As the good doctor says, “First, do no harm.”

Car companies should follow the same directive.

Consider today’s patient, Ford Motor Co., and a few possible remedies for what ails it. Ford could get a boost from the subtly successful Ford Five Hundred full-size sedan, which is selling well, and the Ford Fusion, a smaller sedan that I thought was the best new car on the market last year.

Then there’s today’s test car, the 2007 Ford Edge.

Along with the Fusion, whose engineering it shares, the Edge gives Ford a pair of vehicles that ought to lessen its dependency on SUVs and pickup trucks. The Edge is a crossover vehicle — part car, part SUV, part family wagon. Ford should have built it five years ago.

But five years ago, there was the danger that a car like this would have cut into SUV sales, notably the Explorer. And that’s where “do no harm” comes into play. A company can’t build a new product by simply stripping away sales from one of its existing products. That’s money spent with no real gain.

With the Edge, Ford is hoping that not only will those deserting the company’s SUV ranks move to the crossover, but that the Edge will also convince new buyers to give Ford a spin.

It ought to accomplish that because this is an artful, easy-to-use, utilitarian vehicle. It’s bold on the outside — with sharp lines and the three-blade, razor-like grille that is becoming as much a Ford symbol as the blue oval. The interior is full of quality, with multi textured, soft-touch surfaces and easy-to-use knobs and buttons. And the car runs on a plenty powerful engine that, even with its strong performance, delivered just over 20 miles per gallon in Globe testing (which is not always gentle).

Notably, with prices starting at around $26,000 for the front-wheel-drive model and $28,000 for all-wheel drive, it comes standard with essential safety equipment including stability control, anti roll electronics, and side-front and front- and rear-side-curtain air bags.

I like to remind people that stability control systems have been shown in studies to cut the risk of getting into an accident by almost half. If an accident does happen, the system reduces the chance of it being fatal by nearly half. Soon, you won’t (or shouldn’t) be able to buy a car without it.

The long wheelbase Edge is a unibody, meaning that the car’s body, pan, and chassis are one unit. This provides rigidity and helps keep weight down (though the Edge still tops 2 tons). It also ensures a smooth ride at highway speeds and only a little hop on tough back roads.

Its V-6, aluminum-block engine delivers 265 horsepower and 250 lb.-ft. of torque — enough tug for a medium-sized boat or horse trailer. The engine is linked to a six-speed automatic transmission that was virtually invisible in its operation.

In all-wheel-drive form, as tested, sensors can send 100 percent of the power to the rear wheels if they detect slippage of the front wheels. That makes the AWD version particularly appealing for New England drivers.

The Edge seats five adults comfortably (rare in this class), but does not come with a third row of seats. Rear seats fold flat for cargo space and recline backwards for who knows what reason. Also, the front passenger seat folds flat so you can slide in those weekend two-by-fours or the 210-centimeter skis you just could not leave at the recycling center’s swap shop. Cargo space seems voluminous, headroom appears to soar, and leg room is plentiful even for long-limbed folks.

This car was a joy to drive for more than 1,200 miles of highway, local trips, holiday gift shopping, and commuting in traffic. Ford has a new prescription. Let’s hope it’s not too late to fix the patient.

Shop it against MAZDA CX-7 Along with the Edge, whose genes it shares, one of the more distinctive crossovers. The 244-horsepower, turbo charged engine makes it the closest thing to a sports car in this group, and handling is superb. Priced from mid-20s to low-30s.

NISSAN MURANO The only engine available is a 245-horsepower unit. The car is built on the Altima/Quest platform, and still looks like a Converse high-top sneaker. Priced in high-20s to mid-30s.

TOYOTA HIGHLANDER Looking a bit tired against these new competitors, but it’s a reliable, larger crossover (Toyota still calls it an SUV). As much as 268 horsepower, hybrid option, and prices from high 20s to almost 40.

HYUNDAI SANTA FE With a price range of $22,000 to about $29,000, this comes with lots of safety gear, an optional 242-horsepower V-6 engine, and the continually improving quality and content typical of Korean manufacturers.