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Old 03-19-2007, 09:50 AM   #1
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Default Test Drive: 2007 Ford Edge SEL AWD (Canadian Driver)

Test Drive: 2007 Ford Edge SEL AWD (Canadian Driver)


Ottawa, Ontario - Who knew that living on the edge could be so mainstream?

I suppose that even with a name like Edge, a vehicle like Ford's newest crossover needs to be something that will appeal to a large number of people. After all, crossovers are the latest automotive equivalent to the "little black dress," a vehicle that's ostensibly meant to be versatile, as well as reasonably affordable and efficient.

Still, the Edge manages to look pretty distinctive. There are so many ways that a huge chrome grille could go horribly wrong in the distance between the drawing table and the showroom, but I like it here. I've gotten the impression that Ford's current design direction, of which that grille is a keystone, has been well-received.

The Edge is a surprisingly attractive vehicle, and I say surprisingly only because it's far more fetching up close than in photos, particularly in the Dark Amethyst paint that my tester wore. It looks very solid, and I dare say it had better be, too, considering my test vehicle, an SEL all-wheel drive model, weighs in at a rather portly 1,942 kg (4,281 lbs).

The Edge is one of the first Ford products to use the company's new 3.5-litre V6/six-speed automatic drivetrain. The engine's 265 horsepower is plenty to move this big chunk of a car with authority; it feels quicker than a Nissan Murano - for which the Edge is a natural competitor - despite having an extra 120 kg to carry around. Credit the Ford's extra 25 horsepower for that. The new six-speed auto isn't as avant-garde as the Nissan's continuously variable transmission, but it does its job smoothly. The gearing is great - short enough in the lower gears to allow for punchy acceleration, but tall enough that the engine turns slower than 2,000 rpm at 120 km/h. The engine's fairly smooth, and the normally subdued exhaust note turns into an unexpectedly appealing bark at wide throttle openings.

Fuel consumption isn't bad for a two-ton-plus vehicle, with Natural Resources Canada ratings of 13 L/100 km in the city and 8.5 L/100 km on the highway for the front-wheel drive version. All-wheel drive adds weight and friction to a car's drivetrain, so it's not surprising that my tester used closer to 15 L/100 km in the city in chilly weather. But on a 600 km trip that took me from Ottawa to Syracuse, New York and back, the Edge's on-board computer reported average consumption of just over 11 L/100 km: well off the NRCan rating but not bad considering I did close to 120 km/h for most of the trip. The fact that this new 3.5-litre V6 is happy drinking Regular unleaded is a plus, too.

On the road, the Edge tries its best to feel German, and it almost succeeds. There's a touch too much float in the suspension though, and traversing the potholes and frost heaves that define Ottawa roads in winter produces a little more noise inside the cabin than I'd like. But the suspension remains very well planted over rough roads, even with the large 18-inch wheels and tires that are standard on the SEL model. Despite its rather minor shortcomings, this is a very nicely-tuned suspension.

The brakes are strong, though the pedal is a bit spongy. There's about an inch of useless pedal travel before the binders bite, but once they do, they're easy to modulate for smooth stops. The steering isn't sports car quick, obviously, but the Edge is a pretty responsive handler for all that its curb weight might indicate otherwise.

The turning circle is nice and tight, and the steering wheel itself is a substantial, thick-rimmed one - almost as sweet as BMW's optional sport steering wheels, though larger in diameter.

The Edge doesn't look huge from the outside, but it's deceptively roomy inside. Front seat occupants can slide their seats way back and still leave lots of room for those in the rear, where there's loads of legroom. My only criticism of the back seat is that the bottom cushion doesn't support the thighs enough. Headroom in my tester was less impressive, but I'll blame that on the "Vista Roof" twin panel sunroof, a pricey option at $1,700 that if left out, would not only free up a couple more inches of headroom but also a fair bit of budget. It is cool, though. The front seats offered comfort that comes close to that found in many Volvos, and there's a well-placed left-foot dead pedal for the driver. The leather upholstery feels like quality, with attractive contrasting stitching. What the Edge doesn't offer that many of its competitors do is seven-passenger seating.

Cargo space is impressive, too. The 909 litres of space available with the seats up is slightly less than what the Murano offers, but the Edge's cargo hold looks more useful. The rear seats fold flat, courtesy of very handy power-operated buttons just inside the tailgate on the left side. Push them (there are two; one each for the left and right sections of the back seat) and the seats fling themselves forward to open up the cargo area. Putting them back in place is a manual operation, however.

The gauge cluster is a weak point of the interior, in my opinion; it's got a retro feel that's incongruous with the Edge's modern overall look and feel. The gauges are fussy-looking and don't light up bright enough for my liking at night, though the classic green backlighting is fine. Also unfortunate is the lack of grab handles for the front seats. Rear-seat passengers get them; the Edge isn't a horribly tall vehicle, but these would make it easier for shorter people to hoist themselves up into the car.

The centre stack is uncomplicated and presents easy-to-use controls that fall easily to hand. Most of the radio controls are couched in the navigation system screen (the only other option in my tester, at $2,300) but are simple to access and understand.

A little more about the Edge's price: at more than $43,000 including freight, this seems like a rather expensive vehicle at first glance. But subtract the $4,000 worth of options that my tester had, and you get a vehicle worth a little less than $40,000 but still very well-equipped, not to mention comfortable, spacious and practical. Better yet, go for the less-expensive SE model.

With all-wheel drive, it starts at $34,999 (a front-wheel drive SE is worth $32,999) and still gets heated front seats - with cloth upholstery, no less - and side airbags, not to mention a decent drivetrain.

Pundits and industry know-it-alls have been saying that the Edge is a vehicle that needs to do well for Ford if the company is to come out of its recent slump. In a recent interview, Ford of Canada CEO Bill Osborne told me he's got big expectations for the Edge. I do too: this is a competent vehicle from a company that's made some less-than-inspired decisions in the last few years. With a little luck, it just might be enough to bring Ford out of its doldrums and back from the - dare I say it - edge of disaster.

Pricing: 2007 Ford Edge SEL AWD

Base price: $37,999
Options: $4,000 (Vista roof, $1,700; navigation system, $2,300)
Freight: $1,250
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $43,349 (Canadian Dollars)

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Old 03-19-2007, 11:09 AM   #2
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Looks like they tested the interior rigorously.
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