Yee-Ha! in a 2011 Ford Edge Sport – Click above for high-res image gallery

Manufacturers used to roll out all-new cars every five-to-eight years. Somewhere around the halfway point – usually year three – much hoopla would be made about new front and rear fascias, the addition of some standard features and some new option packages. (*Yawn*). These changes were designed to give shoppers a reason to look at a car that was getting long-in-the-tooth.

Ford Motor Company sung by this songbook for decades, but it's not any longer. As we've seen with the Escape, Fusion and Mustang, the Ford brand is rolling out significant product changes any time they darn well please. For example, the 2010 Fusion could have been a standard refresh, but instead included three all-new powertrains, a significantly upgraded interior, and the expected front and rear fascias.

Introduced as a 2007 model at the close of 2006, the Edge was Ford's second attempt at a more car-like crossover. (Anybody remember the Freestyle/Taurus X ... uhh, not so much.) Heading into its fifth year of production, the Edge needed some serious attention. It just got it: We reported so on the eve of February's Chicago Auto Show.

Following the new model's public debut, Ford offered Autoblog an exclusive opportunity to ride in a 2011 Edge Sport with some development engineers so we could have an early, behind-the-scenes look at their handiwork. The new Edge doesn't go on sale until later this Summer, but you can read all about our experience at the Dearborn Development Center right now after the jump.

Photos by Rex Roy / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.

Driving into Ford's expansive test facility, the navy Edge Sport stood out, even from an eighth of a mile away. The lower hood, narrower headlights, new fenders, chrome grille and vertical daytime running lights effectively update the crossover's style. A closer look sees a body that's hunkered down over huge 22-inch aluminum wheels. Rich Kreder, Vehicle Development Manager pointed out, "Those forged wheels are premium pieces. They don't get any better."

Louis Jamail, Core Vehicle Dynamics guy, chimed in, "The suspension is all new, and it does sit a few millimeters lower." Jamail went on to explain that even though the Edge rides over a chassis that's unrelated to the Flex, Taurus, Lincoln MKT and MKS, suspension technology used on these models is now under the Edge (and the 2011 Lincoln MKX).

Revised springs and bushings support the most important change, new dampers. They're a twin-tube design with fully displaced pistons. For non-engineers, the result is more control with less friction. The on-road translation means that the new Edge rides more smoothly than before, with a notable improvement in handling.

With Jamail at the wheel, we hurtled around a handling course. Jamail knows a thing or two about being behind the wheel. After participating in the Formula SAE competition in college, he worked on advanced chassis dynamics supporting Ford's NASCAR teams. He's not the kind of engineer who would be happy designing microwaves or refrigerators, a point made clear by the grin on his face as he deftly hustled the Edge through a series of technically demanding corners, even getting air a couple times.

The navy Edge was an early chassis development vehicle, so while the interior wasn't production correct, the suspension, wheels and tires were. No wallow. No flex. No squeaks from the rear hatch. No porpoising. No head toss. No crashing off the suspension bump stops.

Engineers Rich Kreder (left) and Louis Jamail (right) show off their work on the 2011 Edge Sport

The pictures prove that body motions were well controlled in a sporty way that's totally cool for a five-passenger, two-ton crossover. To make sure Kreder, Jamail and company hadn't sacrificed comfort for handling, we headed over to a section of the test facility populated with pothole-infested strips of asphalt and concrete. Even over purposefully terrible road surfaces, the Edge Sport rode supplely. Sharp-edged potholes were absorbed. Their impact on the chassis was rounded off and well managed.

305 horsepower from the new 3.7-liter V6 added more goodness to the Edge Sport's performance. Based on Ford's corporate 3.5-liter architecture, the engine debuted under the radar as the standard MKT engine. But now with its placement in the 2011 Mustang and the upgraded performance afforded by variable intake and exhaust valve timing, this is an engine that's worth some attention.

Very light throttle brought on smooth acceleration. This is an indication of good powertrain electronics programming. Conversely, dropping the hammer made the Edge launch with authority. The engine easily spins to its 6,500 rpm horsepower peak, with peak torque of 280 pound-feet arriving at 4,000 rpm. At wide-open throttle, the engine sounded good, but a bit loud. Due to the fact that the Edge was a development vehicle, it may not have had a complete sound-deadening package installed. (We'll have to watch out for this when we test our first production model.)

