The Edge handles better than truck-based SUVs while offering almost as much cargo space. It's 500 pounds lighter than an Explorer and enjoys an edge of two to three miles per gallon in fuel economy and offers similar advantages over other traditional SUVs. Benefiting from all-wheel drive and a fully independent suspension, the Edge is easier to control than a truck-based SUV in the snow or on wet, slippery roads. Getting in and out of it is easier, too. Yet it gives up nothing in passenger and cargo space. 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. Considered a midsize crossover utility vehicle, the Edge competes with the Nissan Murano, Toyota Highlander and CUVs, all of which are larger than their slippery styling suggests.
We found the Edge roomy and comfortable with fully foldable seats for big cargo carrying. It drives well, with good performance from a modern V6 engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.
The Edge has a contemporary look we find appealing. We like its bold chrome grille. We think it'll please buyers coming from SUVs who want a rugged look with room for the family and assorted stuff. And we think it'll satisfy buyers moving from a sedan who will find they haven't given up much in the way of comfort, convenience and driving dynamics.
Ford Edge was introduced as a new product for the 2007 model year; the 2008 Edge offers more equipment and a new Limited model. Ford Sync communications and entertainment system is available on the 2008 Edge, allowing the driver to change radio stations and make phone calls using voice commands. The available navigation system adds voice activation, the driver's window now powers up or down with one touch, and a new interior appearance package has red seating surfaces with contrasting stitching. A power liftgate, a universal garage door opener, and 20-inch wheels are available.
Ford Edge SE ($25,565); SE AWD ($27,315); SEL ($27,560); SEL AWD ($29,310); Limited ($30,555); Limited AWD ($32,305)
The wide track and long wheelbase relative to the body make the Edge look solid: The four wheels are near each corner, making it appear firmly planted on the road. The long wheelbase and wide track are not just about looks; they make for a more stable vehicle because the majority of the mass 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.
The 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.
Front-seat occupants find a generous amount of room, largely due to the vehicle's generous width. There is a large center console with a storage box big enough for a laptop computer. Two decent cupholders reside alongside the substantial shifter. The center stack is angled outward to make it easy to reach the large knobs for the climate and entertainment controls. The Interior Appearance Package adds red seat inserts and contrasting red stitching that combine to give the interior a sporty look. The instrument pod has four gauges well recessed in their individual binnacles.
The Ford Sync communications and entertainment system can be controlled via voice commands or dashboard buttons. It can recognize Bluetooth-enabled cell phones, access their phonebooks, and play calls and read text messages through the speakers. It also has a USB interface to connect with iPods and other MP3 players (it will charge an iPod). To issue a voice command, the driver hits a steering wheel button and speaks the command. Occupants can tell the system to play a specific artist, album or track stored on an MP3 player. While Sync is nicely integrated, we've found it takes time to learn the voice commands, and there may be some frustration until the system is mastered.
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 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 thanks to rear wheels that are placed well back and thus allow for less intrusion from the wheel wells.
Carrying cargo is an area where the Edge excels. The tailgate lifts to reveal a wide opening. With the rear seats are in place there's a reasonable amount of cargo room, but pressing a button automatically reclines the rear seats to open up 69.0 cubic feet of storage space 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 Edge shares its platform and engine with the Mazda CX-9 crossover, as well. Ford says it purposely designed the Edge to deliver a slightly softer ride than that of the CX-9. Those who have driven both vehicles concur with this assessment.
Ford's 3.5-liter V6 engine has variable valve timing and is much smoother and more refined than its previous V6s. This engine is mated to a 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. We tested both the optional 18-inch wheels and the 20-inch wheels available on the 2008 model and found the latter did not produce a harsh ride, despite the larger, heavier wheels and shorter tire sidewall. So, buyers can opt for the flash without worrying about paying a hefty price in ride quality.
The Edge we drove had all-wheel drive, which helped make the car more sure-footed. 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. 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 the Edge will be fine on unpaved roads. We drove a 2008 Edge through snow and ice in Chicago and found it handled quite well thanks to the independent suspension and all-wheel drive.
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.
The Ford Edge offers striking styling. The Edge is a far more efficient vehicle than a traditional SUV. Opt for all-wheel drive and you've got a great all-year-round car as well. Some criticize the Edge for not having three rows of seats but that fact makes for a much more practical and pleasant five-seater. In short, if you aren't towing heavy trailers or frequently driving over rugged terrain, the Ford Edge is a smarter choice than a traditional, truck-based SUV.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent John Rettie test drove the Ford Edge in and around San Francisco. Correspondent Kirk Bell contributed to this report from Chicago.