By on October 14, 2018

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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43 Comments on “Ford Talks Edge ST Strengths and Weaknesses...”


  • avatar
    eggsalad

    “We know it ain’t right, but we’ll sell it anyhow!”

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      That’s never stopped any car company from beta testing it’s new models on an unsuspecting public. That’s why the wisest piece of advice I ever got was to NEVER buy a new model in it’s first or second year. I predict that in 3 years this Edge ST will be a great car, but not until then.

      Also, it would be nice if Ford offered an “ST” package on some of the lower (Escape, Ecosport) models, because although this Edge ST is a bargain compared to some of it’s German counter parts, it’s still too pricey for most. A reasonably priced sporty crossover would be more in keeping with the econo-priced Fiesta and Focus that Ford is dropping

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        I’d wait for the next generation EchoSport*, one more suited to our market. The Escape is due for a redesign as well.

        *yes, I spelled it that way on purpose.

      • 0 avatar
        Kenn

        “NEVER buy a new model in it’s first or second year. I predict…”

        Yeah sure… it’s a popular notion, but misguided, to think that a specific problem – that the manufacturer knows exists, yet decides to produce and sell, anyway – will be fixed after any set number of years. My bulletproof 4Runner, for instance, which I bought new in ’01, earlier experienced many head gasket failures in the first 3 years of it’s 3rd generation. I would expect even less integrity from Ford.

    • 0 avatar
      ACCvsBig10

      So a $45k Grand cherokee with a 5.7 hemi vs $43k ford edge st, both have 8speeds who wins?

      • 0 avatar
        Matt Posky

        The Edge ST would have the 5.7-liter Cherokee for breakfast on a track. Those roles immediately reverse when you take them off road, though. The rest is down to personal preference. The Edge manages interior space better and feels a bit more modern but the Jeep can actually tow things.

      • 0 avatar
        EBFlex

        “So a $45k Grand cherokee with a 5.7 hemi vs $43k ford edge st, both have 8speeds who wins?”

        The HEMI Grand Cherokee would chew up this Edge and spit it out. The transmission is FAR superior as ZF has already figured out how to acheive DCT like shift speeds. The HEMI Grand Cherokee is very quick. Add the off road capability and it just embarrasses the Edge.

        It’s astounding Ford thinks they can ask JGC prices for a fusion based SUV.

        • 0 avatar
          Shawnski

          P71, your fake news dude, not credible at all.

        • 0 avatar
          johnny_5.0

          The 8HP is indeed great. But if you are talking about track performance you are delusional. A Hemi JGC is significantly slower than the older less powerful 6 speed Edge Sport. As in about a full second slower to 60, and a much lower trap speed. JGCs don’t get “very quick” until you step up to the 6.4, which is over $66K.

  • avatar
    Rocket

    Little known fact: The ST’s shift behavior feels less refined because it is not the same gearbox that’s in lesser Edges. The 2.0T gets paired to the 8-speed developed in conjunction with GM, but less one cog than GM’s version. The ST’s 8-speed is Ford’s design, based I believe on the previous 6-speed. That Ford chose to use different transmissions supports what I’ve theorized in the past … the GM/Ford unit can’t handle high torque applications.

  • avatar

    I don’t understand the point of making any SUV or CUV into a performance vehicle. They are just too tall and far of the ground to handle with the best performance cars. There is no way an Edge ST will out handle a 1990 Pontaic 6000 STE.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      You just haven’t lived until you’ve gone from 0-60 in under 5 seconds in a foot of snow

      • 0 avatar

        I would make sure my will was in order before I try something like that. If you want to turn and burn get either a Corvette or Mustang.

      • 0 avatar
        NoID

        I second Lie2me. You haven’t truly lived until you’ve used Launch Control on a Trackhawk in 6 inches of fresh powder. It’s surreal.

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          Have any of you ever actually done that?

          I’m used flooring my AWD H2 with either mud or all terrain tires (BFG KO2 actually have snow tire rating) after a fresh snow but even that has a little slip, I’m sure it will still get to 60 in 10 seconds or whatever but I would be impressed with any tire that wouldn’t slip on snow if given appropriate torque. AWD or not.

          Then again most of our snow is snow/ice mix so maybe up north where it’s pure snow it could happen.

          By the way, AWD donuts are 100x better than regular donuts – believe it or not.

    • 0 avatar
      jkk6

      Now a days larger cuv/suv vehicles now handle and drive as good as lower riding sedans.

      Macan turbo and a C6 vette sample down below.

      https://youtu.be/7GWCpYKQ4yU

      • 0 avatar
        Tele Vision

        That was more of an ‘AWD vs. RWD In The Rain’ demonstration. The twin-turbo V6 Macan weighs at least 700 lbs more that the base Corvette and is down at least 15 HP ( assuming both are 2014 cars ).

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          I was mildly impressed that Toyota would let me get my Highlander sideways from a complete stop in icy/snowy conditions but it has a little less than 300 hp although the AWD system splits the torque 50/50 as a default.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    I mean, who cares? These concerns are pretty irrelevant to the small group of people who will buy this. More analysis of cars please?

  • avatar
    Peter Gazis

    Sounds like Ford should switch to quarterly sales reports. Just like GM and Tesla. Give some why-knee bit-chez in the automotive press more time to spend with their one and only true love

    KIA RIO

  • avatar
    gmrn

    I’ve no dog in the fight, nor bone to pick with the blue oval.

    With that being said, if manufacturers routinely test for ride compliance, sound levels, extreme condition testing, etc. I find this passage suspect:

    “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”.

    This from the company that sold the PowerShit transmission in the not too distant past in much lower stress applications.

  • avatar
    statikboy

    There never seem to be these sorts of problems with manual transmissions.

    Not to say that there haven’t been bad manuals, just that if your manual shifts in a way you don’t want it to, it’s user error.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I’ve experienced GMs 9-speed but only in a Terrain with the 2.0T. Over a 300 mile plus journey there were a few things that stood out.

    1. I could never tell what gear it was in, the shifts were so seamless and the engine well insulated from the cabin.
    2. It was CVT like in one aspect in that when left on cruise it would try to keep the engine in the meat of it’s torque band around 2,000 to 3,000 rpm. Lowest RPMs I’ve ever seen climbing some of the hills I climbed (the route was familiar to me.)
    3. The vehicle wasn’t a track toy (obviously) but I never felt that the transmission was “slow” and it was easy to stomp on it from a stoplight and have the front tires torque steer and dance under the turbos spool up.

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    “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.”

    So, in typical Ford fashion, they release a vehicle that isn’t done yet.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    Strengths:

    it’s a 5-seat midsize automatic-only crossover so people will buy it

    Weaknesses:

    it’s a 5-seat midsize automatic-only crossover

  • avatar
    Shawnski

    The new tranny allows for full torque output vs. the previous 350 ft lbs rated 6 speed.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    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.

    • 0 avatar
      SPPPP

      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?

  • avatar
    SuperCarEnthusiast

    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.

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