Kreder noted that 0-60 mph performance should be about 1.5 seconds under an older Edge Sport with the 265-horspower 3.5-liter V6. We're estimating a mid-six-second run, which is plenty quick. Top speed is limited to 112 mph.

Fuel economy ratings are not yet available, but the variable valve timing enables the 3.7-liter V6 to run in the fuel-saving Atkinson cycle when it is beneficial. By delaying the closing of the intake valves until after the piston has rounded bottom-dead-center, the Atkinson cycle reduces pumping losses and boosts economy.

The Sport uses one of Ford's corporate six-speed automatic transmissions (the 6F50). The gearbox now has paddle shifters when fitted to the Edge Sport, and is the first with Ford's new shifter interface: Left pull to downshfit, right pull to upshift.

The controls are on the backside of a newly designed three-spoke steering wheel that looks pretty comfortable. The new steering wheel also included twin five-button controllers that work the MyFord Touch system. (Being such an early pre-production vehicle, the Touch system wasn't fully operational, so we'll reserve evaluation until an on-sale version is ready.)

Whether left to shift on its own or using the paddles, the gearbox's shift quality reflects Ford's approach to automatics. They use torque matching on either side of the shift to smooth out the gear change in a way that doesn't impede linear acceleration.

A quick blast up to nearly 100 mph on the facility's high-speed track revealed quick, but not harsh, full-throttle shifts plus a composed chassis that remained locked-down stable. The interior also remained quiet, with little wind noise.

After our ride, the engineers left me to capture the photography you can see in the gallery.

I took the quiet time to study the new interior. As Ford did with the Fusion and Mustang, the Edge's new interior represents a huge upgrade. Previous (2007-2010) Edge instrument panels had a piecemeal approach to panels and materials. There were cut lines everywhere and the graining didn't always match or feel substantial.

The 2011 interior features a one-piece dash cap that improves fit and finish considerably. The overall design is cleaner and more modern. The main eight-inch MyFord Touch screen also looked well integrated into the overall design. (Check out factory photos of the Edge Sport's interior here.)

Those who have driven a Fusion Hybrid will recognize the main instrument cluster. An analog speedometer is flanked by twin LCDs that clearly communicate all pertinent vehicle functions. The left screen is controlled by the left five-button controller on the steering wheel, and same for the right. (For a primer on MyFord Touch, see this story.)

The 2011 Edge Sport appears ready to assume its position as top dog in the Edge family. Those considering this crossover will have more choice than ever before because Ford will also offer a high-mileage turbocharged and direct-injected 2.0-liter four-cylinder EcoBoost engine sometime in 2011.

Stay tuned for a proper First Drive later this spring. It should be good.

Photos by Rex Roy / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.

Autoblog accepts vehicle loans from auto manufacturers with a tank of gas and sometimes insurance for the purpose of evaluation and editorial content. Like most of the auto news industry, we also sometimes accept travel, lodging and event access for vehicle drive and news coverage opportunities. Our opinions and criticism remain our own – we do not accept sponsored editorial.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      this new 3.7 V6 is a winner for ford and im hoping the ecoboost 4cyl will be just as good for them...and also the 6spd tranny's they are puting in this and the mustang
      • 5 Years Ago
      Wow.. nice job on the update... Love that it clears the 300 hp mark.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Based on that first picture you'd think the Edge was a competitor for some French hot hatch.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Seriously, I can't believe that thing is lifting a wheel. It's either got a pretty stiff suspension, or it's about to tip over! :D
      • 5 Years Ago
      So Ford's version o the X5, seems like it would be totally worthless off road so why not get a nice sedan.
        • 5 Years Ago
        If you drive down any dirt road in the spring, you know that having anything lower than an SUV/CUV is asking for trouble.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I guess I'll never understand the point of the sport crossover.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I just can't see myself paying $40-45k (dealer markup --- expect it) for an Edge and it doesn't have a V8 or their EcoBoost V6 also used in the SHO. I need something with more than 300hp, 300 lb-ft torque & AWD with those prices.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Gimme the Taurus SHO Wagon, please!
        • 5 Years Ago
        @ nardvark:
        I'm with you 100% and I gotta say, I have loved this vehicle since it came out. Just not sure if it's big enough for me. We down-sized back in '03 from a GMC Denali, to a Lincoln Aviator. Gotta say, that was a GREAT move. Still have it, still love it. But, it IS getting old. Have well over 100K miles on it now, and wouldn't mind retiring it. This would probably make a great replacement. Either this or an EcoBoost powered Flex. I'm still likely to be making trips to Home Depot and Lowes for some time, and therefore having room for at least 8ft lumber etc, is pretty much a requirement. 3rd row seating...still not sure but, would probably be nice to retain. But this "sport" version really has my attention.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Because while some people resign themselves to hauling kids/dogs/baby carriages/stuff, they still want to have fun. And they don't want the hassle and expense of owning a third car. Is it a compromise over a sport sedan? Yes. But you can't fit two baby carriages and the kids and a weekend of stuff in a sedan.

