By Eric Peters, Automotive Columnist Photo courtesy of CARICOS
The Internet as a mass medium is less than 20 years old but because it’s literally everywhere now it feels as though it has always been thus.
Same goes for crossover SUVs. They are — as a class — hugely popular now and as common as wood-paneled station wagons were back in the ’70s.
But it was not always so — and as recently as the early 2000s. There were lots of SUVs — based on pick-up trucks. But the idea of building an SUV-looking vehicle that was based on a car — and which rode and handled like a car rather than a truck — that was a new idea.
The first-generation of such vehicles included models like the Lexus RX (debut year 1999), then the Nissan Murano (2003) and the Ford Edge (2006).
Though the Edge came out after the Murano, it has done much better — becoming one of Ford’s best-selling models and the best-selling vehicle in its class.
Now comes its first major redesign — and as you can imagine, there’s a lot riding on it.
No doubt, the engineers, stylists and product planners at Ford are … on edge. Awaiting the verdict of the market.
Have they fixed what isn’t broken?
Or taken a good thing — and made it better?
WHAT IT IS
The Edge is a mid-sized, two-row crossover SUV — built on the same basic “platform” (as they say in car industry jargon) as the Fusion sedan.
Ford designed it to appeal to people who don’t need three rows (that’s where Explorer comes in) but who want lots of room in two rows — as well as the very latest in technology, smart looks and snappy performance.
It’s available in base SE, mid-trim SEL, Titanium (new for ’15) and Sport trims.
All trims — including the base SE with the four-cylinder engine — are offered with FWD (standard) or AWD (optional).
There are two new engines — a turbocharged four cylinder (base trims) and a turbocharged 2.7 liter V6 (Sport trims only) which replaces last year’s 3.7 liter V6.
Last year’s non-turbo 3.5 liter V6 carries over.
Base price for a FWD SE is $28,100.
An SEL with FWD starts at $31,500.
The luxury-themed Titanium with FWD stickers for $35,600 to start; $37,595 w/AWD.
Either of the above is available with the turbo four or the non-turbo V6, mix and match as you prefer.
The Edge Sport — with its unique-to-this-trim twin-turbo 2.7 V6 — starts $38,100 ($40,095 when equipped with the optional AWD system).
As before, the Edge’s closest-in-kind competition is probably the Nissan Murano — which is also all new for 2015.
The Nissan is larger (longer) but — interestingly — has less space in both of its two rows and also comes only with a V6 (not turbo’d) and CVT automatic, regardless of trim.
Murano starts $29,560 and runs to $40,600 for a Platinum trim w/AWD.
The ’15 Edge get its first major update, including two new engines on the roster (which makes for three, total) more interior and cargo room, Ford’s latest technology (including automatic perpendicular and parallel parking) “active” grille shutters to enhance aerodynamics and improve fuel efficiency, the latest version of Ford’s MyTouch system, feeding through a new eight-inch LCD touchscreen display and (wait for it!) a self-washing 180 degree exterior camera.
More of everything (and more than Murano) for about the same money as last year’s Edge … and less money than Nissan asks for this year’s Murano.
Base four can be ordered with AWD; no more up-selling you to the V6 to get it.
Available 315 hp twin turbo V6 completely outclasses Murano’s top-dog 260 hp V6.
More legroom in second row than Murano has in first row.
Noticeably improved handling and ride quality vs. 2014 Edge.
WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD
Ford’s MyTouch interface is still a challenge to learn — and sometimes, to use.
Will turbo’d engines prove reliable down the road? We won’t really know until we get there.
Both of the Edge’s turbo’d engines need premium to deliver best-case horsepower/mileage.
UNDER THE HOOD
A couple of interesting things about the new Edge.
First, the new standard engine — a 245 hp turbocharged four paired with either FWD or AWD.
This is a first.
Two firsts, actually.
The previous Edge also offered a turbo four — but not with AWD. If you wanted AWD, you had to move up to either of the two available V6s.
Here’s where it gets interesting: On paper, the ’15’s 2.0 turbo four seems to be about the same as the ’14’s 2.0 four. Same size, both turbo’d; the ’15 producing just 5 more hp on paper than the ’14 did.
