First Drive: 2011 Ford Edge

Refreshed crossover features updated engine lineup and infotainment options.

by on Aug.23, 2010

The 2011 Ford Edge Sport features 22-inch forged aluminum rims.

Just looking at the skin of the refreshed 2011 Ford Edge hardly scratches the surface of what’s new here.

Within the year, there will be three engine choices instead of just one. Two will have more power and all will have better fuel economy. On top of that is MyFord Touch, a huge upgrade on Ford’s Sync infotainment and communication system.

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The power increases from the 3.5- and 3.7-liter V6s were obvious with a push of the right foot. And while the upgraded infotainment systems are a huge step forward, there’s still some work to do to make them more user friendly.

While some aspects of the infotainment system still has a few bugs, the completely reworked interior it resides in is more stylish and more high-tech.

Ford showed the updated Edge to journalists last week at an in-depth preview in Nashville. After listening to presentations on everything that is new with the Edge, we spent time on some beautiful twisting roads where we found the Edge, and especially the Edge Sport, to have a noticeable bump in power.

The grille on the 2011 Ford Edge is bigger, dropping down below the bumper.

Outside, the major difference is a new rendition of Ford’s signature chrome grille, which now dips down into the bumper, sort of like the corporate grille designs being used by Audi and Volkswagen, but with a look that still says Ford. In back, the major differences are new taillights.

Under the hood, the Edge will initially come with a choice of two engines. The base engine remains the 3.5-liter V6, but horsepower is up 20 to 285. At same time, fuel economy jumps 1 mpg on the city cycle and 2 on the highway to 19/27. Ford engineers on hand for the preview said the improved performance is a result of several small changes such as a new system that shuts off the fuel injectors during certain situations when the vehicle is coasting.

The third engine, available in mid-2011, will be Ford’s new 2.0-liter direct-injection turbocharged EcoBoost four cylinder. While horsepower figures for the Edge’s version of the engine have not been released, it will produce 230 horsepower in the Explorer.

Aerodynamic improvements such as carefully tuning the new grille for the right balance between styling and airflow and new underbody shields behind the rocker panels also contributed to the improvements. In all, designers reduced the Edge’s coefficient of drag  (cd) from .385 to .363.

Opt for the Edge Sport and you get the 3.7-liter V6 from the Taurus, but with 20 more horsepower for a total of 305. Fuel economy for the new engine is unchanged from the 2010 Edge, which used the same engine as the base Edge.

The optional Sony-designed sound system features a touch panel with a single knob surrounding a four-way button.

Our SEL had the standard infotainment system with a cool bronze-tone center stack with slim soft-touch buttons. We also drove a Limited with the Sony system which features a glossy touch-sensitive surface with only one knob, with a four-way button in the middle. The rest of the controls on the Sony system are on the touch panel. Both were delightful to use, although we thought the Sony-designed system should have had buttons for the seat heaters, instead of having to sift through the touch screen’s menu of choices.

MyFord Touch is a huge improvement over past Sync systems. It offers twin customizable screens on either side of the speedometer. The 8-inch touch screen – standard on all models – on the center stack also offers more customization options.

Ford flattened the Sync command structure, eliminating the need to say “phone” before saying “Call Jim Smith.” The engineers also added thousands of words, so raising the temperature can now be accomplished by saying “increase temperature,” “temperature up” or “make warmer.” In fact, the number of commands Sync recognizes is now 10,000, up from just 100 in the first generation.

Out on the road, we found that Sync still has some issues voice recognition issues. This could be a matter of user familiarity because it seemed to work perfectly for the Ford people who provided the demonstrations. It could also have something to do with using the system on the road as opposed to sitting in a quieter environment, where Sync has always seemed to perform better. We’ll reserve final judgment on using the system until we spend more time with it in the multitude of Ford vehicles it will be available on this year.

A huge improvement is a new steering wheel design that will replace the antiquated one found in most current Ford products. The new wheel includes four-way buttons to control the customizable parts of the IP and, at long last, a cancel button for the cruise control. There are a lot of buttons there – 18 in all – but they all help achieve Ford’s goal of keeping drivers’ hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.

MyFord Touch is an option on the SEL and is standard on Limited and Sport trim levels. It is not available on the base SE.

The cloth seats in the SEL seemed stiffer than expected, about what one might expect in a German car. Surprisingly, the leather chairs in the Limited felt softer. The pebbled leather in the Limited we drove was not as nice as the smooth leather in the Sport.

The ride with the regular suspension was good, but the mostly silky-smooth Tennessee roads were hardly the best place to judge ride quality. The Ford engineers were particularly proud of the ride with the Sport’s massive 22-inch forged aluminum wheels wearing 265/40 tires. The ride was not noticeably harsher than cars with the regular suspension, but turn-in was better and the car took corners more confidently.

Base price for the Edge actually drops $300 to $27,995, including destination. As before, the Sport starts at $36,995. Either way, it’s a lot of money for five seats, but the amount of content Ford has crammed in the Edge is compelling.

Ford has staked its future on the rapid implementation of new technology, both under the hood and for personal connectivity and entertainment. That mix is going to be a hard combination to match for many smaller automakers, not to mention some of Ford’s larger competitors.

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