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First Drive: 2015 Ford Edge [Review]

Ford\'s premium CUV returns with more tech and more attitude.

When Ford introduced the Edge for 2007, the midsize CUV segment was in its infancy. Aside from a few other upstarts like the Nissan Murano, Ford essentially had the category all to itself.

As sales took off, Ford's product planners realized that leadership in that segment was theirs to lose. In 2010, the Edge was refreshed, with a keen eye aimed at improving its luxury and tech features. It was touted as a premium entry in the segment and sales remained strong.

What is it?The Edge is a two-row, midsize CUV based on the same platform that underpins the Fusion sedan. That means you get a McPherson Strut suspension up front and an integral-link independent setup in the rear. And since modern chassis design is all about increased stiffness and decreased mass, it's lighter than the outgoing car (by 50lbs) despite having grown a couple of inches in each direction.

With the redesign, Ford elected to rethink its trim lineup and powertrain options. The SE, SEL and Sport trims remain, but the Limited model has been replaced by the Titanium, mirroring the structure of other new cars in its lineup. Under the hood, the engine offerings have been overhauled for more fuel efficiency and power. This time around, two EcoBoost engines are available—a 2.0L four-cylinder pushing 245hp and 275lb-ft of torque and a 2.7L V6 making 315hp and 350 lb-ft.

The four-cylinder EcoBoost is available on SE, SEL and Titanium trims, either in front- or all-wheel-drive configurations (a first for the Edge). It's good for 20 mpg city, 30 on the highway and 24 combined with front-wheel drive and 24/28/23 with all-wheel drive. The 2.7L six is exclusive to the Sport, and gets 18 mpg city, 27 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined as a front-driver and 17/24/20 if all four wheels are driven.

Buyers who want the simplicity of a naturally aspirated engine can still opt for the 3.5L Duratec V6, now making 280hp and 250lb-ft of torque, in the SE, SEL and Titanium trims with either AWD or FWD. In FWD trim, it'll return 18 mpg city, 26 mpg highway and 21 combined. All-wheel drive drops that to 17/25/20.

All three engines are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with SelectShift and standard paddle shifters.

But what perhaps best defines the Edge is a quick rundown of its optional features. Foot-activated liftgate? Check. Front and rear parking cameras? Yep. Parallel and perpendicular park assist? Also there. Advanced lane keeping, radar guided cruise control and heated/cooled front seats? Yes, yes and yes. Make no mistake; the Edge is a tech- and luxury-laden cruiser, not a high-performance bruiser.

The skinThe new Edge is leaner, more sculpted and more muscular than the car it replaces. Gone are the slab sides and upright posture. The old upright stance is further muted by more aggressively raked front and rear glass. On the flanks, sharp parallel creases run from the front fender to the tail lamp and along the bottom of the doors. Sport models are adorned with black aero skirts on the sides beneath body-colored rocker panels, and the theme continues in the front with a Mustang-inspired front splitter. More pony-car styling cues can found on the hood in the form of bulging creases running up each side.

The grille (blacked out on the Sport; chrome on other trims) integrates with the headlamps as it did on the 2014, but it's divided in two by a body-colored horizontal strip. The top half takes on Ford's new hexagonal corporate look, and the overall effect of the split grille shrinks the visual mass of the front end. The new Edge looks hunkered-down and aggressive.

In the rear, the lamps form a single stripe across the body, just below the "faster” (designer-speak for "less-upright”) rear glass. The 2014's oval exhaust tips are gone in favor of integrated finishers (flanking a faux diffuser on Sport models). As with the rest of the vehicle, the new look here has the effect of reducing the Edge's visual mass and giving it a sporty, contemporary presence.

InsideWith the 2015 Edge, Ford's designers and engineers decided to follow the same basic plan they applied when they overhauled the first-generation car in 2010: Take what works and make it better. The basic design and layout remain the same, but the materials have received yet another boost in quality. Soft-touch use has been expanded to cover more touchpoints and metal finishes have replaced paint in many high-wear locations. The overall feel is premium.

Highlights of the interior overhaul include comfortable, slim-framed front seats, which can be had heated or ventilated (a heated rear bench is also available, as is a steering wheel); fast-charge USB ports; and a 120v AC outlet for the rear seat.

Cross-path monitoring, blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and lane keeping are all available, but the Edge's true "killer app” is its new advanced park assist. Not only will your Edge help you enter and exit a parallel parking space, but it will now help you park conventionally as well.

While Sync 3 was originally expected to debut with the new Edge, Ford announced recently that it will not be available until September. 2016 models will be the first to showcase the Blue Oval's replacement for MyFord Touch.

Does it go?Ford's fleet of test vehicles for our Phoenix-based drive was comprised almost entirely of 2.0L Titaniums and 2.7L Sports. We drove both and came away impressed, but for the buyer who prioritizes performance, there's really only one powertrain choice.

The 2.7L EcoBoost V6 gives the Edge Sport a vigor that was lacking even in its outgoing equivalent. Ford's naturally aspirated 3.7L V6 was no slouch by any means, but it's no match for its twin-turbocharged replacement. The EcoBoost V6's torque comes on fast and hard, rewarding motivated drivers with quick starts and punchy passes. Ford's all-wheel drive systems have been criticized in the past for unexpected torque steer, but no more. The on-demand system featured in the Edge (a must on Sport models) intervenes too quickly and effectively for any such shenanigans.

Ford's engineers took performance seriously with the new Edge, taking advantage of its new integral-link rear suspension to maximize lateral stiffness without giving up rough-road compliance. The electric power steering was developed with improved feel and on-center response in mind, and as a result, the Sport can hustle when called upon. Ford even took the extra step of offering upsized wheels with summer performance tires as an option to Sport buyers (all-seasons remain standard). It's still a 4,000lb crossover, but it'll tuck into a corner and track predictably through the exit without the need for steering correction.

The four-cylinder EcoBoost lacks the 2.7L's urgency and sense of occasion, but it's still punchy enough to get the job done. Buyers who care more about their wallets than their time slips will find its 245 horsepower more than adequate for getting around, and since the 2015 offers all-wheel-drive with the 2.0L for the first time, there's no sense of having to give up must-have features in the name of frugality. As an added bonus, the less aggressive wheel/tire combinations are a bit more forgiving than the Sport's massive shoes, making broken pavement much more tolerable.

Leftlane's bottom lineThe 2015 Ford Edge does everything the outgoing model did, only better (and faster). For the buyer who puts a premium on cutting-edge tech, comfort and convenience and isn't afraid to shell out big bucks for a domestic, two-row CUV without a luxury badge, the Edge is hard to beat. We'd probably wait for the 2016 model and Sync 3, but we'd struggle to come up with any other downsides.

2015 Ford Edge Titanium/Edge SportPrice as tested: $35,600 (Titanium, FWD, 2.0T) to $43,940 (Sport, AWD, 2.7TT)

Photos by Byron Hurd.

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