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2019 Ford Edge ST first drive review: Potent and practical

Ford’s first ST-badged crossover SUV dials up power, handling and style.

The Ford Edge may now wear an ST badge, but this isn't the first time we've seen a hotter version of the Blue Oval's five-passenger SUV. The Edge Sport has been with us for a number of years, packing a 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6 with 315 horsepower, a firmer suspension, larger wheels and other styling tweaks to help set it apart from lesser models. The Edge Sport goes away for 2019; the new ST simply takes its place.

At first glance, the Edge ST might not seem all that different from the Sport. It uses the same 2.7-liter engine, has similar suspension upgrades and receives an appropriate set of sporty appearance modifications. But Ford claims some 75 percent of the ST's parts are unique to this specific model. And indeed, the devil is in the details.

Becoming the ST

For starters, the ST gets an exclusive front fascia with a larger mesh grille that improves cooling. Bigger side sills and special dual exhaust outlets offer sporty touches on the Edge's sides and rear, and the crossover rides on standard 20- or available 21-inch wheels. Inside, unique front seats boast beefier side bolsters with fabric inserts -- all the better to hug you with while cornering -- though the high seating position caused by the thick bottom cushion makes it difficult to get comfortable behind the wheel.

The 2.7-liter engine's output increases from 315 horsepower to 335, and torque jumps 30 pound-feet, to 380. You'll only get those numbers if you run 93-octane fuel, however, and it's unclear exactly how much of a power penalty will result from the use of 87-octane gas (Ford only publishes the more impressive numbers). The turbo engine bolts to an eight-speed automatic transmission, with a Sport mode that will hold gears in the meat of the rev band longer, with more aggressive shifts and even rev-match during downshifts. All told, the all-wheel drive Edge ST should accelerate to 60 miles per hour in less than 6 seconds, and return an EPA estimated 19 miles per gallon in the city and 26 mpg on the highway.

The 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6 hit the gym and now pumps out 335 horsepower.

Jon Wong/Roadshow

The Edge ST certainly feels like a willing performer while hustling up mountain roads outside Park City, Utah, the engine strong and responsive in its Sport setting. My only complaint is that during hard launches there's noticeable turbo lag before things really get moving.

As for the gearbox, the rev-match downshifts are smooth and responsive whether the transmission is left to its own devices or manually controlled via the steering wheel-mounted paddles. Upshifts, however, aren't so snappy when I'm manually selecting gears, with a huge delay when responding to paddle inputs. Opting to keep the trans in full auto is ultimately the best course of action for spirited driving.

Tighten up

To improve handling reflexes, the ST gets new shocks, firmer springs (12 percent stiffer front, 20 percent stiffer rear) and a thicker front anti-roll bar. Stopping power gets upgraded, too, with an improved brake master cylinder and larger rotors and calipers. There's even an optional ST performance brake package which adds special front rotors, better brake pads, red-painted calipers (natch), vented brake shields and 21-inch wheels wrapped in 265/40-series Pirelli P Zero tires.

Tighter shocks, springs and available 21-inch wheels improve the ST's reflexes.

Jon Wong/Roadshow

On winding roads, the Edge ST is composed and doesn't feel too out of place when pushed hard. Hefty steering gets the ST's nose turned in neatly with the suspension giving way to some roll before digging in and dancing through bends. Tight hairpins force the front tires to plow forward and there's still some dive under braking when asking the stout clampers to bleed off speed at corner entry. All things considered, this sportier Edge is enjoyable to drive, but still nevertheless a heavy crossover.

Happily, the Edge ST doesn't feel too out of sorts on a tight autocross course, either. Side-to-side weight transfers happen in a controlled manner and carrying maximum speed through turns is easy because the ST nicely communicates the tires' available grip. I don't recommend running an Edge ST for next year's entire autocross season, but a one-off session here or there could certainly provide some grins.

That said, the trade-off to this brisk performance is that ride quality is harsh for daily use, though it might be better on the smaller 20-inch wheel/tire package. It's not exactly jarring, but you'll certainly feel every divot and rut you come across.

To help the ST stop quicker, a performance brake kit is optional.

Jon Wong/Roadshow

Still an Edge

Performance kit aside, the ST is the same as any other Edge, offering serviceable room for five passengers and as much as 73.4 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats folded. Build quality in the cabin is decent, with plenty of soft-touch surfaces throughout the interior, as well as gloss black and carbon fiber-style trim.

The technology menu is familiar with Ford's easy-to-use Sync 3 system presiding over infotainment functions with an 8-inch touchscreen, 12-speaker B&O audio setup, Wi-Fi hotspot, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Navigation and Amazon Alexa integration, which can be used to lock and unlock the Edge and open and close garage doors via commands, is available.

Ford's Co-Pilot360 safety technology package is standard, giving all Edges forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, a lane-keeping system, auto high beams and a backup camera standard. Disappointingly, the backup camera image quality is not so sharp. To further bulk up the Edge's safety arsenal, a Co-Pilot360+ package is offered, adding an excellent adaptive cruise control system with stop-and-go and evasive steering assist.

The ST remains a practical crossover at its core.

Jon Wong/Roadshow

Affordable performance crossover

If you're on the market for a performance crossover that won't grenade your bank account, the 2019 Ford Edge ST isn't a bad place to start -- there's really nothing else like it at this price point. Because of that, Ford is trying to position that ST as a more affordable and practical option to the Audi SQ5, Jaguar F-Pace S and Porsche Macan S.

Of course, all three of those European rivals are more capable dynamically and far more refined, but accordingly wear heftier starting price tags. Those SUVs range from $55,000 to $62,000 while the Edge ST begins at $43,450, including $995 destination. My well-optioned tester tops out at $46,540.

Realistically, I can't see many would-be Macan buyers heading to Ford showrooms instead. But for those who do buy in to the sportier Edge ST package, they'll definitely have something that'll give other compact performance SUVs a run for their money.

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Editors' note: Roadshow accepts multiday vehicle loans from manufacturers in order to provide scored editorial reviews. All scored vehicle reviews are completed on our turf and on our terms. However, for this feature, the manufacturer covered travel costs. This is common in the auto industry, as it's far more economical to ship journalists to cars than to ship cars to journalists.

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