Review: 2015 Ford Edge

May 06, 2015 09:37 AM EDT | Jeff Jablansky

When Ford first showed us the Edge crossover, over a decade ago, it was a gamble that the company was serious about building SUVs that had stylish appeal. The best-selling Explorer needed a better-dressed sibling as a counterpart.

Now, ahead of the introduction of a redesigned Explorer—and a forthcoming Lincoln MKX—Ford has introduced the next iteration of the Edge: more stylish than the model it replaces, but with an instantly recognizable shape.

To find out if the edge has softened on Ford's latest crossover, we recently traveled to Phoenix for a first drive impression.

What is it?

The Edge is a crossover SUV that joins a roster of car-based sport-utility vehicles and crossovers in Ford's lineup—among them the more traditional Explorer and the aging Flex. It's a two-row crossover SUV that helped define a segment of SUV enthusiasts more interested in driving than hauling. In its second generation, the Edge moves to larger platform architecture shared with the Fusion sedan, resulting in a vehicle larger in most dimensions.

How does it drive?

If you've driven a Ford crossover in the last eight years or so, you'll be familiar with the way the '15 Edge drives. Its road manners befit a car, not a body-on-frame truck, with crisp steering and a firm suspension that also offers a comfortable drive on the highway.

Ford will offer three engines across the Edge model lineup: a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, a 3.5-liter naturally aspirated V-6, and a 2.7-liter biturbo V-6. We settled in for a short loop of Phoenix's backroads in an Edge Sport, which features the 2.7-liter biturbo V-6 exclusively. "Gutsy" is one way to describe the performance of the Edge Sport's off-the-line acceleration, which felt as quick as a comparable BMW X5 and much faster than the Nissan Murano. Braking from 50 mph to a dead stop was impressively free of drama.

In the city, the aforementioned steering setting requires a bit more effort than some of the Edge's competitors', making the Edge feel larger than it is in tight turning maneuvers. No matter—we liked how it felt, and it certainly beats finger-light feel any day.

What's it like inside?

Beautifully appointed. We were pleasantly surprised by the touches Ford implemented to make the Edge's cabin less of a rough-and-tumble place to sit, including soft-touch materials all over the interior and cheered-up door panel design. The first thing you notice when you get behind the wheel is an acre of plastic leading up to the windshield, making the Edge feel more like an Expedition. That's likely caused by the extremely fast rake of the Edge's windshield.

Front and center is Ford's aging MyFord Touch infotainment system, which does a serviceable job through touch functionality and excels at receiving spoken commands. Ford's next-generation Sync 3 will not be available right away on the Edge, and neither will it be upgradeable, since it's a full hardware change.

Primary controls are easy to see and use, although the gear selector may take some getting used to. A large, optional sunroof brightens what is otherwise a claustrophobic cabin with a high beltline and a low-ish roof.

Of note, the Edge is a two-row vehicle only, as opposed to Ford's other SUVs. The decision not to offer a third row was a conscious one, explained a Ford product planner, who said that customers in the leisure crossover segment aren't interested in one. A stretched Edge with a redesigned rear roofline, however, will eventually be on sale in Asian markets. As a result of not including the third row, second-row legroom is extraordinarily generous.

What's its specialty?

Playing the stylish member of a cadre of very similar SUVs.

Most innovative feature?

Super-sticky Pirelli summer tires. In this segment, cornering and handling are often an afterthought. Our Edge Sport was fitted with 21-inch wheels on performance tires made by Pirelli—the sort of shoes usually reserved for low-slung sedans and coupes. It's a big leap, for the company that was using cheap Firestone tires not so long ago. We bet that the tires handily improved on-road performance—don't try taking this Edge to the edge—and are curious how many customers will opt for them.

We'll wait to pass complete judgment on the Edge's handling characteristics until we can drive one without the summer tires.

How's the competition?

The midsize sport-utility and crossover segment is perhaps the market's hottest. The Edge's closest competitor is the recently redesigned Nissan Murano, which feels more luxurious inside but lacks the performance that the most powerful Edges offer. The Jeep Grand Cherokee is also a formidable opponent, as is the Hyundai Santa Fe. The related MKX will compete with premium luxury competitors in the size class. The Edge will also have to compete with the Explorer, Flex, and even Expedition and Escape, within Ford showrooms.

Overall:

This time, the edge is on the inside.

Highs:

Balanced styling evolution, spacious second row, fast in top trim.

Lows:

Feels bigger than it is, wide turning radius, outdated tech interface, no third row offered.

The ideal setup:

Edge Sport AWD, for most of the bells and whistles included. Add package 401A for an additional $3700 for the navigation system, blind spot monitoring, and heated and cooled seats all around. The $1300 driver assistance package adds adaptive cruise control, an added nicety for long highway stints, and the $1595 glass sunroof turns a dreary cabin into a sunny one. Add it all up, and you still come in under 45 grand. At $29,000 for a base model, it's also worth considering.

By the numbers: 2015 Ford Edge

MSRP: $28,995 (FWD 2.0 turbo, includes $895 destination charge)

Power / drive wheels: 2.0-liter, 245-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine, 3.5-liter, 280-hp V-6 engine, 2.7-liter, 315-hp biturbo V-6 engine / front or all-wheel drive

Transmission: 6-speed automatic transmission

EPA fuel economy: 20/30, 18/26, 18/27 (FWD) city/highway

In showrooms: Now

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