DEARBORN, MI – Ward's Automotive Group has named Ford's redesigned Escape and Mariner hybrid engine to its 2009 10 Best Engines list. The 10 Best Engines list marks North America's only awards program honoring powertrain excellence and is designed to reflect the diversity of powertrains that will play a role in reshaping America's automotive landscape.

Ford's 2.5L, dual-overhead cam I-4 hybrid engine was the only hybrid engine selected as a winner. The judges praised its smooth gas-to-electric transition and overall quality feel. This is the fifth year of production for the Escape Hybrid, but the first year for the SUV to use Ford's new 2.5L engine. Previous models used a 2.3L four-cylinder engine.

"With hybrids in particular, software is such a big thing," said Drew Winter, editor-in-chief of Ward's Autoworld magazine. "The software that regulates how the power is transferred back and forth from gas to electric, when it's done badly, can be jerky and unsettling, but when it's done well, it really elevates driving pleasure. It's the difference between a superior powertrain and a science experiment."

The 2009 Ford Escape and Mariner hybrid models use the new 2.5L I-4 designed to run on the Atkinson combustion cycle. A new engine processor enables nearly imperceptible transitions between gas and electric vehicle mode. The hybrid models also feature a new powertrain damping system to reduce vibrations and feedback to the driver and other vehicle occupants.

The entire hybrid system in both SUVs was completely developed and engineered by Ford, which holds several hundred patents on this exclusive hybrid system.

While judges looked at traditional criteria such as power, torque, NVH, and drivability, the Escape's engine also was lauded for showcasing the improvements made in hybrid technology. Fuel economy and drivability also helped the engine top its competitors.

"One of the main things we look at is, 'Does the engine sell the car?'" Winter said. "We really feel like the Escape hybrid does that. It tells us it's a hybrid by allowing us to go fast and far on electric power, and it easily surpassed the EPA fuel economy rating."

The Escape and Mariner hybrids deliver fuel economy of 34 mpg city and 31 mpg highway, making them the most fuel-efficient compact SUVs in the world, according to the automaker.