. The use of high-strength steel in the B-pillars to help protect passengers in front and side impacts is only part of their robust safety profile. The gas and hybrid electric versions share identical safety architecture.

The 2009 Escape and Mariner's new engine delivers 20 mpg (city) and 28 mpg (highway) in fuel economy when equipped with the new six-speed transmission, as compared to the previous model's smaller-displacement 2.3-liter engine and four-speed automatic. Escape Hybrid and Mercury Hybrid also will feature a version of the new engine that uses the fuel-efficient Atkinson Cycle for combustion.