Ford always built great SUVs based on trucks. A truck platform is what gave these vehicles great "bones" to go out into the wilderness and to work and play hard. These are rugged vehicles that get the job done. The problem is, all that added strength that helps them survive off the beaten path, adds considerable weight to the vehicle, requiring larger, more fuel thirsty engines. Another problem is the increased ground clearance on these beasts make it difficult for people who are not physically fit to climb aboard without assistance.
In reality, most people who buy these vehicles rarely if ever take them off-road any further than their driveway. SUVs are purchased for there convenience, their interior space and, well, their rugged good looks. People who own them also like the idea that they sit higher than in a car and could see further down the road.
In recent years, a better choice has emerged for this type of buyer. It is called a CUV, or Crossover Utility Vehicle. A CUV has all the looks, space utilization and upright seating of an SUV, but it is built using a passenger car platform and running gear. Today, these new crossover vehicles make up the fastest growing segment in the automotive industry and that growth has accelerated since recent natural disasters have blasted fuel prices into orbit.
The new Ford Edge is a prime example of what a CUV is and should be. Let's take a look...
The first thing that catches your eye when you look at the new Ford Edge is its teeth. That is how Peter Horbury Executive Director of Ford North America Design, refers to the signature three bar chrome grill that has become the proud face of Ford. It's a fresh face that makes people stop and look. There is no mistaking that face for anything but a Ford.
The styling of the new Edge is fresh and alive. It is the kind of car people are proud to have sitting in their driveways. Just one look at the photo at the top of this page and I think you will agree. No, that color is not called Golden Gate Bridge Orange, it is Blazing Copper Metallic and in my opinion, it brings out the best in the Ford Edge.
My first impression of the Edge, when I saw it unveiled at the 2006 Detroit auto show in January, was love at first sight. The styling was clean, crisp, distinctive and unmistakably Ford. The wheels were pushed out to the corners of the vehicle, maximizing interior space. Everyone at the unveiling thought that it really looked cool.
In October 2006, I was invited out to San Francisco to get a closer look at this new Crossover and had plenty of wheel time to put the Edge through its paces.
Behind the wheel, the Edge had an airy open feel and an attractive interior, but it was the exterior styling that set the Edge apart from its competition. The clean sculptured styling (not to mention the Blazing Copper paint) turned plenty of heads that day and we received more than a few thumbs-up signs from passersby. The styling is what is going to sell the Edge and there is nothing about the rest of the car that should stand in the way. My first drive told me that this is a highly competent vehicle that is supremely comfortable and easy to drive.
Ford has decided that this vehicle will have two rows of seats instead of the usual 3 rows found on a number of other mid-sized SUV's and CUVs. The two rows are spread out so there is plenty of stretch-out space to seat five full grown adults comfortably. When you try to squeeze 3 rows into a mid-sized vehicle, no one in the middle row that is over 5'8" tall can be comfortable unless the third row is designed only for children.
Ford's decision to go with two rows instead of three was a bold move considering that the new CEO of Ford, Alan Mulally, was a former top executive of Boeing, a company that prided itself on packing the maximum number of people into the smallest space possible for hours on end. (don't mind me, I typed this paragraph while I was on a six hour flight back to New York from San Francisco in a Boeing jet...seated in coach...between a sumo wrestler and a football player...where I had to pay extra if I wanted lunch instead of peanuts...)
On our top-of-the-line SEL model, the gauge faces were white with black markings that were easy to read at a glance. The steering wheel had two columns of buttons that controlled the cruise system, sound system and even the fan speed and driver's side temperature.
I found the driving position well laid out with easy to decipher controls and gauges. The steering wheel can tilt as well as telescope so drivers of all sizes will be able to find a comfortable position without having to sit too close or too far from the steering wheel.
What I liked best about the Edge was the front seat comfort. I had no problem spending hours in the drivers seat and felt refreshed after my stint behind the wheel. This has to be the best front seat on any car this side of $40,000. Go check out an Edge at a Ford showroom and let me know if you agree.
If I have one complaint about the driver's seat, it is the fact that it is only six-way power operated with a manual recline. Most other vehicles in this class have an eight way power seat where the recline is also power operated.
Our test car was equipped with the optional GPS navigation system which was easy to use, but the best feature of this system was that it had real radio station select buttons across the top of the navigation screen. Way to go Ford.
Most navigation systems lose the six station select buttons in favor of a display screen for the radio that you first have to find before you can choose a station. Sure, you could use the steering wheel control to skip through each station until you find the one you want, but to me, that is annoying. Doubly so for a front seat passenger that has no idea how to use the system. As far as I'm concerned, every car should have 6 station select buttons and two knobs, one for volume and the other to run through all available stations, just like it has been for decades. I have yet to find any newer systems that even come close to that simple approach.
Two easily accessible cup holders were molded into the console within easy reach of driver and front passenger. There was also a bottle holder in each front door. The console glove compartment was huge. It was large enough to swallow a laptop computer or a large handbag. Moveable inserts can be used to customize the space however you see fit. A 12 volt tap was inside the compartment as well as a built in slot to keep wires neatly arranged.
The rear seat will comfortably hold three people. The center seat position has a headrest that is built into the folding armrest. This is a novel idea. If no one is sitting there, you can fold the armrest down so that the center headrest is not in the driver's rear view. There are two cup holders for the rear passengers built into that armrest and are available with the armrest down. Of course, if someone is sitting in the center seat, everyone in back will have to hold on to their drinks. Win some, lose some.
