Review: 2011 Ford Edge Limited FWD
By Chris Haak
A week after driving Ford’s refreshed-for-2011 Edge crossover, I find myself having mixed feelings about this vehicle. On one hand, the rejuvenated powertrains (the standard 3.5 liter V6 gets the TiVCT treatment that the Mustang got, and goes from 265 to 285 horsepower, and a 305-horsepower 3.7 liter V6 is optional, with a four cylinder EcoBoost to follow later in the year), the more dynamic front end design, improved interior, and cutting-edge electronics make the Edge an appealing vehicle. However, it’s also very heavy, not particularly roomy inside given its heft, and observed fuel economy was somewhat disappointing.
The sales success that the Edge has seen since its launch for the 2007 model year has surprised many observers. It’s Ford’s best-selling large crossover by a considerable margin, and doing far better than its non-Ford competitors as well, such as the Toyota Venza and Nissan Murano. And yet, many reviewers panned the first-generation Edge’s braking, interior, and fuel economy. If the Edge sold well with all those shortcomings, perhaps buyers will be delighted to learn that Ford has addressed many of them for the 2011 model year.
Given the emphasis on technology in the 2011 Edge, particularly in models like my test vehicle, which was equipped with the new MyFord Touch control interface, it’s somewhat surprising to have an ugly physical key (and one built in a very uninspiring shape) that needs to be inserted into a lock in the dash and – get this – actually twisted to start the engine. I’m being flippant, but it did strike me as odd that the Edge – with nary a physical button on its center stack – utilizes the same method of starting the vehicle that my aunt used in her 1975 Coupe de Ville.
But the updates bestowed upon the Edge go far deeper than the ignition key, and far deeper than the new nose (which is itself something of a cross between a 2011 Explorer and 2010 Fusion). While Ford mostly left the exterior alone, the new nose softens the overall shape of the vehicle and brings it more in line with the new Fusion rather than the old Fusion, which its predecessor was based on. Ford kept the hard points the same – so the windows, doors, rear liftgate, etc. haven’t changed – the taillight design was updated to lose the now-unfashionable Toyota Altezza/Lexus IS300-style mirrored lenses in favor of more conventional red lenses. In fact, one day I parked the 2011 Edge next to an older one, and the differences were very minimal aside from the hood, front fenders, and front bumper.
As the PSAs always hinted during Saturday morning cartoons, it’s what’s inside that really counts. To this, Ford has upped the technology ante with the Edge (at least, made it available) and dramatically improved interior design and materials. Ford had been in an interior-design slump for a few years earlier in the decade, with lots of squared-off shapes and hard plastic. With recent introductions, however, Ford interior designers found it in their hearts to add flair, complex curves and three color, high-resolution LCD displays. There’s an attractive swath of satin-finish faux wood across the dash in front of the passenger that really sets a semi-luxurious tone for the Edge Limited’s cabin, though if any passengers happen to rest their arms on the upper door panels, they’ll quickly be reminded by hard plastic that this is still a Ford, and not a Lincoln.
On Edges equipped with MyFord Touch, there is only a single physical gauge: a speedometer, front-and-center. On either side of the speedometer is a 4.3 inch LCD display, and there are corresponding joystick buttons on either side of the steering wheel to navigate the various options and menus. The left-hand display shows a tachometer (either a dial or a linear one, depending on how much other information is displayed), a fuel gauge, fuel economy, and settings menus. The display to the right of the speedometer is intended as almost a mini version of the main large navigation LCD touchscreen. This right-hand display shows relevant information like the radio station/song name, the street name (if equipped with navigation), the temperature and climate control mode, and phone information. The theory is, I’m sure, that having the main types of information that would normally cause the driver to look over at the navigation screen to view right under her nose within the gauge cluster, while also allowing the driver to change things without removing her hand from the wheel, safety is enhanced.
The right-hand display is also color-coded to correspond with the four main functions controlled on the large in-dash LCD touchscreen. The touchscreen is divided into quadrants, with phone functions (yellow shading) on the top-left, audio functions (red shading) on the bottom left, climate control functions (blue shading) on the bottom right, and navigation functions (green shading) on the top right. The home screen displays key information on each function at a glance, which is an improvement over Ford’s previous navigation system, which made you choose between the details of just one function, or a summary of just two functions. Everyday things like cabin temperature can be changed via multiple choices: using the steering wheel controls, touchscreen controls, or touch-sensitive buttons.
Yes, those buttons are sensitive all right. The problem is, they are excessively sensitive. You need only brush your finger against them, and they activate. So if you happen to bump them while operating the gearshift, or reaching for a different button, you may accidentally change a setting you didn’t mean to change. The touchscreen, on the other hand, is not sensitive enough. It requires a fairly firm finger press, and response times are somewhat slow. If you’re familiar with an iPad or iPhone, the buttons below the display are similarly sensitive, but the actual display is far less sensitive than an iPad’s multitouch display. Typing in a phone number on the on-screen keypad eventually gets the number you want, but the buttons stay highlighted long after you’ve released them, and MyFord Touch can’t seem to keep up with rapid dialing.
Overall, I enjoyed the high-tech and different paradigm for controlling vehicle systems that MyFord Touch provided. Of course, I also liked the digital instruments in the 1984 Corvette and 1985 Buick Somerset Regal once upon a time, and thought the 1984 Camaro Berlinetta’s all-digital display and floating cassette deck were beyond cool. None of those new ways of controlling vehicle functions actually improved ergonomics, and sadly, the same may be true of this first generation of MyFord Touch. While it looks cool and represents a very sophisticated user interface system, its actual ergonomic value may be debatable.