So, what gives?
The ’15s 2.0 four — though superficially similar to the ’14’s 2.0 four — is a heavily revised engine, with a new-design twin-scroll turbo and an exhaust manifold that’s cast integrally as part of the cylinder head. These design changes result in almost-immediate boost and so, much less (almost no, in this writer’s experience) turbo lag.
The ’15 2.0 engine also features revised camshaft timing, higher compression (9.7:1 now vs. 9.3:1 before), direct injection — and the block is a lighter casting which, along with other weight-saving measures, made it possible for Ford to offer the four and AWD together for the first time.
The optional V6s — either the turbo’d new one or the not-turbo’d carryover one — can be purchased if you’d like more power, but not because you have to in order to get AWD.
Potential buyers might also want to consider that the new Edge’s base engine is only 15 hp shy of the Nissan Murano’s top (and only available) engine, a 3.5 liter, 260 hp V6. And the Nissan’s V6 is thirstier (21 city, 28 highway with FWD vs. 20 city, 30 highway for the 2.0 Edge with FWD) and — big surprise — can only pull a 1,500 lb. trailer while the four-cylinder Edge is rated for up to 3,500 lbs.
In any event, the Murano does not give you much variety under the hood.
For the traditionalist — the buyer who is maybe a little leery of turbo’d engines but wants more power — there is the carryover 3.5 liter V6, also offered with (and without AWD). It makes 285 hp (15 more than the Nissan’s V6) and is paired with a six-speed automatic (as is the turbo four).
Replacing last year’s optional 3.7 liter V6 (not turbo’d) is a new 2.7 liter twin-turbo V6. Ford fans will recognize this powerhouse powerplant; it made its debut in the new F-150 pick-up truck. In the Edge, it produces a bit less power — but 315 is still a step up from the 305 hp produced by the ’14’s optional 3.7 liter V6 and absolutely blows the Murano’s 260 hp V6 into the weeds. The 2.7 engine features a graphite-impregnated iron-alloy block for high strength and light weight, and two twin-scroll turbos. It is one of the strongest engines currently available on a power-per-liter basis and otherwise.
The FWD Sport with this engine (which, again, is unique to Sport trims) gets to 60 in just over 7 seconds. Mileage figures were not yet available in mid-March when this review was written but Ford says the 2.7 liter’s numbers will be better than the outgoing 3.7 liter Edge’s 19 city, 27 highway (17 city, 23 highway with AWD).
The Edge’s optional AWD system is capable of routing 100 percent of engine power from front to rear, as needed, to maintain traction.
ON THE ROAD
Ford flew me — and other car jockeys — out to Arizona to test drive the Edge. We did deserts, we did suburbia — and in between.
The immediately obvious thing about the Edge is that any of the available powertrains will more than do. None are to be avoided. It comes down to whether you’re content with strong, stronger — or gotta have strongest.
The Ecoboosted four is probably the one you want for suburbia because it has good low-end torque (270 ft.-lbs. — more than the next-up 3.5 liter V6) and very strong mid-range power that pulls the Edge smartly from light to light — and gives you not bad gas mileage for such a big galoot (about 5 MPG better than last year’s 3.5/AWD combo).
Probably, this is the version I’d buy.
The carryover V6, on the other hand, has more on top (horsepower-wise), pulls harder at highway speeds — and will not give you any angst about possible down-the-road turbocharger trouble.
I spoke at length with a group of Ford powertrain engineers who made me feel good about the turbo’d engine’s long-haul prospects. They tortured prototypes in ways that would make anyone feel sorry for the poor things, even if they are machines and cannot feel pain. But — again — the truth will come out as the years pass in real-world driving. If you’re risk-averse, the carryover 3.5 V6 may be the one for you. It’s been around a long time, has a track record — a good one — and its only real weakness is it’s a bit on the thirsty side.
