2011 Ford Edge Review – First Drive

More power and fuel economy for refreshed Ford Edge, but the real story is MyFordTouch

2011 Ford Edge Review – First Drive

The 2011 Ford Explorer might be getting all the public attention right now, but don’t let that fool you—Ford hasn’t forgotten about its Edge mid-size crossover.

FAST FACTS

1. Launching on the 2011 Ford Edge is the MyFordTouch system, which, in a nutshell, is an all-in-one infotainment system that allows drivers to operate everything from the navigation, to climate control, to the stereo using voice controls, a touch-screen and steering wheel mounted hand controls.

2. A new 3.5L V6 engine for 2011 adds 20-hp and improved fuel economy to 19/27-mpg (front-drive) and 18/26-mpg (AWD).

3. The Sport model retains its 18/25-mpg (FWD) and 17/23-mpg (AWD) rating, but gains 40-hp thanks to the Mustang’s 305-hp, 3.7L V6.

The five-seat Edge is significantly refreshed for 2011 with updated styling, more power, and Ford’s new MyFordTouch instrument panel, which mostly does away with traditional buttons and knobs, replacing them with touch-screen inputs.

NEW V6 ENGINES ADD POWER, FUEL ECONOMY

We’ll get to MyFordTouch in a bit, but first, some basics. The Edge will be sold in four trim levels: SE, SEL, Limited, and Sport. The SE, SEL, and Limited are available with a 285-horsepower 3.5-liter V6, which gains about 20-hp over last year’s model. And later this model year, a 2.0-liter EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder will join the lineup.

The Edge is available with both all-wheel and front-wheel drive, and Ford is claiming that fuel economy is 19-mpg city/27-mpg highway on the front-wheel drive SE, SEL, and Limited models, and 18/26 for all-wheel drive. Sport models are rated at 18/25 with front-wheel drive and 17/23 with all-wheel drive.

The transmission is a six-speed automatic unit with manumatic shifting–Sport models offer paddle shifters.

Rather than share the 3.5-liter V6 with the rest of the lineup, for 2011 the Sport is powered by a 3.7-liter V6 that is borrowed from the Mustang pony car. In this iteration it makes 305 horsepower and 280 ft-lbs of torque. Other Sport goodies include 22-inch wheels and a sport-tuned suspension.

Available Edge features include a blind-spot warning system, Ford’s MyKey programmable key system, a rear-view camera, reclining second-row seats, a cargo area that can handle eight-foot long items, trailer-sway control, dual USB ports, RCA jacks, a memory card slot, Ford’s Sync infotainment system, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, Ford’s Easy Fuel capless fuel filler, satellite radio, wireless cell phone link, remote keyless entry, remote start, and a push-button start.

MYFORDTOUCH DOES IT ALL, BUT THERE’S A LEARNING CURVE

The 2011 Edge marks the first use of Ford’s MyFordTouch system, which uses a combination of touch-screen interface and voice recognition to carry out commands. A home screen at the top of the center stack is divided into four quadrants: Entertainment, Phone, Navigation, and Climate. Ford claims that Sync has been streamlined to recognize more voice commands but with less layers, thereby making it easy for the driver to say “increase temperature one degree,” with the climate changing appropriately after. There are two iPod-like five-way controllers on the steering wheel, the one on the left controls trip information, which is displayed in the gauge cluster, and the other controls the aforementioned four categories. Information is displayed in the right third of the instrument cluster as well as on the center stack.

Consumers who don’t like using voice commands can simply touch the appropriate buttons on the center stack to make climate and audio adjustments, or use the touch screen in the center stack. The only knob to be found is a volume knob on the radio, which forms the outer ring of the main five-way radio controller on models with the Sony sound system (lesser models have a slightly different look, with an extra knob for temperature).

Ford has added some more features to Sync, such as a “do not disturb” system that will hold all incoming calls and text messages until the end of the ride, and another system that allows drivers to look up directions on Mapquest or Google Maps from, and then send them to the car. There is also a tagging feature that allows drivers to save songs played on the radio for later purchase, and songs played on satellite radio can be replayed.

