Ford Edge review: The SUV in the middle ground
On a recent drive through France to the Alps for a family holiday I was struck by just how many SUVs there were on the autoroute. I’m well aware of how popular the erstwhile Chelsea tractor is among middle-class families these days but it seemed this year, more than any previous year, that the half-term ski-holiday traffic was totally dominated by big Volvos and Range Rovers crammed to the roofs with kids, salopettes and bulky ski jackets.
It’s no real surprise, given the increasing popularity of the genre, that every manufacturer, Ford included, has at least one big SUV in its range. And with Ford, the Edge is the road-going weapon of choice: its most luxurious model, which sits at the head of the range and is designed to compete with the big premium brands.
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Ford Edge review: Interior and tech
The Ford Edge is Ford’s flagship SUV. It’s the largest family 4×4 it sells in the UK and, in terms of where it wants to be seen and its size, it’s biting at the ankles of the likes of the Volvo XC90 and the Range Rover Sport only at a considerably lower price.
The question is, how does it compare? Superficially, at least, pretty well. It’s not quite as refined inside as an Audi or a Volvo, but choose the Vignale and you get most of what you’d expect from a top-end family SUV.
The Edge Vignale I tested for this review came generously endowed with premium features: leather seats and trim with a driver’s seat that automatically retracts when you park up; nice soft plastics liberally scattered around the cabin, heated steering wheel, heated front seats and rears, as well as a three-pin 240v UK plug socket between the seats at the back. Yep, that’s right, passengers can plug their laptops right in.But there’s a noticeable difference between the level of quality on offer here compared with the more pricey competition. In particular, the hard plastic surround for the infotainment screen is unnecessarily cheap and the “premium” Sony entertainment system, which takes pride of place below it, looks like something straight out of a five-year-old Focus.
Still, what you get in terms of in-cabin technology isn’t too bad. Ford’s Sync 3 system takes pride of place behind that cheap-feeling plastic trim and it gives you an 8in touchscreen to play with, plus smartphone integration with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and Ford’s AppLink facility, which integrates apps on your phone into Sync 3’s UI.
You’ll probably prefer to use CarPlay or Android Auto, though, and Sync 3’s ability to play nicely with the in-car and phone systems is useful – if you want to listen to DAB radio while navigating via Google Maps, for example – as is the ability to switch seamlessly between the voice control of phone and car with a long or short press on the car’s steering wheel.
Sync 3 here is highly responsive, easy to find your find way around and with its large, square on-screen buttons it’s super easy to find the option you need while you’re driving.
It’s let down, though, on a couple of critical fronts: first, the screen really is too far away from the driver. Even those with long arms will feel as if they’re leaning over to operate it. And the killer is that unlike the best rival systems – BMW’s iDrive, Volvo’s Sensus and Audi’s MMI – there’s no alternative control method: no control dial or touchpad, so you’re stuck stretching out your arm uncomfortably.
Ford Edge review: Driver aids and audio
The same holds true for the Ford Edge’s driving assistance and safety tech. As with most of its rivals, it’s possible to specify the Ford Edge with such things as self-parking and adaptive cruise control, but there’s nothing like the autonomy of Volvo’s Pilot Assist mode here.
Ford’s lane-keeping system will detect if you’re drifting out of your lane and pull you back in, but it falls short of full-time steering. Likewise, the adaptive cruise control won’t slow you to a stop but cuts out at 15mph with a gentle ping to remind you to take back control of the throttle. Likewise, it won’t engage again until your speed rises above 20mph.
It works well as far as it goes, but as far as it goes isn’t good enough for a vehicle in its class, especially not in today’s fast-moving car market. Ford doesn’t even offer the Edge with a top-down 360-degree camera parking aid, a feature that’s becoming commonplace not only on premium vehicles but also models further down the affordability scale such as Nissan’s Qashqai crossover and family-sized X-Trail.
Having said that, you do get the option to fit an extra front-facing wide-angle camera to aid further in parking this behemoth of a 4×4 in tight spaces.
And, despite the fact that the glamorous options are missing, there are plenty of other technological aids on offer. Active City Stop brakes automatically at speeds of 30mph and below if it detects you’re approaching stationary cars or pedestrian too quickly. There’s that lane aid system, plus the option for adaptive, speed-sensing steering, speed limit sign detection and in-cabin active noise cancellation for an extra-serene sense of quiet while you’re driving.
And the nine-speaker “premium” Sony audio system sounds pretty good, too, delivering a solid, detailed sound that, if not the last word in subtlety will please most punters. Again, the B&W system available to Volvo customers is a considerable upgrade.
Ford Edge review: Drive, handling, practicality
Let’s get this out of the way straight away. Cars like the Ford Edge aren’t necessarily designed to be fun and involving to drive. They’re targeted at those who like the more lofty driving position offered by SUVs and want to combine this with the luxury of a premium estate and enough room to ferry the whole family and its luggage around.
On these counts, the Ford Edge largely hits the mark. It’s spacious in the rear seats and the boot, comfortable to drive on most surfaces – even equipped with the Vignale-spec’s 20in alloy wheels. It isn’t the fastest from 0-62mph, with the 2.0 TDCi diesel engine and all-wheel-drive transmission moving the car to its target in 9.4 seconds but it pulls hard enough and, as I said before, acceleration with a full complement of little and big passengers is hardly the ultimate aim of a big SUV such as this.
The active noise cancellation, which works just like a pair of noise-cancelling headphones only at massive scale, is effective – you don’t need to turn up the volume to hear the music or radio even at high motorway speeds and, yet, the white noise used to quieten ambient noise isn’t at all noticeable.
Perhaps the only complaint I’d have is that, like other big Fords I’ve driven, the Edge still feels a little heavy to manipulate around corners. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not difficult to manoeuvre, and it’s composed enough not to roll too much in the corners on country roads – it just doesn’t feel particularly precise.
Ford Edge review: Verdict
The Ford Edge isn’t a bad car. Far from it. It’s reasonably well-equipped on the technology side with Ford Sync 3, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. It’s comfortable, practical, reasonably nice to drive, packs in some interesting and genuinely useful features as well as a decent roster of safety kit.
And, in comparison with rivals. the level of equipment and luxury is pretty impressive at the price, with a couple of caveats. What the Ford Edge doesn’t do is push the boundaries as much as I’d like it to, with certain features missing and some missteps when it comes to how the systems have been fitted around the driver.
It’s far from perfect, then, but there’s plenty here to like at a price that’s likely to appeal to those for whom an XC90 or Land Rover is just that little bit out of reach.