Edge – leading the way forward for Ford

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

SAN FRANCISCO — The Ford Edge has a lot in common with the Saturn Aura. Odd, certainly, that we would compare an all-new crossover utility vehicle and an all-new mid-sized sedan, cars from different segments.

Their commonality is in their uniqueness as outstanding new products emanating from U.S. manufacturers at virtually the same time. The Aura and the Edge show very conclusively that the two largest American automobile manufacturers are finally getting it right. Finally building products that will resonate with the auto-buying public. Finally putting stuff in showrooms that can compete with the Toyotas, Hondas and Nissans of the world. And compete without apology. Even have the upper hand.

The Edge, a new five-passenger compact crossover from Ford, and the Aura, a new mid-sized sedan from Saturn, represent a turning point. You can judge for yourself simply by visiting a showroom and requesting a test drive.

We got our first look at the Edge here in Justin Herman Plaza on Market Street at the Embarcadero just a few weeks after we were introduced to the newest Saturn in the rolling hills of Virginia west of Washington, D.C.

It has been a season of automotive revelation. We believe these are can’t-miss products.

Ford officials certainly hope they’ve got it right as they continue the launch process. The Edge is their most important product of the year and one of their most important products this century. It is really the beginning of their new beginning. It is integral in the company’s “Way Forward” restructuring plan.

The Edge created considerable interest even before it started rolling off the assembly line in Ford’s Oakville Assembly Complex in Ontario, Canada. Millions of people have visited the Edge Web site and countless numbers have configured the Edge for themselves. Something Ford hopes is more than just an exercise.

And here’s the most startling statistic — Ford had received more dealer orders for Edge than any other car product in recent history. The Edge is important to Ford because successful products are imperative to stop the flow of quarterly losses. But the Edge carries an even bigger burden for Ford because it enters the fastest growing vehicle segment — the crossover or CUV — in the United States against very stiff competition.

Annual crossover sales are now running close to 2 million and are expected to hit 3 million by the end of the decade. A successful new crossover — a car-based vehicle with unibody construction that carries the same stance as a body-on-frame sport utility but with less weight and more sedan-like handling — will help revitalize Ford dealerships bringing customers into showrooms.

And the Edge has the right stuff. Putting it on winding, curving, hairpin-infested mountain roads north of San Francisco that lead to the Point Reyes National Seashore showed us several things. It demonstrated that Ford has finally matched the proper engine and transmission with a vehicle, something that has
been problematic in recent years.

The excellent Ford Five Hundred sedan, introduced several years ago, was underpowered from the start with a small V-6. It has kept the car from being the success it should have been. Fortunately the fix is in and horsepower has been boosted for 2007 and the early introduction of a 2008 model will make further improvements under the hood and elsewhere.

That was a mistake that was not repeated with the Edge, which gets the first application of an all-new 3.5-liter V-6 generating 265 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque. By the way, that engine will be used in future iterations of the Five Hundred as well as other vehicles.

The V-6 pulled the 4,200-pound CUV through the hills with authority, and by taking the transmission out of overdrive it kept the shift points elevated for more effective pulling and better engine braking downhill.

The tall, heavy crossover is no sports car, and in fact it’s not a sedan either. Get too frisky on the turns and the Edge leans and doesn’t hold the line. But, the challenging roads showed that the Edge is very competent for what it is — a tall, two-ton-plus vehicle.

Accurate, well-weighted steering makes highway driving a pleasure.

We wandered off course once and had to make a U-turn on a busy side-street. That’s when we discovered to our delight that the Edge’s turning circle is tight. This means the new Ford will be a parking-lot friendly companion.

The test vehicles we drove were all tight and solid feeling. Rattles and creaks are apparently a thing of the distant past.

The Edge, available in three models starting at $25,995 with either front-wheel or all-wheel drive, comes with a host of attractive standard features and equipment as well as an impressive lineup of safety gear.

Standard across the lineup are roll stability control, dual-stage driver and front-passenger airbags, seat-mount front-side airbags and side-curtain airbags.

Neat stuff includes a huge panoramic sunroof, spring-loaded second-row seatbacks that can be folded flat with a push of a button, four power points including three within reach of the driver and an auxiliary audio jack allowing for the hookup of any MP3 player.

We love our cupholders and the Edge comes with a 20-ounce holder in each front-door map pocket as well as two supersize holders in the center console.

Modern-day features such as DVD navigation and DVD entertainment system are available. If desired, two seven-inch LCD monitors can be dealer-installed in the rear of the front headrests.

Of course, nothing is perfect. For instance, the absence of grab handles became uncomfortably noticeable for the passengers on winding stretches of road. Also aggravating was the absence of a manual shift feature for the transmission. And the absence of “one-touch” down and up windows is sure to aggravate those toll payers during inclement weather (something that Edge’s sister the Lincoln MKX offers).

Edge offers a bold, athletic stance with its standard 18-inch wheels pushed to the corners, steeply raked windshield and raised beltline. Included in the head-turning look is the new three-bar chromed grille that was introduced last year on the Fusion sedan.

“Edge is not an off-road adventure vehicle, and it doesn’t look like one,” said Peter Horbury, executive director, North America Design. “The inspiration for the Edge is contemporary design and an adventurous state of mind.”

The Edge makes an excellence case for visiting a Ford dealership just as the new Aura makes a good case for visiting a Saturn dealership. If these new products are an indication of the direction the nation’s two largest automobile manufacturers are headed, than it is, indeed, the right direction. And not surprisingly a jury of 49 auto journalists named the Aura and Edge as finalists in a “car of the year” poll.


Base price: $25,995; as driven: $31,395
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6
Horsepower: 265 @ 6,250 rpm
Torque: 250 @ 4,500 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive: all-wheel
Seating: 2/3
Turning circle: 38.6 feet
Towing capacity: 3,500 pounds
Maximum payload: 1,058 pounds
Luggage capacity: 32.1 cubic feet
Wheelbase: 111.2 inches
Length: 185.7 inches
Curb weight: 4,282 pounds
Fuel capacity: 20 gallons (regular)
EPA mileage: 18 mpg city/25 highway
0-60: 7.5 seconds (estimated)
Also consider: Nissan Murano, Mazda CX-7, Acura RDX

The Good:
•Healthy performance from new V-6 engine
•Muscular good looks
•Confident handling characteristics

The Bad:
•No manual shift option or one touch window operation

The Ugly:
•Price with options can escalate to well over 30 grand