The 2019 Ford Edge ST is the leading edge of a wave of experimentation that will fill dealerships and American driveways with new types of SUVs over the next few years.
Ford's trying to create a performance vehicle with SUV height for visibility and more power and greater maneuverability for enthusiastic driving. Like a lot of experiments, the first attempt isn't a complete success, but a learning experience and step in the right direction.
The ST is the performance version of Ford's popular five-passenger Edge midsize SUV. It offers power, styling and features to set it apart from everyday SUVs. It's the functional equivalent of the GT, ST or SS performance versions of cars like the Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry.
Automakers don't sell a lot of those sporty models, but they make more on each one than on better-selling base models. Conventional wisdom also says SS and GTs make lesser models more appealing.
That's the thinking that created legendary vehicles like the Pontiac GTO, Taurus SHO and Fiat Chrysler SRT models—all performance cars based on big-selling family models.
Automakers want to replicate that with SUVs, as they replace cars as top sellers.
The Edge ST has a twin-turbo 2.7L V-6 engine that produces 335 hp and 380 pound-feet of torque. Both figures are higher than anything else in its segment offers. It's essentially the same engine used in some versions of the F-150 pickup, rotated 90 degrees.
All Edge STs have all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Edge ST's all-wheel drive can direct up to 100 percent of the engine's torque to the rear wheels. Electronics monitor wheel spin and other factors to determine when to drive just the front wheels and when to activate AWD.
The ST is the same size and height as other models of the Edge. It's the heaviest vehicle in the lineup with a curb weight of 4,477 pounds.
n Identifying exterior features include a black grille; LED running lights and tail lights; dual exhaust tips and red brake calipers and beefed up vented rear brake discs.
n Interior features include rotary shifter; aluminum pedals; leather seats with suede inserts, including 10-way driver seat with memory, and leather-wrapped steering wheel.
n Standard safety and driver assistance features include blind spot and cross traffic alerts: automatic emergency braking: lane-keeping assist; automatic high beams and wipers.
Prices for the Edge ST start at $42,355. That's more than $9,000 above the base version on the regular Edge, which starts at $33,330.
The Edge ST doesn't have any direct competitors because Ford is the first mainstream brand to sell a high-powered, sporty version of its midsize SUV. Similar-size vehicles it could be compared to include the Acura RDX, Chevrolet Blazer, Hyundai Santa Fe and Nissan Murano. None of them approaches the Edge ST's power.
The well-equipped Edge ST I tested was priced at $48,435. All prices exclude destination charges.
My test vehicle had adaptive cruise control; B&O audio; Apple CarPlay; Android Auto; leather upholstery; 20-inch aluminum wheels; heated steering wheel; heated and cooled front seats; evasive steering assist; Bluetooth compatibility; touch screen, voice recognition and remote start
Good power, comfort and controls
The Edge ST has the most power and highest power to weight ratio among non-luxury midsize SUVs.
The 2.7L twin-turbo V-6 delivers instant power for strong acceleration. The steering is firm and direct, just like you'd expect in a sporty car. Sport mode effectively changes throttle response and holds gears in corners, increases engine braking and ratchets up the exhaust note.
The Edge ST's 3,500-pound towing capacity exceeds the RDX and Murano and matches the Santa Fe. The V-6 Chevy Blazer rates 4,500.
The interior is roomy and comfortable. After years experimenting with different types of controls, Ford has hit on a pretty good combination of touch screen, voice recognition for most features, with buttons and dials for most audio and climate control.
The lane-centering feature does exactly what its name suggests, reducing the number of minor steering adjustments the driver makes on the highway.
Handling doesn't inspire confidence
The Edge ST is a very capable vehicle, but Ford hasn't overcome the tendency to lean over on fast curves that comes with its 68.3-inch height. That's 14 inches taller than a Mustang; and perhaps more on point, 4.5 taller than a BMW X4, the latest from a company that's spent more than a decade learning how to balance SUV looks and sporty handling.
Ford's performance group tuned the suspension for enthusiastic driving, but the Edge ST feels just tippy enough in fast curves to discourage really enthusiastic driving.
I'm sure the SUV holds the road admirably in high-speed maneuvers, but the messages it sends to your inner ear betray its mechanical competence. Result: Most drivers will probably rein it in early.
The Edge ST is a good start—and for now, the only vehicle in its class that delivers at all on enthusiastic aspirations. Along with its looks, safety and advanced features, that puts the Edge ST in first place, but probably looking over its shoulder to see if anything's gaining on it.