“X-cylinder power, Y-cylinder efficiency.” It’s a mantra we’ve been hearing for decades now, as manufacturers struggle to squeeze as many miles out of a gallon of gas, without impacting outright performance. More often than not though, power is sacrificed for economy, or vice versa. Like a set of scales, it’s difficult to get the balance quite right.
Ford’s approach, using smaller displacement, direct-injection, turbocharged engines, may just be the closest to achieving that balance. It started with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost in the Taurus SHO, which is still fighting with the V-8-powered Chrysler 300C for our big-sedan love. That engine eventually ended up in the Ford F-150, and powered 40 percent of all F-150’s sold in 2011, despite costing anywhere from $900 to $1200 more than the 5.0-liter V-8. It was even a hit with the Winding Road staff.
Continuing Ford’s EcoBoost strategy is the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that was in our Ford Edge tester. This engine is slated to be the premium, fuel-sipping engine in the Explorer (much as it is in the Edge), while being the powerhouse choice for the upcoming Escape. It’s also going to be the same engine we see in the Focus ST hot hatch, that’s arriving later this year.
In the Edge, it produces 240 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. Peak power comes in at 5500 and 3000 rpm respectively. In terms of mileage, Ford claims 21 miles per gallon in the city and 30 on the highway. Those numbers stack up rather favorably with the Edge’s standard engine, the 3.5-liter, naturally aspirated V-6.
With the six-cylinder, you’ll get a burlier 285 horsepower at a loftier 6500 rpm, while torque takes a slight hit with 253 pound-feet on tap at 4000 rpm. Fuel economy drops to 19 city, and 27 highway. On paper then, the turbo matches up quite well with the V-6. You lose some outright horsepower, gain some torque, but importantly, all the power is accessible earlier in the rev range with better overall fuel economy.
On the road, our front-wheel-drive EcoBoost Edge felt plenty potent, scampering up to speed quickly. Both turbo lag and torque steer were noticeable from a standstill, although it took a heavy foot to really get either to rear its head. In regards to the torque steer, we suspect a conventional set of tires (our tester was fitted with low-rolling-resistance rubber), or better yet, all-wheel drive (which isn’t available only available on the V-6 Edge), might sort things out.
Driven civilly, the Edge delivered a smooth and linear acceleration experience, all the way up the rev range. Mid-range punch was decent, thanks in no small part to the 3000-rpm torque peak. As we’ve noticed with other small-displacement turbos, power tapered off rather quickly in the upper reaches of the rev range. Still, the Edge had zero problems getting out of its own way.
The sole transmission for the turbo Edge is a six-speed automatic. Sadly, we were forced to let the computer handle shifting, as Ford’s SelectShift system isn’t available with the EcoBoost powerplant. While we’d have liked to do a bit of shifting on our own, the automatic trans did a fine job of swapping cogs. Shifts happened quickly, and unlike other Ford automatics, it felt like this one wasn’t automatically inclined to short shift. Dive into the pedal and it would hold the gear accordingly. Downshifts happened quickly as well. In fact, as much as we enjoy having the option of manual control, we truthfully didn’t really feel like it was necessary on the Edge.
So the 2.0-liter EcoBoost delivers on the performance side of the spectrum. It’s not much different on the economy side. We covered 250 miles in our economy test, with about 60 percent of the driving taking place on the freeway. The other 40 percent was just around-town running. We managed to nail the average fuel economy for our Edge, netting 24 miles per gallon of dino juice during the course of the test, but considering the higher proportion of highway driving, we were hoping for slightly higher numbers. In fact, on the highway, the instant fuel-economy readout hovered mainly in the upper 20s, never quite hitting 30 mpg at a sustained 70-mile-per-hour cruise.
Other than the new engine, this is the same Edge that Ford refreshed in 2011. Being taller, narrower, and having a shorter wheelbase, the Edge never feels quite as comfortable or planted as the seven-passenger Explorer it shares powertrains with. There’s too much vertical motion over uneven stretches of road, and lateral body motions are more noticeable than the wider and lower Explorer. Road noise isn’t too bad, although we suspect the smaller low-rolling-resistance tires and eighteen-inch wheels helped soak up some of the impact noise. Opting for the twenty-inch wheels would almost certainly result in a firmer, noisier ride.
