2015 Ford Edge: First Drive

March 11, 2015

Does the 2015 Ford Edge stay true to its badge? Not exactly; it’s always worn its edge—or edginess—with a sort of irony. Far more than when it was first introduced in 2007, this tall utility wagon is on solid ground, at the heart of Ford’s crossover lineup, and it brims with competence, charm, and verve.

Completely reengineered and redesigned this year, it steps the Edge up in innumerable ways, to embody the more detail-oriented look and feel that's characterized all the Ford vehicles that have been fully redone over the past three or four years—like the Focus, Escape, and Fusion.

And as we found this week, in a brief first drive in the mountain-and-desert landscape around Phoenix, Arizona, the Edge has a driving personality that’s not necessarily sharper but more refined and mature—and it’s a perfect match to the new look.

ALSO SEE: Nissan Murano Vs. Ford Edge: Compare Cars

The differences are at their most dramatic inside. The 2015 Edge gets essentially a somewhat higher-set, chunkier version of the interior that’s elevated the Fusion sedans above most of their rivals in terms of design, detail, and touch. There’s soft-touch material nearly everywhere. Controls are simplified, with nice matte-black facing for the center console, and the Edge gets a version of the reconfigurable gauge cluster—navigated through steering-wheel toggles—seen elsewhere in the Ford lineup.

About the only thing we’d want different are more lighter-tone choices—and perhaps to banish the piano-black material that still appears in door pulls and cupholders, just where it would collect greasy fingerprints. Like a lot of today’s Ford models, it feels quite austere and German...at a time when even German automakers are brightening up their cabins.

There are storage spaces seemingly everywhere. there’s a shallow but large latched bin atop the dash, a huge center console, a bin just ahead of the shifter, and a drawer ahead of the driver’s left knee—as well as deeply carved-out door pockets. And that’s only looking around the front seats.

Sitting up high, yet handling stable and low

You still sit high in the Edge, but there’s something more carlike about the sightlines; with the long dash, raked-back windshield, and the two ripples of the hood you look out over, you can actually fool yourself into thinking you’re in a lower sport wagon.

We’re serious. The outgoing Edge was no slouch for carlike handling, but the harshness it brought into the cabin didn’t let you forget that you were in a utility vehicle—a rather heavy one at that. However in the 2015 Edge, one of our first impressions once moving on the street was how settled, composed, and low this vehicle feels—even if the seating point likely hasn’t significantly changed.

You see, nearly everything in this Edge is different than last year’s Edge. The outgoing Edge was rolling on a setup derived from the previous-generation Mazda 6. Although the new Edge is built on the same platform as the current Ford Fusion, it really has almost no common parts, and Ford stresses that it’s definitely not just a tall Fusion wagon.

Ford didn't turn to aluminum for the body panels or significant portions of the body structure, but it does go stronger yet lighter, as with Ford’s other recently redesigned products. Through the use of more high-strength steel, including boron steel in the side pillars, the body is 26 percent stiffer for bending and 14 percent stiffer torsion-wise. Altogether, there’s a 20-percent improvement in roll control.

Ford claims that it’s improved steering feel by 30 percent; and while we think that’s an odd thing to quantify, our net assessment is that yes, there’s much more of an impression of the road and the forces as they build compared to the previous version, and compared to most crossovers on the market.

What it amounts to is a vehicle that steers precisely and tracks straight ahead without fuss, and one that you simply feel secure with. The Edge will take a set into a corner, and thanks to the body stiffness, well-tuned steering, and new suspension geometry, you don’t often need to adjust the steering input mid-corner. It truly drives like a sedan—an unusual claim, really, in a vehicle with such a high seating point.

READ: GM Cuts Warranty On Chevrolet, GMC Vehicles From 100,000 To 60,000 miles

Lane Keep Assist offers some help when you’re distracted

By the way, there’s also an available Lane Keep Assist feature that will pitch in and apply steering force to help keep you in your lane. It works quite well, thanks to a multi-mode intervention setting; and it can easily be shut off, allowing you so stick with warnings only, which are communicated via a steering-wheel vibration. You do have to keep your hands on the wheel.

