Talk about perfect timing. For 2012, Ford added a fuel-thrifty, EcoBoost four-cylinder engine to its mid-size Edge sport utility vehicle.
The move came just months ahead of today's gasoline prices averaging more than $3.80 a gallon in the United States and gives fuel-conscious shoppers something other than small cars to consider.
In fact, the 2012 Ford Edge with EcoBoost _ complete with a roomy interior for passengers and cargo, good views above the road and an attractive exterior _ is surprisingly spunky on the road.
It has more torque, or low-end oomph, than does a 2012 Edge with V-6, even as the 2012 Edge with EcoBoost posts a federal government fuel efficiency rating of 21 miles per gallon in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.
This is 2 to 3 miles per gallon more than a 2012 Edge with traditional V-6. The mileage numbers are for front-wheel drive Edge models.
Meantime, Ford is sending this month a software upgrade to dealers and owners of earlier Edge models to address customer complaints about the touch-screen system for audio, navigation and climate controls. The 2010 Edge was one of the first Ford vehicles to have this MyFord Touch system.
Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, for the 2012 Edge is $28,350 for a front-wheel drive Edge with 285-horsepower V-6. Unfortunately, the 2012 Edge with the fuel-sipping, 240-horsepower, turbocharged EcoBoost four cylinder has a higher starting retail price of $29,345. The lowest-priced 2012 Edge with all-wheel drive is $30,300, and it comes only with the V-6.
All 2012 Edge models come with standard six-speed automatic transmission.
In comparison, the base, 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo 4X2, which is about 6 inches longer, from bumper to bumper, than the Edge, has a starting retail price of $27,920. The base Grand Cherokee includes 290-horsepower V-6 and five-speed automatic. Its government fuel-mileage rating is 17/23 mpg. The Grand Cherokee is not offered with a four-cylinder engine.
But the base, 2012 Kia Sorento SUV that's about the same overall length as the Edge comes with a 175-horsepower four-cylinder engine that's gasoline direct-injected but not turbocharged. Starting MSRP, including destination charge, is $23,950. This front-wheel drive Sorento model with six-speed automatic is rated by the U.S. government at 22/32 mpg.
The 2-liter, dual overhead cam four cylinder that's in the Edge is both turbocharged and direct-injected, producing 270 foot-pounds at 3,000 rpm. This compares with 253 foot-pounds of torque at 4,000 rpm provided by the Edge's base, 3.6-liter V-6.
The maximum fuel efficiency and power delivered by the EcoBoost is impressive in both slow-going city traffic, where turbo boost isn't necessarily needed, and on highways, where torque for passing and merging is valuable.
Ford also put this EcoBoost engine into the 2012 Explorer SUV. But the Explorer is some 500 pounds heavier than the Edge, so even though the Edge looks sizable, it moves surprisingly swiftly and purposefully.
Indeed, not a single passenger in the test Edge SEL front-wheel drive model guessed that the 15.3-foot-long Edge had a four cylinder under the hood.
Drivers who tow heavy trailers should note that the Edge's towing capacity is 3,500 pounds with the V-6 but only 1,500 pounds with the EcoBoost engine.
Alas, because it was so easy to enjoy the get up and go of the turbo Edge, the average fuel mileage of the test vehicle on city and highway roads was 21.4 mpg, not the 24 mpg that the federal government estimates.
At least this turbo needs only regular gasoline. At today's prices, a fillup of the 18-gallon tank that's in the two-wheel drive Edge, is about $70.
The Edge SEL tester came with the smallest tire _ 18-inch. But there was noticeable heaviness from the wheels and tires as they traveled over road bumps.
Passengers felt vibrations into their seat bottoms and many road sensations came through to the cabin. The ride was not refined.
The Edge looks strong and powerful, with a noticeably raised hood and large grille. The interior, with optional leather-trimmed seats that were wide and comfortable, felt roomy in both front and back seats.
Rear-seat legroom of 39.6 inches is nearly equal to the 40.7 inches in the front seats and is more than the 38.6 inches in the back seat of the Grand Cherokee.
Drivers can't see the end of the hood, but the tester gave good views over cars ahead in traffic. There was, overall, a sense of being securely above and over the road. Passengers heard some road and wind noise, but it was not annoying.
The tester had MyFord Touch, and even though some improvements appeared to be made _ the seat heater buttons were easier to find than before, for example _ the lack of tactile feedback from the touch screen remains.
This is a problem with touch screens in other vehicles, too, and makes drivers move eyes often to the screen to see what's being pressed. Indeed, in reaching to press the touch screen in the test Edge, I inadvertently activated the emergency flashers twice by resting my hand on the flasher button just below the screen.
It was enough to encourage use of the system's voice-activation commands, but a driver first has to learn what command words to say.
The 2012 Edge earned five out of five stars in the government's side crash testing but only three out of five stars in frontal crash tests. In comparison, the 2012 Sorento earned four stars in frontal crash testing and five out of five in side crash tests. Consumer Reports lists reliability of the Edge as worse than average.