First Test: 2011 Ford Edge
Ford Tries to Maintain an Edge in the Crossover Market
Ford's product success under Alan Mulally has been as much about keeping current models fresh as introducing new models. The company's "facelift" of the 2006 Fusion, a pretty good midsize car, expanded into what the business calls a "major-minor" mid-cycle change and captured our 2010 Car of the Year award. The 2010 Ford Mustang got new sheetmetal, tighter handling with the optional track package and a much improved interior, then got much-needed new V-8 and V-6 engines for 2011.
So Ford hopes to spread this magic to its burgeoning line of crossover/utility vehicles, both its substantially new Taurus-based Explorer (see the 2006-10 Freestyle/Taurus X) and its midsize, two-row Edge.
Big news is that the Edge will be the debut model for Ford's 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine, a turbocharged gas direct-injection four-cylinder that's expected to make about 230 horsepower and rival the base four-cylinder Chevrolet Equinox for fuel economy. The EcoBoost won't be available in the new Edge until early next year, however, so we were limited to the '11 Edge's two V-6s for our first test.
Base engine remains the 3.5-liter V-6 with variable cam timing, again coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission. With standard front-wheel-drive, our SEL model is rated 19 mpg city, 27 mpg highway by the EPA. Fewer and fewer people, even in Northern states, are opting for all-wheel-drive in this type of crossover -- if you do, city and highway fuel economy drops by 1 mpg each. For '11, the 3.5's horsepower rises by 20 in the Edge, to 285, and it makes 253 pound-feet of torque.
Until the EcoBoost arrives, the big powertrain news is sideways installation of the Mustang's new 3.7-liter V-6 standard and only available on Edge Sport. That model comes with standard 20-inch wheels and starts at $36,995 ... almost Lincoln territory. (The 3.7-liter engine also is standard in the new, '11 Lincoln MKX.) As in the Mustang, the Edge Sport's 3.7-liter is rated 305 horsepower and 280 pound-feet. All the press fleet Sports are likely to come with the flashy, optional 22-inch polished aluminum wheels, and that's what we got.
Impressive as the 3.7 is in the Mustang, in the Edge, it has a lot of sheetmetal to move. The AWD Sport's 0-60 mph time was half a second slower than the time for our 285-horsepower FWD SEL model. Some of the SEL's advantage comes from lower-spec options, including four inches less wheel diameter contributing to unsprung weight. Ford says the Sport weighs about 200 pounds more than a similarly equipped standard Edge. Our AWD Sport tipped the scales at 4,405 pounds, 330 pounds heavier than our FWD SEL.
The 22s, shod in P265/40WR-22s with a tread based on the Mustang GT's all-season options, pay off in terms of handling grip. The Sport circled Motor Trend's Figure Eight test at a carlike 27 seconds-flat and 0.65 g average.
While the extra-wide tires and stiffer springs and shocks has a lot to do with the Sport's handling prowess, you can't ignore the way Ford is coming into its own in chassis development. It is benefitting from its European engineering expertise. In recent years, we've criticized Ford for deleting any type of manual-shifting control in various models with six-speed automatics. All those gears, and you can't shift them yourself. The Edge Sport excels in correcting this with crisp-shifting steering wheel paddles. Even non-Sport Edges come with manumatic control, though it's the inconvenient shifter-knob +/- button, good only when you absolutely must upshift or downshift on mountain roads.
Conversely, the Edge Sport suffers a fatal flaw: its brakes. Even on the 22-inch wheels, both the FWD and AWD Sport come with the same brakes as the AWD non-Sport Edges.
Edge and Edge Sport have excellent safety ratings, thanks to the latest in airbag technology, plus standard AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control and four-channel anti-lock discs.
Our Sport's best 60-0 mph braking distance of 124 feet improves on the FWD SEL's mediocre 139 feet, but our tester reports that the Sport's best stop was all about the tires. A second 0-60 mph stop took the Sport a miserable 148 feet. Our tester let the brakes cool down, then recorded a third stop of 155 feet.
