By on April 19, 2014


The assignment was simple: Take four people and an oversized amount of luggage from sunny Powell, Ohio to Manhattan for the New York Auto Show, using the 556-mile “high road” path down I-80. (The “low road” is the 555-mile grind on Route 70 and its endless Pennsylvania 55-mph construction zones.) To make things interesting, and to save the parking charges at Kimpton’s delightful but pricey “Muse” hotel, we decided to do it as a pair of one-way rentals.

Fate threw us a Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited with a fairly comprehensive equipment list, and a stripped-out Ford Edge SEL. The Cherokee had just two thousand miles on the digital odometer, while the Ford was livin’ on the edge of its 36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty.

Two nine-hour slogs, two crossovers-of-a-sort with two relatively different philosophies but surprisingly similar execution, one winner. Full disclosure: there aren’t any non-stock photos because everybody involved was a hurry to get to, and get out of, the city. Deal with it.

Second Place: Ford Edge SEL V6

This doesn’t really feel like a fair test, does it? Taking the highly-regarded, do-it-all, no-effort-spared-inside-or-out Grand Cherokee, a trucklet so near and dear to our hearts that my father just bought one, and putting it up against the old-platform Edge, a car that was never a favorite of the critics even when it was new. This is like letting Ivan Drago into the ring with Apollo Creed, right?

The thing is, the public doesn’t share the autojourno opinion. True, our own Tim Cain’s rankings show the mighty JGC at #21 in the US-market March sales chart, moving a strong YTD of 40,838. However, the Edge is #33, with a YTD of 33,238. Furthermore, both vehicles are showing a positive sales trend compared to last year. As far as your neighbor is concerned, the bloom is firmly attached to both of these roses.

Our silver Ford Edge SEL was the best of a fairly bad bunch of available CUVs and SUVs for the return leg from LGA to PWL (okay, I just made that up; Powell certainly doesn’t have an airport, although there’s a place to fly model airplanes near the Splash Park) and although we’d have liked to have had an example with lower mileage on the clock, it didn’t really make much of a difference. The Edge has always counted a remarkably solid-feeling structure among its obvious virtues. When my son’s mother traded her Flex Limited for an Edge Limited three years ago, I was immediately struck at just how much more solid, heavy, and inert the Edge felt compared to its larger and (it must be said) more pedigreed sibling. It’s an illusion; the Flex is bigger and it performs better in a crash. But the Edge just feels milled somehow. Probably because in some ways it’s basically an old Fusion with an extra half-ton of metal bolted on somewhere. Thirty-plus-thousand miles of rental abuse didn’t change that.

My first impression of the Edge, as Bark M. picked us up outside the hotel, was positive: it holds more actual luggage than the Grand Cherokee, by quite a bit. The assemblage of roller bags, Tumi carryalls, and laptop messenger cases that filled the Jeep to the roof didn’t even impede rear vision in the Edge. The same was true for the rear seat, which offered more room for shoulders and feet. On the negative side, the center rear armrest was remarkably crappy and, unlike the Jeep’s, forced you to choose between having cups in the fold-out holders and actually using it as an armrest.

Once on the move, however, it became apparent that road noise was going to be a conversational deterrent. Some vehicles are absolutely brilliant when it comes to having a four-corner talk among occupants; my Phaetons were almost too good at it, because you could hear the whispers between occupants in the other row. The Edge is on the other end of the spectrum; it’s necessary to raise your voice to be heard ahead or behind. The Flex, for what it’s worth, is better. In fact, the Flex is better than the Edge at almost everything. Had we been able to get a Flex to go face-to-face with the Jeep for this test, the finishing order wouldn’t have been nearly as obvious.

As a base SEL, the Edge has basic cloth seats. As we expected, the front seats didn’t measure up to the JGC Limited’s leather-lined chairs in any way — but in back, it was a different story. I’ve had a few ribs and vertebrae broken in the past few months and I found the Edge’s rear seats to be much better than the Grand Cherokee’s, in both short-term comfort and long-term support. The same three-hundred-mile stretch that had my ribs audibly cracking and snapping in the Jeep turned out to be no problem in the Ford, even though I’d been pre-brutalized by the trip out to NYC.

