Los Angeles — In the years since it came out in 2006, the Ford Edge has assumed the same role as the folding can opener in camp. It’s the indispensable utensil. You couldn’t have a plate of beans without it. Of course this leads to great sales of about 130,000 units per year in the United States. It also leads to fan mail from toasters and coffeemakers. A clothes dryer in Illinois even sent its lint trap after running on delicate cycle with a load of lingerie.
Product planners and designers have seen the mail, and they’ve taken action. In a preview held on Tuesday, just before the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show’s media days, Ford revealed the Edge concept, the precursor of the next-generation Ford Edge that will be introduced about a year from now as either a 2015 or 2016 model. To the global market that shows a growing appetite for crossovers, the new Ford Edge will bring newfound sass. It has feline characteristics, most so in the rear, which reminds us of the Escape after it’s had some escapades with club drugs.
What the Ford Edge concept demonstrates most clearly is the cunning with which Ford designers are addressing the imperative to increase aerodynamic efficiency. They’ve troweled away the current vehicle’s blockiness. The stubby hood soon yields to a windshield that shoots up like a Silicon Valley IPO. The roof tapers elegantly, ending in a tartly assertive spoiler hanging out above rear glass that slashes in a kind of dagger thrust. The sides are contoured and creased and modeled, as if to utterly repudiate the coffinlike stolidity of today’s Ford Edge.
Somehow, the Ford Edge concept looks perfectly natural on the 21-inch wheels and tires.
A coy face and beckoning cabin
It’s the face of the concept that really grabs us. The hexagonal grille’s crossbars get a nice enough treatment with polished aluminum, but who would’ve expected the active grille shutters that are recessed behind them to have some bling of their own? The air curtains in the corners are fitted with accent lighting that seems unlikely to make it to production, although we can always hope.
Ford’s concept build coordinator Jim Brown oversaw 25 weeks of work on the Ford Edge concept, and he said each headlamp cluster was “a build in itself.” Indeed, the lights are intricate stacks of ice cube shapes and metal fins. Satin-finished aluminum trim playfully contrasted with the polished metal on the receding chin-plate.
We wouldn’t expect the production version of the next-generation Ford Edge to include the aluminum. But with apologies to the poor souls who extract ore from Chilean mines, we would like to see the interior’s copper accents make production.
The cabin is a wonderment of leather, carbon fiber, more leather, and metal, all arranged masterfully and ambiently lit to a fare-thee-well in Ford blue. We wanted to climb inside, lock the doors, and have a nap. In such pleasant conditions, we would no doubt have dreamt that old Henry Ford had always acted mercifully and justly, his son Edsel had lived happily — and the Mustang II had never happened.
Beyond the textures and subtleties is the tech
Marketing manager Jacques Brent drummed home the notion that technology has always been a key factor for buyers in the midsize crossover segment. What could this portend? Very soon, besides the full suite of driver assistance and occupant preservation features, there could be a self-parking aid that lets the driver stand outside (47 percent of the buyers are women) and operate the Edge like a remote-controlled toy.
Furthermore, its obstacle avoidance capabilities could spare the lives of many deer. Its adaptivity could surpass that of locker room bacteria. And its onboard systems could be more active than Justin Bieber’s Twitter account.
Best of all, the advanced connectivity could let you alter the orbit of NASA’s Mars-orbiting Maven satellite.
What the reveal of the Ford Edge concept lacked was any mention of dragway prowess that might be demonstrated no later than 2016. The words “horsepower” and “torque” were never uttered during this preseason session. We left without a clue whether there will be the same four and six-cylinder engines or a breakthrough is in the offing and the Ford Edge will soon be running on a mighty, mighty twin fueled by your choice of balsamic vinegar or seawater.
Most obvious is that Ford will retain mastery of its formula in a category in which the propulsive force is a secondary consideration. Since 2006, the Ford Edge has been about maximized utility in a non-minivan package. Henceforth, it will also be about looking good. Expect a salute from flat pressing tables and steam irons around the world.