– Unique front-end styling
– Cabin space and features
– Good ride and handling
– Offroad capability
– Voice-controlled computer
– Tyres will be expensive
Sometimes an update is all that is needed to turn a middling product into something that is actually worth considering. The first-generation Ford Edge came out in 2007 and sold very well, but it was simply a low-quality alternative to the class-leading Nissan Murano, what with its average driving dynamics, poor a/c and hard plastics all over, made enticing only by its lower price. Come 2011, and all that changes with just a “simple” facelift. The new Edge, particularly in Sport trim, has become a car that can actually turn heads and surprise people.
The top-shelf Ford Edge Sport is a very special model, being the only Edge trim level fitted with the larger 3.7-litre V6 unit instead of the standard 3.5-litre one. To celebrate that distinction, the Sport looks the part, with a blacked-out front grille and what has to be the largest factory-fitted wheels in history. Slapping on 22-inch alloys on any car makes it look like an aftermarket special. And that’s cool.
The cabin is a huge improvement over the older one, in every possible way. Soft-touch materials line the upper dash, while cushy door inserts and padded armrests keep things feeling premium, even if the upper door sills are still hard plastic. Build quality is perfect, even though a couple of edges feel a bit unfinished. The panoramic roof lights up the cabin nicely, but there is also mood lighting emanating from various nooks and crannies, and that too in as many as ten interchangeable colours.
The leathery seats offer mild bolstering, not exactly sporting, but of course spacious, with good legroom even in the back. The rear bench can recline or split-fold down, but not fully flat. Cargo floor area is generous in the boot, but volume is limited a bit by the sloping rear window. The tailgate is electrically operated, but the system for that seems to be an afterthought, with a huge hydraulic pillar on one side of the boot opening handling the deed. There are cup-holders front and back, with various storage cubbies and useful pockets on all doors too, as well as a “floating” centre console cribbed from former sister-company Volvo that has storage space behind the stereo controls.
But the real brag-worthy feature of the 2011 Edge is of course the new-generation multimedia system known as “MyFord Touch” or “Sync” or something. A big touchscreen offers access to the superbly-banging Sony CD/MP3 stereo, any connected iPod, dual-zone a/c settings, rear camera, Bluetooth phone and even a calendar via a pretty interface. Ironically, there is no navigation. Widely touted is the voice-control system that can dial phones and change radio stations simply by being told to, but we could only make it work part of the time, as it only understands perfect American accents. Ford also chose to replace the entire console of a/c and stereo controls below the screen with touch-sensitive “buttons” too, which means having to look down to change the a/c fan speed. A bigger ergonomic flaw is that the hazard triangle button is also touch-sensitive and placed right below the touchscreen, so we inadvertently kept pressing it every time we fiddled with the screen while driving. All in all, getting used to such a setup will take a while.
At least Ford got the basics right, with extra stereo controls on the steering wheel, dual LCD screens on the gauge cluster showing various info, a seemingly stronger a/c with rear vents, remote starter, full keyless entry and starter button, a full set of airbags, cruise control and even a keypad to unlock the car without the key if needed. There is even a full set of video input ports, two USB ports and even an SD card reader in the central cubby, and the USB ports even recharges your device! Oddly enough, even the loaded Sport cannot be had with HID headlights and adaptive cruise control, those features apparently reserved for the Edge Limited trim.
New to the fold is a 3.7-litre V6 straight out of the base Mustang. The Sport gets to play with 305 hp at 6500 rpm and 379 Nm of torque at 4000 rpm, fed to all four wheels via a smooth 6-speed automatic. There are even paddle shifters to manually change gears, and they work well even if very slightly delayed in responses. We managed to coax a 0-100 kph time of 7.6 seconds in November weather, not exactly a rocket, but much quicker than the outgoing Ford Edge and even the Nissan Murano. It never feels fast due to inadequate low-end torque, but it moves the Edge’s 2033 kilos of bulk with reasonable haste when the revs get going. We also burned fuel at a rate of 15.6 litres/100 km, about par for a midsize 4×4.
With tyres as wide as 265/40 on optional 22-inch dubs, grip is a given. With supposed “sport tuned” suspension, our Edge had very good body control, with less roll than the old Edge, and superbly neutral handling, safely understeering at the limit as the turns got tighter. It isn’t a sports car however, with its average brakes and steering that’s firm yet limited in feel. A cackle of electronic aids, including ESC and ABS, keep things in check should you push the trucklet too far. Tyres for those wheels will be very expensive once it comes time to replace them.
Driving it around town is largely non-eventful, but the low driving position and long dashboard offer limited outward visibility. The view out the rear isn’t much better, but the rear camera and sensors make parking easy. And blind-spot monitors combined with ridiculously oversized mirrors make highway cruising safe.
Even with tyres that thin, the ride was surprisingly compliant and actually more comfortable than any offroad-ready midsize 4×4 with fatter tyres. It soaked up most road surfaces with ease and did so with minimal road noise or wind intrusion. Giving up on offroad capability makes this crossover behave better on the road than any regular SUV. It might have all-wheel-drive, but that’ll be more useful for rainy weather rather than blazing sandy trails, what with the low front bumper. There is no low-range gearing and such.
Ford continues its run as the most successful U.S. automaker currently, avoiding bankruptcy and consistently improving on its products. The Edge is oceans better than the old one, and is an interesting test-bed of new-age multimedia tech that is still rough around the edges, but can be upgraded any time, just like Windows on a laptop. We hear the computer might get a software update in the future to recognise more “local” accents, which would really fix the only issue in a vehicle that is mechanically at the top of its class already.
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