Edge? Why Edge? Why not “Corner,” or “Side,” or “Top”? Because we’re not talking about that kind of edge. Let’s not get all literal. This Edge is all about cutting edge, edginess, and the eponymous member of the band U2: Coolness, in a word. The Ford Edge is so-called because it wants us to see it as representing the cutting edge of automotive fashion. And in a way it does, as a member of that trendy species, the crossover SUV, and now, in EcoBoost guise, as belonging to that even trendier subspecies, the fuel-sipping turbo-4, hopeful successor to the V6 and V8 guzzlers of yore, available in the new Explorer, too, and in more members of the Ford family and relatives in due course. The manufacturer claims the engine attains the giddy heights of 30 miles per gallon on the highway; EPA estimates concur. Pretty good for an SUV-type vehicle. Is it true? Well, I devoted my attention to this and other urgent questions over the week during which a handsome metallic-green Edge EcoBoost Limited was my daily driver.
And handsome it is, for an egg on wheels. Actually, it looks less like an egg since it was redesigned in 2011, which means lots of chrome and character creases and 20-in. boy-racer wheels, all very nice, the ensemble less egg-like than before, with a neat little spoiler atop the liftgate, like a homeboy’s backward baseball cap. Prices of the Edge EcoBoost line start at $28,635 for the base SE, $31,940 for the in-between SEL, and $35,795 for the full-boat Limited like my tester. Not cheap, but you get a lot for your dough.
Outside, apart from chrome galore, my Limited had foglights and running boards, and inside, leather and faux wood inserts (come to think of it, they looked so faux they might be real), and oodles of comfort-inducing stuff like a first-rate Sony audio system including High Definition radio with 12 speakers, the MyFord Touch control interface that has been problematic in some Fords recently (but not in my tester), dual-zone automatic climate control with particulate filter, a leather-wrapped steering wheel containing cruise control and redundant audio controls, Ford’s SYNC voice-control system (which allows phones and other devices to be linked wirelessly and respond slavishly to one’s booming commands), a numbered security pad for door entry (nothing new there–I remember those on Crown Vics in the 90s), good ol’ satellite radio, automatic headlights, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a compass, and—ta da!–a “rear cargo management system,” i.e., a net and space to put things.
Safety equipment, too, is comprehensive, as it tends to be these days. Your Edge Limited will boast the full complement of airbags, full-cabin head protection curtains, antilock brakes (ABS), AdvanceTrak electronic stability control (ESC) with rollover protection, a tire-pressure monitor system, a rearview camera, a blind-spot warning system illuminating a small graphic in the rear-view mirror when another vehicle is in your blind spot (two thumbs up for this), rear obstacle warning, etc. It all comes together well: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has named the 2012 Edge a Top Safety Pick.
The dashboard is nicely laid out, but the touchscreen is a bit puzzling at first. Bearing in mind that I remember cars with no seat belts or airbags and overflowing ashtrays, I’d bet half these touchscreen-based functions could be thrown out the window with no loss to the driver, indeed one great big gain: No Distraction. For example, in the Edge the MyFordTouch functionality operates via two 4.2-in. LED display mini-screens in front of the driver, one on either side of the huge speedometer, and another 8-inch LCD at the top of the center stack. Result? Constant distraction. Eyes darting hither and yon, the driver is hard pressed to remember what he’s there for in the first place.
But enough carping; all you have to do is turn the screen display off. And for what it is, the Edge’s system works pretty well when you’ve got the hang of it–only, please tell me, Ford wizards, why is the driver’s view of the HVAC buttons (which aren’t real buttons anyway but imitation “capacitive touch” ones), blocked by the gear shifter when it’s in Park, which is the best time to set your climate coordinates? On the other hand, the Sony sound system is great, and the (power, heated) seats are superbly comfortable and would remain so, I’d imagine, even after a cross-country trek. In back there’s a little less legroom than in front, but the seats themselves—which fold flat, 60/40, for additional cargo—are comfortable and even recline for the afternoon siesta.
