First Drive: Ford Edge in the City by the Bay

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Ford makes a compelling case about the marketability of the Edge. Their newest crossover seems to fit every demographic you can throw at it. Whether its aging baby-boomers who have a hard time with ingress and egress, recent empty nesters who are ditching their SUV in favor of a smaller, more fuel efficient, yet commanding vehicle and then there's me. Someone who Ford describes as 'Phil.' Phil is an active professional, living an active lifestyle, in an active, urban environment. The Edge seeks to be all things to all people, but a lingering question is always hanging in the air. What's really new about the Edge?

The design is starkly striking. The wheels are pushed to the very ends of the vehicle, the overhangs are short and the steeply raked windshield, coupled with a low ride height give it a sleek, yet deliciously chunky appearance. The corporate DNA can be seen throughout the vehicle, with the chromerific three-bar grille getting much of the attention, it's easy to overlook subtle cues from the D-pillar and beltline that are perfectly Fusionesque.

The 17-inch chromers were a bit too bling for some tastes, but tied in nicely with the other metallic accoutrements. Thankfully, in addition to an 18-inch upgrade, brushed aluminum wheels are an option.

Upon entrance of the vehicle, no less than five textures greet the occupants, most of which have a modern, up-scale feel. Some are good, particularly the ribbed metallic dash console that kinks downward where the shifter resides. A couple cubbies provided ample room for mobile phones and iPods, including a cavernous center console that Ford claims would fit a "small laptop." On the MP3 player tip, the Edge comes standard with a 1/8th-inch jack that routes sound into the head unit and has a well-engineered notch that allows the cable to protrude out the side of the console and into waiting, if distracted, hands.

The steering wheel is adorned with all the prerequisite buttons to control the stereo volume and inputs and, like most of the materials, is appealing to touch. Other surfaces however, weren't quite as well funded, with flimsy plastic and Fusion parts-bin pilfered pieces finding their way onto the doors. On the SEL-equipped testers, leather was standard and over the course of the day, ass numbing was kept at a minimum.

Most of the interior is hard to get excited about, with all the expected legroom and creature comforts present and accounted for. The one piece of aesthetic and engineering glory is the Vista Roof ™ moon/sunroof setup that extends far beyond the front passenger's heads, breaks for four-inches, then continues to cover the rear-seat occupants. Copious quantities of sunlight enter the cabin without the much-dreaded "greenhouse" effect cooking fellow passengers. Once opened, noise is kept at a minimum until the wind really begins to kick up. If Ford's designers and engineers nailed anything on the Edge the Vista Roof is it.

Once behind the wheel and underway, the sheer size of the Edge begins to make itself known. Navigating the streets of San Francisco is not as overwhelming a task as it may be in an Expedition, but it certainly ain't small. Knowing where the right front tire is tracking can be a bit of a challenge at first, but after a half-hour or so of navigating the urban confines of S.F. proper, faith begins to take over and the huge footprint of the Edge becomes manageable.

Out of the city and onto the twisties of the North Bay, the soft-sprung suspension leaves a bit to be desired in the corner-carving department. Although squat, dive and body roll is kept at a minimum, 'sporty' is not the word that comes to mind. Steering input isn't anything to write home about either, but it turns when asked and feels as good as expected. Since road molesting ability is probably not on the list of 'must haves' of 'Phil' or any other of the demographics Ford outlined, the ride is suitable for the daily urban and suburban slogs that the Edge will find itself in most of the time.

The newly developed 265 HP, 3.5-liter V6 powering the front wheels or all wheels, depending on the model, was overwhelmingly underwhelming. Considering the two-plus tons it's being asked to motivate, it provides barely adequate grunt no matter where you mash the carpet in the rev-range. However, when this new mill finds its way into the MKS and Fusion, it will find a soul mate (An SVT variant of the Edge is also rumored). The new six-speed transmission is far and away one of the best Ford has offered to date, with smooth shifts that are progressive and seamless. Downshifts take a bit of preplanning, with a few ticks between application and thrust, and the lack of anything between 'D' and 'L' is criminal for any transmission with that many ratios.

As a whole, the Edge has the ability to define the crossover segment and usher in a new era of American motoring. The CUV market is the fastest growing segment in the U.S., with Ford expecting crossovers to eclipse SUV sales by the end of the year. With that in mind, Ford has put a lot of eggs in the Edge basket and if consumers grant it a chilly reception, the Blue Oval might be in a world of hurt. And that's the rub. With so many other vehicles that could be considered CUVs, does the Edge offer anything different? Overall, no. It's a perfectly average vehicle, but the Edge neatly slots in between the CR-V's and RDX's of the world and in doing so, it creates a market segment that stands to redefine what average buyers require. Even if their name isn't Phil.

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