Maybe you've heard about this outfit out of Dearborn, Michigan, called Ford Motor Corporation.
Wait, what? Oh, right. Ford Motor Company (FMC). Anyway, this group of men and women and machines is apparently on something of a roll lately. They are a true-blue American car company and like the rest of Americans they are mortgaged to the teeth. But whatever! The sun is shining in Michigan and — by golly — this company and its horseless-carriage devices are making the proverbial hay. They have what we refer to as momentum.
This includes the 2011 Ford Edge, the new version of the Edge crossover thingy, which is a thoroughly updated version of the bun-shaped device that's sold 400,000 copies since its 2006 introduction.
Actual New Products!
Such is the pace of change at FMC that the introduction of the 2011 Ford Edge is a sort of second-tier rollout this year, a little bit offhand and under the marketing radar. That's OK with the frenzied Ford representative who tells us that he remembers times so thin that the company resorted to unveiling paintings of new products that would be built over the next couple of years instead of unveiling any actual new products.
This face-lifted Edge crossover certainly doesn't have the impact of, say, the rebirth of the Explorer, the introduction of the Fiesta or even the return of the Mustang 5.0. But, like the rework of the midsize Fusion sedan a little more than a year ago, the remastered Edge is of enormous import to Ford itself, which reckons in the near future that one in 10 car buyers in the U.S. will choose a crossover of one stripe or another.
Ford has closely followed our advice in crafting the new 2011 Ford Edge. We whined about the original model's suspect interior materials (seriously, when don't we?). We warned about the poor Hummer H2-like braking performance. We also complained about the price of our test vehicle.
Well, we're happy to report with this reworking of the Edge that Ford has caved in to our demands, and even a couple of our whines, and addressed each and every one of the first Edge's trouble spots.
What we do not remember asking the Fords to do was to inflate certain portions of the Edge to cartoonish bigness.
Elephantiasis of the Edge
It's not that the front grille of the 2011 Ford Edge is big, although it is comically so. What's disconcerting about it is that it appears to have no end. In fact, it appears to be busting out from the sheet metal, which recedes. It gives the impression that if you could peel back that bodywork like some sort of metallic wetsuit, you'd discover that the entire structure of the Edge is made up of chrome-covered bars.
This Edge Sport replaces the chrome with a blackness so profound that no light can escape. At the center of this you will find gravitational singularity where the space-time curvature is infinite and also see where Ford hid the 100-mpg carburetor.
Anyway, maybe you like the look of the thing. Ford reckons that styling was the top reason that buyers chose the first-generation Edge. And the company is clearly trying to maintain that, er, edge.
The Edge has always had a notably clean (if plump) look about it. The plumpness of form is why even large wheels look dinky when bolted to the Edge, so maybe that's why Ford went and got silly by adding 22-inch hoops to the Edge Sport. We're a bit puzzled at how such enormous two-tone things can manage to look so not totally enormous. Damn you modern car designers for skewing our sense of perspective on wheels! Nevertheless, once you wrap a Pirelli tire around these lightweight forged-aluminum wheels, you still have 91 pounds, more than you'd like for both ride quality and fuel-efficiency.
We don't recall asking for more motor either, but we're not complaining.
For 2011, the Edge's familiar 3.5-liter V6 picks up variable timing on both intake and exhaust cams. According to Ford, this delivers 285 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 253 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm, and does so on regular fuel. That's 20 hp more and 3 lb-ft more juice than offered by the existing 3.5-liter V6. Once you bolt the new engine to the same six-speed automatic using the same gear ratios as before, the combination delivers an additional 1 mpg in the city and 2 mpg on the highway compared to the outgoing engine. That, sir, is a win-win.
We spent about half our time in an Edge Sport model that uses the Mustang's 3.7-liter V6 and spins out 305 hp at 6,500 rpm and 280 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm, also on regular gas. That's a lot of power for a crossover, even one that weighs in at a chunky 4,428 pounds in all-wheel-drive form, like the one we drove.
We spent the remainder of our drive time in a front-wheel-drive SEL model. And while it was down 20 hp on the Sport model, its nearly 400-pound lighter curb weight meant that the two have nearly identical power-to-weight ratios. Honestly, the standard vehicle feels plenty strong for the class, so we're not sure we'd bother with the Sport.
Early next year, Ford will complicate the engine decision by offering a direct-injection, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine (yes, that's EcoBoost). Judging by the fact that Ford says the 3.5-liter V6 will remain the "base engine" we can assume the turbo-four will cost more. Ford is promising better fuel economy, although not necessarily more power than the current engines. The engine will debut at the end of this year in the new Ford Explorer.