When it came my turn to drive, on the other hand, I immediately wished to be a passenger again. The Edge is so completely outclassed as an on-road proposition by the JGC that it’s hard to believe that the former is the transverse-engined platform sans off-road pretenses. Only in lane-change transitional behavior does the Ford have any edge whatsoever over the Jeep; there’s a secondary wobble-back that just doesn’t happen in the Edge. It’s a slightly more relaxing vehicle to pilot for that reason alone.

Nominally, the 3.5V6 in the Edge is a near equal to the 3.6 Pentastar V6 in the Chrysler product, but in the real world it’s not as good, possibly because of the brilliant ZF automatic you get with the Pentastar. Mileage, too, isn’t quite up to par. I drove both vehicles in a conscious effort to maximize reported economy, never exceeding 85mph and staying in cruise control for long stretches of time, and the Edge claimed 23.6mpg on a segment where the Grand Cherokee claimed 25.1. Brakes are okay on both cars, but neither offers the stepping-on-a-steel-block feel you’d get from, say, the monobloc Brembos on a Cayenne. These cars are built to go (shopping), not stop (global warming).

In most respects, the Edge feels a generation behind the JGC. It isn’t just the little touches, like the USB charging ports for both rear seats in the Jeep. Rather, it’s the entire touch-and-feel interface between you and the car. This is a long-in-the-tooth refresh of a twelve-year-old platform, and it feels like it. Nearly five years ago, I was pretty impressed by a loaded Limited, as you can see in the below LLN video of which I’m not particularly proud:

Okay, you have to admit the pizza thing was kind of funny. Or not. Anyway. This SEL doesn’t have most of the stuff you see in that video, which makes it feel even older than it is. Surely Ford’s amortized this platform to the point where they should be able to throw the full MyFordTouch system in at the $32,395 net price of our base AWD SEL, but they continue to expect that you’ll spend an additional two grand to get it. If you don’t — and National Car Rental certainly didn’t — you get a Fiesta-grade interior screen about the size of what you got with the original Nintendo GameBoy.

The net effect is surprisingly downmarket for a vehicle that costs more than a loaded Camcord. The stereo, in particular, is embarrassingly poor. There’s not a lot of surprise and delight here for the money. Some of the interior trim, like the door cards, just feels deliberately crappy. Other parts are simply plain, and that’s no longer good enough in this segment.

You can argue that the Edge SEL works best as a bait-and-switch to get you into a much better-equipped Limited. That vehicle would have been a better competitor to the Grand Cherokee Limited, which at a net $39,390 is more than twenty percent pricier. In fact for $38,695, you can get an Edge Sport AWD, which has the motor and the equipment to take the fight directly to Jeep. In the final analysis, however, it wasn’t the frosting that caused us to rank the Ford second. It was the cake underneath it, which is stale. Eventually, the sales numbers will reflect that. In the meantime, feel free to avoid adding to them.

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34 Comments on “Rental Grinders Of The Road: Second Place...”

  • avatar

    Pssssss, Jack – you might want that first picture to be an EDGE since you’ve reserved the story about the victor for another post.

    FWIW I’ve always loved your rental reviews. Every single one.

  • avatar

    I have to agree with everything said here. My dad has an ’07 SEL that’s fully loaded with leather and the works and it just feels so absolutely awful. I had to endure a 9-hour drive towing a motorcycle at 60 miles an hour and it was the single worst crossover I’ve ever driven.

  • avatar

    Base SELs exist as switch cars – either up or down – but at least exude the ‘cool’ factor of its more loaded kin. I don’t touch an SEL unless it at least of one of the three necessary elements of quick retail – pano roof, leather, or navigation.

    I lied. The forth element is absolutely minimal investment, like the ARI-leased ’12 SEL with cloth, small alloys, and the Casio radio unit that can be had for $4k behind rough book. Even with 75k miles, its a VERY compelling vehicle for the right person, typically subprime finance. You can finance it for a long-ish term due to age, advance is still ridiculously strong also because of the age, state cap ensures a ‘reasonable’ APR of ~18-19%, and most importantly it LOOKS expensive so you’re not a prick for asking $3500 down.

