Crossover utility vehicles such as the Ford Edge are filling the role once occupied by minivans.
Crossover utility vehicles are basically tall station wagons that look a bit like an SUV. They have a tall roof and room for five or seven people. A high driving position offers a commanding view of the road, and fold-down seats mean you can carry a load from the lumberyard or bags of the kids' soccer gear.
Crossovers are built on passenger-car platforms, and they are more efficient and more maneuverable than big SUVs. Larger models, such as the Ford Edge, Mazda CX-9 and Lincoln MKX, are not much smaller than minivans, but their aggressive styling gives them a distinctly sporty appearance that disguises their size.
The Edge, built in Canada, is available in three trim levels, with front-wheel or all-wheel drive. Starting prices range from $25,330 to $32,070, including destination charges. The test model was a front-wheel-drive Limited.
For 2008, the Ford Edge is available with Sync, Ford's voice-activated in-car communication and entertainment system. Sync integrates mobile phones and media players with Bluetooth technology and a USB connection. I tried using Sync's voice commands with an MP3 player and found the series of commands to be a bit awkward, but I'm sure they get easier with familiarity.
The optional navigation system is also voice-activated, and it can read street names and deliver directions in English, Spanish and French.
A power liftgate is a welcome option, too, because the liftgate is large and heavy.
The Edge is tight, solid and quiet. The engine is Ford's 3.5-liter V-6, and it's rated at 265 horsepower. That's not a lot of horsepower for a 4,288-pound vehicle, but performance is more than adequate. Accelerating onto crowded highways is easy, and the engine is relatively quiet.
The Edge shares its chassis, basic architecture and many mechanical components the Mazda CX-9 and Lincoln MKX.
The Edge has striking looks. Its round nose, sloping windshield and tapered roofline contribute to a profile that looks honed by the wind. Large fender flares look like powerful haunches. Seventeen-inch wheels are standard, while 18-inch and 20-inch wheels are optional. The test vehicle was equipped with 20-inch chrome wheels.
The Edge looks smaller than it drives. When I settled behind the wheel, I was surprised at the size of the cabin. The steeply raked windshield is large and the dash is deep, almost like a minivan's. There is plenty of width, and the back seat can easily hold three people. There is no third seat, but there is plenty of luggage space.
The instrument panel flows smoothly into the door panels, has a low-gloss texture and is highlighted by a brushed-aluminum panel on the center stack. The test car was equipped with the optional navigation system, and that requires the upgraded audio system. The automatic climate control has two zones.
The large center console can be configured numerous ways. It has a power outlet and a jack for an iPod or other MP3 player. Ford said the console is large enough for a laptop. It has a removable internal tray, a power outlet and a lid that can hold pens, a tissue pack and tickets.
The Edge also is big on details. A 20-ounce-cup holder is included in each front-door map pocket, along with juice box holders in the rear door pockets, two super-size-cup holders in the center console and two in the rear armrest.
The rear cargo area is substantial with the rear seat folded down. The optional folding front seat creates a space big enough for 8-foot-long items.
The test vehicle's panoramic sunroof had a large front opening and a smaller, fixed pane of glass over the rear seat.
Price The base price of the test car was $30,320. Options included the navigation system, the panoramic sunroof, power liftgate, satellite radio and trailer towing package. The sticker price was $36,390.
Warranty Three years or 36,000 miles with a five-year, 60,000-mile powertrain warranty.
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