Edge makes statement

If there’s a formula for success in automotive design and content, the Ford Edge would appear to hold the patent.

The automaker’s popular five-passenger front- or optional all-wheel-drive wagon has received significant sprucing up for 2011 and now offers greater performance, improved fuel economy and a bolder design.

The Edge has become a staple in the Ford lineup since its 2007 model-year inception, picking up at least some of the sales slack from the once-mighty Explorer sport ute. Although not as roomy or off-road rugged as the Explorer, the Edge’s modern styling, significantly improved fuel economy and similar price point attracted plenty of interest. According to Ford, more than 330,000 have been sold.

So when a styling update is in the cards, what does Ford do? For starters, refine, refine, refine … and take a bit of squareness out of the look.

For the 2011 model year, the massive new nosepiece appears to have been influenced by Ford’s F-250 Super Duty pickup and showcases a cornucopia of chrome on all but the Sport model, which wears a more sinister-looking blacked-out grille. The hood and front fenders have been reshaped and there are new taillights.

The updated Edge makes quite an imposing visual statement, but the alterations run deeper. There are revised shocks and springs and the brakes have been upgraded, but the most noticeable revisions — at least if you’re seated behind the wheel — are the three new powerplants. The base 3.5-liter V-6/six-speed-automatic-transmission combo has 20 more horsepower — now 285 — and is used in the SE, SEL and Limited trim levels.

More power, yes, and Ford is bragging up the improved 19/27 city/highway fuel-economy numbers. By comparison, the outgoing model’s best rating was 18/25.

The Edge Sport, a model added to the lineup for 2009, is now the exclusive recipient of a 305-horsepower 3.7-liter V-6. The Sport also comes with 22-inch wheels (17-20-inchers come on other trim levels), sharper suspension, lower body cladding, unique black leather interior and paddle shifters that rev match the downshifts (to maintain vehicle stability) for the six-speed automatic transmission.

The enriched 3.5- and the new 3.7-liter engines should also help spice up the 4,100-4,300-pound Edge’s acceleration.

By late 2010, you’ll be able to select a new 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that’s expected to produce about 230 horsepower. It will be connected to a new six-speed automatic transmission that does away with the fuel- and power-sapping torque converter.

The new Edge promises to be much more technology driven than before in other areas, led by the MyFord Touch voice- and touch-screen-activated controls. This option replaces most of the traditional instrumentation with two 4.2-inch diagonal screens positioned on either side of the speedometer, plus one 8-inch screen in the center stack.

Together with a game-controller-style “smart” button on the steering wheel, MyFord Touch manages a variety of climate, communications, navigation, infotainment and other vehicle functions in a fairly intuitive fashion and without the usual buttons and switches littering the control area.

There are also touch-based controls for the audio volume and ventilation fan speed. Cabin-temperature settings can also be programmed into the system, according to each of the vehicle’s two keyless ignition fobs.

Other options include blind-spot-detection outside mirrors and adaptive cruise control that automatically maintains a safe distance between you and the vehicle ahead. And for music lovers, the available Apple iTunes Tagging means you can save up to 100 music selections from the online iTunes store and then buy them for your iPod or iPhone.

The preened and polished Edge, with a starting price of $28,000, raises the bar on many fronts with its equal-parts elixir of breakout styling, abundant content and updated power choices.

Thus far, no competitor has really stepped up to the plate to best this excellent family hauler. The latest iteration simply keeps it on the edge.

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