Ford EdgeThere is a sublime sexiness to a station wagon: it has the elegance of a sedan, with the familiar contours and comfort we are used to. But it also has an enviable confidence–its openness, a willingness to let all passersby see what’s inside. Picture Audrey Hepburn in a butter yellow Mercedes-Benz ferrying fresh flowers to her country house in Connecticut. And you just know that the shoe she has pressed to the gas pedal was hand crafted in Europe.
But then, there is also a sexiness to an SUV, a machismo exuded in the oversized tires, the high perch over traffic, and the ability to conquer potholes and rocky inclines. Its muscle protects us from the indignities of the road and keeps those same expertly crafted shoes unsullied (though I’m always tempted to wear macho boots when driving my Jeep).

So when the concept of crossover was introduced a few years ago, it was instantly popular, embraced by both auto makers and drivers alike.

The crossover burst onto the scene at the same time automakers were ramping up technology and safety features, from navigation, live weather maps, phone sync and voice controls to back up cameras and blind spot detectors.

It also came at a time when Ford was reinventing itself: After a crisis over under-inflated tires that many thought Ford would not survive, the car maker was in soul-searching mode when the rest of the auto industry hit recessionary skids. The result of that introspection has been coming to market, and with much fanfare–Ford has a whole new fan base, assisted, perhaps, by a responsiveness to criticism and problems.

But what will put Ford over the top is that it’s not just a car, but a tool as critical to managing your life as your iPhone. This is because Ford has invested heavily intuition: interiors are designed to be intuitive to the way we drive and function, and the technology follows the path of the smartphone, even in that it can be updated easily with a USB drive.

Cornerstone to this commitment is the MyFord Touch flat screen command center, a joint effort with Microsoft that allows drivers to control everything from your phone to entertainment the car’s diagnostics. While it has a learning curve and can take time to learn– it’s brilliant. I picked it up pretty easily, and my kids, in the passenger seat, caught on even quicker. Want to see the weather forecast? There’s a live radar picture. Want to find a restaurant? Here’s a list of what is nearby. Want to know who won the game? Sports scores are at your fingertips. To them it’s completely intuitive, easy to use, fun, and best of all, as long as I have a co-pilot, I have less distraction and more focus on the road (when I’m driving alone, I need to spend some pre-drive time preparing, but that will diminish as the MyFord Touch system becomes more intuitive to me). The only drawback is that the touch screen isn’t as responsive as a smartphone or iPad screen, so it, too, takes some learning.

The Ford Edge, with its comfortable price range [$27,000-$42000] and solidly American name plate, offers all the technology, comfort and performance of a much more expensive luxury car.

Technology: The technology alone makes this car is a great investment. Think of the MyFord Touch system as a smart phone in the console of your car: you can sync your phone to make calls, customize voice commands and load in your phone book. As you would expect, the system has navigation–maps also show speed limits -yay!–and SiriusXM satellite radio, as well as the other features mentioned above. It’s a lot, and will continue to grow; Ford and Microsoft are working to evolve and improve the system. A friend reported that he’d had trouble with MyFord Touch on his 2012 Edge, and after a couple of visits to the dealer, they finally sent him a USB drive with updated software. After downloading, not only were the bugs fixed but there were lots of new features.

Edge parallel parkedThe Edge’s backup camera helps to wedge into tight parking spotsThe Edge’s cockpit is more of a command center, and this is where form and function truly meet: All systems are streamlined within the driver’s direct field of vision, and the steering wheel is a powerhouse of control, with most functions managed via dual toggle controls at your fingertips, audio controls via great little intuitive toggles, and phone, voice command and cruise control have their own controls as well. The Edge also has comes with a backup camera (great for parallel parking) and optional blind spot detectors (this is a must-buy; the car’s sloped roof, high stance and lift gate create significant blind spots). The technology in this car boosts its fun factor significantly.

Handling and Performance: It wasn’t until I took the car out on the Hutchinson River Parkway that I could truly appreciate how fun this is to drive: It hugged every curve and accelerated powerfully over every hill, as much fun to drive as a similarly sized sedan, but with the advantages of an SUV: a provides a nice view of traffic and terrain, a wide stance, solid suspension and beefy tires that give a comfortable ride, making bumps in the road barely noticeable. The 285 horsepower engine is ample, easily and comfortably reaching and maintaining cruising speeds. However, its passing gear was a bit sluggish. This model claims about 19 MPH in the city, and 30 MPH highway, due to the Eco Boost engine, a ramped-up 6 cylinder that gives the performance of a larger engine but affords better gas mileage (20% better, says Ford) and lower emissions (15% lower, says Ford) than a similar powered engine.

Interior Design:  I was so wowed by the technology of the Edge, that I found its interior to be a little deflating: The instrument panel’s bold electric colors in cool hues are easy to read and pleasant to look at. In contrast, the cabin is comfortable, but not over the top. This was by design, said Susan Swek, Ford’s Group Chief Designer of Color & Material Design. The goal was to create an “interior with a nice flow, a simple straight forward design, so focus is on curves and ease of use,” which they accomplished. The model I drove had an all black interior–safe choice, but boring. Ford offers many options in interior palates, Swek explained, including subtle earth tones and contrasting piping to compliment the exterior paint choice. And while the cabin was roomy and comfortable, it felt masculine to me, and not unlike many other Fords I’ve been in; and, while it’s not as open and utilitarian as a minivan or SUV cabin, it’s also not the tight bucketed feel of a European sedan–it’s somewhere in between. And, there was no natural place to put my handbag.

Handbag aside, Ford came up with a lot of smart features: there is a USB port in the center console and a gutter for the cord so you phone isn’t in hiding when it’s plugged in. There are bottle holders in the door panels. The back seat was ample, with lots of leg room, which was extremely comfortable and the kids loved it (the dog loved it too). The Edge features an expansive load floor, and the center seats easily fold down for extra load space. Another great option (but not on the model we drove) is the Vista sun roof that is about a third larger than the typical sun roof.

Ford Edge Wheel closeupBossy wheels add a nice touch to the crossover’s appearanceExterior Design: The Edge has been distinctive since it’s introduction: It has the macho lines of strong, sure SUV but a smaller, leaner stance. Its sloped rear roof line is elegant  and its spoiler adds to a muscular rear end, complimented by a wide gleaming chrome grill and beautifully designed wheels. The model we drove was blue (in honor of Yankee Derek Jeter, perhaps?), a color that I might like on my pinstripes, but not for my car. Ford’s color palate is basic, and rather male: blue, red, black, etc., etc., etc. I seem to remember (but can’t find photos) a butter yellow Edge a few years ago; I pined for this car–and still do. I would love it in an elegant pearl, a sparkly blue topaz, or a sublime taupe. Luckily, that is what Susan Swek is thinking, and a more varied palate is in the making. I look forward to it–colors with a little flair, that you can fall in love with and stare at all day while you wait to get out and drive.

Options that are Worth It: Blind Spot detectors $500
MyFordTouch: $5000
EcoBoos
t $900
Options I would probably skip: keyless starter $800
This model’s sticker price: $38,900; fully loaded: around $42,000.

Technology: A
Performance and Handling: B+
Interior Design: B
Exterior Style: B
Value: A