In the Autoblog Garage: 2007 Ford Edge SEL AWD

The advent of the crossover is fully upon us, so much so that no one even snickers at the name anymore. After all, SUVs have become persona non grata to many buyers thanks to their thirsty nature in a world where " cheap gas" is a phrase that seems quaint. That said, people still like the other stuff their trucks offered, like a high riding position, all-wheel-drive, room for kids and pets, plus the capacity to haul everything from groceries to bags of mulch. Of course, minivans offered this level of utility already, but some people's aversion to them (due to perceived lameness and other reasons) has brought us to where we stand today. The crossover will do battle with the van to become the new king of the family cars, and Ford has stepped right up to the plate with a solid player in the Edge.

The Edge is here at a time when the bread-and-butter Explorer is seeing sales tank and the Freestar minivan has gone, unlamented, to the big junkyard in the sky. So, there's obviously an opportunity here and with Edge, Ford's looking to make the most of it. Our tester was a loaded-to-the-gills Edge SEL Plus AWD, and it made friends and influenced people during its stay. The Edge draws you in with its excellent exterior styling. Not oversized but not small in any sense, the CUV's appearance is contemporary and pleasing to the eye -- a success from front to back. The short overhangs, bulging fenders and rakish glass angles fore and aft give it an athletic, muscular stance. There's nothing shy about how this people-mover presents itself to onlookers. The Redfire clearcoat finish didn't hurt, either, as the pretty color really stood out no matter where the car was parked.

The nose features the best implementation of the automaker's three-bar corporate grille, a formidable swath of chrome with a big blue oval in the middle that proves Ford hasn't exhausted the world's supply of the shiny stuff with the '07 Navigator. Immediately below the grille, a pair of secondary openings help the Edge breathe while also breaking up the substantial amount of real estate in front. The headlamps feature stubby little wraparound offshoots that house the indicators and side markers, and a set of foglights in bright metallic housings add some zip to the otherwise blacked-out lower fascia.

Studying the Edge from the side illustrates how small the front and rear overhangs really are. Despite its role as a paved-roads-only machine, this gives it a rough-and-tumble look that some SUVs would be glad to have (we're talking to you, Explorer). Ford keeps Edge from looking overly slab-sided by employing flared fenders that seamlessly merge into an accent bulge running the length of the doors and by blacking out the rocker panels. Optional 18" chrome wheels look good, add sparkle and fill the wheel wells nicely. They do add $750 onto the sticker price, though. The standard-equipment 17s eschew the bling, but are stylish nonetheless. Painted 18-inchers are also available, and at $395, they represent a nice compromise choice. One thing that really needs to be put to pasture is the numeric entry keypad Ford still places on the door. Interesting 20 years ago, this relic looks completely out of place on a modern vehicle, especially in an age where it has been long obviated by better keyless entry technology. Enough already.

In back, Ford keeps things simple. The taillamps don't intrude onto the rear hatch, which is adorned with standard badging (Edge, SEL, and AWD) and topped off by a trailing-edge roof spoiler. Dual exhaust tips poke through the cutouts in the rear bumper, but they're tiny. Larger ones would look more proportional and better overall, but we're nitpicking at this point. This is a handsome, well-executed design that drew praise from both men and women during its visit with us.

Opening the door presents a spacious interior with leather-covered seating surfaces. The dash in the tester had sage green accents, and that color, in a nice detail touch, was also used in the contrast stitch adorning the leather seats. Speaking of the seats, they're plenty comfortable no matter where you plop down your posterior. Legroom in back is good, and the second-row bench also reclines. If there are just two rear-seat passengers, a center armrest containing a pair of cupholders can be flipped down for them.

Adding to the passenger compartment's spacious feeling is the optional panoramic Vista Roof. It is, in a word, awesome -- easily the Edge's "killer app." It adds a not-insignificant $1,395 to the bottom line, but in return, a pair of large glass panels let a ridiculous amount of daylight into the cabin. Additionally, the forward pane tilts up or slides rearward to create a massive 27"-by-29" opening over the front seats. Bond could eject like 3 bad guys at once through this thing. It's got a sizable fabric wind deflector that deploys at the leading edge, which reduces wind buffeting and noise very effectively. It's no convertible, obviously, but it makes for a really nice open-air experience. On especially hot days, you can crank up the A/C and close the power sunshades (there are two) to prevent the interior from turning into an Easy-Bake Oven. Maybe I was just used to the openness all the glass created, but I'll admit to feeling a little closed-in with the shades in place, despite the otherwise ample space surrounding me. If you don't opt for the glass roof, you can add rear-seat entertainment w/ DVD for the same price. Edge buyers who want the kid pacification system and the trick roof are out of luck, though. Perhaps Ford should consider a headrest-mounted system down the line, which would let folks have their cake and eat it, too.