        Or so they tell me. My wife and I own two compacts, so obviously I'm talking out of my bum-bum.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The previous series X5 had less trunk space than a WRX!
        • 5 Years Ago
        @ nardvark:
        I disagree with your statement that crossovers etc. don't have more room than wagons. All the ones I've looked at, have significantly more cargo space in the rear, and generally more spacious rear seating areas.
        • 5 Years Ago

        The Edge, MKX, Flex, and MKT are all classified as light trucks.

        Essentially they are Fusion and Taurus wagons, bulked up for the CAFE regs.

        The companies know that they are under the gun a bit less with light trucks. And they have spent 15 years pushing and advertizing that position.

        the fact that their wagons in the past have been pretty weak, on the image front before that point, didn't impede the SUV boom much at all.

        BMW and Audi used to make sporty wagons back then, too. But you didn't see a Contour Wagon Sport, like this Edge Sport. You saw concepts like Explorer Adrenalin, and Ford Lightning, or even it's concept expedition-based derivation.

        Government regulations set the stage. Car companies happily acted out their roles in front of the buyer audience... and made the SUV, and later the CUV good deals.

        ...and the audience bought it. It was a good, practical deal, after all.

        This is an example of companies tailoring supply to regulations, and a profit margin, and making an attractive price to option ratio, and using that to sway demand. It is not a 15 year trend of demand shaping supply.
        • 5 Years Ago
        You generally don't get more space in a cross-over than in a wagon, you just get the same space higher off the ground. Adding 22" wheels and raising the load floor by a foot negates any increase in space due to the vehicle being a foot taller. And now your center of gravity sucks.

        But you do get the illusion of space, because the thing looks bigger.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I agree with you (and I own an Impreza wagon), and given the choice, I'd rather have a wagon over a crossover. But the choices for wagons in this country are slim, and the ones that exist are all either luxury, all-wheel-drive, or made by manufacturers with below average reliability (VW or Hyundai).

        I'd much rather buy a Fusion wagon than an Edge Sport, but Ford has made it pretty clear that they can't make money selling wagons here.
        • 5 Years Ago
        You can haul kids, strollers, dogs, etc., in a station wagon just as well as a cross-over. And the station wagon will be lighter, more fuel efficient, perform better, and handle better.

        I'll never understand our aversion to station wagons.
        • 5 Years Ago
        SP: The car that I drove during most of high school was a stripped fullsize Ford station wagon. Complete piece of junk and I hated driving it.

        But I still like wagons.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The weight difference between an AWD Venza and the current Edge Sport is only about 200 lbs. and the mileage is about the same. The Edge has more cargo space. The 3.7 is more efficient than the 3.5 in the current model, so mileage should improve. The Venza takes 2 sec longer to get to 60 and as Car & Driver said, "The steering and brakes are just as innocuous as a Camry’s, as is the understeer and general lack of enthusiasm for fast driving. When to-ing and fro-ing around town, the brain almost immediately switches to autopilot in the cabin’s hushed tranquillity. Perhaps to keep the big Toyo tires from bounding around, the ride is edgy. The Venza bucks and bumps a bit too actively over all but the most groomed surfaces". Sounds like the Edge Sport has a lot going for it when compared to Toyota's wagon.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Someone needs a tape measure. Compare a Jetta wagon to, say, a Tiguan. The Tiguan will look far bigger, but won't afford you any more cargo room.

