2011 Ford Edge has a "touch" of hi-tech

The first-generation Ford Edge has been a big success for Ford since its launch in 2006, with 400,000 sold. The 2011 Ford Edge is significantly updated with freshened styling and more power, but of most importance, the inclusion of Ford’s new MyFordTouch instrument panel.

Even though the hood, front fenders, taillights and the 18-and 20-inch wheels are new, Edge is easily recognized at a glance as part of the Ford family.

The 2011 Ford Edge is available in four trim levels: SE, SEL, Limited and Sport. The SE, SEL and Limited have a 285-horsepower 3.5-liter V6, with about 20-horsepower more than last year’s offering. A 2.0-liter EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder engine will soon be available The 2011 Sport is powered by the same 3.7-liter V6 that is used in other Ford models. It’s rated at 305 horsepower and 280 ft-lbs of torque.

Both all-wheel and front-wheel drive are available. Fuel economy is 19-mpg city/27-mpg highway with front-wheel drive SE, SEL, and Limited models, and 18/26 for all-wheel drive. The transmission is a six-speed automatic with manumatic shifting.

The new 18-inch wheels are one-half inch wider than the outgoing product to provide an improved steering feel. Twenty-inch tires with new wider wheels are optional on the Edge Limited while the Edge Sport has 22-inch wheels standard.

Shocks, springs and stabilizer bars have been retuned to tighten handling. New four-wheel disc brake improvements include steel pistons, larger rear rotors, revised brake friction materials, upgraded brake booster and revised pedal ratios, all for more initial bite and linear feel.

New brake-related features include: hill start assist, which reduces rollback on hills; trailer sway control, for greater towing stability; hydraulic brake assist, to provide greater braking force in emergency stops and a system called collision warning.

Collision warning uses radar to detect slow-moving vehicles ahead and warns the driver with an audible alarm and warning light. The system also automatically pre-charges brakes and engages an electronic brake assist system to help drivers stop more quickly.

Inside the 2011 Ford Edge seating is supportive and comfortable. The rear seats can be reclined for more comfort on long trips and can be folded flat for additional cargo space. Depending on trim level, there are plenty of power points to plug in 12-volt devices and there are two USB ports for connection to Edges audio system.

The most visible Edge update is the dashboard. Behind it is a host of electronic wizardry called MyFord Touch that, according to Ford, provides a smarter, safer, simpler way to connect drivers with in-car technologies. It replaces traditional vehicle buttons, knobs and gauges with LCD screens and five-way controls like those found on cell phones and MP3 players. It also uses intuitive voice commands.

The MyFord Touch system displays information using two 4.2-inch full-color LCD screens on either side of the speedometer and an 8-inch touch-screen LCD at the top of the center stack. The LCD to the left of the speedometer shows specific car information, such as the tachometer, fuel economy, and all-wheel-drive torque distribution. The right LCD shows audio, navigation, phone, and climate control information.

A five-way switch on each side of the steering wheel crossbar controls the information displayed on the corresponding instrument panel screens. The screens can be personalized to display information relevant to each individual driver. The steering wheel has all the necessary functions available in a very compact area, right where the driver’s hand falls on the wheel.

The graphics of the system are sharp and easy to comprehend, and the customizable IP is an impressive and welcome change, as is some of the information that a driver can see, such as the display that shows which wheels are getting the most torque on AWD models. The touch-screen buttons on the center stack work well.

The major concern with MyFordTouch is figuring out how to use it. The system is complicated and the learning curve may be too steep for some people. From a safety stand point, the sheer amount of information to view in the various screens could cause drivers to be distracted, thereby canceling out the intended effect of the voice recognition and touch screens. It will take some time to see how this system goes over with the general public.

On the road, the 2011 Ford Edge is surprisingly quiet thanks to acoustic window glass and better sound insulation. Ride quality is definitely firm and feels comfortable over only well-maintained pavement. Worse yet, the 20-inch wheel/tire combination doesn’t handle broken pavement well and the ride can get harsh.

Handling is just what you might expect in a tall, heavy vehicle. Body roll is well controlled, but Edge is no sports car. Steering is tight and accurate with good on-center feel. The brakes have good pedal feel with plenty of stopping power.

Performance of the more powerful 3.5-liter V6 is enhanced with the 6-speed transmission and feels more than adequate under normal driving conditions. A special test drive of the Edge equipped with the 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine was impressive. You might want to wait for this powertrain to be available before you buy.

On sale now, the 2011 Ford Edge has a starting price of $27,220 for the SE, $30,220 for the SEL, $34,220 for the Limited, and $36,220 for the Sport. Our well-equipped Limited test car had a total MSRP of 39,995.

Even with the new hi-tech interior surroundings and the many upgrades and improvements, the new Edge still feels a lot like the old one—and that’s not a bad thing. Much can be said for getting it right the first time.

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