Unfortunately, there are letdowns inside as well. The door panels carry on the two-tone theme but use a hefty amount of hard plastic -- think Little Tykes playset here. They're not very aesthetically pleasing, but the upside is that they should be easy to clean when the kids invariably mess them up by kicking them with dirty shoes, dropping food or spilling drinks. This is what the father-of-two in me immediately thought, even if that wasn't Ford's intent. The IP is clean and uncluttered, with easy-to-read gauges tucked under a compact hood, and an organized center stack/console unit. Again, however, the materials used simply don't look and feel as polished as what you'll find in the Edge's numerous competitors. Tall, chrome-trimmed heating and cooling vents are positioned at each end of the dash, and a second pair bookends the stereo/nav/HVAC cluster in the middle.

The Edge's center stack is well-arranged and easy to use, highlighted by its premium audio/navigation unit with its bright, large screen. The radio sounded great, but Ford's insistence on using buttons for tuning is frustrating. We prefer GM's use of dials for this rudimentary function on most of its stereo systems. The rest of the controls in the stack were standard partsbin stuff, and we had no complaints. The silver plastic trim piece that surrounds all those controls incorporates a puzzling (and pointless) dark horizontal line pattern that cheapens its appearance unnecessarily. The center console is well-sorted, with a pair of useful cupholders, a coin/stuff tray, a massive, reconfigurable storage bin, and the same meaty pistol-grip automatic transmission shifter you'll find in the Navigator and other Ford trucks.

That shifter is mated to Ford's newest tranny (co-developed with GM), which has six forward gears and is mated to the Oval's new 260-horsepower 3.5-liter V6. This combination is now finding its way into a host of Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury vehicles. The V6 moves the Edge along quite adeptly. Acceleration is adequate for a vehicle of its mass (the portly Edge tips the scales at 4282+ lbs with AWD), so there's no need to worry about wheezing into highway merges.

After my wife gave the CUV several approving looks on the initial walkaround, we installed the kiddie seats in the rear bench with no problems (we did one with LATCH, the other using the belt). Into those seats went the kids, we clambered into the front, and away to Costco we went. 90 minutes (and around 180 bucks) later, we returned with the storage area laden with food, diapers, and all the other usual club-store purchases. The area behind the back seats offers over 32 cubic feet of storage -- plenty of room for most shopping trips, and if you leave the kids at home, the cargo area becomes pretty cavernous (69.6 cubic ft.) with the second row flipped down (the power assist here is a nice touch). One omission that struck me as odd was the lack of a power rear liftgate,
even as an option. With my son in one arm and a bag in the other, it would have been nice to be able to click the fob to get to the stuff in back, instead of having to drop one (the bag lost out) to manually open it. Ford has corrected this by offering the feature on the 2008 Edge models. Good call.

No one had any complaints about the overall ride quality, which is a lot more comfortable than what you'll find in many of the SUVs Edge is surely siphoning sales from. That said, you can still summon up pronounced roll if you push the car, but the reality is that most Edge drivers will probably stay well within its limits as they carry out their daily routines, shuttling the kids to and fro and running assorted errands. On my daily highway drive to work it was a fine partner, too. It's a nice cruiser at speed, and when the inevitable stop-and-go stuff arrived, it provided a comfortable, airy capsule in which to enjoy the Sirius-provided hair metal as I whiled away the time. The AWD system was never really put to the test, as it just wasn't sloppy out while the car was with us. There was still snow on the ground from winter's last-gasp St. Patrick's Day visit up here in the Northeast (hence the white stuff in the pictures), but the roads (and the weather) were all clear by the time the Edge paid its visit.

At $36,850, the fully-optioned Edge faces competitors in its class from both Detroit and foreign ports of call that can match (or beat) that price while offering equally attractive features. Still, few can top its snazzy look, which separates it from much of the drab competition and draws people in. We like the Edge but are disappointed that the interior doesn't quite live up to the high standard set by its external appearance. If the Ford Flex shown in New York tells us anything, it's that Ford has the ability to offer customers a more compelling in-cabin experience in terms of trim and materials used. Work some of that magic on the Edge, and it'll be an even more well-rounded, appealing machine. As it stands today, it's still a winning first effort on many fronts, and that's showing on the sales charts.

All photos Copyright ©2007 Alex Núñez / Weblogs, Inc.

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