The steering doesn’t have multi-mode settings; there’s just one calibration, and they got it right. Edge Sport models have a noticeably heftier on-center feel and a little more weighting off-center, but both of these models in general offer more

Steering-wheel paddles now allow you to control downshifts (left) and upshifts (right) without taking your hands off the steering wheel. In Drive, pulling the shift knob back to the Sport (‘S’) mode gives you access to a more performance-oriented shift strategy (it holds the lower gears longer), and lets you hold those downshifts indefinitely.

What’s under the hood is eager and quite fuel-efficient. In last year’s Edge, Ford’s EcoBoost turbocharged engine technology seemed sidelined, with a turbo 2.0-liter four only offered in a front-wheel-drive model. This year, there’s a turbocharged four-cylinder and a twin-turbo V-6.

And there’s major change in the way the 2.0-liter EcoBoost is positioned. It’s now a solid base engine in the lineup, and it can now be paired with all-wheel drive. It’s also now good for towing up to 3,500 pounds.

Getting an EcoBoost edge...

Thanks to the inclusion of twin-scroll turbocharger technology, as well as a few other technology updates, the new 2.0-liter has less turbo lag; the new twin-scroll version here has response that’s much closer to immediate.

As an odd sidenote, no premium fuel is required or even recommended, yet the engine’s power and torque ratings, of 245 horsepower, and 275 pound-feet, respectively, are achieved on top-tier 93-octane fuel. Torque remains the same on the 87-octane that’s common at U.S. pumps, but horsepower is approximately ten percent lower—think around 220 hp.

In any case, the Edge feels confident and quick, and the six-speed automatic does the job just fine throughout the lineup; there’s no need for eight or nine speeds, especially when you have the wall of torque from 2,000 on up. Shift quality is smoother than it felt in the former Edge, as well.

In the middle, there’s the 280-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6. Ford views this engine as a sort of assurance plan for the new lineup. While those V-6 models comprised as much as 85 percent of sales for the outgoing models, Ford is quite confident that percentage is going to be very small once people test-drive the EcoBoost models.

We didn’t spend any time driving that model, but we did spend some time in the Edge Sport, which gets Ford’s new 2.7-liter twin-turbocharged V-6, replacing the 3.7-liter V-6 as the more performance-oriented powertrain. It makes 315 hp and 350 lb-ft, and on hard acceleration it burbles in an off-cadence purr that reminds us of a five-cylinder.

Edge Sport: strong and silent type

The 2.7-liter in the Sport is remarkably smooth, but a bit muted in its responses; while not nearly as strong at the lower revs as the 3.5-liter EcoBoost that’s available in the three-row Ford Flex (among many other models), it feels particularly strong in the middle of the rev band, with a fizzle at the top of the tach’s sweep—which with the muted demeanor tends to play mind games, as we kept looking down and noticing our speed was much higher than we would have guessed.

Adding to that impression, probably, is the active noise cancellation technology that’s exclusively used in Sport models. Since we noticed that model was actually quieter inside than the 2.0-liter, it’s safe to assume that very observation is the technology making good, serving to quell the greater road roar especially of having such a setup. It also, we think, helps to accentuate the sounds coming from the engine.

All models, though, get new noise-abating measures, including better sealing, more insulation, wheel well liners, acoustic underbody panels, and acoustic glass—plus additional acoustic front side glass in the Titanium.

Visually, there’s a lot to note on the Edge Sport. First off, it drops most of the chrome in favor of a blacked-out look; and that’s especially profound in front, where the otherwise bright-trimmed grille is replaced by something a lot more purposeful. LED lighting is standard on that model, and inside there’s ambient lighting, aluminum pedal covers, and metal-plated accents.

