Ford needs a win ... an obvious fact after ringing up nearly $13 billion in losses last year.
While the Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker might be a couple of years away from reporting its next quarterly profit, it might have a segment winner on its hands with the all-new 2007 Ford Edge.
This five-seater has a lot going for it. For starters, the Edge is an able entry in the crossover segment, the fastest-growing motor vehicle niche in the United States.
The Edge has lots of pop: The 3.5-liter V-6 delivers a healthy 265 horsepower and a maximum 250 foot-pounds of torque, which means you don't sacrifice performance with a vehicle that's smaller than a gas-thirsty sport-utility vehicle.
And for my money, the five-seat Edge feels more substantial than its dimensions -- less like a smallish crossover and every bit like a midsize to near-full-size SUV. Yet Edge's handling is not SUV-like.
The Edge rang up more good news this week, with the announcement that it earned a coveted "Top Safety Pick" rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Edge held up nicely in frontal and side crash tests -- no surprise with its extensive safety package of front/side/rear air bags, side-impact door beams and energy-absorbing materials.
Ford's AdvanceTrac system with Roll Stability Control is standard on the Edge, and a big plus in the safety department. In a nutshell, the system uses gyroscopic sensors to monitor both yaw and roll motions, making it very difficult to push the Edge off the straight and narrow.
No, you cannot make an Edge do what it does in those computer-generated TV commercials -- running two wheels on a building ledge while the rest of the vehicle hangs in space -- but you do get a sophisticated system that senses wheel slip before it occurs, automatically making adjustments to maintain maximum traction.
Pretty remarkable stuff.
And yet, the vehicle does not resemble a wildly futuristic transporter. The look is pretty standard -- downsized SUV with a nicely arched roofline and a sharply angled tail end for some added spice.
A lot of DNA from the Ford Fusion sedan is evident. That's no surprise. Edge is built on the Fusion platform, and it has the Fusion's same three-bar front grille.
Inside, the tested Edge was user-friendly, with large, easy-to-use controls and a rear cargo area that could easily be converted to hold nearly 70 cubic feet of stuff. The optional, DVD-based navigation screen was crystal clear and easy to read.
Five adults can sit in roomy comfort in the Edge, except perhaps when a manic driver demands instant, serious acceleration from the aluminum-block V-6. At such times, riders might get scrambled.
Performance is never a problem. The torquey V-6 responds promptly and tackles inclines and twisting roads with relish. The handling of the unibody Edge is decidedly sedan-like.
Even with the V-6 at full song, the interior cabin remains remarkably quiet. Ford said its engineers were obsessed with reducing wind noise, to the point of tweaking exterior mirrors "by tenths of a millimeter" to conquer the wind.
What's not to like?
Well, the tested SEL model with all-wheel drive weighed in at around $35,000 -- a hefty bottom line for a crossover. Without options, the starting price still nears $31,000. If you want the basic Edge SE with front-wheel drive, however, the starting price is a that's-more-like-it $25,320.
Also, that power boost from the V-6 translates to tepid fuel economy ratings of 17 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg on the open road. Ford and some auto-reviewing colleagues consider those numbers to be good.
I can't agree, especially considering that the Edge comes with a six-speed automatic gearbox touted to save fuel. Happily, the gas that Edge burns is regular unleaded and that six-speed is otherwise smooth and seamless.
Does the Edge give Ford a much-needed win? Or even a slight Edge?
I think so, at least among crossovers. Just don't try driving it on the ledge of a building.
Ford Edge at a glance
Make/model: 2007 Ford Edge SEL Vehicle type: Five-passenger, four-door, all-wheel-drive crossover vehicl Base price: $30,720 Engine: 3.5-liter V-6 with 265 horsepower at 6,250 revolutions per minute and 250 foot-pounds of torque at 4,500 rpm EPA fuel economy: 17 miles per gallon city; 24 mpg highway (regular unleaded) Transmission: Six-speed automatic with overdrive Steering: Power-assisted rack and pinion Brakes: Power, four-wheel discs with anti-lock and other braking-enhancement features Suspension: Independent, MacPherson strut-type on front; independent, with lateral links on rear (stabilizer bars front and rear) Fuel tank: 20 gallons Passenger volume: 108.3 cubic feet Maximum cargo volume: 69.6 cubic feet Curb weight: 4,282 pounds Height: 68.9 inche Length: 185.7 inches Wheelbase: 111.2 inches Width: 75.8 inches Track: 65.1 inches on front; 64.9 inches on rear Ground clearance: 8 inches Tires: P245/60R18 all-season radials Towing capacity: 3,500 pounds (with specified trailering package) Final assembly point: Oakville, Ontario, Canada