Rugged, fearless and a smidge bloodthirsty, the mythical late '90s SUV owner spent as much time hunting bear as he did loading up 64-packs of toilet paper. But now there are kinder, gentler crossovers like the 2007 Ford Edge, a five-passenger sport-utility built for buyers who'd never back over a roll of Charmin, much less commit ursicide.
"Our core target customer is active and enjoys the energy of the city and the opportunity of the outdoors," says Jeri Ward, Ford Edge marketing manager.
In other words, city slickers who TiVo Animal Planet. And with its healthy new V6, well-sorted chassis and comfortable cabin, the Edge will fit right into that lifestyle when it goes on sale this month.
Five-seater by design
Based on a lengthened, widened version of the Mazda 6 platform, the 2007 Ford Edge shares most of its mechanicals with the Mazda CX-9 seven-seater, including its double-overhead-cam V6 and fully independent front strut, rear multilink suspension design.
However, the Ford uses a different six-speed automatic transmission (co-developed with GM and shared with the Saturn Aura) and a simpler, viscous-coupling all-wheel-drive system in lieu of the Mazda's computer-controlled setup. The Edge, which has only two rows of seating, is also 14 inches shorter overall and has a 2-inch-shorter wheelbase.
The absence of a third row isn't an oversight. Ford wanted to create a midsize crossover similar in size and personality to the Nissan Murano, and indeed the two have roughly the same dimensions inside and out. Yet, the Edge feels roomier on an intangible level when equipped with the Vista Roof option, which places a large power moonroof over the front-seating area and a second fixed skylight over the backseat.
With 69.6 cubic feet of maximum cargo capacity, the Edge is 10 down from the Murano, but there's just as much luggage room when the rear seats are in use (32.1).
Finally, a V6 with guts
What it lacks in cubic footage, the 2007 Ford Edge makes up for in horsepower. Instead of the tired Duratec V6 used in countless other Fords, this SUV has an all-new 3.5-liter V6 rated at 265 horsepower at 6250 rpm and 250 pound-feet of torque at 4500 rpm. Fitted with variable intake valve timing, the 3.5-liter doesn't blow you away with its low-end response, but once it revs up a bit, the Edge feels pretty quick.
The six-speed automatic works well with the V6, delivering smooth upshifts and well-timed downshifts. Unfortunately, as with other Ford automatics, you don't get full manual gear access, just "D," "O/D off" and "L."
Ford will sell the Edge in both front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive configurations. At a highway cruise, the AWD model functions as a front-driver to maximize fuel economy, but in the event of wheel slippage, nearly 100 percent of engine torque can be rerouted to the rear wheels. Additionally, under full throttle, 50-60 percent of the power is automatically diverted to the rear in anticipation of spin.
Ford says the Edge will accelerate to 60 mph in "under 8 seconds" with either drivetrain configuration, which makes it one of the quicker sport-utes in its class. The Murano, for example, takes 8.2 seconds to reach 60, while a Hyundai Santa Fe needs 9.4 seconds.
Gas mileage is only average for a midsize crossover SUV, with a 18 city/25 highway rating for the front-drive Edge and a 17/24 rating for the AWD. At least you can fill up with plain 87 octane.
Ford's engineers are fans of the Murano's dynamics, so we weren't surprised by the Edge's agility on winding roads. It isn't tuned to be a serious athlete like the CX-9, but its reflexes are nonetheless impressive for a 4300-pound vehicle. Body roll is predictable, and the steering feels right whether you're blasting down the highway or entering a tight turn. Plus, the brake pedal has a nice, linear progression.
At the same time, ride quality is smooth and composed, and the cabin stays very quiet in most situations. The models we drove had the optional 18-inch chrome wheels and 245/60R18 Continental tires (17s with 235/65R17 rubber are standard), and although the 18s are a little noisy over some surfaces, they don't upset the ride.
Comfy interior, average quality
Although you won't find many of the CX-9's artistic touches, Ford nailed the basics with the Edge's interior. Real-world legroom is abundant in both the front and rear, and the seats offer plenty of cushioning. The steering wheel offers a huge range of telescoping adjustment, allowing just about anyone to find a comfortable driving position.
Ford claims the 60/40 rear seats offer the largest recline angle in the class and this, along with its adjustable console vents and the possibility of getting a dual-screen entertainment system (that allows one kid to watch a movie while the other plays Xbox 360), should make the Edge an excellent road-trip car. Storage space is adequate for a family of four, and the cargo bay's low lift-over height makes it easy to slide in larger stuff.
Materials quality is hit or miss. Attractive graining on the plastics makes a good first impression, but the cohesion kind of falls apart as you move down the doors and dash. Our tester's white-stitched black leather upholstery looked sharp, but there was more vinyl than animal hide in the backseat.
Ergonomics are average. Sideways numerals on the speedometer and tachometer add visual interest but are a bit distracting to read. Controls are well organized, and even with the optional touchscreen navigation system, there's nothing complicated to figure out. However, the center stack and steering-wheel-mounted controls are a sea of flat, like-sized buttons.
Mid-$20Ks to high $30Ks
Ford will sell the Edge in SE, SEL and SEL Plus trim levels. Priced just under $26K, the base SE comes with most safety essentials, including antilock disc brakes, stability control (with rollover avoidance logic), front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and a tire-pressure monitor. Alloy wheels and privacy glass are also standard, so it doesn't stand out as the entry-level Ford Edge, as are air-conditioning, a CD player and an MP3 player jack.
However, if you want the Vista Roof, a navigation system or rear entertainment system options, you'll need to start out with one of the SEL models. Body-color door handles, metallic interior trim, a power driver seat and a CD changer are standard on these models, and the Plus bundles automatic climate control, heated seats, leather upholstery and memory settings. Rear parking sensors are optional, and we think these should be available to SE buyers as well.
Oddly, the upper trims stick you with a measly four-speaker stereo, forcing you to buy the optional nine-speaker Audiophile system if you want decent factory audio. Sirius is also available. Prospective Edge buyers should note that the single-screen factory entertainment system can't be purchased with the glass roof, but your dealer can install that nifty dual-screen setup (which places the screens in the front headrests). Fully loaded Edge SEL Plus AWD models top out just under $37,000.
Forget what you know about Ford?
Although its cabin furnishings are a little disappointing, the 2007 Ford Edge offers a complete package otherwise. Ample power, agile handling, a quiet ride, lots of room, a full set of side airbags — it's all here. Basically, this is the same approach Ford took with the current-generation Explorer, applied to a more refined car-based design. Yet, the company is counting on the Edge to fight political battles its traditional SUVs could never win.
"The Edge will challenge consumers' assumptions about and, in some cases, their prejudices against the Ford Motor Company," Paul Mascarenas, vice president of engineering, says.
That's some weighty responsibility that goes beyond the scope of a quickie test-drive. But it doesn't diminish the fact that the 2007 Ford Edge is worth considering for medium-size families with $30,000 to spend.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.