Vertical hold. It's not something we wish for very often while driving a modern car. Or any car, for that matter. But just the other morning as we reversed down our driveway, scanned carefully rearward and checked the mirrors, we immediately paused on the vertically rotating image in the 2011 Ford Edge Sport's rearview camera display. The standard feature was malfunctioning and we wanted vertical hold. But we didn't have it.
This failure, we imagine, was an anomaly. And vertical hold was about the only electronic adjustment the heavily revised 2011 Ford Edge Sport wouldn't let us make. After all, its new configurable instrument panel let us swap various bits of critical powertrain, infotainment and HVAC information on the 4.2-inch screens flanking the speedometer. Its center stack is utterly devoid of traditional buttons, instead utilizing icon-labeled, touch-sensitive zones and an in-dash touchscreen for all controls. It's a wholly different experience from the last Edge we drove.
This, then, is a departure. A big one.
Out With the Green, In With the Keen
Ford engineers spent significant time integrating MyFord Touch, the company's latest electronic driver interface, into the Edge's center stack and instrument panel. The result is a huge improvement in both look and function over the aging green-lit displays that previously dominated Ford's control interface and instruments.
The most prominent change is the addition of an 8-inch LCD screen with color-coded sections. Punch a corner of the screen to choose which system you want to control -- entertainment, phone, Sync services or HVAC.
The logic here is familiar (Audi MMI, anyone?) and while it still requires some sorting to figure out exactly how to achieve your goal, it's far easier than many systems (Audi MMI again, anyone?) which offer similar features. Ultimately, we were able to successfully activate every function we needed without much hassle, which can't always be said for, well, Audi's MMI system.
Phone pairing was easy, and the iPod interface is as intuitive as any we've used. The Sony-designed center stack (standard on the Edge Sport and Edge Limited) which houses the most essential HVAC controls is gorgeous, but its touch-sensitive buttons aren't as practical as they are pretty.
Sure, run your finger over them and they generally do what you want. But because they aren't real buttons, it's impossible to locate them by feel or precisely control how many times you've pushed them without looking at the display. It made us realize that these adjustments are something we often perform while looking at the road, not at the dashboard. And we doubt Ford wants to take your attention from the road.
The other big addition is that of the two configurable LCD displays on either side of the centrally mounted speedometer. These are genuinely useful and are controlled by simple five-way buttons on either side of the steering wheel.
Using the display on the left, the driver can cycle through four main screens that each offer submenus displaying everything from torque split (on AWD models) to instant fuel economy. The tachometer can be displayed or hidden using this function. On the right of the speedometer drivers can choose from four display options -- Entertainment, which shows the audio source currently playing, as well as Phone, Compass or Climate.
Newfound Power, Efficiency
Beginning with the 2011 model year, all Edge Sport models will come standard with a new 305-horsepower 3.7-liter V6 mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with shift paddles. All other styles still offer the 3.5-liter mill that has been bumped 20 hp this year to produce 285 hp. Front drive is standard on all Edge styles, and all but the SE can be had with all-wheel drive (like our tester).
Even with the big V6's substantial power, there are still 4,457 pounds of Ford to push around here, which keeps the 0-60 time at 7.5 seconds (7.1 seconds with 1 foot of rollout like on a drag strip). The quarter-mile traps arrive in 15.6 seconds at 89.3 mph. Both these milestones come up quicker in the Edge than they did in, say, the last all-wheel-drive Nissan Murano we tested. And that car's powertrain -- a 3.5-liter V6 linked to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) -- is somewhat of a benchmark in the segment.
More impressive, the 2011 Ford Edge managed 19.5 mpg (equaling the EPA's combined rating) during our test. The Murano only managed 17 mpg. Only Toyota's RAV4 4WD has come close to matching the Edge's combination of thrust and efficiency in our testing.
Out in suburbia and beyond, the 2011 Ford Edge handles itself well. It'll zip around cars on freeway on-ramps without hesitation. The ability to drop a gear or two from the wheel-mounted paddles is invaluable during such maneuvers. And while we didn't seek out any back roads in the Edge Sport, we did toss it around on the streets with impunity.
All-wheel drive seems to matter little here. The system's primary purpose is to increase all-weather abilities rather than enhance handling. There's ample steering weight through the Edge's thick-rimmed wheel, but despite conventional hydraulic-assist steering, feedback is still more crossover than sedan.
Still, our testers reported good overall balance during instrumented tests at the track. Its 60.3-mph slalom speed is faster than both the Murano (59.2) and the much more carlike Toyota Venza V6 (57.1). The Edge also betters the Venza on the skid pad, where it circled at 0.77g vs. the Toyota's 0.73g.
Brake pedal travel was long and distances increased with each run, but the 2011 Ford Edge still managed a 122-foot stop from 60 mph -- identical to both the Venza and Murano. Its massive 22-inch diameter 265mm-section-width tires no doubt help in all grip tests.
The Practical Choice?
Back to those wheels and tires for a moment. Soccer moms might like the look of 22-inch wheels as much as your average urban hipster, but they are far less likely to tolerate the subpar ride quality that results. Put simply, you're going to pay twice for the Edge Sport's huge wheels and tires. The first hit is in ride quality and the second is where it hurts most -- in the pocketbook. We were quoted $250 at our local Ford dealer to replace just one of the Edge Sport's huge Pirelli Scorpion tires.
Square-edge bumps and potholes are the most difficult for the Edge to manage. The chassis transfers noticeable harshness through to the passengers when it encounters these obstacles, but we were surprised how well Ford has tuned the Edge's suspension to accommodate so much rolling mass. No, the Edge Sport doesn't ride as well as similar vehicles with smaller wheels. Yes, it's still better than we anticipated.
Inside there are the expected conveniences like a power liftgate (part of the $895 Driver's Entry package) and split-folding second-row seats with a remote release just inside the hatch. Real conveniences like remote access and remote start are part of the same package.
Other standard features include leather seats (heated up front), a 12-speaker 390-watt Sony audio system, Ford's MyKey system and Bluetooth connectivity. MyKey allows maximum limits to be set for both the audio system volume and the Edge's top speed -- a technology modern parents will appreciate and modern children will quickly find a way around. Traditionalists will continue to rely on trust and a swift ass-kicking.
Our tester was also fitted with the $395 Driver's Vision package, which includes blind-spot monitoring and cross traffic alerts. The system is so sensitive, it flips out when you're backing out of a spot bordered tightly by just about anything. Sure, the warnings are better than a collision, but their value is, at times, questionable.
About That Price
At $40,135 as tested, there's no doubt the 2011 Ford Edge Sport is downright expensive. To its credit, it also looks expensive, so you do get something a little extra for all those dollars. And much to our surprise, the big wheels, wide stance and taut styling do something for us in a way most crossovers rarely do. That, and there is no shortage of standard features here which many buyers now consider mandatory.
Whether this crossover is worth $40,000 is largely a matter of taste. A similarly equipped Nissan Murano with navigation and 20-inch wheels will run up a $40,220 tab, so the cost isn't without precedent. And luxury brand crossovers are just getting started at $40K so that route requires another tax bracket entirely.
Ford's changes are largely a step in the right direction. Other than the tactile issues with the center stack buttons, the MyTouch upgrades definitely add functionality, while the subtle styling revisions are an improvement inside and out. And there isn't another vehicle in the segment that's as quick, agile and efficient.
Add it up and we can forgive that little vertical hold problem.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of this evaluation.
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