2012 Ford Edge Driving Impressions

The Ford Edge fits the crossover theme right down to the way it drives. Its ride, handling and general dynamic behavior are much more like that in the typical sedan than in any truck. Yet the Edge offers the commanding view and longer in-traffic sight lines that one expects in a pickup or sport-utility vehicle.

Edge delivers better fuel economy than truck-based SUVs. By EPA ratings, it ranks near the top among comparable crossovers such as the Dodge Journey and Toyota Venza, regardless of engine or drive configuration.

The fuel-economy leader in the Edge lineup is the 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine. The 2.0-liter EcoBoost is one of the most sophisticated engines in Ford's lineup. With an advanced turbocharging setup, fully variable valve timing and extra-efficient direct injection, EcoBoost packs significant wallop for its size. With a peak of 240 horsepower, the 2.0 EcoBoost makes 45 fewer horsepower than Edge's standard 3.5-liter V6, or just 15 percent less. Yet the four-cylinder is nearly 50 percent smaller than the V6 by displacement.

Ford pitches the EcoBoost as the best of all worlds, with the power of a V6 and the economy of a four-cylinder. The marketing claims are true, sort of. If an engine is running at full throttle and producing 240 hp, it's using essentially the same amount of energy (or gasoline) whether it has six, four or two cylinders. So if a driver uses full throttle and all 240 horsepower a lot of the time, actual fuel economy gains with the EcoBoost will be much less significant.

But that doesn't mean there are no fuel savings. The four-cylinder will use less fuel than the V6 when it's idling, coasting down and sometimes when cruising at a steady pace, and if the driver is more judicious with the throttle in daily driving, the EcoBoost engine should deliver substantial fuel economy gains. EcoBoost earns an EPA rating of 21/30 mpg City/Highway, which Ford claims is higher than any crossover or SUV in its size class.

We liked the 2.0 EcoBoost Edge. While its EPA Highway ratings are 4 mpg higher than those for the standard V6, the four-cylinder turbo actually generates more peak torque (270 pound-feet compared to 253). And it's torque that translates into acceleration, particularly when starting at lower speeds. The EcoBoost seems just as quick as the standard V6, probably quicker in short bursts of acceleration, or changes of 20 mph or so. There's a notable rush when you floor it. The four-cylinder is also reasonably smooth, and we wouldn't expect the typical buyer to be pining for more power with the EcoBoost engine. Fuel savings over the life of the car should more than compensate for the additional $1,000 up-front cost of the EcoBoost option.

The 3.5-liter V6 is much stronger and more pleasing than the pre-2011 Edge engine. The V6 sounds strong in the lower gears, throaty and authoritative, but the Edge cabin is very quiet cruising in top gear, and conversation is easy in all quarters. If the V6 has an advantage over the EcoBoost four, it lies in an extra bit of smoothness, or perhaps a less-frenetic quality or an impression that it's not working quite as hard as the four-cylinder.

The Edge Sport's larger, 3.7-liter V6 delivers the most horsepower and torque available in the line. We reckon the Edge Sport is one of the quickest, most substantially powered crossovers available, short of the much more expensive V8s from luxury brands.

The 6-speed automatic transmission comes with an ordinary shifter on the base Edge SE, with a SelectShift manual-control shifter on the SEL and Limited models, and with SelectShift and wheel-mounted paddle shifters on the Sport. Shifted manually, the automatic has a crisp, positive feel. In full automatic mode, it shifts smoothly, and it's generally quick to respond at cruising speeds. If you need more acceleration when you're puttering along at 40, the Edge drops down a gear quickly when you press the gas pedal, and sometimes two gears if you floor it.

The problem, if there is one, is the automatic's general unwillingness to select or stay in first gear. This is generally because the engineers who designed its control program were trying to maximize fuel economy in all circumstances, but it has its drawbacks. If you're creeping through a parking lot toward the exit, for example, the transmission will already have shifted up into second. And if you see an opportunity to pull into traffic as you approach the street, stepping on the gas before you come to a full stop, the Edge's transmission won't shift back down into first, unless you completely floor the pedal, and then is doesn't downshift as quickly as we would like; if it downshifts, you'll get a stutter and then a very abrupt launch; if it doesn't downshift, you'll accelerate more slowly than you were expecting.

Otherwise, the Edge is always pleasant to drive, and generally responsive to the steering wheel. In aggressive maneuvers, it feels more top heavy than a sedan, with more lag time as the mass of the body catches up to what the tires and suspension are doing. Regardless, the Edge is more than responsive enough for typical family duty, and it travels comfortably smooth in all circumstances. There's nothing we'd call rough or truckish in its overall ride quality.

The Sport model's large wheels and low-profile tires improve steering response and they probably add more cornering grip, but they also extract a toll in terms of harshness, particularly when they are slamming over ruts and divots on bumpy roads. We like the Edge Sport, but it may be too firm for most buyers.

Ford has fixed what we thought was less than stellar brake feel in early Edge models. Almost everything in the braking system has been upgraded, and the feel at the pedal, where it counts, is vastly improved. The deceleration starts much earlier in the pedal travel, and the braking force is stronger and more linear than it was before. All the mushiness and indecision has been engineered out.

All-wheel drive is available on V6 models. Front-wheel drive is standard. The electronically controlled all-wheel-drive system operates full time, delivering most of the power to the front wheels most of the time, but sending torque to the rear wheels as needed to help balance traction. The AWD is a valuable tool, particularly in the Snow Belt, and we recommend it to owners who drive in wintry conditions. It can keep the Edge moving forward uninterrupted on snow-coated surfaces, with barely a slip or jog.

All-wheel drive comes with a notable fuel-mileage penalty: 1 mpg City and 2 mpg Highway with both V6 engines, according to EPA. That translates to hundreds of gallons of gas and thousands of dollars over the life of the vehicle, not to mention nearly $2000 up front buying the AWD in the first place. In California, Texas, Florida or large swathes of the South, we'd recommend the front-wheel drive.

Towing capacity may be another draw for crossover buyers, and the Edge does well in that category. Surprisingly, given its more powerful engine, the Edge Sport doesn't do as well as the SEL or Limited for towing. The Sport's maximum tow rating is 2,000 pounds, partly due to those low-profile tires. Properly equipped, the SEL and Limited can tow up to 3,500 pounds, and there's a trailer-sway control system tied into the traction and stability electronics. Trailer-sway control makes towing less nerve-wracking.

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