When the Los Angeles County Ocean Lifeguards looked for new emergency vehicles, they looked for something with an environmentally-friendly image. As a result, the Californian rescue agency is taking delivery of nearly 45 specially prepared 2009 Ford Escape Hybrids.
Looking as if they rolled off the set of Baywatch, these Escapes sport scorching yellow paint, accentuated with Ford-designed graphics and blacked-out alloy wheels. To manage equipment, each SUV sports a custom-designed roof rack that can handle the bulky spine and paddle boards utilized by lifeguards.
Ford also customized the interior of each Escape for similar purposes. 60 percent of the rear seat is replaced with a new aluminum storage unit, designed to store defibrillators, first-aid kits and oxygen tanks. Designers also stripped the Escapes of their center consoles, installing a special rack - holding up to three different radios - in its place.
Outside of those changes, the Escapes are essentially bone stock, making use of the 2009's stock 2.5-liter I-4 and hybrid system. Given the sandy conditions these will be working in, the lifeguards opted for the four-wheel drive model instead of the more fuel efficient front-drive Hybrid.
The four-wheel drive Escapes return 29 mpg in the city, 27 on the highway; oddly enough, the EPA doesn't provide any figures for real-world beach driving cycles. If you hit a beach in SoCal this summer, look for the Escapes - and maybe even the 'Hoff - at a lifeguard tower near you.