The Sport with the twin-turbo 2.7 V6 is its own animal — a different species, really. If Ford had not dialed down the power (left it at F-150 levels in the much lighter Edge) we’d have a blue oval version of the Mercedes AMG45 GLA (which is a high-end and slightly larger version of the Subaru WRX STi, no matter what Benz likes to call it).
It gets different suspension tuning, including monotube shocks with larger diameter pistons unique to this trim, along with stiffer roll bars, coil springs and adaptive steering that changes effort based on driving conditions.
Edge Sports come standard with a 20 inch wheel/tire package, too.
One thing it has that I personally wish it didn’t come with is Active Noise Cancellation technology. It generates sound waves that cancel out (as far as your ears are concerned) the sounds made by the engine. But some of us want to hear the engine — especially when it’s a sweet sounding twin-turbo engine.
AT THE CURB
At a glance, it’s not easy to spot the changes — but they are significant. The ’15 Edge is about four inches longer than the ’14 (188.1 vs. 184.2) and 1.6 inches taller. The bigger shell allows upticked dimensions inside the shell, where there’s a bit more headroom in both rows and a bit more legroom in the second row — as well as significantly more room for cargo behind the second: 39.2 cubes now vs. 32.2 previously.
The Nissan Murano still has slightly more cargo room — 39.6 cubes behind its second row. But it has nearly two inches less legroom for second-row passengers (38.7 vs. 40.6 for the Ford) and 2.1 inches less legroom up front (40.5 vs. 42.6). Headroom in both rows is also a bit tighter in the Nissan — and it’s a tighter squeeze side-by-side, especially in the second row, where the Ford has 57.5 inches of hip room vs. 55.2 for the Nissan.
Cosmetic details: The’15 Edge is less blocky than previously; the new grille, for instance, has outward tapering sideways “Vs” now instead of the bar-grille of the ’14. Inside, the doors are scalloped inward to provide that extra margin of clearance — and (in keeping with the high-tech theme) 20th century manual pull-up-and-down interior door locks have been replaced by electronic ones.
There is a front seat passenger knee air bag (driver’s side knee air bags are not new; this is) as well as air bags built into the rear seat belts. The Edge’s rear liftgate can be opened “hands-free” by swiping your foot underneath the bumper. Redesigned seat heaters and coolers (new for Edge) are available, as are MyKey concierge/teenager controls you can use to limit the vehicle’s top speed and other functions.
Ford says the Edge is a vehicle — pardon the pun — for its latest (you might say cutting edge) technology. Thus, it’s the first Ford that can park itself perpendicularly (into and out of spots in a row, as in a shopping mall) as well as parallel park (on a street). There is a camera built into the grille (with its own washer jet, so its view is never impaired by road grime) and your only job — if you so desire — is to give it a little gas. The car will adjust and steer itself into the spot.
Now, the fact is a competent human driver can do it faster as well as more gracefully. But many human drivers are, unfortunately, not competent. The Art of the Parallel Park — like the Art of the Double Clutch — is rapidly becoming rare and irrelevant. People aren’t taught — and the skill is no longer expected. This is — alas — the future. Cars will drive themselves. Automatic parking is just the … uh.. leading edge.
Well, one of them.
The Edge also has a semi-automatic steering system that applies corrective inputs when the driver fails — on his own — to keep the car in its lane. People (a lot of them) seem to want such stuff and I concede it is technologically impressive stuff… but it makes my teeth hurt.
As does the Ford My Touch input, which you use (if you can) to adjust the various infotainment system, such as the GPS, as well as the climate control and audio. The interface can be inscrutable — even for two experienced car journalists (that’s me and another guy who were driving the Edge together in Arizona at the media reveal for the thing last week). Getting the screen to scroll from audio to GPS to climate control, for instance, took us both working on it together to grok. It should not be that hard to grok.
Sometimes, technology can be a bit too clever.
THE BOTTOM LINE
No doubt, people who’ve already purchased an Edge will like this new Edge. It’s got the same appeal — plus more. And probably, many people who cross shop two-row mid-size crossovers like the Murano will be impressed by the Ford’s objective superiority under the hood, interior space-wise and otherwise. The new Murano is a good-looker, but looks only go so far.
The Edge has looks — and more.