        Crossovers aren't quite as deceptively small as a body-on-frame SUV, but they're way up there. You'll obviously get the most interior volume in a minivan. Too bad so many people refuse to drive them.
        • 5 Years Ago

        They wouldnt make them if people didnt want them. I think a lot of people have grown to love their SUV's but they are starting to realize they dont need a huge body on frame SUV. So the crossover offers them some SUV like features but in a more practical form.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Jared "I'll never understand our aversion to station wagons."'s like this. When I was but a boy, dad came and picked us up from summer camp in a brand spankin' new 76 Grand Marquis wagon...and I was embarassed as hell to have to be seen getting into such a monstrously ugly looking car. I mean he got rid of the 69 Pontiac for THAT!!! Oh no, the shame!!

        I got used to it after a while, and even started to enjoy the 400 cube power house (at least for a 9 yr old kid it seemed like a lot - I mean he just blew away that guy in the Camaro! - oh the things we believe when we're young). I even got to use it when I turned 16 'til he bought me & big sis a Chevette to use...oh memories. Worse now than I thought...

        Anyway, point is, I promised myself from that first day I saw that car that I would NEVER buy a wagon and embarrass my kids that way. So there you have it, the reason we don't buy wagons is because those of us that could, or maybe should, had to suffer through being seen in them as kids. We don't want no wagon...and we aint gonna buy one either. I wouldn't have even wanted an Edge...'cept 300 horses might convince me otherwise.

        Hope that clears it up for you. :-)
        • 5 Years Ago
        I am still driving a Minivan because nothing else matches it's cargo carrying capability but if I was to downsize next time this would be on the list. I can't help myself. It just looks and drives so nice.

        The main reason besides looks that people like CUV's over wagons is height. You don't have to crawl down into and up out of a CUV. For anyone with mobility problems or for those of us who wear a skirt and heels this matters trust me. A lot of people also like the commanding view of traffic. The height gives drivers a false sense of security and size. Then there is the pseudo off-roader effect. They think because it has big wheels and tires and AWD that it will handle snow and ice better. Of course the reverse is true. All that weight makes stopping it much more difficult and the height causes handling to suffer. In the end the AWD system is no better than a good set of snow tires.
        • 5 Years Ago
        If you have kids, don't have an understanding wife, and don't want to be driving a minivan, you'll understand.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Ford spends lots of money testing markets to see what will sell and what won't. The number of people willing to buy a car like that is quite small I'm sure.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Always liked this thing, and I dig the new Atra shaver front end.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Well, I am a big crossword lover, and I like to get funky with the wordsmithing....
        • 5 Years Ago
        This is the first time I've seen the word Atra used outside the NYT Crossword in 5 years.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I have an 07 Edge....These look nicer. Image if they can keep getting a few more MPG while improving look, etc.

      ----Turning into a Ford Fanboy...-----

      The first pic really makes it look similar to a Fusion (front end)
        • 5 Years Ago
        "image if they can keep getting a few more MPG while improving look, etc."

        Well, they have.

        The Ecoboost 4 cyl is said to have at least a 30% increase in fuel economy over the current 3.5L... so what is that... 32 mpgs? at least? sounds good to me :)
      • 5 Years Ago
      Nice update.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Stop whining about Wagons. Americans have yet to show a desire to purchase them at any volume level that make sense for an automaker only selling that model on these shores. Let's face it, there are a few good examples from Audi, Caddy, Subaru and others that most Americans don't buy. Until this sentiment changes (and our taste for the CUV diminishes), better, cooler, newer CUVs like the Edge are what we'll get.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The problem is that the only really affordable wagons are made by Subaru, and them being a "niche" vehicle in the US doesn't help them point and say "Hey, Americans DO like wagons!"

        I, for one, would have bought a G8 Sportwagon had it been available. As it is, I'm currently driving around in a G8 GT Sedan.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'd drive it. Although I do like the look of the matte black grill, shown in the earlier pictures, much better.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm going to assume the 2.0 ecoboost will be a cheaper option than the v6, anyone know if it will be available in awd too? It seems fords preview page of the 2011 edge makes no mentions of the ecoboost engine - will it not be available at launch?
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