The 60/40-split second row seatbacks can recline up to 15 degrees for added comfort on long trips. Using the same lever, you can flip the rear seatbacks forward to form a flat load floor. When I opened the rear hatch of our test car, there were two buttons on the left wall of the cargo area which were part of an option package. Pushing these buttons will electrically unlatch the rear seatbacks allowing them to flip forward under spring pressure. This feature was part of the Seating Flexibility Package which also included leather upholstery and a 6 way power front passenger seat. On this setup, the front passenger seatback can also be flipped forward to form a flat area that will extend the load floor so that you can carry an 8 foot long object and still close the hatch.
Our loaded test vehicle had the optional Vista Roof which means that the entire roof is made of tinted glass. The front halfwill open and slide over the rear section to provide an opening that measures 27.3- by 29.4-inches. The fixed rear glass section measures 15.75- by 31.3-inches. Dual powered sunshades can be closed for a more cozy atmosphere or opened to let the sun in.
One thing that might sway you if you are considering the Vista Roof is that you can't have a roof rack and you can't order a roof mounted rear entertainment system. Ford tells me that a dealer can install a very nice entertainment system with a pair of LCD screens mounted to the backs of the front seat headrests instead. But a roof rack is out if you want to see sky. A roof rack is available on vehicles with the standard roof.
During our daylong drive, we put a couple of hundred miles on our Edge and came away with some positive impressions. On the highway, the Edge was so quiet, it almost felt like I had earmuffs on. When we turned off the highway onto some less well maintained roads, the solid body structure made the car feel very tight and well put together. The ride actually felt soft, absorbing most of the road irregularities with nary a squeak, rattle or groan to upset its composure.
The Edge felt stable and secure on the freeway with good directional stability. When we got to some winding mountain roads, the Edge went where we pointed it with little fanfare. Cornering, while not completely flat, was competent and reassuring. This may not be a sports car, but the steering felt responsive and the handling was safe and predictable despite the soft ride.
The Ford Edge marks the first use of the all-new Duratec 35 engine. This is a 3.5 liter V6 that will also find its way into a number of other Ford, Mercury and Lincoln models in the near future. This thoroughly new, lightweight power plant is rated at a strong 265 horsepower and 250 pounds feet of torque. The engine is coupled to the very competent 6 speed automatic transmission that drives the front wheels. Also available is an Intelligent all-wheel drive option for all weather traction and control.
This new DOHC 24 valve engine uses variable cam timing on the intake valves for improved efficiency as well as an intelligent electronic throttle body, which receives input from a gas pedal sensor to read and interpret the drivers intentions. This allows the engine to run at maximum efficiency for both performance and fuel economy.
The transmission is controlled by a standard console shifter that may curtail the fun of the more performance-oriented drivers among us. This is because the shifter has no manual mode to allow a driver to select individual gears when the urge is present. The shifter choices for the Edge are limited to Park, Reverse, Neutral, Drive and Low. Boring. It is hard to understand why Ford chose this route for many of their models. With computer controlled transmissions, it is just a matter of some software changes and a slightly more flexible shifter mechanism to incorporate the manual shift mode feature into their products.
This is not a big issue for most people who would choose the Edge, because they would never use that feature anyway. Heck, I rarely use it unless I'm testing a car, or negotiating a twisty mountain road as fast as possible. For 99 percent of my driving, I just place the selector in Drive and go, so for me, this certainly wouldn't be a deal breaker.
While we don't have 0 to 60 acceleration times yet, I would estimate that it should be in the 7.5 second range. Normal acceleration felt effortless and smooth and the exhaust sounded rich and mellow under full throttle. At light throttle, the six speed automatic shifted almost imperceptibly. This is a refined powertrain that Ford predicts will achieve highway mileage figures in the mid 20s placing it near or at the top of the mid-sized CUV category.
Safety is always a major concern when buying a new car and Ford has you covered there. The Edge includes all modern safety features as standard equipment, including: 4 wheel disc brakes with ABS, AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control, front seat side airbags and curtain airbags for front and rear passengers.
Roll Stability Control is a Ford safety development that is being incorporated on tall vehicles like SUV's and CUV's. It works similarly to stability control where the computer monitors the driver's intended path and intervenes when it looks like the vehicle is beginning to skid out of control. If it looks like the driver is about to lose control, the system will apply individual brakes and reduce engine power until the vehicle is brought back to the driver's intended path.
On Ford SUV's with Roll Stability Control, an additional sensor measures whether the vehicle is going to tip over. If the system detects an impending rollover, it will first attempt to cancel the roll by applying individual brakes and controlling the throttle, but if it predicts that the vehicle is definitely going to roll, it will deploy the curtain air bags before any impact.
These new stability systems work as advertised and are credited with saving many lives and many more fenders. TheNational Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants manufacturers to incorporate these systems into every new vehicle manufactured by 2012. A decision has not yet been made to make this a law.
If you must have a vehicle with 3 rows of seats, Ford has you covered with the Freestyle and theExplorer and soon to be announced Ford Farelane. If you want a CUV that handles and performs more like a sports sedan, look at the Mazda CX-7. However, if you want an attractive, well laid out CUV that seats 5 and can take you cross country in comfort and style, the Ford Edge is hard to beat.