No Edge Flashing
Ford rightly spent much of its time and money reworking the Edge's interior. Money well spent, we say. Overall, the look and feel of the interior are more premium. That impression is partly due to higher-end materials quality, more padded surfaces and more brightwork. But we suspect it also has something to do with the amount of surface space taken up by electronics in the form of high-resolution screens on the center stack and flanking the speedometer.
Ford's crusade against interior noise continues with the revised Edge. Through a more carefully considered Aero package, a thicker acoustic-laminated windshield, more interior acoustic insulation, a better-isolated rear suspension and a more robust engine cover bring a greater sense of peace to the Edge's cabin. Do not underestimate the power of silence on your perception of quality.
Handling, Stopping and Other Matters of Some Importance
The biggest bugaboo on the first-generation Edge was its substandard braking performance. Call us crazy but we feel brakes are kind of important. The 2011 Edge has a completely reworked braking system from the pedal cluster down to the tires that aims to rectify its past transgressions. And while we didn't have a chance to do any instrumented testing, the brakes on the 2011 certainly feel stronger and are reassuringly linear in their operation.
The engineers at Ford have retuned the Edge's suspension for 2011 as well, aiming for a suppler ride than the outgoing model. We traversed mostly glass-smooth two-lanes around Nashville, Tennessee, so we'll reserve judgment on the ride quality until we get a test vehicle in Detroit and Los Angeles. But we can say that the front-drive SEL model that we drove first was a competent, buttoned-down handler. You're not going to want to go dumping the thing into tight corners with any real speed, but this not-overtly sporty model strikes a nice balance between comfort and connectedness. The current model Edge feels somehow taller and less settled in comparison.
As for the Sport model? Well, we will say that the engineers have done a nice job in preventing the 22-inch wheels from completely destroying the ride. That's no small task. And they've done well. But we're not moved enough by the Sport model to justify its higher price, at least not from a handling standpoint. The Sport-only gearshift paddles are nice enough that we'd like them on the standard model. We don't suspect we'd use them enough to justify opting up to the Sport model.
MyFord in YourFord
With the advent of the Microsoft-sourced Sync system a few years back, Ford signaled it wanted to take the lead on in-car technology and interface systems. It's been a success for the company, and so it's being expanded with a new interface and functionality (yes, we just wrote "functionality") in the form of the MyFord Touch. This new interface, which will migrate through the whole Ford line eventually, debuts on the 2011 Edge.
Basically the system consists of one large center screen and two small screens flanking the speedometer. Topics such as, say, entertainment, are color-coded and accessible via voice or touch controls. We have arrived at a point in time where so many doodads and options are offered to drivers that every company is struggling to lash them all together in some sensible fashion.
Ford's approach is a pretty good and elegant solution, certainly compared to some of the more infuriating knob-controlled, iDrive-style systems. But Ford is kidding itself if it believes that the system won't take some intense learning on the part of its users. And while it might be less distracting than other solutions, there is a bewildering amount of information displayed in a bewildering number of places. It'll take the less tech-savvy some time to adjust.
We haven't got the space here to list all of the electronic magic you can work with this system but with Sync, Bluetooth, an SD-card-based navigation system, two USB ports and audio and video input jacks and an SD-card slot in the so-called media hub, you can do much. It also has a radio that plays music through speakers.
And it's not just information and entertainment doodads that Ford aims to use to set the Edge apart from a crowded class. The Edge is now offered with just about any option available on any vehicle in the vast world of Ford.
Sounds pretty expensive, right? Well, we suppose if you load all of that new optional equipment onto a 2011 Ford Edge, you're going to end up with a pricey two-row crossover. Further, if you opt for an all-wheel-drive Sport model like the one we drove, prices start at a stiff $38,845. Gulp, right?
But have a look at where most shoppers live and the picture is actually looking good. The base price of the best-selling SEL level vehicle is actually a couple hundred dollars lower than the model it replaces. That's no small thing considering the increased dynamic sophistication and power. A front-drive SEL like the one we drove starts at $30,995. A couple of decent options will bring the thing up to $33,000. A Limited, which includes a load of equipment, starts at $34,995.
So Ford didn't exactly meet all of our demands. For example, the Edge is not significantly less expensive than it used to be. However, it certainly represents a far better value than the last version did.
We think that this whole "Ford" thing might just have a future after all.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
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