Steering duties are handled by an electronic power-assisted setup. As with the Explorer, Ford’s done a fine job of tuning the Edge’s steering to have some weight behind it, without creating an artificial feeling. There’s still not a great deal of feedback, but it thankfully avoids some of the video-game-like feelings that recent EPAS systems have delivered.
The cabin of the Edge is pretty typical for Ford, with pleasant looking and feeling dash plastics. The matte wood that runs along the front of the dash is an exception. It looks strange in this otherwise modern space, had a cheap feel, and didn’t mesh at all with the piano-black center stack. Speaking of that center stack, the touch-capacitive controls of the HVAC system aren’t terribly intuitive, or quick to respond, but they look pretty cool (that’s got to be worth something, right?).
The steering wheel, with its twin five-way buttons is a nice piece, and we enjoyed the reconfigurable instrument cluster. Information pertaining to the audio controls, navigation, Bluetooth, and trip information is easy to access and looks quite good.
Our Edge was also equipped with MyFord Touch and its associated Sync system. While we like the functionality that Sync offers, MyFord Touch feels like more of a hassle every time we use it. Our tester’s system seemed slow to respond to inputs, often requiring multiple presses on the touchscreen to get the desired results. This isn’t a huge deal, but anyone with an iPhone/iPad is likely to feel like this screen is second-rate. Thankfully, Sync’s voice control is quite easy to use, meaning we could ignore the recalcitrant touchscreen most of the time.
Being the new kid on the block, we weren’t 100-percent sold on the 2.0-liter EcoBoost’s ability to deliver enough power for a 4000-pound crossover. It’s certainly not the fastest crossover on the market, but if you value a just-right mix of performance and fuel economy (with a dash of technology and comfort features), then the Ford Edge EcoBoost is going to be worth a look.
VS: 2012 Toyota Venza
Four-cylinder or V-6, the Edge has the Venza whipped. With the four-cylinder Toyota, you’d be getting 182 horsepower, 182 pound-feet of torque, and 21/29 economy ratings. The V-6 meanwhile, delivers 268 horsepower and 246 pound-feet of torque, all while netting 19 city and 26 highway miles per gallon.
Granted, you do save quite a bit of coin with the Venza. Four-cylinder models start at $27,885, while V-6s start $30,790. These are the base prices though, and optioning up to a competitive spec on the Venza is only really possible with the V-6 Limited. At $37,275, it’s still cheaper than our well-specced Edge (which rings in at $39,290), but the loss of fuel economy, and the lower torque would be issues for us. The highest-spec four-cylinder is the XLE, which lacks the touch-screen navigation and other creature comforts.
The other upside to the Venza is that it can be had with all-wheel-drive, regardless of the engine.
VS: 2012 GMC Terrain
As with the Venza, the four-cylinder and V-6 Terrain are outgunned by the Edge EcoBoost. Opting for the four-pot means 182 horsepower, 172 pound-feet of torque, and 20 miles per gallon in the city, and 29 on the highway. Things aren’t much better if you move up to the V-6, which delivers 264 horsepower, 222 pound-feet of torque, and economy ratings of 17 and 24. The upside of the Terrain V-6 is that it bumps the towing capacity to 5000 pounds (1500 pounds more than the Edge, four-cylinder Terrain, or a properly-equipped V-6 Venza).
You can snag a base four-cylinder for $26,370, while the V-6 is available starting at $29,270. Optioning up to the Edge’s level means going for the top-tier SLT-2 package, which starts at $32,070. A V-6-powered SLT-2 starts at $33,570. As with the Venza, the Terrain is available with all-wheel-drive on both four- and six-cylinder models.
Four-cylinder or V-6, both the Terrain and Venza force you to sacrifice too much. The significantly less powerful four-cylinders aren’t even as fuel efficient as the Edge, and aren’t available with the same level of optional equipment. Opting for the V-6 means higher horsepower, but lower torque, noticeably lower fuel economy (especially in the Terrain’s case), and a price that isn’t significantly more affordable. Yes, the Edge’s lack of all-wheel-drive might be an issue, but still, the tangible benefits from the turbocharged engine are too good to ignore.