The Detroit Newspapers's view

In supermarket parking lots, at street corners, on freeways, people can’t help but stare at Ford’s flashy new midsize crossover vehicle.

But after a week behind the wheel and hundreds of miles on Michigan roads, two questions leap to mind: Why did it take Ford so long to bring this vehicle to the market and, given its lengthy gestation period, why isn’t the Edge better than the competition?

There is no getting around the Edge’s good looks. The boxy ute-like shape is fairly conventional, but the details linger. Ford’s design group has finally honed the brand’s signature three-bar grille to perfection, giving the Edge one of the most distinctive faces in the overcrowded crossover segment, yet it’s still clearly a member of the Blue Oval extended family.

From just about any angle, the Edge looks like a winner — rock-solid, utterly capable and almost universally appealing, without falling into the Mommy-mobile styling clich├ęs of most minivans.

We tested a top-of-the-line Edge SEL Plus AWD, with a breathtaking price tag of $36,850, but the standard Edge SE 4×2 model starts at $25,995 — the same entry point for Ford’s truck-based Explorer SUV.

A word about prices: The $26,000 base sticker sounds reasonable enough, until you consider that competitors such as the 2007 Dodge Nitro and the Hyundai Santa Fe offer nearly as much equipment for thousands of dollars less (the Nitro starts at less than $20,000). More importantly, the Edge doesn’t appear to do anything better than or different from its competitors, so you’re paying a premium for the Ford brand and the slick styling. As for our lavishly furnished $37,000 test vehicle, Ford is brushing up against Lexus and BMW territory — and this Ford, as good as it is, is certainly no Lexus or Bimmer.

Unlike the Explorer, the Edge is based on a car platform. It shares its basic underpinnings with the midsize Fusion sedan, as does its sibling, the 2007 Lincoln MKX. That makes for a relatively smooth ride, even on rough pavement — partly a function of its gas-pressurized shocks and standard 17-inch wheels and tires (our test vehicle had optional 18-inch rims).

The standard Edge is front-wheel drive so traction is pretty decent, even in foul weather; all-wheel drive is an option. Not surprisingly, the Edge doesn’t feel nearly as nimble as the Fusion, and the turning circle is large enough to make parking in tight spots a bit of a chore.

Edge gets Ford’s new twin-cam 3.5-liter V-6, which boasts 265 horsepower and is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.

The Edge AWD weighs a shade over two tons, so acceleration is decent, but not exceptional. EPA ratings are 17 miles per gallon in city driving and 24 on the highway (the base FWD version gets one mile per gallon better in each category).

We tested a Nitro R/T 4×2 the same week we drove the Edge, and were surprised to feel the difference in acceleration between the two vehicles. The rear-wheel-drive Nitro was fitted with the optional 260-horsepower 4.0-liter V-6 and five-speed automatic transmission, and felt considerably peppier, despite weighing nearly as much as the Edge. The Nitro’s automatic also had a handy Tiptronic-style manual shift mode, which the Ford six-speed lacks. Fuel economy ratings on the Nitro are comparable at 18/24.

The Edge has a decided advantage over the Nitro, however, in terms of interior appointments and comfort. The Ford’s cabin is roomy and nicely detailed; our test vehicle was equipped with handsome black leather seats with white top-stitching. There is ample room for three adults in the second row, and the cargo bay is cavernous — so much so that we stashed several plastic bags of groceries on the second-row seat for fear that they might roll around in the rear. And if that’s not enough room for you, the split rear seats fold flat at the touch of a simple release lever on either side.

One huge downside is the lack of a third row, which makes the Edge a good choice for smaller families, but a lousy alternative to a minivan for those with larger broods.

Picking a few nits, the navigation screen is too small, and the lettering seems primitive, compared to some competitors. Nor is the nav system as intuitive and easy to use as the ones on comparable Honda and Toyota models. The DVD-based system on our test vehicle was bundled with a six-disc CD changer, with a $2,380 price tag.

We were also mildly perturbed that Ford’s interior designers elected to use so many different materials and textures on the instrument panel and door panels — almost as if they couldn’t decide on the most compatible two or three.

Safety equipment even on the base Edge is excellent, and includes antilock brakes, traction and stability control, front side air bags and side curtains. Our test vehicle was also equipped with a $245 reverse sensing system, which is a handy device on a car with limited rearward visibility.

One other option on our test Edge was a $1,395 two-panel panoramic roof that provides lots of daylight for front and rear passengers.

Late to the market by years — the original Lexus RX300 hit the streets in 1999 — the 2007 Ford Edge is an appealing and competent product in a sea of appealing and competent competitors. It carries a premium price that’s hard to justify, but is definitely worth considering if you’re shopping for a sturdy, comfortable all-weather, all-purpose vehicle.

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