Since Ford can’t beat the rising swarm of “crossover” utility vehicles, it’s joining them. Truck sales are flat, and Ford’s mainstay vehicles for the past decade have been trucks: F-series pickups, Explorers and Expeditions. So it’s about time that Ford rolled out its own trendy crossover. The new Edge may be late to the CUV party, but it brings plenty to the table. Wide and roomy, with an athletic stance and what Ford calls “bold, American design,” the midsize Edge carves out its own piece of the crossover niche. For the uninitiated, “crossover” refers to vehicles that blend the versatility of truck-based SUVs with the drivability of passenger cars. They’re all based on car chassis, and Edge uses the underpinnings of the Fusion sedan. The smaller Ford Escape is technically a crossover, but it leans more toward the SUV side of the fence. Edge makes no pretense of being a trucklike SUV. It’s more akin to Nissan Murano or such compacts as Pontiac Vibe and Dodge Caliber, all sporty vehicles that can function as station wagons. Starting at a reasonable $26,000 for the front-drive base version, Edge offers a lot of CUV for the money. The interior is spacious, the ride is quiet and composed, and a full contingent of safety features come standard. A luxury version is available as the Lincoln MKX. The competition is stiff, including such notables as Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot, but Edge could boost beleaguered Ford Motor Co. and create some new Ford buyers.
PERFORMANCE: The standard engine is a strong, 265-horsepower V-6 hooked up to a smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmission. Acceleration is brisk, even pulling Edge’s 2-ton heft. Towing capacity is a respectable 3,500 pounds. Fuel mileage is disappointing; I got about 16 mpg in mostly urban driving. Ford should offer a less-powerful engine for those who want better economy.
DRIVABILITY: Edge felt awkward to me at first blush, heavy and bulky, but it proved to be fairly nimble in normal driving situations. The soft suspension and significant weight discouraged sporty driving, though the steering is responsive and the wide stance adds stability. The highway ride is quiet and composed. Advanced handling and safety features come standard, including Advance Trac stability system, Roll Stability Control, side-curtain air bags and seat-belt pretensioners.
STYLING: “Bold American design” crops up three times on the first page of Ford’s press material, so there is a message here. Yes, Edge is certainly bold, an attractively chunky form with the same chiseled chrome grille as the Fusion. As a crossover design, Edge looks more like a beefy hatchback car than a macho SUV. The wide track and short wheelbase make it seem almost square.
INTERIOR: The cabin is roomy and pleasant for both front- and back-seat occupants, a true five-seater without anybody feeling squished. There’s no third-seat option, nor is there room for one, but there is plenty of cargo space. The dashboard is well-organized, although the navigation screen is too small. The panoramic sunroof, which has a large, retractable glass panel in front and a fixed glass panel in the rear, is nice but expensive at about $1,400. Most power features, such as electric windows and door locks, come standard.
BOTTOM LINE: An enjoyable CUV for those trading in big SUVs for something more economical and maneuverable.
Ford Edge SEL Plus
Vehicle type: Five-passenger, four-door crossover SUV, all-wheel drive. Engine: 3.5-liter V-6, 265 horsepower at 6,250 rpm, 250 pound-feet torque at 4,500 rpm. Transmission: Six-speed automatic. Wheelbase: 111.2 inches. Overall length: 186.5 inches. Curb weight: 4,086 pounds. EPA rating: 17 city, 24 highway.
HIGHS: Attractive design, roomy interior, powerful engine. LOWS: Modest fuel mileage, small navigation screen, pricey options.
Base price: $30,720. Price as tested: $36,355.
OPTIONS Navigation system with Audiophile CD audio, $2,380. Panoramic roof, $1,395. 18-inch alloy wheels, $395. Trailer package, $350. Reverse sensing system, $245. Satellite radio, $195. Shipping, $675.