Okay, everybody, take out your old Waitresses or Bouncing Souls songbooks, and sing along with me:
I know what girls like
I know what chicks want
I know what girls like
…the Ford Edge.
Ford’s rolled 400,000 Edges out the door since the model was introduced five years ago. For reasons I cannot understand, it completely obliterated the Flex and the Freestyle/Taurus X at dealerships, outselling them combined by a factor of two or three in most months. Half of the Edges sold are registered to women, which likely means that far more than half of them were selected by, and are driven by, women. According to Ford, among buyers in this segment, “styling” ranks as the #5 reason to buy a vehicle, but Edge buyers rank “styling” as the number one reason they chose one.
So here’s the new one. Ford has made a solid effort to address the Edge’s shortcomings. It has more power, less weight (in some models), better brakes, and a much higher-quality interior. The dynamic package is significantly improved, and I had the chance to test that in a literally life-threatening situation, as we’ll see below. None of this will matter too much to the Coach-bag set, however. They’ll be blown-away by the new “myFord Touch” system… and if you care at all about the state of in-car electronics, you will be, too.
Welcome to the future. You’re looking at an analog speedometer (digital, of course, under the skin) and two full-color LCD screens that reconfigure on the fly, sometimes without your direct input, to provide information on everything from the name of that Larry Carlton track you’re hearing on SIRIUS “Watercolors” to the precise ratio of front/rear torque being delivered by the all-wheel-drive system under heavy cornering load.
The center screen is no less interesting. It’s almost endlessly customizable to meet your particular needs and it will overload you with data and gee-whiz graphics if you’re not careful. It was impossible to understand the full range of myFord Touch’s capabilities in a quickie press event, but here’s just one entirely factual scenario: You’re driving down a freeway. With the sweep of a finger, you’re visually browsing album covers to select tracks. On the left side of your speedometer is a full selection of instant fuel-economy data; on the right side, you’re browsing the contact directory on your phone. Your passenger is using the absolutely button-less center stack to “haptically” select temperature, and she’s also surfing the web on her laptop. Your rear-seat passengers are surfing as well, using the local WiFi network enabled by the Sprint WiFi USB “dongle” that’s plugged in next to your iPod. You touch the screen and are rewarded with a 3-D view of your destination city, including visually accurate depictions of individual buildings. You check and see that the weather looks good ahead and that your favorite movie is playing at 6:45pm. That gives you time to take a fast back road, so you take the next off-ramp and squeeze the downshift paddle behind the steering wheel… at which point the left-side display on your dashboard collapses and is replaced with a tachometer, shift-point indicator, and temperature gauge. You touch a control and the “dial” tach becomes a vertical-instrument tach, in the style of an WWII aircraft, and the space where the tach was is replaced by a torque-vectoring diagram. Time to hustle.
On the way to Ford’s “break stop”, I drove the FWD 3.5L Limited seen in the top photo. It’s noticeably faster and more tied-down than last year’s Edge, thanks to more power, bigger rear brakes, and a variety of minor friction and valving improvements in the front suspension. On the way back, I selected the 305-horse 3.7 Sport AWD. The extra 200cc of the Sport just about makes up for the extra weight of the AWD system and the “stunna” 22-inch forged wheels. Incidentally, this year’s Edge AWD is 40 pounds lighter than last year’s — good, if rare, news nowadays.
It’s raining with almost Biblical fury and although visibility is good, the amount of standing water on the road has slowed most traffic significantly. I’m hammering back to the hotel (readers of yesterday’s Accent review will understand why) with all available speed. Ahead of me, a long, empty dotted-yellow stretch of road… with an 18-wheeler doing 30mph up the hill. I pull into the left lane and accelerate to fifty or sixty. In many states, they won’t run a dotted-yellow past an intersection, but Tennessee does. I don’t think anything of it, since the intersection is empty, but then an old S-10 Blazer arrives at the crossroads and, without looking, simply whips directly into my path. The driver looks me right in the eye from fifty feet away and freezes like a deer, her foot full on the throttle, her cell phone falling from her left hand. There’s a gap between the S-10 and the semi-truck, with standing water shimmering menacingly. I relax my fingertips and steer lightly for the gap. With a “swoosh” I am past them both, the Edge placed less than an inch from my desired line. I look over at the passenger seat. My co-driver is reading his iPhone, completely undisturbed. “Did that woman just pull in front of us?” he inquires.
This is not to say that the Edge is perfect. It’s hard to understand why anybody would have chosen the previous Edge over the Flex, which offers more room, better steering, better ride, similar fuel economy, and a nicer interior for about the same money. I would continue to choose a Flex or — ssssshhhh! — a Taurus X over this Edge. If you’re shopping elsewhere, a Chevrolet Traverse also offers more room than the Edge for less money, and the Honda Crosstour is vastly cheaper with a very similar interior-packaging result. Toyota’s Venza also offers a less expensive alternative that’s bigger inside. It would also be remiss of us not to mention the fact that virtually everybody who chooses a vehicle of this type would be better-served by an actual family sedan.
Better-served, yes, but no family sedan has anything like the Edge’s panache, styling, solid feel, or super-tech interior. If you want to make a $40,000 statement of pure stylistic intent, this is your ride. The improvements in ride, handling, fuel economy (which is class-leading now and likely to be more so once the 2.0L Ecoboost arrives) and dashboard feel don’t really matter. When your neighbor sits in your 2011 Edge, hears you demand stock prices via voice control, and watches you “swish” album covers around on the main screen, how you do think she’s going to feel about her Honda Crosstour’s Commodore-64 nav screen and frumpy-ass 18″ alloys? I thought so. Ladies, your Edge is waiting.