    Even if the JGC is superior, I’d rather have the Edge when it comes to value. Like Jack says, you don’t have to be a Tetris champ to pack it and it does with 90% of what people want a crossover to do in an outwardly-attractive package. Its definitely this generation’s Explorer.

    Sidenote – I don’t get the appeal of the Sport. I get the power bump and the slammed look, but I don’t get the fact that you can option without the stuff that most Limiteds get like the Vista Roof, Nav, etc. Plus you get those gigantor wheels that ride like hell. I’ve discovered that my favorite combo is a well-equipped Limited (or MKZ Elite) with 18″ wheels. All the toys PLUS a nice ride.

  • avatar

    How does the Ford Explorer compare?

  • avatar

    Between the Escape and the Explorer, the aging Edge has a hard time justifying its existence. I looked at an Escape Titanium last year was amazed at just how bad the Edge looked next to it on the showroom floor – both inside and out. If you really want a Ford CUV and don’t need 7 seats then the Escape is the far better choice.

    Also the Escape is listed as having 2 cuft more cargo room with the seats up than the Edge.

  • avatar

    You didn’t say much about ride comfort. I was interested to receive an Edge for a rental in Seattle a coupla years back. My experience was dominated by the feeling that I was driving a Landcruiser from four or five generations back. At least it would have had the excuse of its off-road capabilities.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    My BIL has a 2011 Edge. My mother hates the back seat with a passion. After car pooling in a 2009 version, I could not agree more. It really sucks on fuel consumption too. I regard it as a complete waste of steel and plastic. As the owner of two Ford products, I am not biased against the brand, just this POS. You are much better off with a Dodge minivan with the Pentastar than this POS.

    • 0 avatar

      I rented an Edge a couple years ago while taking the kids amusement park hopping in Florida. There wasnt really anything remarkable about the car (an SEL with a few options), but I was floored to only get 19-20mpg in something that small. And I drove conservatively with about half highway miles.

  • avatar

    #1 I’d have flown instead.


    • 0 avatar

      Same here – they don’t call them “flyover states” for nothing. From the time you lose sight of the Manhattan skyline until you can see the Rockies rising up like a wall across the world approaching Denver, there is not a damned thing to see out the window of a car. At least not that is worth the thousands of miles of sheer nothingness.

      I definitely agree with the conclusion. The Edge is meh at best and the new GJC is pretty darned terrific.

      • 0 avatar

        Come to Pennsylvania! Where there’s Philadelphia on one side, Pittburgh on the other, and f***ing NOTHING in between! :P

        Or so I’ve heard…

        What I can say with certainty is that if you drive upstate and get closer to New York, you drive through a whole lot of nothing. I went up to Williamsport from Bucks County once, nothing like seeing very little worth looking at for over 2 hours.

      • 0 avatar

        The Pandora app on your phone, and other cars on the road make a good solution. Learned this in October when heading up from Mobile with my dad. Headphones help when no one else wants to hear your music.

        I kind of liked the old ones, but they’re really pricey. My sister’s boyfriend’s family (wow, that’s long) has a 2014 Grand Cherokee SRT, and it looks and sounds amazing.

      • 0 avatar

        Depends on the route and time of year. A fall drive through Chicago, northern WI and MN, then across the Badlands of the Dakotas is diverse and beautiful. But it does require getting off the beaten path (a.k.a. Interstates) and seeking out the good stuff.

      • 0 avatar
        Don Mynack

        Manhattan sucks worse than anything west of it. Always glad to get out of the crowded NYC rathole.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I like these kinds of articles. Car rentals give you the chance to use a vehicle differently than taking one for a test drive with a salesman.

    23mpg at 85mph? That’s overly optimistic. Especially when you are sitting on less than 60mph most of the time due to road works.

    What was your average speed?

    I do think the Grand Cherokee is a better vehicle than the Edge. First of all it more or less has a Merc chassis, even if it’s as old as the Ford’s it’s still a Merc platform, then add an 8spd.