Cargo space without the rear seats down is ample, 32.2 cu. ft., although slightly less than the direct-rival Toyota Venza (34.4), and with seats folded it expands to 68.9; this compares favorably with the Venza’s marginally superior 70.1 cu. ft. Storage space for small stuff is abundant. The center console yields a deep well, and the glove compartment is suitably capacious. In total, there are eight cup and/or bottle holders and four 12-volt power outlets. The designers clearly had the family in mind here: a family of four, ideally, because the middle seat in the back is a bit of a joke, or pain in the proverbial.
Now for the road. The whole idea of the EcoBoost is, of course, for you to have your cake, by saving money at the pump, and eat it too, by sacrificing little or nothing over the V6 alternatives in terms of performance; in short, 6-cylinder power, 4-cylinder efficiency. The Edge’s other engine alternatives are both V6s: a 285-hp 3.5-liter that serves as the “base” engine for the line, at $1000 less than the EcoBoost, which incurs that up-front cost in the interest of greater economy, and a 305-hp 3.7-liter for the top-dog Edge Sport iteration. While the 3.5 exceeds the EcoBoost 4 in horsepower output by 45 ponies, it actually has 17 lb.-ft. less torque: 253, compared to the 4’s 270. And, not surprisingly, the V6’s EPA estimates are lower, at 19 mpg city and 27 mpg highway, as opposed to a claimed 21 and 30 for the 4. My overall average, with cruise control applied when needed, was 22.7, according to the driver-info readout, and on the road, according to the same source, the magic 30-mpg barrier was breached several times.
Great stuff, but probably not spectacular enough to dissuade me, for one, from one of the alternative V6s, if I were to buy an Edge; I’m just a V6 kind of guy. I prefer the smoothness of the larger mill. But the 4 is no slouch, and it’s undeniably more frugal, notably when idling and cruising steadily. I very much appreciated its willingness to weigh anchor and get up to 60 from a standing start in just under 8 seconds, with no hint of the turbo lag or torque steer that other reviewers have complained about and that I half-expected, given the engine’s strong torque and the fact that the Edge so equipped is available only with FWD. So: not much of a penalty there. In fact, overall the driving experience is very pleasant. The Edge is well-built and solid, without the hint of a squeak or rattle, even over punishing washboard surfaces: how Ford build quality has improved! Now—judging by recent exposure to the brand that, in our household, culminated in the purchase of a used AWD Fusion for the younger generation–it’s on par with the Japanese, and overall reliability is getting there, apart from the recent mishaps with MyFord Touch.
On the road, the Edge feels firmly planted and secure, even on roads awash with muddy runoff from the rains of early spring, of which we here in the Lone Star State have had more than our fair share (after six months of no rain at all last year: well, that’s Texas for you). Handling is predictable, and the steering is generally responsive. The Edge’s ride and overall dynamic behavior are more sedan- than truck-like, but you get the high, commanding view common to SUVs, and visibility all around is fine. I had no problems at all with the six-speed automatic; it shifted crisply and precisely, as a good transmission should. The fact that it didn’t come with a manual-shift option (available on other iterations of the Edge) bothered me not at all, since I regard most such systems as pure decoration anyway. Brakes worked well, apart from emitting a slight grinding noise first thing in the morning, when humidity is typically near 100% in our semi-tropical paradise; as soon as they dried off, the sound went away. (I’ve noticed a similar phenomenon on my wife’s non-Ford car.)
In sum, then, although I appreciated the EcoBoost engine, and would certainly recommend it for its virtues—torque, responsiveness, good economy–what I really enjoyed were the innate qualities of the Edge itself, which are numerous. It’s one of the most appealing crossover-SUVs on the market. Were I in that market with checkbook in hand, however, one of the V6s would probably be the engine to make me want to get up in the morning and go for a drive. (I always find that getting up in the morning is a necessary prerequisite for that.) But that’s what I say now, with gas prices still within the realm of reason. When they spike again, I may well turn into an EcoBoost booster.