EXPERT REVIEW

The Detroit Newspapers's view


Most journeys have a destination; they don’t have to, but they do.

Nobody jumps into a car anymore just to go. The days of just being on the road, sadly, have ended. No one dances down the street like dingledodies today, unless there are reality TV cameras in tow.

But as a people, we should take to our highways again, hop on the road and explore the vast backyard of our homeland. If we did, we’d find solace in the 2011 Ford Edge — a crossover re-created to provide all of the amenities of home while making room for everything else.

From MyFord Touch, simply the best infotainment-voice-activated-driver-friendly system around, to a reworked interior and exterior, the new Edge has finally found its magic. On a recent cross-country tour to Boston, I took the new Edge. Ford says the Edge was only refreshed, but there’s been lot more work done here than just polishing the blue oval on the hurricane-ready louvered grille and providing a new car smell in the second row.

The trip, also known as the Obama Orange Barrel Tour 2010, inspired me. The highway through the flatlands of Ohio was strewn with stimulus dollars and traffic jams. But that figures; when the only Bean Town in the state is Lima, expectations should remain low.

The high-riding position of the Edge allowed me to look over the long lines of people clumsily attempting to merge. The comfortable seats also made the ride more bearable. Even after nearly 2,000 miles, I never experienced that long-haul creak in my spine.

If life is the road, then Ohio is simply a place to stop for gas — though in the Edge I didn’t do that nearly as much as I thought I might; it averaged 24 mpg through the trip in a loaded Limited. (According to the EPA, the front-wheel drive Edge gets 19 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway and the all-wheel drive model gets 18 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway.)

Much of that good gas mileage comes from changes engineers made to the 3.5-liter V-6. They included adding independent variable valve timing and aggressive fuel shut-off technology during deceleration, as well as other features, such as new engine hardware and a lower idle speed.

The engine, however, still belts out 285 horsepower and 253 pound-feet of torque, plenty of power for this big — and heavy — crossover. Perhaps the Edge’s two-ton weight causes the six-speed automatic transmission to hesitate now and again. But once it reaches cruising speeds, it’s smooth sailing. (There is also a super cool looking Edge Sport with a 3.7-liter V-6, which I have not tested yet.)

Features abound

In Western New York, somewhere near Allegany, the Edge found its groove.

I set the adaptive cruise control on 70ish and just let the Edge take care of the work. The radar-based cruise control monitors traffic and automatically adjusts the speed based on the vehicle in front.

The feel of this system is so natural that if a car in front of you slows down, you don’t notice the Edge matching that speed. But it’s frustrating to suddenly realize you’ve been going 60 mph for who knows how long.

But my favorite new feature, along with radar-based cruise control, is collision warning with brake support. At some point during the drive, perhaps while I was extolling why Sam Adams has had a much bigger impact on American beer than his do-nothing brother, John, I lost track that I was also driving. Suddenly, the stereo shut off, a harsh alarm sounded and a red bar flashed across the bottom of the windshield. All of these signals instantly make you slam the brake — as well as have the passenger next to you slam an imaginary brake. The brakes, which were charged milliseconds earlier, work extremely well and vacation disaster — the stopped car in front of me I should have hit — was avoided.

All of those nifty features, such as blind spot detection and cross traffic alert — which tells you when someone is cruising too close to the parking space you’re backing out of — still don’t compare to the MyFord Touch.

The system, which features the voice-activated Sync technology, has become a must-have feature.

The first thing you’ll notice are the two small color screens as part of the instrument panel. They’re operated by small pads on the steering wheel and convey more information than a dictionary. They let the driver track mileage, navigation turns, radio stations, adjust the heat, and lots of other info nice to have at a quick glance.

But the improvements to Sync are also noticeable. The system is less regimented than before, so, for example, if you want to make a call you don’t have to say “Phone, call, Sid Paradise.” Just say “call” and it knows what you mean. You can also do the same with asking for radio stations or most other features in the car. Want ice cream, just ask, MyFord Touch will have an answer. Mind reading is still a few generations away.

The big touch screen at the top of the center stack is also easy to navigate. Instead of traditional click buttons, Ford has switches that you merely lay your finger across. All of these give the Edge an extremely clean look.

I have one major gripe, however. The location of the hazard signal at the base of the navigation screen is problematic. The switch is touch sensitive, so almost every time you lay your hand on the screen and rest it against the bottom lip, the hazards turn on. Then you bang your fist against the button for what feels like 10 minutes while the hazards taunt you, magically unable to shut off.

If Ford wanted to stop production right now and change this button’s location, I would hold a parade.

Plenty of space

Throughout the cabin, there is lots of space. The previous Edge felt like it leaned toward the truck side of crossovers. This model feels more like a sedan than an SUV, but it provides all of the space a growing family could use. The second row is spacious and if you need even more, the 60/40 split rear seats fold down at the touch of a button. The optional liftgate is also a feature anyone with their hands loaded bags will appreciate.

Prior to this model, the Edge felt incomplete. There were better options available and none of them came from Dearborn.

But like the long road ahead of us, we can only find out what’s there if we venture onto it. It doesn’t matter which one, according to resident road expert Jack Kerouac, “… holyboy road, madman road, rainbow road, guppy road, any road. It’s an anywhere road for anybody anyhow.”

Kerouac rode on the edge, and I rode in one. Frankly, my ride was a lot more comfortable.

sburgess@detnews.com (313) 223-3217

2011 Ford Edge

Type: Five-passenger crossover with front- or all-wheel drive

Price: $27,995

Engine: 3.5-liter V-6

Power: 285 horsepower, 253 pound-feet of torque

Transmission: Six-speed automatic with optional paddle shifters

EPA gas mileage

FWD: 19 mpg city / 27 mpg highway

AWD: 18 mpg city / 25 mpg highway

Report Card

Overall: *** 1/2

Exterior: Good. Smooth and fluid design with a nice curve. Still chunky in some places but improving.

Interior: Excellent. Top-notch infotainment system. Comfortable with lots of space.

Performance: Good. Nice power and acceleration. Excellent highway feel and still nimble around town.

Pros: Lots of features make the Edge fun to drive and stress free. MyFord Touch is the best telematics system available.

Cons: Price can climb with lots of features.

Grading scale

**** Excellent *** Good ** Fair * Poor

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