The 2012 Ford Edge Sport has a configurable instrument panel that allows you to view various bits of data about the powertrain, infotainment and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) on small screens flanking the speedometer. High tech? There's much more. Call this the high-tech, mainstream SUV with seating for five.
The centre stack has none of the traditional buttons we Boomers expect to find, either. Instead, Ford has gone with icon-labeled, touch-sensitive zones on an in-dash touch-screen for all major functions. Welcome to the 21st century of new-car controls. Knobs and dials and buttons are out; touch-screens and voice controls are in – especially at Ford with its MyFord Touch system.
Yes, MyFord Touch – which is not universally loved – is an electronic driver interface whose endgame will be fully functional voice controls. Expect to see that by the end of the decade. For now, Ford isn't quite there with full-time voice controls, but there's progress happening every model year.
In the meantime, however, the 2012 version has an eight-inch LCD screen with four color-coded sections: entertainment, phone, Sync services or HVAC. To access any one of them, just tap the screen.
Now anyone can master this approach; it just takes a few minutes of familiarization. In short order, I was able to manage all the Edge's functions. I cannot say the same for some of the other controller systems out there offered by rival car companies – what with their controller knobs and buttons and what not. Ford is onto something here.
Still, let's not get carried away. The Sony-designed centre stack standard on pricier Edge models has touch-sensitive buttons to manage the HVAC controls and, while pretty, they don't always work as well as one would like. That is, they aren't real buttons so it's impossible to locate them by feel. Worse, you need to look at the display to be sure of what you're doing. Making adjustments while watching the road? Not so simple.
Then there are the two configurable LCD displays on either side of the centrally mounted speedometer. Each is controlled by simple five-way buttons on either side of the steering wheel and they are quite functional.
Want to cycle through four main screens with their menus that display everything from instant fuel economy to torque split in all-wheel drive models? Just use the display on the left. On the right of the speedometer, drivers can choose from four display options: Entertainment, which shows the audio source currently playing, as well as Phone, Compass or Climate.
Whew! Are we actually discussing a mid-size crossover here? Yes. And this one can hustle down the highway with plenty of energy.
The Edge Sport ($43,499) comes standard with a 305-horsepower, 3.7-litre V-6 teamed with a six-speed automatic transmission with shift paddles. The Limited ($39,999) and SEL ($36,499) versions get the 3.5-litre mill producing 280 hp. That's the pricing lineup for all-wheel-drive Edges. Of course, front-drive Edge models are also available, starting at $27,999.
The power numbers look good and they allow the 2,022-kilogram Edge Sport AWD to hustle along from 0-100 km/h in less than eight seconds. Not bad for a big rig. This is at least as quick as the rival Nisan Murano, for instance. This Ford is pretty nimble, too, given it is a tall crossover.
The AWD system is quite mainstream and that's not damning with faint praise. This system is all about handling bad roads in bad weather, not off-roading or zipping around corners on a race track. And the Edge does exactly what you'd expect in the slippery stuff – find grip at either end. Ford's engineers have also managed to dial in just the right measure of steering weight, thus the steering feels predictable through the thick-rimmed wheel.
But the most important piece of any crossover story is the functionality. Conveniences like the power lift-gate are useful. The split-folding second-row seats with a remote release just inside the hatch make for flexible cargo carrying. The cabin itself is very big, has a fair number of storage spaces and seats with decent support. The interior styling looks good, too.
As for gadgets, one that stands out is the Driver's Vision package ($650). It includes blind-spot monitoring and cross-traffic alerts. The system alerts you when you're backing out of a spot bordered tightly by just about anything. The warnings, by the way, are pretty loud and emphatic. There are others too numerous to mention.
Finally, the exterior design. The Edge looks expensive, to be truthful, but it's not outrageously priced. The big wheels are bold, the wide stance is almost intimidating, and the taut styling overall has presence.
Naturally, you'll find no shortage of alternatives to the five-passenger Edge. The Murano is just one rival one on a long list that also includes Jeep Liberty, Ford Explorer, Audi Q5 and even the Mercedes-Benz GLK.
Aside from the Explorer, the Edge may have the most advanced collection of electronic doo-dads in the bunch and the design may be the best proportioned. Those gadgets do come at a price, but not so much to be completely outrageous.
Nonetheless, technology is not free. The Edge is priced slightly above the average and you will need to pay your dues learning how to use this rig's many fancy systems and devices.
2012 Ford Edge Sport AWD
Type: Mid-size SUV
Price: $43,499 (freight $1,500)
Engine: 3.7-litre V-6
Horsepower/torque: 305 hp/280 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Drive: automatic full-time four-wheel
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 12.2 city/8.8 highway; regular gas
Alternatives: Nissan Murano, Jeep Liberty, Ford Explorer, Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLK