2011 Ford Edge / Edge Sport – First Drive Review
Four years have passed since Ford introduced its Edge crossover to bridge the canyon of market space that separated the tidy Escape from the larger, bulkier Explorer. Launched in the midst of the crossover boom, the Edge instantly became a gleaming success for Ford, with more than 400,000 units built so far and sales continuing to trend upward.
To keep that momentum alive, the Edge is updated for 2011 with more power for its 3.5-liter V-6, better fuel economy, chassis upgrades, and bolder styling inside and out, including the market debut of MyFord Touch, the company’s new infotainment interface. Perhaps even better, Ford brought the Edge Sport into its own with stiffer rear springs and unique shocks, gorgeous 22-inch wheels, and a 3.7-liter V-6 pumping in excess of 300 hp. A turbocharged 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder will join the ranks as the fuel-economy champ sometime after making its debut in the 2011 Explorer.
The changes to the Edge start with the bossy new nose that ditches last year’s handsomely benign, square-jawed face. In its place is a squinty-eyed, menacing mug dominated by a floor-to-ceiling interpretation of Ford’s three-bar chrome grille (Sport models ditch the chrome in favor of a black finish), a power-dome hood, and vertical LED running lights at the outboard edges of the bumper. The rear end gets a new bumper, dual exhaust tips, and new taillights; Sport models get a three-finned diffuser-esque lower bumper. Filling out the wheel wells are any of four new wheel styles in 17 inches (SE), 18 inches (SEL and Limited), and 20 inches (optional on Limited). Coolest by far, however, are the black-and-silver 22-inch forged wheels on Sport models.
MyFord Touch: Gonna Take Some Getting Used To
Just as notable are some changes that add some welcome elegance—and a bevy of new technologies—to the Edge’s insides. A completely redesigned dashboard eschews last year’s chunky shapes and vertical air registers for a more streamlined center stack, and there are trim-specific dash and door appliqués and a soft-touch dash top (it unfortunately does not continue into the door uppers). Thick metallic bars bracket the center-stack controls that, on Limited and Sport models, are accessed via an electronic “finish panel” that builds on the optional MyFord Touch system. Co-developed with Sony, the panel replaces conventional buttons and knobs with a constellation of touch-capacitive buttons for HVAC controls and a center-mounted five-way switch (up, down, left, right, and center) for the main audio controls.
Above that sits the main screen for MyFord Touch, which can be seen as more or less the next evolution of Ford’s already highly evolved Sync, adding sexier graphics, two additional high-res screens flanking the speedo, and thousands of voice-activated commands. (For more on MyFord Touch, check out our complete rundown of the system’s capabilities.) What we were most curious about was to see how intuitively the tech presents its information and whether or not the interface proved distracting.
At first, it was indeed quite distracting. Once we became familiar with the numerous displays and button orientations, less time was required to make adjustments to the 390-watt, 12-speaker Sony audio system, scroll through HD radio stations, fine-tune the HVAC, or sync up our phones. We didn’t get a chance to have our text messages read aloud or tag songs to download later on iTunes. The navigation system was inaccessible altogether, since Ford removed the SD card that powers it from our car in order to force us into experiencing its new TDI (Traffic, Destination, and Information) service that provides navigational directions in much the same fashion as does OnStar’s turn-by-turn service in GM vehicles.
Drives Better in Almost Every Respect
With TDI directing us along the roads of rural Tennessee, we discovered that the mechanical upgrades add considerable life to what had been a vehicle that lacked edge in the driving department. The Limited model we drove, riding on 20-inch wheels with 245/50 rubber, was very quiet and absorbed impacts nicely, albeit without muting them altogether. The base 3.5-liter V-6 enters 2011 a smoother, quieter creature with 20 more hp, for a total of 285 at 6500 rpm. Torque creeps up by 3 lb-ft, for a total of 253 at 4000 rpm. The steering remains heavy, but at least some feedback is now part of the picture, thanks to revised steering gear with less friction. The brakes, too, have been upgraded with new pistons, larger rear discs, and new pads adding some bite as the pedal is depressed, although we would love a bit more. Also welcome are gains in fuel economy, which is now at 19 mpg city and 27 mpg highway for front-wheel-drive models and 18/25 for all-wheel-drive examples. Those are improvements from 18/25 and 17/23, respectively, although those ratings carry over as the projections for the 2011 Edge Sport.
We were particularly keen on driving the Sport, which gets not only the unique aesthetic treatments but also its own engine. The 3.7-liter V-6—essentially a bored-out 3.5—makes 305 hp at 6500 rpm and 280 lb-ft at 4000 rpm, and its true dual exhaust endows the Sport with a sharp, pleasant bark. Although the six-speed automatic is unchanged (save for the addition of paddle shifters) and fuel-economy ratings are the same as the 2010 model’s, the Sport’s six has sufficient grunt to move the two-plus-ton truck with some verve. Just as impressive is the Sport’s willingness to change direction, an attribute we must chalk up to the big 22s and their 265/40 rubber. Although you’d never mistake the Edge Sport for, say, an Infiniti FX, Audi Q5, or Porsche Cayenne from behind the wheel, it is by far the sportiest of American-branded crossovers.
Edge customers will be able to choose from the SE ($27,995), SEL ($30,995), Limited ($34,995), and Sport ($36,995) models; all-wheel drive adds $1850 to the bottom line, although AWD SE models are for fleet buyers only. As mentioned, the 2.0-liter EcoBoost four will be added to the lineup later but was not available for us to sample and will not be a part of the initial rollout. (We expect the four to carry a premium price tag, as it will in the 2011 Explorer.) With sharper styling, scads of high-tech touches, and a target market as eager as ever for more and better crossovers, the 2011 Edge seems well positioned to build on the success of its predecessor, and it makes that first Edge of four years ago seem positively crusty by comparison.