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In the interest of pushing the technological edge, Ford has not been above taking risks. Collaborating with Microsoft on Sync turned out well. The initial release of MyFord Touch, not so much.
And now we have the four-cylinder EcoBoost engine, a direct-injection turbocharged 2-liter in the relatively large 2012 Ford Edge. Much could have gone wrong with that formulation. The engine might not have made enough power to push the Edge's 4,000 pounds convincingly. Or the fuel economy might have been no better than Ford's 3.5-liter V-6.
But in this instance, fortune favored the bold. I found even a gentle tap on the accelerator made the 2012 Edge step lively. And when I got around to flooring it, all hell broke loose, or at least all heck. The front wheels chirped and there was a hint of torque steer as the Edge made its attempt at the sound barrier.
From the engine's specs, it appears Ford didn't have much to worry about. The four-cylinder EcoBoost's 240 horsepower is a respectable number, but more important for acceleration is the torque number, 270 pound-feet. That compares with only 253 pound-feet from the V-6 available in the Edge, although that engine boasts a higher horsepower number.
Ford downsized the Edge's engine for better fuel economy, but direct injection and a turbocharger keep the power up.
Fuel economy did not disappoint, either. The EPA testing put the Edge EcoBoost at 21 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. In a mix of city and freeway driving, I saw 25.2 mpg.
As for the Edge itself, it seems the unlikeliest car to get a high-tech turbocharged 2-liter. Officially termed by Ford a crossover, as opposed to the Escape SUV with its similar seating configuration, the Edge has always reminded me of a brick or a block of wood. Its thick and solid-looking body seems carved from a block by a lazy whittler, who put his best effort into taking out the chunk in front of the windshield.
The Edge got an update recently, but still sports a three-bar grille. Judging from the new Escape and Fusion models Ford brought to the auto shows, the Edge needs another style update to keep up with the factory uniform.
One thing the Edge gained from the last update was the MyFord Touch system, which currently has its pros and serious cons. There is nothing at all wrong with the instrument cluster portion of the system, which puts a configurable LCD on each side of the speedometer. The left screen shows vehicle information, from fuel economy to a virtual tachometer, which the driver can change by thumbing a directional pad on the steering-wheel spoke.
The right LCD shows infotainment system screens, which the driver has limited control of with using the steering-wheel D-pad. I tended to leave it on the audio system screen, showing the currently playing track. But the right-side LCD can also show phone, navigation, and climate controls.
The LCDs on either side of the speedometer can be controlled with buttons on the steering wheel.
Then we have the center touch screen, where the trouble begins. As I found while testing this system last year, the information display on the various screens is chaotic, but most frustrating are the slow response times from the touch screen. Even when I simply touched the shuffle button on the audio screen, the response was delayed.
But this is a new era for cars, in which dashboard software can be updated. Ford demonstrated an update to MyFord Touch late last year, which addresses touch-screen response times and the graphic layout. Owners of cars with the MyFord Touch system will be able to update the system themselves or bring it to a dealer.
The Edge Limited trim comes standard with Sync, which let me bypass the touch screen for music and phone functions. Using voice commands, I was able to request music playback by album, artist, or song name from a connected iPod. Likewise, the system indexed the contact list on my phone so I could use voice commands to call a specific name.
And despite the poor responsiveness of onscreen buttons, there are quite a few useful features in Ford's cabin tech suite. The navigation system, which comes stored on an SD card, shows easy-to-read maps and renders some buildings in 3D. The only gripe I had about this system is that it takes a few seconds to load when you first get into the car.
The navigation system's maps are easy to read, and can be switched between plan and perspective views.
Sirius Travel Link is also a part of this system, bringing in data feeds for everything from gas prices to stock quotes. These data feeds are integrated with the navigation system where applicable, so you can navigate right to the cheapest nearby gas, for example.
The stereo doesn't skimp on audio sources, either. There are two USB ports in the console, either of which can be used for a thumbdrive or cabled MP3 player. The system indexes any music libraries plugged into it using an onboard Gracenote database, so the onscreen interface can show album art when it is available.
The Sony audio system included in CNET's test car means more than extra speakers and a multichannel amp; it also changes the center instrument panel. A big, illuminated dial in the center not only handles volume, but has track skip and tuning buttons inset. The smooth plastic surface around it holds touch buttons for the stereo and climate controls. The whole control surface lends a futuristic touch to the car.
Sound quality from the stereo's 12 speakers is also quite good. It doesn't fall apart when the volume goes up and generally delivers an enjoyable listening experience. Demanding audiophiles will miss sharp bass response or glistening high notes, but most people will find it a good extension of the audio they enjoy from a home entertainment system.
Alluding to my brick comment from earlier, the Edge may not be nimble, but it drives better than masonry. From behind the wheel, it feels just about how it looks. The steering, with electric boost rather than hydraulic, offered the amount of resistance I would have expected. In parking lots and other low-speed conditions, it let me know I was doing some work, but I prefer that to an overboosted steering system.
Typically for this vehicle configuration, the cargo area can be extended by folding down the rear seats.
Similarly, the ride quality felt substantial, the car exhibiting a firmness that let me know it was traveling over bumps or whatever else the road had to throw at it. It was never uncomfortable, but certainly wasn't a luxuriously soft ride. That firmness helped it take turns in a settled fashion. Going around a cloverleaf, for example, the Edge showed little inclination to sway.
The 2012 Ford Edge is not much of a looker, but it is practical. The five-passengers-plus-cargo-space format is well-proven, and should suit many a family's needs. The big design flaw in the Edge is the MyFord Touch system, although Ford has a fix on the way.
Until the interface is fixed, it might be difficult to get maximum use out of the cabin electronics suite, which is a shame as it is full of useful features. The stereo has all the audio sources most people could want, and the navigation system can route around traffic. Sync remains a solid voice command and electronics integration system in the car.
A new star in the Ford heavens is the four-cylinder EcoBoost engine. It gives the Edge all the power it needs for running around town and taking the family camping. At the same time, it delivered fuel economy in the mid-20s, maybe not stellar compared with new economy cars but excellent for a vehicle with the Edge's capabilities.
|Model||2012 Ford Edge|
|Power train||Turbocharged direct-injection 2-liter 4-cylinder engine, 6-speed automatic transmission|
|EPA fuel economy||21 mpg city/30 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||25.2 mpg|
|Navigation||Optional flash-memory-based with traffic data|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard|
|Disc player||MP3-compatible single-CD|
|MP3 player support||iPod, Zune, many others|
|Other digital audio||USB drive, Bluetooth streaming, SD card, auxiliary input, satellite radio, HD Radio|
|Audio system||Sony 12-speaker 390-watt 5.1-channel surround sound|
|Driver aids||Blind spot detection, rearview camera|
|Price as tested||$38,910|