It’s getting harder and harder to find bad cars, especially at Ford. Motor-reporters used to love to hate the Explorer and the Expedition, not to mention the old Excursion, but those fat targets are gone.
Ford’s new generation of E-vehicles, the Explorer and the Escape and the Flex (F comes after E, I suppose) are remarkably good. And this one, the Edge, is just outstanding.
Yet it confounds first impressions. Sliding behind the wheel, I reach for a door pull that isn’t where it ought to be. The inside handle is too close to the hinge for decent leverage—closing and then re-opening the door is harder than it should be. Odd, on such an otherwise well-thought-out vehicle. Underway the Edge first feels heavy and almost ponderous but, with 285 horsepower underfoot and a taut (but not harsh) suspension, this feeling quickly evaporates. The steering isn’t telepathic, but it is responsive. Braking is nicely linear. Dropping a wheel into a pothole produces nothing more than a clunk, and it doesn’t throw the Edge off course. A few corners taken at speed show that the vehicle will lean, but not far, and then it carves on through, while the (available) all-wheel drive shuttles torque to the rear wheels as needed to counter any slipperiness or even too much understeer. The suspension is much more sophisticated than the underpinnings of Ford’s performance car, the Mustang.
The 6-speed automatic changes gears noticeably but smoothly, and the intervals seem to match the engine’s torque curve. A Manual setting lets the driver shift up or down with a little thumb-toggle in the lever. I think this isn’t meant for “sporting” use so much as for, say, towing, to hold a certain cog while climbing a long grade. In Manual the transmission stays in gear right to max revs and then (if you don’t do it) it shifts up by itself. You can get an Edge Sport, with slightly more power, shift paddles on the steering wheel and a firmer suspension, but why make a sensible shoe into a sneaker?
I’m still surprised each time I get out of the car: It is not a large vehicle. It’s more than a foot shorter than the Explorer and three inches less in height and width, and its short overhangs and blunt nose make maneuvering easy. (A backup camera and alarm are available.) Yet inside it feels spacious and comfortable. The Edge lacks the Explorer’s third row of seats, but it has a lot more cargo room behind its back seats than the Explorer does behind its third row of seats, and the Edge’s back seats can fold down—at the push of two buttons in this SEL model—for really impressive space.
Back in the bad old days of Detroit, long before a review car reached 10,000 miles it was taken out behind the barn and shot. But that was then. This example, with close to 13,000 motojournalist miles on the clock, shows no sign of aging—not a rattle nor creak, not a missing bit of trim, no wear on the seats or controls, not a stutter in the ignition. Ford knows it has a winner here, so there’s only one significant change to the Edge for 2012: an available new turbocharged 4-cylinder “Ecoboost” engine that makes 240 horsepower and gets fuel-economy ratings of 21 and 30 MPG, city/highway. (Up from 18/25 in the AWD V-6 Edge.) Prices run from the upper twenties to the low forties.
The Edge eschews outright perfection. Some of the electronics will confuse anyone over the age of 14. SYNC doesn’t always get my voice commands. In these days of pushbutton ignition, I resent having to dredge an actual key out of my pocket—this seems so backward next to the Edge’s classy display screens and digital technology. But so what? Ford nailed all the big features dead-on. The Edge doesn’t come with the social stigma of a minivan or a big SUV, but it’s nearly as useful, especially with AWD. It drives beautifully and makes us feel like we spent our money wisely. Maybe this is why we see so many of them around.