The Edge Sport gets stiffer front and rear anti-roll bars, plus rear monotube dampers, and stiffer coil springs, which altogether adds up to 20 percent less body roll than in the previous Edge Sport, Ford says. The Sport also includes 20-inch polished aluminum wheels with low-gloss painted pockets, while you can opt for 21-inch wheels and summer-only performance tires.

More space, and (mostly) good seating

The 2015 Ford Edge is still very much a vehicle designed for people more than gear. It’s just a little bit larger than last year’s model, while keeping the two-row, five-passenger layout; it adds nearly four inches of overall length, plus 1.3 inches of height and nearly an inch of additional wheelbase—definitely adding up to a larger cabin than before, with plenty of space up front as well as good knee and legroom in back.

But short front-seat lower cushions and flat, uncontoured back-seat positions leave room for improvement in both areas (and you might want to check headroom in back with the otherwise-wonderful Vista Roof in the Titanium). Honestly, seating feels like the one area where the Edge Sport isn’t quite up to all the rivals—especially if you stretch it into luxury territory.

Seat folding is very easy, though, and there’s now 73.4 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seatbacks folded or 39.2 cubic feet with the seats up in place—seven cubes more than before.

Ford notes the high importance of safety technology for shoppers—citing Harris Poll results finding that 84 percent prioritize safety-tech over infotainment, and 56 percent would switch brands for tech features—and so they’ve opted to pack the Edge with a whole lot of it. On top trims, it includes a 180-degree front camera system with washer, a rearview camera system, adaptive cruise control, a BLIS blind-spot system with cross-traffic alert, collision warning with brake support, and the lane-keeping system.

Loads of tech—although MyFord Touch carries over

Other features new to the Edge this year include a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, heated and cooled front seats, inflatable outboard rear belts, and fast-charging USB ports. About the only technology that is missing in the Edge is Ford’s latest SYNC 3 version of MyFord Touch unveiled earlier this year; you’ll have to hold out for the next generation—or maybe a mid-cycle refresh of the Edge in a couple years—for that.

Both of the models we drove—and the only ones Ford made available at this first-drive event—were top-of-the-line Edge Titanium and Sport models. The Titanium starts at $37,595, but the all-wheel drive model we drove was optioned up to $44,685 and included most of those aforementioned features, as part of a package that includes remote start, rain-sensing wipers, the Vista Roof, and a new Enhanced Park Assist feature that essentially lets the car steer itself into the space (even into perpendicular spots) when you manage the accelerator and brake. Meanwhile, the Edge Sport we drove was optioned from its base $40,095 up to $46,575.

For that nearly identical money, we’d probably take the Edge Sport, which drives just a bit better—unless we were in a place with choppy or potholed roads, where that model’s stiffer setup could interfere with comfort. The 2.0-liter models are plenty entertaining and now achieve up to an EPA-rated 20 mpg city, 30 highway—while Edge Sport AWD models get 17/24 mpg.

Our route wasn’t at all typical, or close to level, yet we kept watch over the trip computer's mileage. We saw more than 19 mpg over nearly 100 miles of quite rapid driving, mostly along rural highways and with significant altitude gain, with the 2.0T; then we saw nearly 23 mpg in the Sport, going the 65 miles and retracing most of our route (but making a descent). We’ll reserve judgment on that for now, until we get a follow-up drive on familiar roads, at a more leisurely pace.

Don’t forget SE and SEL are the real value

Definitely see our full review pages on the 2015 Ford Edge for more information, including specifics on features and pricing. Base Edge SE models start at just $28,995, including destination, it should be noted. At that price, it could be a great alternative to moderately well-equipped versions of the Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, or Chevrolet Equinox, among others. Ford sees it as part of a relatively narrow group of two-row vehicles that includes the Nissan Murano, the Toyota Venza, the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, and to some degree, the Lexus RX.

The original Edge was a tall wagon, somewhat stylish, somewhat sporty, and part of a philosophy at that time to ‘see what sticks’ in the market. The new 2015 Edge feels like far less of a rookie, and more of an MVP—one with a worldly, sophisticated edge over most of its rivals.

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