Sounds good in theory, but how well does it work in the real world? Pretty well, to be honest, but there are some hiccups. These vehicles were preproduction, which could explain a little bit of confusion on the part of the navigation system that caused yours truly to make two wrong turns within the span of five minutes in suburban Nashville (the standard navigation system is a turn-by-turn system, a map-based system is available, and it offers birds-eye views and “eco” routing, which allows drivers to choose the most fuel-efficient route.). There is also a bit of a learning curve involved with using the steering-wheel controllers and the home screen menus, and Sync occasionally didn’t recognize common commands.

The graphics of the system look fantastic, though, and the customizable IP is pretty cool, as is some of the data that a driver can see, such as the display that shows which wheels are getting the most torque on AWD models. The touch-screen buttons on the center stack work well.

Perhaps the biggest beef with MyFordTouch is that the learning curve may be tricky for some people, and that the sheer amount of things to look at in the various screens could cause drivers to be distracted, thereby canceling out the intended affect of the voice recognition and touch screens. It will take some time to see how this system plays with the general public.

Sharp-eyed readers will note that the Edge’s styling isn’t dramatically different than the previous model, with the most glaring change being the updated front fascia. The hood, front fenders, and taillamps are also all-new, and the 18-inch and 20-wheels are updated as well. Otherwise, the Edge’s overall shape is quite familiar.

BEHIND THE WHEEL DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

During our drive around Nashville, we had the chance to drive an AWD Sport and a front-wheel drive Limited. The Sport’s 3.7-liter V6 sounded great when pressed, but that didn’t translate into super speeds, as this is still one heavy crossover. Think of the difference between a power walker and a jogger, and you get the idea.

Steering feel is sharp, accurate, and nicely weighted, with little to no on-center play. Ride quality is firm without being too harsh (amazing, given the wheel size), and the Edge generally feels comfortable over most types of pavement (not too many broken roads in this part of the South, and the ones we did encounter didn’t ruffle the Edge too bad). Body roll is well contained, but handling is a bit on the bland side, as one might expect from a vehicle in this class. The brakes are strong and linear.

The Limited experience didn’t drop down too far from the Sport’s The lower output of the smaller engine is noticeable, and the steering is a little lighter and a little less dialed-in. Ride and handling traits are about the same.

Both Edges are astonishingly quiet at speed, thanks to acoustic glass and other NVH improvements. Wind noise is almost unheard of, but some tire noise does intrude, more so on the Sport than the Limited.

One last note: The manumatic on the Sport shifts fairly crisply and adds a little pep to the engine on downshifts, but really, the transmission is best left in drive. In fact, if the transmission is set in drive instead of manual mode, and the driver doesn’t touch the paddles, the system reverts back to drive. One neat trick is that activating manual mode is easily done simply by flicking a paddle.

Despite the drastically remade interior, the new Edge feels a lot like the old Edge—heavy and solid with a nicely tuned ride. The steering feel is improved—especially on the Sport (all models retain hydraulic power-steering systems)—and the boost in power is appreciated.

THE VERDICT

But really, consumers in this class probably care more about gadgets than driving dynamics, and MyFordTouch is the big story. The system generally works well, once the driver learns the basics. It certainly has some cool features, but it remains to be seen how well a driving public that was weaned on button-laden interiors adapts to this new-fangled technology.

The good news is that it’s mostly intuitive. The bad news is that Sync still sometimes doesn’t recognize certain voice commands (despite a Ford claim that the system can recognize 10,000 commands). The potential distraction factor is a bit of a concern, as well.

Ford definitely went evolutionary instead of revolutionary with the 2011 Edge — MyFordTouch notwithstanding— and given the sales success of the previous generation, that seems like the smart move. With added power, fuel economy, a stand-out design and the attractive, high-tech MyFordTouch system, Crossover drivers in suburbs across the land now have yet another compelling choice in the class.

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