Ford Edge — Now with EcoBoost

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Americans have made it known their love affair with sport utility vehicles is far from over. They have also made it known that they distain rising gas prices. This conundrum has led automakers to create lighter weight SUVs with more fuel-efficient engines.

While manufacturers are squeezing more mileage out of standard V-6 engines, there are other gas-saving technologies at work. For example, Ford has created a new engine design, creatively called EcoBoost.

EcoBoost combines direct injection with turbocharging, which offers — according to Ford — measurable improvements in gas mileage with no loss in performance. Ford is rapidly expanding EcoBoost into V-6 and 4-cylinder engine configurations. Ford says it makes a 4-cylinder perform like a V-6 and a V-6 like a V-8. We think it's been done fairly successfully.

EcoBoost was first used in the 2010 Taurus SHO with a twin-turbocharged V-6 making a V-8-like 365 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque. Variants of the EcoBoost V-6 are also now being used in the F-150 pickup, the Flex crossover as well as the Lincoln MKS sedan and MKT crossover.

Now 4-cylinder engines are getting the EcoBoost treatment. Two new examples for 2012 come in the mid-sized Edge crossover and the larger Explorer.  While we found the Explorer 4-cylinder EcoBoost a bit sluggish in tests at the Ford proving grounds last summer, we were delighted with the EcoBoost performance in the slightly smaller Edge.

The Edge seemed to be more lively with sharper handling traits. Subsequent timed magazine tests and a 300 miles in a variety of driving conditions over a seven-day period on home turf, reinforced our admiration for the Edge's performance and gas mileage attributes.

The 2.0-liter turbo four is measured at 240 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. It is rated at 30 mpg highway and 21 city. Our trip computer informed us we derived 25.7 mph in combined driving. That's better than the EPA's predicted combined average of 24 mpg. Importantly in this time of rising gas prices, the turbocharged four is designed to burn regular 87 octane gas.

Fuel economy is aided by aerodynamic enhancements such as shutters in the grille that automatically open and close based on speed for increased air flow.

While we never had more than three passengers on board, we were pleased with the SUV's performance. It surged from stoplights when requested, and we never encountered a problem passing slower-moving vehicle. For comparison purposes, the Edge EcoBoost has been measured from 7.5 seconds to about 8 seconds from 0 to 60. That's on a par with the standard V-6 engine, which is rated at 19/27 with a combined 22 in front-wheel drive format.

Before you get too excited about the EcoBoost, it has its drawbacks depending on your needs. It 's not offered in all-wheel drive and its towing capacity is a rather anemic 1,500 pounds. And perhaps the biggest drawback is its $995 price premium over the standard V-6. The Edge V-6 starts at $28,595, and with EcoBoost at $29,590 including destination charge. Our well-outfitted SEL test vehicle carried a sticker price of $36,670.

You will have to decide if the EcoBoost fits your lifestyle, and if the gas savings is enough to offset the price difference.

The Edge V-6 choices are the standard 3.5-liter making 285 horsepower and 253 pound-feet of torque, and a 3.7-liter V-6 making 305 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. Both come in either two-wheel or all-wheel drive and both carry towing capacities of 3,500 pounds.

The five-passenger Edge, which was introduced in 2006 as a 2007 model, received a majoring refreshening for the 2011 model year. The result is a considerably improved and sharper looking crossover SUV.

Front seat room is excellent and the seats are comfortable. And they stayed that way after three straight hours on the road. Finding a just-right driving position was not a problem. Leg room in back is adequate and the seats are nicely shaped.

Cargo capacity is respectable 32 cubic feet behind the rear seats. It can be expanded to 69 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded.

If you purchase a model with the much-criticized MyFord Touch interface controls, tackle the system head on. Ask a dealer representative to help you understand all the features. Get used to the information screens and how to access them, including by use of voice commands, and you will come out the winner.

The new EcoBoost engine is intriguing to us and it would be high on our consideration list if we were shopping an Edge. The turbocharged engine afforded us an enjoyable week of driving.

Base price: $29,550; as driven, $36,670
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 240 @ 5,500 rpm
Torque: 270 pound-feet @ 3,000 rpm
Drive: front wheel
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 111.2 inches
Length: 184.2 inches
Curb weight: 3,998 pounds
Turning circle: 38.6 feet
Towing capacity: 1,500 pounds
Luggage capacity: 32.2 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 68.9 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 18 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 30 highway, 21 city
Also consider: Honda Pilot, Mazda CX-9, GMC Terrain

The good
• Excellent gas mileage
• Performance-endowed engine
• Quiet, well-appointed cabin
• Abundant features available

The Bad
• No all-wheel drive available

The Ugly
• Costs $995 more than comparable V-6