2007 Ford Edge – Mustang of Crossovers
- October 19, 2006
- Ford, On The Road: Driving Impressions
- Posted by George Peterson
- 1 Comment
The introduction of the all new Ford Edge crossover SUV is arguably the most significant launch in the United States for the 2007 model year. It certainly is for Ford Motor Company. And, Edge brings the knowledge of Ford’s decades of SUV dominance into the equation. One Ford competitor has described the Edge as the “Mustang of Crossovers” meaning that Edge could have Mustang-like impact on the crossover SUV world.
Ford invited VehicleVoice and AutoPacific correspondents to review the Edge in San Francisco. They had a reveal in an Embarcadero-side park where Mark Fields, Ford’s North American Chief gave a brief synopsis of the importance of this new crossover SUV in Ford’s lineup. Fields turned over the duty of describing the details of the Edge to Geri Ward, Ford’s Edge Brand Marketing Manager. A former powertrain engineer, Ward brought technical knowledge with a marketing spin to her pitch.
Why is Edge So Significant?
The Edge gives Ford a contemporary SUV that hits the target of crossover SUV buyers who don’t need hardcore off-road capability or towing capability. Finally recognizing (as they did with the more SUV-like Escape crossover SUV) that a high percentage of SUV buyers really did not want the rough ride, clumsy handling, high entry and exit and compromised NVH (noise, vibration and harshness), Ford seems to have hit the bullseye with the Edge.
Edge will not be a huge seller. It is built at Ford’s Oakville (Ontario) Assembly Plant and capacity is shared with the Lincoln MKX (companion vehicle to the Edge) and the Ford Freestar minivan (which will die in 2007 to be replaced by the production version of Ford’s Fairlane concept crossover from 2005). Basically, it looks like Edge will be capacity constrained. Ford may not be able to build enough of them. Well, you always say that you want to build ten too few than a thousand too many. And that seems to be Ford’s plan.
Contemporary Styling – Head Turning and Package-Efficient
The styling of the Edge is instantly identifiable as a Ford through its bold three bar grille. The wheel arches are muscular and Ford has chosen tires and wheels that fill the wheel openings. Edge is distinctive and will turn heads.
I was concerned at first that Ford styling would hurt the overall package. Edge has a very fast windshield that may compromise getting into the driver’s seat. But Ford’s stylists pushed the windshield forward far enough that entry and exit is no problem. The rear end is sloped unlike any Ford SUV – much more stylish. So, Edge isn’t a pure “two-box” SUV. It’s more of a tall sport wagon.
The interior is spacious with very comfortable front seating, good ergonomics, easy to understand and reach controls and switches. We were riding with Peter Thompson, an NVH engineer, who explained that Edge is among the quietest vehicles now produced by Ford. And that claim is believable. On the freeway in Marin County the Edge was very quiet at highway speeds. Very little wind noise and minimal tire noise except on some contrary California road surfaces.
Safety in Spades
Unike many competitors, Edge has all the safety accoutrements standard: Safety Canopy side curtain airbags, seat-mounted side air bags, tire pressure monitoring system, Personal Safety System, LATCH child safety system. Looking at the safety demonstration display in the San Francisco plaza, the safety message was clear.
New Ford 3.5L V6 – 265 semi-weak horses
I was really waiting to drive the all new Ford Duratec 3.5L V6. It is rated at 265 horsepower which is very competitive. Driving through the standard 6-speed automatic transmission the 3.5L did not really feel like it was that powerful. Maybe it was the 200-pounders riding in the vehicle, but my old Expedition with the 260-horsepower 5.4L V8 felt dramatically stronger. Maybe the horses in the V6 were off their feed.
A couple of weeks ago, I got the chance to drive the Nissan Altima and Infiniti G35 – also around San Francisco – and tried out the outstanding Nissan VQ 3.5L V6. The same-displacement in the Ford V6 does not put out the same grunt as the Nissan, nor does it sound as good. In the Edge, the “engine music” sounded anemic. Well, Mazda tried out 174 different exhaust notes on the originial Miata… maybe Ford should have gone for something stronger sounding. May have helped with the perception of engine power.