    Maybe you guys will get this SUV, yes SUV (hi-lo range) to replace the Edge. It will at least be comparable to the Grand Cherokee and it’s designed by Ford Australia!

    Maybe the next global Ranger will have it’s body style and front end, I hope so.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      @Jack Baruth, Derek Kreindler
      Why hasn’t TTAC done an article relating to the newest Ford SUV??

      The northern hemisphere isn’t the only place that has an automotive industry.

      The Australian auto industry isn’t dead yet!

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Great job Jack! I couldn’t agree more – I’ve never ‘cottoned’ to my wife’s ’10 Edge Limited – it feels heavy & cumbersome to drive (maybe it’s the 20″ bling wheels), and has never gotten better than 17-18 mpg average.

    It was our first ‘domestic’ vehicle in 30+ years, and I’m less than impressed. At 90k it needs a gasket replacement, and one of the dual fans went out to the tune of $1200 (just out of warranty).

    We’re going back to Japan Inc. next year when we replace it.

  • avatar

    I am not surprised the Edge has more cargo space than the GC. The GC is a really plush, capable vehicle, but I couldn’t help but notice one day when I was at the local FCA dealership, how much bigger inside the Journey seemed than the GC. Every surface seems to project into the cabin on the GC.

  • avatar

    I like rental cars. It’s too bad the nicer ones are so much more expensive to rent than the normal ones. Premium is like $350 a week, where was Full-Size and below is $100-140 a week. The full-sized SUV, like an Edge, is twice as expensive to rent than a mid-sized Equinox/Rav4! What gives?!

  • avatar

    This Edge is going away pretty soon… 2016 is it? The new one will be based on the current Fusion platform.

    Anyways, it’s always been a ho-hum kind of vehicle, but for some reason people love the look. The feel of heaviness is probably also something people like. It’s had a good run for Ford though. When it was introduced, Ford’s non-truck lineup was laughably bad. The success of the Edge probably helped drive development of the Explorer and Escape into their current forms.

    That said, there are better choices in this segment, including the Escape if you don’t need as much space. You could also wait for the new one, which I imagine will be pretty spectacular.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      Here’s an interesting article on how concept cars are made using 3D printing technology.

      The car is the next Edge that the article is based on.

      Quite interesting.

      A little more info on the next gen edge.

  • avatar

    You know what would have been even better for your trip? A decent mid-size wagon. Not that there any you can buy or rent in the US these days. I had an ’03 Passat wagon back in the day that would have beaten either of these cars in cargo capacity as well as ride and handling. Of course, it probably would have had an embarrassing and expensive mechanical failure halfway through the trip stranding everyone on a desolate stretch of I-80.

    I know you can still buy an E-Class MB wagon: but who can really afford one? Volvo? Maybe the V60, not that I’ve actually seen one on the road.

    Everyone says Americans hate wagons. Maybe they do. But I’d bet that if there was a Fusion/Camry/Accord wagon marketed with the same fervor that CUV’s and trucks have had bestowed upon them, they’d catch on.

    • 0 avatar

      Back seat reviews are too few and far between and that’s a major differentiator between vehicles. I suppose it’s generally assumed that if you want to transport more than two adults, you’re buying / renting a mini van or full size sedan.

      Do the “dealer lot back seat test” and the majority of SUV’s / crossovers fail miserably. If you can’t even fit comfortably while the vehicle is stationary, how bad will it get after travelling for 30+ minutes?

      Even opting for the “brontasaurus” class of vehicles is no garantee of second row comfort – my cousin’s familly could’t wait to ditch their rental suburban for their 5 series wagon back home.

    • 0 avatar

      The TSX wagon is still a decent option as well.

  • avatar

    It’s a great review for Grand Cherokee. This one would get my nod if I ever wanted something to go offroading in and didn’t have garage space for better daily driver as well.

  • avatar

    The road noise in the Edge could have been due to the mileage on the tires. OEM tires are probably quite a bit noisier at 35K than they were at 2K.

  • avatar

    I remember that video shoot for LLN. We went back and forth on Hwy 410 and 10 many many times. But in the end we got a great video.

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