Back in the day when Ford, in its infinite wisdom, decided to introduce a ‘European’ version of a car which was originally conceived and designed for the American market, the giant US car-maker invariably made a complete horse’s collar of it, writes Declan Colley
Greats such as the Probe or the Explorer immediately spring to mind as examples of this.
The former — allegedly a sports coupe — was gutless and ugly, while the latter — an erstwhile SUV — was badly built and was endowed with awful plastics. These were not classics by any measurable standard.
Thankfully the days when Ford presumed it could dump awful stuff like this on an unsuspecting European market are long gone and the company’s new regime of making ‘world’ cars now means that the majority of stuff it makes is acceptable to a much broader audience than was heretofore the case.
Things we care about in our cars in this particular neck of the woods — the ability to turn a corner, stiffer suspensions for higher speed driving, sharper steering and more overall sophistication — and which are not necessarily engineered into some of their America-only products, are now pretty much standard across Ford’s product line-up. The evidence of this is seen clearly in this week’s tester, the Ford Edge SUV.
Now, with crossovers being pretty much the plat du jour across the globe right now, car companies have to have one for every market segment — small, medium and large (with the latter two being particularly important).
Ford has launched the Edge in Europe to cross swords with big selling rivals such as the Hyundai Santa Fe, the VW Touareg, the Kia Sorento, BMW X3, Audi Q5, and an ever-growing mob of decent contenders.
To compete with such machines in European markets, the Ford had to build a well-sorted, comfortable, family-oriented, economic, commodious, and stylish car.
To be fair, it has largely achieved these aims.
Given that the Edge has existed on a raft of markets other than those across Europe for quite a while now and also that the one we see here now has been on sale in the US for nearly two years, you would have thought Ford would have had the time needed to get this thing right. They did and they have.
I would like to qualify that last remark by saying that during my time with the car it did not necessarily leap out to me as a paragon of the genre because the driving dynamics are not perhaps as sharp as they might have been.
But this is a very good stab by the Blue Oval in a segment in which — here in Europe, anyway — they have not had a contender before.
And, given the hugely successful year the company has had in terms of new car launches — with the likes of the wild Focus RS, the eye-popping Mustang and the forthcoming and wildly anticipated Fiesta ST200, it is entirely appropriate that their new, big, SUV is a highly accomplished thing too. Not the greatest thing that’s ever been made, certainly, but highly accomplished nonetheless.
Although there is a quantifiably ‘American’ look to the Edge, it is not as defiantly Yankee in appearance as, say, a Jeep Grand Cherokee, and the angular lines are actually pleasing on the eye.
The sturdiness of the design too provides it with a big on-road presence, but no more so than a Touareg, for example.
Once you sit into the car and get motoring you quickly realise that it is not an American car with a few ill-considered additions to try and make it acceptable to the local palate here in Europe.
Rather in the same way as a Focus or a Mondeo, it feels European and it feels good.
Ok, so you won’t get American options like a V6 petrol engine over here in the same way the Yanks won’t be offered a two-litre turbodiesel, but the oil-burner was always going to be the big seller ‘round these parts anyway.
It is a decent enough engine with some 176 bhp on tap and an impressive 400 Nm of torque between 2,000 and 2,500 rpm, a top speed of 200 kph and a 0-100kph time just a smidgen under 10 seconds.
It will return a consumption figure of 5.8 l/100km (48.7 mpg) and will cost some €390 a year to tax thanks to its CO2 emission figure of 149 g/km.
Given the bulk of the car, this power plant does have a lot of work to contend with and is not the sprightliest option on the market.
However, in tandem with the six speed gearbox it is just about able to cope with whatever is thrown at it.
Like a majority of SUVs these days however, while it does have off-road credentials thanks to the full-time AWD system, it is probably happiest when cruising.
It is worth noting that Ford’s clever active noise control system and acoustic glass drowns out unwanted roar from under the hood as well as wind noise.
This makes the Edge a very refined and quiet drive and that makes it a very pleasing long-distance companion.
On the road too it is not the sort of throw-it-about-the-place beast some might like, despite decent handling and grip, but does excel at mid-speed cruising and this characteristic is underwritten by the well-padded and very comfortable chairs on offer.
Indeed the comfort levels are exemplary and the lengthy specification sheet which accompanies the Titanium model we tested proves that Ford is aiming this car at the family market (although it is ‘only’ a five-seater) with more than a hint of business capability thrown in. The vast interior space and commodious cargo capacity underline the point.
While the standard spec list is long and comprehensive, additions on the test car worth having included the automatic parking system and the upgraded infotainment system, while I personally could do without the ‘airbag’ rear safety belts, which are bulky and sometimes hard to buckle, and the full leather ceramic trim which add a total of €3,225 to the cost.
The Edge is not the last word in SUV motoring, but it is not at all bad and offers a value option when compared to some rivals.
It also offers a very European feel to buyers, despite its American heritage and from this vantage point that is a very welcome shift in policy from Ford.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved