You can tell a lot about a vehicle, especially a big crossover, by driving it hard on narrow, winding, hilly roads. You can tell even more about a vehicle when you do this in the rain, on slippery, winding, hilly roads. I’m happy to say that the handling of both the 2011 Ford Edge and the 2011 Ford Edge Sport is better than you’d expect from a mid-size crossover, but I’m even happier to say that the 2011 Ford Edge Sport was designed and built by drivers, for drivers.
More on that later, but first some numbers on the Ford Edge: since its introduction in 2006, Ford has sold some 400,000 Edge models, making it a huge success story for the blue oval brand. The midsize crossover segment has become the industry’s bread and butter, and it’s now larger than the sports car segment and on par with full size pickup trucks. Year to date, Ford has increased Edge sales by 33% compared to prior year, and they know a thing or two about their customers buying the Edge. Here are two very revealing numbers: forty nine percent of Edge buyers are “conquest customers”, meaning they previously owned a non-Ford vehicle, and 70% remain loyal to Ford. If you’re pirating that many customers away from the competition and keeping them happy, you must be doing something right.
If you ask Ford, they’ll tell you that the Edge over-indexes in four key metrics, including styling, ride, technology and driving satisfaction. Cut though the marketing speak, and here it is in plain English: the Edge is a good looking vehicle, and one that is drawing women buyers into Ford showrooms. It’s ride is comfortable without being numb, and the Edge Sport is particularly entertaining for those of us who like to carry some speed into corners, regardless of what we’re driving. On the technology front, Ford wins, hands down, when it comes to the driver / vehicle interface, and the new 2011 Edge is a showcase of what can be done when you strive to create a best-in-class product. Finally, Ford has you covered in driving enjoyment, whether you want your Edge in mild (SE, SEL, Limited) or extra-spicy (Sport).
Driving dynamics aside, Ford’s MyFord Touch interface is the best in the industry at linking driver to vehicle. Since it’s touch based and not controller based, most users will find it very simple to navigate and to operate. Ford breaks the interface down into four areas, each designated by a different color and a different segment of the screen. Phone controls, with an orange header tab, are located in the upper left of the MyFord Touch screen. Audio controls, marked with a red header tab, are located in the lower left. Navigation information, with a green header tab, is in the upper right, and climate control, with a blue header tab, is located in the lower right quadrant. The system responds to voice commands as well, and the number of commands has been increased from 1,000 in the first generation to 10,000 in the latest version. There really is a lot to the MyFord Touch interface, and it’s best experienced in person with a demonstration. Ford is years ahead of the competition, and it’s great to see such innovation from a domestic manufacturer.
I had a chance to sample both the Limited and the Sport on Ford’s recent unveiling of the 2011 Edge. As you’d expect, my preference ran to the Sport, but that’s not to take anything away from the Limited version. The Limited gives you leather seating, the MyFord Touch touchscreen interface, a Sony audio system and a 3.5 liter V6 good for 285 horsepower. The front wheel drive version returns 19 mpg city and 27 mpg highway, thanks in part to Ford’s Ti-VCT variable valve timing, improved aerodynamics and a variable displacement steering pump.
Get behind the wheel of the Limited and the first thing you’ll notice is the electroluminescent instrument cluster. In the center is the speedometer and gear indicator, flanked on the left by a 4.2 inch display that presents vehicle information. My preference was to leave this set on the tachometer and fuel level display, but you could also dial up trip information if that were your preference. On the right of the speedometer is the infotainment display, which can show audio settings, climate controls, phone settings or navigation information. I loved Ford’s turn-by-turn directions, provided at no charge by SYNCH Services, which gave all the information I needed on the display and via voice command. In fact, I much preferred this over a traditional nav system for Point A to Point B directions.
The Limited also gives you the upgraded Sony audio system, which uses the same touch sensitive controls you might find on a high end home stereo. Sound quality was very good, and I’d rate it on par with some of the audio systems found in luxury crossovers. Using the steering wheel’s “Smart Button” controls or the MyFord Touch touch screen, changing audio modes or setting tone controls was simple and straight forward.
On the road, the Limited feels like a lighter vehicle than its 4,082 pounds. Steering is variable assist, and has a decent feel at both low and high speeds. The motor pulls smoothly to redline, and gear changes by the six speed transmission are quick and seamless. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the new Edge is the interior noise level; thanks to the use of acoustic laminated glass, additional sound deadening insulation and an acoustic headliner, you really don’t hear much from the environment around you whether stopped or at speed. I didn’t conduct a test with a sound meter, but my impression was the Edge was as quiet as a luxury crossover, most of which are in a whole other price realm.
During the time I spent driving the Edge Limited, I didn’t find any bad behavior even when pressed hard. It was comfortable, it was roomy and it was quiet, but it wasn’t what I’d call a “driver’s car”. Enter the 2011 Ford Edge Sport, which should be on your shopping list if you need a mid size crossover but aren’t willing to give up the thrill of a properly apexed corner.
Let’s start with the engine. For 2011, the Ford Edge Sport gains 40 horsepower over the outgoing model. The new Edge Sport puts out 305 horsepower and 280 foot pounds of torque from its 3.7 liter V6. The motor is tied to a six speed automatic that can be shifted via steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, enhancing the driving experience. Shifts are crisp, and you can very easily forget you’re driving two tons of people mover from the way it pulls to redline and willingly engages the next gear. Ford deserves a lot of credit for building a crossover with drivers, not just passengers, in mind.
On wet, winding roads, the AWD in the Edge Sport I drove provided excellent traction. Even under heavy acceleration, mid-corner, the Edge did exactly what I expected it to. Steering feel was noticeably heavier than in the Edge Limited, thanks in part to the AWD layout of the Sport I drove and the class exclusive 22” wheels. I’m not complaining about the steering feel; in fact, I give it a thumbs up for being properly weighted and for providing excellent feedback.
Despite the Edge Sport’s increased horsepower, fuel mileage isn’t significantly penalized over the Edge Limited. In FWD, the Edge Sport is rated at 18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. The AWD Sport I drove is rated at 17 mpg city and 23 mpg highway, and I’m guessing you could do even better than those numbers if you were prudent with your right foot.
Aside from special leather seats, aluminum pedals and Silver Smoke trim, the Edge Sport interior is remarkably similar to the Edge Limited. That really is a good thing, since the Edge Limited was so comfortable and well designed. If I were in the market for a mid size crossover, the Edge Sport would be what worked best for me.
The 2011 Ford Edge starts at $27,995 for the entry level SE model. The FWD Limited I drove starts at $34,795 and the AWD Edge Sport I drove starts at $38,845. The 2011 Ford Edge should be hitting dealer showrooms in the next few weeks.