By Mark Elias
Friday, May 11th, 2012 @ 11:30 am

When it first debuted more than five years ago, the Ford Edge helped usher in the blue oval's new era under company head Alan Mulally. While the Edge was an all right vehicle on day one, its distinct evolution has really embodied Mulally's push toward making vehicles that are more than simply average.

After a facelift and interior upgrade that made the Edge feel more high fashion than Wal-Mart, has Ford gone off the deep end for 2012 by offering a newly optional turbocharged four-cylinder engine?

We decided to see just how well this four-cylinder fits into a V6-heavy segment.

What is it?
Ford went to the shared platform structure that underpinned the last-generation Mazda6 for the Edge as we see it today. A five-passenger crossover, it is also available as the higher-zoot Lincoln MKX, but all that high-zootness comes with a rather zooty price as well.

The Edge now sports the three-bar grille that is the brand mark on most current Fords. Most recently facelifted in 2011, it remains unchanged for the 2012 except for the big news addition of the available ($995) 2.0-liter EcoBoost gas turbocharged direct injection four-cylinder engine. Bringing a little Latin spice to the program, the Valencia, Spain-built engine produces 240 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 270 lb-ft of torque that comes on at a midrange 3,000 rpm. New this year to the American Ford lineup and also seen in such vehicles as the Range Rover Evoque, it offers the power of a small six-cylinder with claimed mileage of 21 city/30 highway with an average of 24 mpg.

Available in base Edge SE, SEL and Limited models, our Limited test model was nearly fully loaded. An additional engine choices include Ford's ubiquitous 3.5-liter V6 with 285 horsepower and 253 lb-ft of torque, while the Edge Sport is equipped with a 3.7-liter, 305 horsepower V6. While the V6 models can be equipped with all-wheel-drive, our EcoBoost 2.0 is only available as a front-wheel-drive model.

What's it up against?
It's a tough, crowded field, but one that has many interesting characters making up the segment. Some are from the Pacific Rim, where the need for three-row haulers is not necessarily the flavor du jour. But they are strong players, nonetheless.

Acur's RDX, the Honda Pilot, the Chevrolet Equinox, the Hyundai Veracruz, the Mazda CX-9 and the Nissan Murano are all players here with established reputations. But, like the Edge, they start inching above $35-large when they go into high-spec trim territory.

How does it look?
From the start, the Edge has always had a fishbowl vibe going for it and this version does little to change it. For 2012, the Edge has the current, but ever evolving, new face of Ford. A revised lower fascia lends a new sense of aggressiveness to the front end. From the side it appears as though vertical intake scoops are in place. In reality, when viewed head-on they become apparent as running lights.

Aerodynamic enhancements are also on board in the form of door rocker moldings and active aero shutters in the grille area, which open and shut depending on the engine's cooling needs.

The side view of the Edge can be quite deceiving. Only until you activate the power liftgate and fold down rear seats do you get a true idea of how the cargo area inside really is.

From the rear, the Edge manages a fairly clean appearance that is only disrupted by the bazillion LEDs in the tail lamps. The twin exhausts lend an air of sportiness to the overall package which is only let down by the black plastic rocker panels.

And on the inside?
As we tested it, the only thing that seemed missing in our Limited model was the optional sunroof. The brown and black two-tone interior with leather seating surfaces all around reminded us of one of the F-150 King Ranch, minus the gamey-smelling leather. Faux matte rosewood inserts on the dashboard finished off rest of the back-to-nature look, although nobody was convinced that these panels had ever been part of a tree.

The MyFordTouch with Sync and the Sony audio system supplies all the infotinment anyone can deal with without taking their eyes off the road. It's enabled through voice commands, or a central control dial, which is a variation on a theme that has been seen in vehicles from many manufacturers. Not entirely successful, it literally seems to be a case of trying to reinvent the wheel.

A large, eight-inch monitor is the center point for all vehicle operations. It displays a screen with four hot corners that access navigation, audio, climate and Bluetooth functions. Below that on the center stack is a flat panel facing with touch point surfaces to start and stop functions.

With the steering wheel as home base for the driver, it features the aforementioned controls that operate menu-hidden functions that are visible on the two 4.2-inch LCD screens that flank the speedometer. A bit involved at first, we quickly found our way through it and all the while, managed to keep our mitts on the wheel. While hands on tillers is a good thing, sorting through menus is not.

Seating in the Edge was first rate, however. Mildly bolstered fronts with ten-way power adjustments managed to keep us comfortable throughout the daylong trip to Miami. They looked good and fit well. Overall, the interior's fit and finish was top shelf save for the hard plastic lower door panels that have not received a soft-touch makeover that the rest of the car has undergone.

By the way, the reason many people will buy an SUV or crossover is for its cargo utility. Here, the Edge doesn't disappoint. Behind the rear seat is 32.2 cubic feet of cargo space. Fold down the seats, and it grows to 68.9 cubic feet.

But does it go?
About a year ago, we had a chance to sample the new 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine in the Edge's larger Explorer cousin. We love the concept of a small turbocharged four-banger, but we soon realized it was over its head when placed in the big Explorer.

What a difference a vehicle makes.

Jump forward in the calendar by about six months and we still think the 2.0-liter mill is quickly becoming the engine of choice - at least for us. What it lacks in horsepower it more than makes up for in the torque department, which it puts to the ground nicely through its standard six-speed automatic. The four-cylinder feels peppy from initial tip in, but it really comes into its forte during highway passing. A rush of torque gives it strong, but not overwhelming mid-range power.

So there's Boost, but what about Eco? We found it hard to net the as-promised 30 mpg, but we came pretty close to its 24 mpg mixed figures. For a 4,000 lbs. crossover, that's still pretty darn good.

Ford engineering staff had their work cut out for them. By its very nature, a four-cylinder turbocharged engine will make a lot of racket. This EcoBoost engine has some of those characteristics, but the NVH guys managed to keep it mostly to the engine bay. Along the way, they incorporated expandable foam baffles in the fenders and a new thicker windshield with dual lamination. These extras, along with a few other tricks of the trade, manage for the most part to keep intrusive sounds out of the cabin. The exception would be when we took the 18-inch all season radials on coarse road surfaces.

Like all Edges, our tester was shocked with MacPherson struts, L-shaped lower control arms, a stabilizer bar and an isolated subframe in front. Out back was an independent rear suspension, again with an isolated subframe and stabilizer.

The Edge showed off its handling prowess when we attempted to negotiate rapid lane changes on the interstate, as well as some corner cutting on our favorite back roads. Totally competent with its abilities, it imparts a level of confidence that falls short of genuinely sporty. The power hydraulic rack and pinion (not electric) steering system offered a generous amount of boosted feel without feeling too gooey in its application.

Seeing that it's a crossover that will constantly be in tight situations with lots of parking and in and outs at various strip malls and shopping centers, we think the overall concept is well suited for its role as a family hauler extraordinaire, especially since it's down a pair of cylinders.

Why you would buy it:
Because good form follows favorable function in this mid-sized crossover vehicle.

Why you wouldn't:
At $995, the EcoBoost is a rather pricey option.

Leftlane's bottom line
Ford makes its second smallest crossover a better package with the addition of a turbocharged four-cylinder.

We love the idea of a high-revving four-banger, but we wonder if buyers will warm to the rather hefty price of admission once the build-it-yourself configurator prices the Edge out.

2012 Ford Edge Limited base price, $34,915. As tested, $39,405.
White Platinum Paint, $495; EcoBoost, $995; Vision Package, $485; Passive entry/power liftgate, $895; Navigation, $795; Destination, $825.

Words and photos by Mark Elias.

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