The nice things about MyFord Touch and the large, clear graphics on the navigation screen, and outstanding connectivity with portable devices such as smartphones or portable music players. Pairing my iPhone to the system just once, it switched seamlessly between handsfree phone operation (including downloading my phone book entries) and Bluetooth stereo music streaming. I was able to play either stored songs or Internet radio (such as Pandora) from my iPhone by just choosing the song or app that I wanted right on the phone, which almost eliminates the need for satellite radio (at least for music, if you mainly travel in an area with solid cell phone coverage).
Aside from the ergonomic issues, though, not all was well with MyFord Touch. I’ve read a number of reports of system problems, poor responses, and features not working as Ford works to iron out a few kinks in the software. Unfortunately, my navigation-equipped tester had the navigation SD card installed, but functioned as if it did not have navigation. When Techshake’s Kevin Miller reviewed the similar Lincoln MKX with MyLincoln Touch, the system was so buggy that he had to return the vehicle early and get it back for another review a few weeks later; stories like this are not a promising sign. In fairness to Ford, the MKX functioned exactly as designed the second time Kevin tested the Lincoln.
The backup camera – which the Edge obviously was equipped with based on a visual inspection – never activated when putting the Edge into reverse. There is a setting that I discovered when using MyFord Touch in a 2011 Explorer to de-activate the backup camera, which could possibly be the situation with this particular Edge, though I don’t know why it would be turned off. It’s just something potential buyers may want to be wary of; the good news is that Ford’s systems are upgradable via USB thumb drive, so any software bugs could potentially be fixed with a simple user update.
After a few hundred miles of seat time in the 2011 Edge Limited, I found the leather seats to be comfortable and decently bolstered for a vehicle that’s not designed for corner carving. There’s adequate room in the rear seat for large Britax convertible car seats, though longer-legged little ones will still be able to kick the front seatbacks, as they can in most cars. Either my tester didn’t include heated front seats (which would be a curious omission), or I was too dumb to figure out where the controls were located. I looked up heated seats in the Edge’s manual, and there was an illustration of the switch, but no indication as to where I might find said switch within the interior.
The steering wheel of the Edge Limited is stylish and controls numerous functions with its redundant buttons (it also is identical to the wheel in the 2011 Explorer), and – since it’s connected to an electric power steering pump – it was seemingly difficult for Ford to tune in some road feedback for the driver. Eventually, I got used to the Edge’s steering feel, and what it lacks in feedback, at least it gives back with progressively-increasing weight as speed and cornering loads build. And should you do a bit too much cornering with the Edge, Ford has finally upgraded the Edge’s brake hardware, with a stronger brake booster over the outgoing model. It’s now possible to throw the contents of the front passenger seat (you know, like your lunch bag, or some papers) straight into the dashboard in a panic stop situation, and the pedal is not mushy at all.
The 3.5 liter V6 is a good match for the Edge and its six-speed automatic transaxle, and despite the vehicle’s heavy curb weight for its size, low gearing in the first few gears means that it can move pretty smartly off the line. Gentle throttle application on a 25-mile trip over back roads yielded a surprising 30 mile per gallon average, but over the longer term, the temptation to stab the throttle and get the transmission to kick down a few gears was too great. I ended up with an overall 18.1 miles per gallon average in mixed driving. The EPA says that the Edge should get 19 miles per gallon in the city and 27 miles per gallon on the highway.
The Edge Limited FWD starts at $34,220. My tester was equipped with the Rapid Spec 300A package, which is the basic package on the Limited, which includes MyFord Touch, SYNC, and the Sony audio system with HD radio. It also included the $395 Vision Package (blind spot monitoring) and the $795 Voice Activated Navigation System (which uses the MyFord Touch touchscreen). Including destination, the total MSRP was $36,185. According to TrueDelta, pricing of the Edge Limited is very close to key competitors; that site finds the Edge to be about $420 less than a Venza and $1,010 less than a comparably-equipped Nissan Murano.
Ford offers some really nice options on the Edge that weren’t present on my tester, but they quickly add up and can erode the value that the “base” Limited model has. Stepping up to the Rapid Spec 301A package for $3,500 adds HID headlamps and a Panoramic Vista Roof, as well as Navigation (which you then would not have to pay $795 to buy separately as in my tester). The Rapid Spec 302A package for $3,500 includes the 301A goodies, Adaptive Cruise Control with Collision Warning, Driver Entry Package (pushbutton start), and the Vision Package. For an apples-to-apples pricing comparison, you’d have to subtract $1,190 from the $36,185 price of my tester, then add the $5,000 – for a final potential tab of $39,995. You can add more expensive wheels and a few other accessories, but for the most part, the Edge tops out around $40,000.
Is it worth it? The Edge is a solid vehicle, and a good performer, and certainly the beneficiary of some significant improvements for the 2011 model year. The new interior is a giant leap forward, and technophiles will probably love MyFord Touch and the connectivity choices that it brings when combined with SYNC and voice activation. Fuel economy is good, the seats are comfortable, and performance is adequate even with the smaller 3.5 liter engine. When Ford introduces the four cylinder EcoBoost Edge, fuel economy will improve even further, and broaden the appeal of this stylish crossover. The Edge isn’t perfect – and MyFord Touch needs some refinement and perhaps re-thinking – but it’s easy to see why many people are happy with the Edge.