What Were They Thinking?
Of course, not every new vehicle is perfect and Edge is no exception. Can you believe that for the 2007 model year, Edge is NOT AVAILABLE with Bluetooth? Edge has SIRIUS satellite radio available. Edge has iPod integration. But Bluetooth is conspicuously absent. Couldn’t get a good rationale from the Ford folks about that.
Also, the instrument panel is highlighted by a argent (silver) horse-collar surrounding the center stack. In the test vehicles the glare from this piece is very objectionable in the bright California sunlight. But, Ford nipped the problem in the bud. All vehicles produced as of the October 16, 2006 Job #1 have charcoal or grey highlights to minimize the glare problem.
After my second round of stick time behind the wheel of Ford’s Edge in the past four months I can safely say that the engineers have earned their collective keep in buttoning up the beast’s chassis. When first I piloted the crossover SUV, the vehicle had an unsettling proclivity to pitch and slowly wallow at highways speed on certain roads. The two I drove at the San Francisco preview displayed none of this. In fact the ride and handling engineers have done an admirable job of concealing the Edge’s rather hefty avoirdupois. The Edge is nimble for a vehicle of its type.
A;though you’d never know it from the way it feels dynamically and looks, this sucker tips the scale at well over two tons. This, I believe, is why Mr. Peterson was less than wowed by the acceleration of the Edge a few paragraphs above. In defense of the rather hefty mass of the Edge, it’s pretty clear that five-star crash ratings were part and parcel of the vehicle’s development. And that kind of performance is attained through beefy structure. Besides, anybody that buys a vehicle like this and is looking for a low quarter-mile e.t. is barking up the wrong tree.
No dog this Ford Edge. Still, it could do with a zippy set of non-chrome 20-inch rims and tires.
— Jim Hall
Ford on the Edge
The launch of a new CUV may be just what the ailing automaker needs. It’s a credible, timely vehicle, and its flaws are few.
DAN NEIL, Los Angeles Times
October 18, 2006
WITH a name so apt it verges on a cosmic joke, the Ford Edge crossover utility vehicle debuted here Monday in a sun-flooded city plaza near the Embarcadero. On the edge, as it turns out, is just where Ford finds itself.
Though the miseries of Detroit rival General Motors are better known, Ford’s troubles are arguably deeper and more confounding. The company has stumbled in recent years as it has tried to right-size capacity in the face of plunging revenue and market share. In September, William Clay Ford Jr. — Henry’s grandson — stepped down as the company’s chief executive, turning the job over to former Boeing exec Alan Mulally. Ford lost $1.4 billion in the first half of 2006, and one analyst estimates the company’s North American operations will lose $4 billion by the end of the year.
In response, the company is picking up the pace of its much-debated Way Forward program, which will mean the way out for as many as 30,000 U.S. workers. Shedding these workers, and closing nine plants by 2008, will align Ford’s production capacity with its future North American market share, says Mark Fields, Ford’s president of the Americas. He estimates market share will stabilize around 15%. (Ford’s market share a decade ago was 25%.)
The Edge is only one vehicle (two, if you count the Lincoln clone MKX), and yet it arrives bearing huge expectations. “This is the most important vehicle launch for us this year,” Fields says. “The Edge will challenge people’s assumptions about Ford. It will even challenge their prejudices.”
About those prejudices. Ford’s critics have complained the problem was that the company didn’t offer the right vehicle at the right price at the right time — the Mustang being the exception that proves the rule. Well, the Edge is well-timed. The crossover utility segment, Ford execs are pleased to say again and again, is the fastest-growing in the market.
Design: The Edge is a terrific-looking piece of machinery, short-coupled and athletic, with a long, rakish windshield and handsome grill resembling a triple-bladed razor, the same face as on the Ford Fusion. With its large, well-tailored wheel arches, simplified geometry, high beltline, canted rear window and relatively narrow greenhouse (the glassy section of the car), the Edge has a deliberate and sporty stance that a lot of CUVs — coming off as neutered SUVs — are missing.
