But you can subtract a federal tax credit of $3,000 for front-wheel-drive versions and $2,200 for all-wheel-drive versions from that difference. So the hybrid will really only cost you $2,000 to $2,800 more.
Toyota's Highlander Hybrid offers fuel economy that's nearly as good and with a better reputation for reliability. And it does this with a 6-cylinder engine that gives more power and smoother performance. Plus, the 2008 Highlander has also been redesigned, providing more usable third row seating among other improvements. The Escape family of vehicles doesn't offer a third row.
But all that comes at a cost of about $9,000 more than the Escape Hybrid, including the tax credit. Toyota hybrids qualify for a smaller tax credit.
Overall, the Escape, Mariner and Tribute offer a lot of value in a hybrid SUV. The only real issue here is the lack of electronic stability control. Except for that, Mariner Hybrid and its cousins would be solid buys.