WHAT’S EDGY about the Ford Edge? In some ways, “Ford Throwback” would be more like it. This is a European version of a car that Americans have been driving since 2008, but its shape seems to hark back even further — a big, butch plug of metal of the sort that was all the rage in the dying years of the 20th century.
OK, it’s a little more sleek and snazzy from the back. But its huge front grille isn’t saying “SUV” in the sense of a neat little crossover for would-be snowboarders. It’s communicating “SUV” in the old sense of a pick-up for ne’er-do-wells who like a high seating position and generous rear-cabin legroom.
However, there is one sense in which the Edge is unarguably on trend. No sector is growing so quickly. British sales of what we used to call 4x4s — SUVs and crossovers — rose from 501,000 in 2014 to 630,400 in 2015. Of all new cars emerging from the showrooms, 26% now cleave to this format.
It’s almost quaint to think of the days of agitated political activism in this area, when SUV drivers could expect, almost as part of the standard dealer offering, vengeful scratchings, pointed leaflets under their wipers and the resentment of their fellow road users glowering through the windscreen.
What of this class war when the streets are thick not just with knobbly Volvos and Audis but more notably with crowd-pleasing Nissan Qashqais and Kia Sportages? How antiquated the term “gas guzzler” now seems — up on the shelf gathering dust with words such as “telephone” and “radiogram”. The crossover has crossed over. High and mighty wins the race.
“The upmarket Titanium and Sport specs are positively humming with thickly stitched leather and touchscreens and undisguised social aspiration”
So here’s the Edge, adding extra heft at the top end of a Ford SUV range that already includes the lumpy Kuga and the nubby EcoSport. It’s a thunderous five-seater, available in basic Zetec form but keener to impress in the upmarket Titanium and Sport specs, which are positively humming with thickly stitched leather and touchscreens and undisguised social aspiration.
Which leads us to ask: who is going to be itching for an Edge? No doubt as the result of scrupulously scientific examination of all the available data, rather than off the back of an afternoon of wishful thinking, Ford estimates that Edge customers will have an annual income of around £80,000. Blimey.
The company’s latest advertising campaign is urging us to rethink our preconceptions about the brand, and clearly one of the first things to go must be our idea of Ford as the chief supplier of transport to the blue-collar heartlands. It’ll be doing a partnership deal for seat coverings with Cath Kidston next.
You climb in expecting those American SUV essentials: a spongy ride and wallowy cupholders. The car delivers on the cupholders but has clearly been carefully thought out and suspended for European roads. It is impressively upright in corners, as well as firm and purposeful for something so long and tall. Our test route took us briefly into a Bavarian wood and over an off-road course perhaps best described as “tentative”, where the Edge proved itself man enough to cope with some leaves and some mud.
“While an entry-level Edge is sub-£30,000, a mere extra lick of paint will take it over that psychologically significant mark”
It has one of those boots that you can stagger towards with loaded arms and open by performing a soft-shoe shuffle under the back bumper. You can flatten the back seats with tabs just inside the boot, saving faff. The cabin is cleverly quietened with a system based on the technology behind noise-cancelling headphones. Microphones in the roof lining detect intrusive noise and the system fires off a round of competing audio waves to defeat it.
None of this, alas, either blocks or adds character to the engine note, which simply goes in one ear and out the other. We drove the 2-litre diesel in both its variants (180PS in the Titanium and 210PS in the Sport), and with the manual and automatic gearboxes, and in both cases it emitted a mundane drone no more or less enlivening than the sound of someone using a leaf blower several gardens away. We preferred the automatic as being more suited to the privileged, work-delegating SUV experience, and the Sport trim for its roof rails.
However, while an entry-level Edge is sub-£30,000, a mere extra lick of paint will take it over that psychologically significant mark, and all of the fun stuff will have it heading closer to £40,000 very quickly.
Key questions to be asked, then: are you edgy enough for an Edge? And, perhaps more importantly, do you earn enough wedge?