Ford has been a leader in the utility vehicle segment for the better part of a quarter of a century, going all the way back to the introduction of the first Explorer in 1990, a much more modern alternative to the bucky old Bronco.
The Explorer was a much more roadworthy vehicle, lightyears removed from the rough off-roaders of the past. Still, it took another 16 years before the Blue Oval took the next big step, introducing its first crossover model in the form of the original Edge.
Like similar soft-roaders, it was intended more as a minivan alternative than something you’d take to the back woods. More refined looking, inside and out, with comfortable highway manners and plenty of family-friendly features. So, we were clearly curious to see how much the new 2015 Ford Edge would evolve considering the increasingly crowded and competitive nature of the midsize CUV segment.
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The remake which comes to market with a completely new design, inside and out, as well as new suspension, steering and brakes — and the availability of plenty of new technology both to entertain and keep the family safe. That includes new forward collision warning and braking.
The result is a versatile vehicle that comfortably can carry up to five passengers, offering a pleasant ride and ample power.
As it stands, utility vehicles, with their basic two-box shape, present a serious challenge for designers struggling to keep them fresh and interesting. For 2016, they didn’t try to go in for revolutionary changes. Ford’s product team focused on details such as the new front fascia that incorporates a variation of the brand’s signature slat grille, aero details along the bottom and new lighting treatments around the headlamps.
A profile view reveals more distinctively creased character lines that run from A- to D-pillars, giving the 2015 Ford Edge a more contemporary look — as does the spoiler that sits above the new liftgate. That hatch has also been redesigned and now features new LED taillights spanning the width of the vehicle.
On the inside, Ford has clearly felt the pressure from competitors such as the Kia Sorento, Hyundai Santa Fe and Nissan Murano. Here, the 2015 model gets a more dramatic makeover, with a new instrument cluster – now much easier to read on a bright, sunny day — new, soft-to-the-touch materials, and more sophisticated ambient lighting.
Visibility is excellent from the driver’s seat and the cabin is fairly quiet, which helps reduce road stress, whether during regular commutes or on a longer road trip. Overall the cabin is comfortable and comes with plenty of nooks and crannies for stowing items such as mobile phones, a purse or even an old fashioned map.
The connectivity system is Ford My Touch and Sync, which has had its share of glitches over the years, and the navigation system map still has a two-dimensional feel, lacking some of the more appealing visual cues found on other systems.
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The good news is that Ford is getting ready to abandon the current system, developed in a partnership with Microsoft. Sync 3, as it will be called, will debut on the new 2016 Lincoln MKX crossover – an upscale near-twin of the Edge – due out later this year. It will quickly roll out into the rest of the Ford line-up, though it unfortunately won’t arrive soon enough for the debut of the 2015 Edge.
But Ford certainly hasn’t held back on the technology for the new Edge, which features Active Grille Shutters and air curtains to improve aerodynamics –read: improved mileage — adaptive cruise control and collision warning, adjustable lane-keeping assist, blind spot monitoring with a warning that’s easy to spot, rear cross traffic alert and standard backup camera.
It also offers an enhanced active park assist, which includes a system to guide the vehicle into a perpendicular parking space or steer the vehicle in or out of a parallel parking space.
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One of the nicer, family-friendly features allows you to waggle a foot under the rear bumper to activate the power tailgate. It might seem a needless frill until you have your arms full of groceries and no way to reach your keep.
The new Edge offers steady handling, accurate steering and very good brakes. The overall feel is more planted than the outgoing model without giving up that overall comfortable ride. Give some credit to the combination of front MacPherson struts and rear multi-link suspension loosely borrowed from the Ford Fusion sedan.
I drove the top-of-the-line 2015 Ford Edge Sport, which was powered by Ford’s new twin-turbocharged 2.7-liter EcoBoost V-6 paired with a six-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive. Paddle-shifters are also available.
The well-calibrated powertrain produces 315-horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque, enough to make for smooth sailing whether climbing steep hills or accelerating for a quick pass. The downshifts were very smooth and largely transparent.
The lack of an eight-speed transmission, which is coming in future models, did crimp the fuel economy. Our all-wheel-drive Edge Sport model delivered an acceptable but not overwhelming 17 miles per gallon in city driving and 24 mpg on the highway.
Ford also offers a more fuel-efficient engine as standard gear in the Titanium package. It’s a twin-scroll turbo 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine that produces 240-hp. You’ll see 30 mpg on the highway in front-drive trim and 28 in AWD, with both packages delivering 20 mpg around town, according to the EPA. But you will sacrifice on the performance front. On the other hand, this marks the first time the 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine has been offered in a tow-rated package.
Meanwhile, there’s also a carryover 3.5-liter V-6, a 280-hp naturally aspirated package that is the least impressive option in the powertrain group.
The Edge isn’t for everyone. It lacks the third row found in both the Explorer as well as the smaller Ford Escape, for one thing. And it doesn’t have the off-road capabilities of the Explorer. But if those quibbles don’t matter, you’ll find the 2015 Ford Edge is unpretentious but stylish, comfortable, safe and capable of performing daily tasks in a well-mannered way.
Prices for the Edge start at $28,995, plus an additional $895 destination charge. The Sport version that I drove carried a stick price of $46,575, plus shipping, meaning buyers will have a lot to navigate through when they try to configure the right package for their own needs and budget.
(Paul A. Eisenstein contributed to this review.)