Ford Talks Edge ST Strengths and Weaknesses

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
ford talks edge st strengths and weaknesses

Last week, we gave you the lowdown on the new Ford Edge ST. The verdict, according to yours truly, was that it was miles ahead of the Sport trim is was replacing but had a few wrinkles that the manufacturer could stand to iron out. Since the ST occupies a place in the market that is entirely dominated by premium nameplates, these shortcomings were largely trivial. There’s less reason to gripe about its non-showy interior or high price tag when Ford is still offering you more performance and functionality for less money.

However, one aspect stood out as consistently vexing — the transmission. While the eight-speed Ford installed into the crossover was competent on the luxury-minded Titanium trim, its programming was occasionally frustrating when you asked it to blast through gears on the ST. That’s not because it was broken, it simply isn’t set up for maximum hustle.

This was an observation echoed by numerous other outlets and something Ford appears keenly aware of it. In fact, Ed Krenz, chief functional engineer for Ford Performance, said that aspect is one the automaker isn’t yet satisfied with and intends to continue tweaking until it is.

“I’ll tell you the item, the single specific attribute, that we’ll continue to improve is the transmission software,” Krenz told Motor Trend. “We have a new eight-speed transmission, fundamentally very capable. Our target is DCT-like shift speeds. We’re not quite there yet. We will see, we know how to do it, and we will get there over time with additional software.”

That’s reassuring, considering Ford seemed to be willing to admit it with only a modicum of prompting. At the model’s drive event lot of auto journalists were wondering if the company had simply assembled the Edge ST because the Fiesta and Focus are both on their way out. Everyone wanted to know if Ford understood what it was building and, more importantly, if it was worthy of the ST badge. For most, those questions were answered after a day behind the wheel. While not nearly as playful as the company’s outgoing hot hatches, the Edge was always willing to throw down in a corner or swiftly scramble away from a stoplight.

Ford knew exactly what it was doing with the Edge ST but was also doing what it had to with a stable full of utility vehicles. “As a strategy, going back over a year, the decision was made that we were going to migrate what had traditionally been Sports, across different SUVs, to STs,” Krenz explained. “And my role in that exercise was to define what the ST is, what it means, its attribute requirements, and the content required to deliver that across the different SUV products. The sequence of which they come forward is really more of a function of the program cycles, and cycle plans. As opposed to, ‘Let’s lead with the Edge and then follow with the Explorer.'”

“[With] the Edge Sport, it has a big engine. Big wheels. But really, outside of the engine, it was more of an appearance package. When we moved to the ST, we took all of the DNA from the Focus and Fiesta STs and the heritage of STs and refined that with a competitive set and a customer profile, and we created customer expectations of what an ST is. Really those four things that we call the DNA principals are: fun to drive, so vehicle dynamics; [powertrain] performance; sustained [track] capability; and appearance. And all the content on that vehicle, I can attribute to one of those four key elements of the DNA that fundamentally the STs achieve and fundamentally the Sports don’t.”

For now, that’s more than enough to make the Edge ST the only midsize crossover in its price segment capable of giving customers this kind of experience.

However, if Ford intends to keep performance hounds needing more cargo volume interested, it’ll have to perk up that transmission. Legitimate competition is, no doubt, in development already and probably only a year or two away. But they’ll have to bring more than a beefier engine to the table if they’re going bloody Ford’s nose. They’ll need to offer a complete package and competitive pricing, because the Edge ST is already undercutting every other performance crossover on the market.

“I personally went out and benchmarked with my team: Audi SQ5, Porsche Macan, and several of our objective targets are derived from those types of vehicles,” Krenz said. “But you know, the big takeaway from this product is it really is in a, from a non-premium sport utility, it’s kind of a one of a kind at the moment.”

[Image: Ford Motor Co.]

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  • Sportyaccordy Sportyaccordy on Oct 15, 2018

    Maybe I missed something- who is buying 4,500lb crossovers to thrash at their local HPDEs? I really want to meet the person who would buy an Edge ST over an equally priced and much nicer MKX Turbo.

    • SPPPP SPPPP on Oct 15, 2018

      I am puzzled by this as well. I would like to see how the value of "sustained [track] capability" gets implemented here. What's the over-under on how many laps of VIR it will take to trigger a warning light, limp mode, or worse?

  • SuperCarEnthusiast SuperCarEnthusiast on Oct 17, 2018

    Ford Edge center stack got to the cheapest looking, ugly, plain, etc.... design. Otherwise, the only color seats and interior in the ST you can get is black! I think it is aim squarely at the muscle car crowd that not wealthy but wants a performance crossover.

  • Danddd Chicago at night is crazy traveling in and out from the 'burbs. Taking the Ike back home around midnight and you'll see racers swerving by at 100mph plus. Dangerous enough we rarely go down there anymore. I plan my city trips between 9:30AM and back out by 1PM to miss the worst traffic.
  • SCE to AUX Good summary, Matt.I like EVs, but not bans, subsidies, or carbon credits. Let them find their own level.PM Sunak has done a good thing, but I'm surprised at how sensibly early he made the call. Hopefully they'll ban the ban altogether.
  • SCE to AUX "Having spoken to plenty of suppliers over the years, many have told me they tried to adapt to EV production only to be confronted with inconsistent orders."Lofty sales predictions followed by reality.I once worked (very briefly) for a key supplier to Segway, back when "Ginger" was going to change the world. Many suppliers like us tooled up to support sales in the millions, only to sell thousands - and then went bankrupt.
  • SCE to AUX "all-electric vehicles, resulting in a scenario where automakers need fewer traditional suppliers"Is that really true? Fewer traditional suppliers, but they'll be replaced with other suppliers. You won't have the myriad of parts for an internal combustion engine and its accessories (exhaust, sensors), but you still have gear reducers (sometimes two or three), electric motors with lots of internal components, motor mounts, cooling systems, and switchgear.Battery packs aren't so simple, either, and the fire recalls show that quality control is paramount.The rest of the vehicle is pretty much the same - suspension, brakes, body, etc.
  • Theflyersfan As crazy as the NE/Mid-Atlantic I-95 corridor drivers can be, for the most part they pay attention and there aren't too many stupid games. I think at times it's just too crowded for that stuff. I've lived all over the US and the worst drivers are in parts of the Midwest. As I've mentioned before, Ohio drivers have ZERO lane discipline when it comes to cruising, merging, and exiting. And I've just seen it in this area (Louisville) where many drivers have literally no idea how to merge. I've never seen an area where drivers have no problems merging onto an interstate at 30 mph right in front of you. There are some gruesome wrecks at these merge points because it looks like drivers are just too timid to merge and speed up correctly. And the weaving and merging at cloverleaf exits (which in this day and age need to all go away) borders on comical in that no one has a bloody clue of let car merge in, you merge right to exit, and then someone repeats behind you. That way traffic moves. Not a chance here.And for all of the ragging LA drivers get, I found them just fine. It's actually kind of funny watching them rearrange themselves like after a NASCAR caution flag once traffic eases up and they line up, speed up to 80 mph for a few miles, only to come to a dead halt again. I think they are just so used to the mess of freeways and drivers that it's kind of a "we'll get there when we get there..." kind of attitude.