Dearborn, MI – Ask for the name of the one company that best defined America in the last century and, in my mind, it’s a no-brainer: Ford. From its founding in 1903 to its introduction of the Model T, $5/day and Model A, no one company in America established a broader global footprint prior to World War II than Ford Motor Company. When the war came to America Ford, at its Willow Run plant, created an assembly line for bomber production. And lest we forget, the Swingin’ Sixties begat the Mustang, Ford’s first Indy victory and multiple wins at LeMans and on Europe’s Formula One circuits. Although Ford’s announcement of a new-for-2015 Edge won’t, in any way, rival the last century’s signature moments, it should make waves on Ford’s showrooms and might (MIGHT) move the meter at the mall.
So, with its 111-year history of establishing trends Ford has long been in the business of predicting them; more recently, the Company has been sharing those insights with ‘select’ media. In Dearborn we were able to enjoy a conversation with Mark Fields, Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen and designer Kenneth Cole. And while Mr. Fields, serving in one of his last public roles as Ford COO before becoming Ford CEO (succeeding Alan Mulally), was predictably polished, Professor Christensen was unpredictably anecdotal (ask me about his business study of the milk shake…), while Mr. Cole – for those that may not know him – was overwhelmingly anecdotal. Without going granular, their sixty minutes at the mic was perhaps the most compelling hour I’ve witnessed at an auto-oriented event in some 20+ years of observing auto-oriented events.
The hour concluded with a return to the business at hand. For those members of the automotive press it was the second unveiling that day of Ford’s 2015 Edge, while it constituted the first look for social media (they were younger, more attractive) joining the event. Described as ‘all new’ from wheels to roof, the new Edge takes today’s footprint and adds more technology (natch), improved powertrains and what is described as “vastly improved driving dynamics.” And once our eyes got beyond the younger, more attractive bloggers, we had to admit that Ford may finally have something in the midsize, 2-row segment.
From a design standpoint, the slab-sided look (you know, the ‘edge’) has been softened substantially. The crossover’s front fascia is more organic, while a soft crease running along the side from the A-pillar to hatch breaks up what had previously been a decidedly bland piece of sheetmetal. Even in standard, cooking guise the wheels seem to fill the wheelwells generously, while we still can’t get our head around the Edge Sport and its streetfighter visage; better, we think, to leave that to the Focus ST. The overall impression is decidedly more upscale, almost European. And given Ford’s global goals for the Edge, a hint of Euro should be a good thing.
Inside, the Edge takes strides similar to those made by the Fusion, aforementioned Focus and Escape. Four trim levels are offered: SE, SEL, Sport and – FOR THE FIRST TIME – Titanium. Notably, the stated goal is more than just a high quality exterior and interior, but to provide the customer with a “holistic, premium experience.” Really.
From this brief glimpse we’d tend to agree…it’s pretty darn holistic. Again, we were struck by the overall impression of an upscale driving environment, one you may not (yet) confuse with Audi, but that you’d never confuse with Fords of the not-so-distant past. We rather liked it until, of course, you pack it with the inevitable technology.
We have, in a nutshell, available to the Edge prospect adaptive cruise, adaptive steering, an air curtain, auto start/stop, blind-spot information, cross-terrain alert, enhanced active park assist, forward and reverse sensing systems, lane-keeping system and curve control. All of which begs the question: Wouldn’t a legitimate driver’s education program be both better and more cost effective? Couldn’t a Ford exec get behind the initiative and save America some money?
Under the hood Ford will offer a 2.0-liter EcoBoost four, a 3.5 liter V6 and 2.7 liter EcoBoost V6, which may very well be the SUV’s sweetspot. Combine same with what Ford promises is a dramatically improved driving dynamic (none were available for driving), keep pricing roughly the same as in 2014 (let’s call it $28K to roughly $38K), and you have the makings of an American success story. In Europe. And China. And in markets where Ford’s Lincoln Division lacks a presence (think U.S.), a Titanium Edge might be just the ‘edge’ Ford needs…for Kenneth Cole to drive one.