Nashville, Tenn.—Ford pioneered new territory in 2006 when it introduced the Edge, a racy two-row crossover. The Edge forsook the Explorer's pretense of bushwhacking off-road capability without surrendering to the jacked-up-station-wagon persona of the Freestyle. Customers responded by sending the Edge to the top of the crossover segment, where it has tallied some 400,000 sales.
At first glance it is quite obvious that the new Edge has received a thorough reworking of the entire front fascia, as well as changes to the rear of the vehicle. The new grille immediately brings back memories of the original Ford Sport Trac Adrenaline concept, although with a modern Fusion-esque style. Standard halogen headlamps are gone, replaced with projector headlamps for function and cosmetic appeal – HID projectors optional. Below, the traditional fog lamp housings have been replaced with LED light bars, similar to those found on the Taurus SHO or Ford Fiesta.
The SpecsDearborn's engineers started by junking the outgoing powertrain. The Edge now relies primarily on a more powerful and efficient 285-hp 3.5-liter V-6. Backed by a six-speed automatic transmission, the V6 achieves EPA ratings of 19 mpg city / 27 mpg highway in front-wheel-drive form.
Hot-rodders, or at least five-seat crossover shoppers who imagine themselves in a flat black model with a flame paint job, can opt for the Edge Sport. That was mostly an appearance package on the old model, but the new Sport gains a 305-hp 3.7-liter V-6 borrowed from the Mustang.
The Sport rolls on standard 22-inch aluminum wheels and has tauter shock tuning for more responsive handling. Despite the big wheels and stiffer shocks, the ride doesn't prove as jarring as the combination would suggest, and gas mileage slips only slightly to 18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway.
The most interesting news, however, is the Edge's use of Ford's new 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder EcoBoost engine, which is slated to become available early next year. According to Ford, this power plant will deliver 10 percent better gas mileage than a comparable V-6 with similar horsepower and torque, which means gas mileage of 30 mpg. We'll find out more details when this engine debuts in the 2011 Explorer this fall.
Out back, the cheap looking chrome housing in the tail lamps has been dropped for a more conventional red style, complete with uniquely stylized indentations in the tail lamp housings which have "EDGE" embossed into the plastic. Other changes to the rear of the crossover include minor changes to the general shape of the rear bumper and lower fascia, as well as the addition of an external handle and chrome 'wings' on either side of the Ford oval.
Although the outgoing Edge's interior was generally considered ergonomically sound and modestly appealing to the eye, hard plastic and a lack of design language kept the Edge's interior from being particularly memorable. For the latest model, Ford says it made considerable improvements to overall design, layout and particularly to materials. The new Edge enjoys a more upscale look and feel, along with simplified controls via new interfacing technologies.
Gone is the rock hard door panel plastic, here are soft touch materials with special acoustic dampening properties to help make the Edge one of the quietest interiors in the class. Ford says that the new Edge will benefit from an extensive combination of changes aimed at reducing noise in the cabin, including: a new and more absorptive sound pack throughout the interior, an acoustic headliner, a new robust engine cover, several subframe mount additions and upgrades, a laminated windshield, underbody shields and a re-tuned exhaust system.
There are fixes to the Edge's fundamental hardware too. The old Edge had a vague, sloppy feeling to its steering, a problem Ford has corrected by upgrading to a steering rack with reduced internal friction. Additionally, according to vehicle engineering manager Rich Kreder, testing showed the Edge's steering was uncommonly sensitive to the valving of the rear shocks, so Ford tuned the rear shocks' low-speed damping to improve the steering response.
Edge owners complained bitterly about the outgoing model's mushy, confidence-sapping brake pedal. In response, the company installed stiffer brake calipers, brake pads that grab more aggressively and changed the motion ratio of the pedal assembly to provide a firm, responsive brake pedal. "It was embarrassing that the old brakes were so bad," Kreder says.
The Bottom LineThe Edge finally delivers on the dynamic driving experience promised by its design, with a trio of powertrains that let customers choose an engine that best suits their needs. A sumptuous cockpit and increasingly functional electronic gadgetry‚ details that have contributed to the Taurus increasing its residual value, are bonus features that will boost customer satisfaction. These upgrades effectively distance the Edge from competitors like the dismally cheap Toyota Venza and should fend off the strong challenges of the Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sportage.