Value: The Edge is the sort of vehicle only a fully consolidated multinational car company can build. The bare bones of the platform were engineered by Mazda (Ford owns an interest) and are shared with that company’s upcoming CX-9 crossover. The vehicle is built at Ford’s factory in Oakville, Ontario, where because of savings afforded by Canadian healthcare, labor costs are approximately 25% cheaper than in a comparable U.S. plant. The six-speed automatic transmission is the product of a joint venture with GM. The 3.5-liter V6 Duratec engine is built at the company’s Lima, Ohio, facility. This new, cleaner and more powerful engine (265 hp in the Edge) will find wide and well-amortized use in many Ford products.
As a consequence of these savings, Ford has been able to offer more in the Edge, making it competitive with generously provisioned nameplates from Japan like the Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot and Mazda’s own CX-7. The decently equipped SE model sells for $25,995. – All-wheel drive is a $1,650 option. The premium SEL plus is stocked with fog lights, power-adjustable heated leather seats, dual-zone climate control and utility features such as the fold-flat front seat and release buttons in the cargo hold.
Our test vehicle was a maxed-out Edge SEL Plus with AWD ($36,070), including navigation and premium audio ($2,380), and the huge two-panel sunroof ($1,395). Standard on all Edges are power windows; power locks with remote keyless entry; MP3-capable audio; stability control; and front, side and side-curtain air bags.
Although the profits and losses of the Edge program might be insignificant in the grand scheme of Ford’s finances, the vehicle is hugely important as a symbol of the company’s future competitiveness. If the Edge is a hit, Ford partisans can breathe a little easier. If the Edge is a dud, it will seem to be the teaspoon that finally breeches the levee.
The good news for partisans is that the Edge is a very appealing, if not quite magical, bit of transportation. At its heart is the new all-alloy, 24-valve V6, which manages to put out a lot of power and torque (250 pound-feet at 4,500 rpm) with a minimum of noise and vibration. The Duratec engine’s former thrash and harshness has been largely subdued. This engine is also clean. It is PZEV-capable, Ford reports, and the Edge itself qualifies as a ULEV-II vehicle.
With this motor in the snout, the 2-ton Edge has a nice, punchy low-speed character and above-average onramp acceleration. I estimate the zero to 60 acceleration is in the high 7-second range. The six-speed transmission changes ratios fluidly and without fuss. Some might complain that it doesn’t have a manual-shift mode, and yet I expect most consumers never use that feature and won’t miss it.
The whole point of the crossover segment is to offer drivers some of the versatility of SUVs without the extravagant fuel costs. The Edge obliges with highway mileage in the mid-20s.
As for driving dynamics, the Edge is reasonably cooperative and agile at moderate speeds but with little appetite for aggressive driving. Ford chassis engineers dialed back the vividness and stiffness of the Mazda platform by softening the suspension bushings, spring rates, strut valving and other “tune-ables.” The steering has moderate heft and is fairly responsive.
By far the most exemplary quality of the Edge is its ride refinement. The cabin ambience is hushed and serene even at supra-legal speeds. The wind and tire noise are well-smothered, and the compliance is excellent. The cabin is well- isolated from the road by a generous helping of couplings, rubber-mounted sub-frames and other mechanical measures that one can see if they look under the vehicle.
There are lots of things to love about the Edge. The optional switches that flip down the reclining rear seat backs are a great idea. Pod-heads will appreciate the various plugs and cubbies to accommodate their iPods. The center console is designed to receive a laptop computer. Cabin space is exceptional, especially rear seat legroom and cargo capacity.
There is one huge thing to dislike about the Edge and that is the reflections on the windshield from the large dash area in front of the steering wheel. This is a problem with all such vehicles that have long, rakish windshields and upright seating, but in the Edge, these reflections were so pronounced as to become a safety issue. Some kind of non-reflective surface has to be installed on the dash.
It would appear that Ford is aware of the problem. In the test vehicles for this media event, the company provided — without comment — free polarized sunglasses, which cut about 90% of the glare. That was sneaky.