Similarly, the Edge SEL's stopping distances varied from 139 to 153 feet. Compare this with a new Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo, tested at the same time, with 60-0 mph distances of 126, 126 and 127 feet in three stops. A Grand Cherokee Overland recorded 136, two 138s and 137 feet.
Such brake performance could be a deal-breaker.
Too bad, because the Sport's handling gains easily outpaced any ride degradation. It can carve up a mountain road with minimal road noise. Those big 22s do contribute to a lot of kickback in the steering wheel, however, and some staffers prefer the comfortable, relaxed ride of the SEL as more appropriate for the family crossover. The SEL feels cushy and compliant without wallowing. It's a good handling package.
There's plenty of entertainment to be had aside from the drive experience, thanks to the MyFord updated Sync system and premium Sony audio system. It was part of a $2,870 package on our SEL that also includes a rearview camera, leather-trimmed seats and ambient lighting, and it's standard on the Sport.
Still, Sync may not be for everybody. To technoids like Frank Markus, it's essential voice-activated control of your navigation, entertainment and temperature control systems. To yours truly, it's too fussy, like trying to enter a customer complaint on an automated phone operator system. Sync often requires three or four voice commands in place of the twist of a control knob. Markus did complain about the cheap feel of the turn-signal stalk, and the way it returns without indenting, BMW-style.
Also, the driver must change chassis settings through a multi-step steering wheel control that displays options on the left corner of the instrument panel. Like in many crossovers, the control seems hidden, as if to prevent most drivers from disabling stability controls. Most Edge owners, even Edge Sport owners, will simply ignore it.
Sync and MyFord are all wrapped in a state-of-the-art interior. Material quality and fit-and-finish are among the best for a middle-priced model, and the design and coherence of the metal, wood, vinyl and leather tone choices is better than in many imports. The Sport comes with 10-way driver's and six-way front passenger's power seats, though the driver's seat isn't the most comfortable in Edge's class.
The inviting interior and the MyFord controls will be enough to win over many crossover buyers. Can Ford conquer the crossover market with a full line of sub-segment models, the way it conquered the '90s SUV market with the body-on-frame Explorer? Now, Ford tackles Chevrolet Equinox and Terrain with the Escape, Edge, the new Explorer and Flex.
Year to date, before Ford has sold any of the new Explorers, Traverse outsold Flex by nearly 3:1, while Escape is beating the production-constrained Equinox, 114,000 to 62,000. And Ford has also topped Equinox with about 65,000 of its old Edges. Excepting its sub-standard brakes, the new Edge is a much-improved model. It's not improved to the level of the Fusion, though, and it might not be sustainable as a 'tweener with a little more interior utility than the Escape and nearly the heft of the new Explorer.
|2011 Ford Edge SEL||2011 Ford Edge Sport|
|Price as tested||$35,055||$40,535|
|Vehicle layout||Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door, SUV||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door, SUV|
|Engine||3.5L/280-hp/253-lb-ft DOHC V-6||3.7L/305-hp/280-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|Curb weight (f/r dist)||4075 lb (59/41%)||4,405 lb (58/42%)|
|Wheelbase||111.2 in||111.2 in|
|Length x width x height||184.2 x 76.0 x 67.0 in||184.2 x 76.0 x 67.0 in|
|0-60 mph||7.1 sec||7.6 sec|
|Quarter mile||15.7 sec @ 91.0 mph||15.9 sec @ 88.9 mph|
|Braking, 60-0 mph||139 ft||124 ft|
|Lateral acceleration||0.76 g (avg)||0.82 g (avg)|
|MT Figure Eight||27.9 sec @ 0.62 g (avg)||27.0 sec @ 0.65 g (avg)|
|EPA city/hwy fuel econ||19/27 mpg (est)||17/23 mpg (est)|
|CO2 emissions||0.88 lb/mile||1.01 lb/mile|
|MT observed fuel econ||16.9 mpg||14.4 mpg|