Ford Edge SEL Plus AWD

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Keywords: Ford Edge SEL Plus AWD

Description: On its face, and it's a big face, the 2007 Ford Edge has all the makings of a competitive crossover-utility vehicle, or CUV: rigid unit-body construction, ample 265-horsepower V6, all-wheel drive,

On its face, and it's a big face, the 2007 Ford Edge has all the makings of a competitive crossover-utility vehicle, or CUV: rigid unit-body construction, ample 265-horsepower V6, all-wheel drive, cutting-edge styling (sorry) and room for five plus some luggage. It drives smoothly and quietly, and additional amenities include optional sat-nav, upgraded audio, rear-seat entertainment and a monster-sized power-sliding glass roof. So what's the problem?

Our loaded Edge carried a $36,360 as-tested price. Granted our tester was packing the top-tier SEL Plus AWD trim level, but even staffers enamored by the Edge took one look at that number and spontaneously blurted out something like, "Well that changes everything."

The fact is you get a comparable Honda Pilot EX-L AWD or Toyota Highlander Limited AWD (both with a third-row) for less than that. Even a Cadillac SRX V6 comes in at $37,665. Each staffer had his/her own list of vehicles he/she'd rather spend that kind of cash on. Sometimes they overlapped.

Draped in a retro-futurist wrapper, looking like an inflated Ford Fusion with a massive three-slat bumper-car grille, the five-passenger 2007 Ford Edge is a cleverly styled vehicle that conceals its true size well. At about 8 inches shorter than a Ford Explorer in length, 6 inches fewer in height, but more than 2 inches wider, the Edge casts a pretty big shadow in traffic. We were surprised to look eye-to-eye with and take up as much lane width as Jeep Grand Cherokees and Ford Explorers.

Because of that big footprint and not offering a third row by design, second-row passengers will enjoy nearly the same leg- and headroom dimensions as the front row. Be that as it may, getting in and out of the Edge's rear doors is challenging because the doors don't open very wide and the rear wheel arches encroach on the small opening.

While those rear seats do recline to a large degree and fold forward effortlessly with the pull of a single lever (or push of a button in the cargo bay), the price is that the articulating seats themselves are not all that comfortable. The seat bottoms lack contour and sufficient cushion to accommodate that near flat-folding feat. When stowed, the cargo area grows from a modest 32 cubic feet to an equally modest 70 cubic feet. For perspective, a 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe's comparable cargo dimensions are 34.2 and 78.2 cubic feet, respectively.

Up front, the unipod dashboard is styled conservatively but handsomely. Our tester featured the Medium Light Stone Leather treatment that unfortunately extends to the top of the dash pad, reflecting the light color perceptively in the windshield. The optional navigation system/Audiophile stereo is relatively easy to use (fingerprints notwithstanding), but the touchscreen, despite being placed high on the console for easy reference, is rather small.

The driving position is good with ample height adjustment available (no power pedals, though), but why is the seatback angle adjusted with a manual lever? Overall, most staffers thought the interior's appearance was better than the insubstantial tactile feel and material choices that provide the look. Are you detecting a theme yet?

We've already mentioned the superb ride qualities of the Edge's suspension tuning, so it was time to put it to the test at the track. In our slalom test, we were pleased with the confident and weighty steering, how well the Edge responded to input, and decent grip supplied by the optional 18-inch tire package. But in the end, it was the non-defeat stability system (and much touted Roll Stability Control) whose constant vigilance put a 58.9-mph cap on the handling prowess. Like a high school dance chaperone on high alert for lascivious behavior, the stability system would put the brakes on just when we started getting aroused by the Edge's moves.

It's useless to ask the Edge to use its MacPherson strut/multilink suspension and viscous-coupling AWD system to enhance its performance; the latter is there to get you out of a muddy ditch. Even on the constant-radius skid pad, the Edge orbited the circle obediently but modestly, earning a 0.73g lateral acceleration figure despite the 9.6-inch-wide Continental tires. And when we parked the Edge, that hefty steering feel we liked so much in dynamic testing didn't lighten up much. Some might find the effort required to turn the wheel at a standstill rather difficult.

So how about that zingy, new 265-hp DOHC V6 and slick six-speed automatic? On paper it delivers with modern attributes such as all-aluminum construction, dual-plenum intake, variable intake-valve timing and a 6,700-rpm redline. Four-valve double-cam designs don't usually offer much low-end torque, and at 250 pound-feet at 4,500 rpm, the new 3.5-liter engine is no exception.

With obviously advantageous 1st and 2nd gear ratios, the Edge launches and accelerates smartly, but the thrill is gone by the time 60 mph is reached in 8.3 seconds. The quarter-mile is covered in a noisy 16.3 seconds at 85 mph.

The six-cog transmission is a step in the right direction; however, without a manual mode and with just two positions ("D" and "L") from which to select, the shift logic is left to the engineers who programmed it. For the most part, we have few complaints with shift timing and strategy, but it does seem to "want" to be in as high a gear as is mechanically possible.

Curious to see what would occur if we selected "L" at freeway speeds, we pulled the lever back a notch only to have the revs rocket up over 6,000 rpm. The Edge hadn't downshifted one or two gears, but several; perhaps from 6th to 2nd gear. Instead, pressing the overdrive-off button offered only a slight amount of throttle control and engine braking. Whatever logic is used in this transmission is beyond our limited brain capacity.

The Edge is fitted with four-wheel disc brakes and four-channel ABS. The problem is the brakes are not ventilated and need to slow some 4,500 pounds of hurtling metal. The result was a hair-raising 152-foot stop from 60 mph. To put that uninspiring distance into perspective, the 7,550-pound Ford F-350 Super Duty 4x4 recorded a 142-foot stop in a recent heavy-duty truck comparison test. Obviously, Ford will need to address this shortcoming soon.

Have a look at this recent comparison test of small all-wheel-drive SUVs for the dynamic neighborhood Ford ought to be in with the Edge. As it now stands, the Edge is barely better (and sometimes worse) than the hulking SUVs it is supposed to replace. The Edge's porkiness also affected our observed fuel economy. The Edge SEL AWD is rated at an estimated 17 mpg city and 24 mpg highway, but our observed, combined economy figure came in at a V8-like 14.7 mpg over 714.5 total miles. Swilling liquefied dinosaurs at this rate is hardly a selling point.

We began this test with high hopes from the handsome newcomer. Ford needs this vehicle. Ford wants you to want this vehicle. But it's hard to make a compelling argument for the Edge when compared to traditionally styled stalwarts like the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, or even Ford's own Explorer. Size, price and capabilities of the Edge are, at best, on par with those vehicles.

It gets even harder to defend the Edge when it's compared to the Hyundai Santa Fe. Mazda CX-7 or Toyota RAV4. Each is less expensive, more fun to drive and generally more fuel-efficient.

In a recent official announcement, we have just learned that Ford Motor Company has decided to put the brakes on the release dates for the Edge and its luxury platform mate, the Lincoln MKX. They say putting the release off until late December (more likely early 2007) will allow them to address quality issues before the vehicles are in the hands of the public. Saying, "The manufacturing process and the supply base aren't to the level of consistency and stability we'd like to see," we more accurately suspect early tests and the resulting reviews of these two vehicles have had a chilling effect on the company's plans. While these kinds of delays are not uncommon (as with the Pontiac Solstice, among many others), it does speak to the importance of this crossover to the future health of FoMoCo, and to the power of unbiased reviews such as this one.

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