The Edge handles better than the truck-based Explorer while offering almost as much cargo space. Benefiting from all-wheel drive and a fully independent suspension, it's easier to control than a truck-based SUV in the snow or on wet, slippery roads. Also, getting in and out of both the front and back seats is easier. In fact, the back seats in the Edge are roomier than those in the Explorer, a benefit of its design.
The Edge is not small. It competes with the Nissan Murano, Toyota Highlander and other midsize crossover utility vehicles, all of which are larger than they appear.
We found the Edge delivered on its promise to be a dual-purpose vehicle. It's roomy and comfortable, and it has fully foldable seats for cargo carrying. It drives well, with good performance from a new V6 engine mated to a new six-speed transmission.
The Edge has a modern look we find appealing and its bold chrome grille adds to its presence. We're certain most will view the Edge as an edgy SUV more than a car. That's no doubt intentional, designed to be appealing for drivers moving from a traditional SUV who want a rugged look with room for the family and assorted stuff. Meanwhile, those who are moving across from a sedan will find they have not given up too much in the way of comfort and convenience and driving dynamics.
Ford Edge SE ($25,320); SE AWD ($26,970); SEL ($27,315); SEL AWD ($28,965); SEL Plus ($29,070); SEL Plus AWD ($30,720)
First off, it makes the car look much more solid: The four wheels are near each corner giving the Edge a look of being planted firmly on the road. More important, this is not just about looks. A long wheelbase and wide track make for a more stable vehicle because the mass of the vehicle is inside the wheels. A go-kart is the ultimate expression of this look. We're not suggesting the Edge looks like a go-kart, but its aggressive stance makes it stand apart from the tippy look of traditional SUVs with relatively narrow track measurements and massive front and rear overhangs.
The Edge features Ford's newly rediscovered bold, American design. The big chrome grille is placed well forward and has wide chrome slats that merge into the relatively small headlights at each side. The high hood is short as the windshield rakes forward more like a sports car or modern minivan.
Despite having a relatively high waist line with shallow side windows, the Edge does not appear as stubby as photographs sometimes suggest. The sporty look is helped by pronounced fender flares and large wheels. The rear tailgate slopes quite significantly and is nicely rounded, avoiding the truck-like rear tailgates found on many SUVs. We found the rear design to be a cross between a Lexus RX and a BMW X3, which cannot be a bad thing.
To top it all off, the optional Vista Roof adds expansive twin glass moonroofs that cover the whole roof providing all passengers with a clear view of the sky. There is only a foot-wide panel between the front and rear panels that is not transparent.
Pressing a button automatically reclines the rear seats to give a total of nearly 70 cubic feet of storage on a nearly flat floor. Furthermore, the front passenger seatback can be folded forward to provide a mostly level floor space for long objects all the way to the dashboard. The rear seatback splits 60/40 for increased versatility and the back reclines several degrees on all models for improved rear-seat comfort.
The rear seats offer a decent amount of leg room; in fact there's two inches more here than you'll find in the larger Explorer. Headroom is also reasonable in the rear, even with the optional Sky Vista roof. The rear-center passenger even gets more room than normal in a vehicle of this size, thanks to the wide track. Getting in and out is easier due to the rear wheels being placed well back allowing for less intrusion from the wheel well.
Front-seat occupants find a generous amount of room, again largely due to the vehicle's generous width. There is a large center console with a storage box big enough for a laptop computer. There are two decent cupholders alongside the substantial looking transmission shifter. The center stack is angled outwards to make the large knobs for the climate and entertainment controls easy to reach.
The four gauges are well recessed in their individual binnacles in the instrument pod in front of the steering wheel. About the only complaint in the cockpit we had during our test drive was the large number of reflections in the heavily raked windshield caused by the large shiny top surface of the dashboard. Ford ensured us this problem would be largely rectified in production vehicles through the use of less glossy materials.
It should be noted that the Edge directly shares its platform and engine with the Mazda CX-9 crossover. Ford says it purposely designed the Edge to deliver a slightly softer ride. Those who have driven both vehicles concur with this assessment.
Ford's all-new 3.5-liter V6 engine has variable valve timing and is much smoother and more refined than its previous V6s. The new engine is mated to a new six-speed automatic transmission developed with General Motors. We found the engine produced a good range of power at all speeds and the transmission shifted smoothly. We would rate the performance as middle of the pack: it's neither a barnburner nor a slug.
We found the rack-and-pinion steering provided good feedback with precise control. The Edge we drove had all-wheel drive and the optional 18-inch wheels helped make the car more sure-footed. We did not get a chance to drive a base model but suspect it will still be more than acceptable despite having slightly less grip.
The all-wheel-drive system is simple, with a viscous coupling in the middle of the driveshaft that constantly alters the power to the front or rear depending on the need at any given time.
The Edge is not designed for off-road use yet it has a decent ground clearance of eight inches and Ford even specifies its approach angle (16 inches), departure angle (24.5 inches), and ramp break over angle (17 degrees), specifications usually reserved for off-road vehicles. We think it'll be fine for unpaved roads. We're guessing it'll handle better on snow and ice than a traditional SUV thanks to the independent suspension.
The four-wheel disc brakes worked well, although we did not get the chance to try them with a fully loaded vehicle. Ford's AdvanceTrac electronic stability control is standard on all models. It operates via the ABS to control wheel slippage when the driver pushes the vehicle beyond the limit in slippery conditions or in emergency avoidance situation on a dry highway.
There's no denying that the Ford Edge is a striking vehicle. Some might criticize it for not having three rows of seats but that fact makes for a much more practical and pleasant five-seater. The Edge is a far more efficient all-round vehicle than traditional SUVs. Opt for all-wheel drive and you've got a great all-year-round car as well.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent John Rettie test drove the Ford Edge in and around San Francisco.