FORD has been in Ireland for 100 years now and I’m nearly afraid to admit it, but I have been around for far more of those years than I’d care to come clean about.
I’m also scared to reveal how many of those years I’ve been reviewing products made by the ‘Blue Oval’.
But, whatever about my connections with the great American automotive behemoth, there are also family connections with Ford as my late dad worked for the company in Cork for several years in the 1950s when himself and my mum were starting out as a married couple. Before my time, I hasten to add, although ironically I would later become a career Corkman.
My initial dealings with Ford were perhaps coloured by the fact that, when I was growing up, my dear departed dad had sworn against ever owning one of their products — I’m not sure was this as a result of having worked for them — and was never shy about venting his eschewal of their cars.
The company’s long term pre-eminence in the Irish market — it must have been the number one seller here for nearly as many cumulative years as I have been on the planet — and its’ extensive dealer network, meant it was never really a comfortable thing to get stuck into any given Ford product because so many people had so much invested in it.
Consequently I had many jousting matches with the late, great, Eddie Nolan and the in-house PR man of the era, the late Derry Creedon.
There are a lot of ‘late’ people in this week’s column, but perhaps that is an indicator of the length of time I’ve been doing this gig, as much as anything else.
The bottom line, though, was that I always felt I gave Ford a decent hearing. The good invariably outweighed the bad, down the years, but when the company really got serious about the quality of its’ products, from about the late ’80s on, there were relatively few occasions where you could feel justified about shredding them.
Indeed, one of the new areas where Ford really did badly mess up was in the whole area of Sports Utility Vehicles — so they got a shredding.
In its’ ignorance, it decided that filling niche market segments — as SUVs once were, believe it or not — over here in Europe could readily be sorted by applying an American solution. The Explorer was a fine example of this.
Although it sold by the shed-load in the US, over here in Europe it was regarded with mild horror, boasting as it did a design which had been slightly tweaked from an original Michelangelo sketch.
It was a caveman in a world full of sophisticates and boasted Neanderthal suspensions, a body-on-frame chassis and engines which might have been a wow in Nebraska, but were of little cop this side of the pond.
The company’s historical strategy in this area has been somewhat flawed then and when it announced that its’ new ‘big’ SUV, the Edge, was being brought to Europe after a stellar career in America, the alarm bells could hardly be contained. But, with one or two minor reservations and one very big one, the Edge turned out to be not such a bad thing after all.
Although only a five-seater — whereas many of its’ competitors boast seven — the Edge is nevertheless a good looking car and attempts by the company’s European stylists to make it more appealing to customers in this part of the world didn’t take much because the guys in the US had done such a good job first day.
The Edge Sport model does add a few ‘Europe-only’ touches, but the overall effect was impressive enough to have had me plagued by people wanting to know what it was.
Indeed many people — most of whom were confirmed SUV-ists — immediately expressed their favour for the design. And when they were driven in it, they were even more astonished, so comfortable and airy is this machine.
That it is oozing with sophisticated kit such as the PowerShift auto transmission, Ford’s ‘intelligent all-wheel drive’, an active noise cancellation system which works well with the massive 20” alloys on the tester, panoramic sunroof, adaptive headlights, touchscreen sat nav, electric tailgate, will leave potential drivers and passengers with plenty of plus points to remember.
The engine too — although ‘only’ a two litre turbodiesel — has been muscled up to now produce some 210 bhp and a fairly impressive 420 Nm of torque and does not disappoint.
Performance figures show a 9.4 second 0-100 kph time and a top speed of 211 kph, so there is plenty there for the demanding driver. Be warned though that consistent application of your right boot will destroy the claimed 5.9 l/km figure and that the 159 g/km emission figure will cost you the bones of €400 per annum in road tax.
On the road, the Edge Sport excels as a long range cruiser and stuff like Ford’s excellent adaptive cruise control add to the sense of well-being in this sphere. The downside is that it is not so comfortable on B-roads and in the critical urban setting where, after all, most of these thing will roam.
But — and I’m afraid it is a big but — while the base price of the Edge is around 55k, the version we drove was an eye-popping €63,115. Frankly I’m not so sure how many SUV-ists will swallow that price tag whole. Indeed most of those I encountered when I had the car could hardly suppress their mirth when told the price.
There is no doubt this is a good car — a very good car if you consider its’ parentage — and one which Ford Ireland can be justifiably proud in this their 100th year, but the bottom line is always the bottom line and I wonder how many punters will want to indulge their SUV fantasies at that price.
FORD EDGE - ???
The Cost: From €55,700 (€57,450 for Edge Sport) — €63,115 as tested
The Engine: Excellent two litre turbodiesel with plenty of grunt
The Specification: Genuinely spectacular — but does it make the Edge ‘premium’ enough?
The Overall Verdict: Good, but expensive
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