First Drive: 2019 Ford Edge ST
The future of ST begins. Will buyers move from Ford’s hot hatches to a crossover?
PARK CITY, Utah — With Ford planning to dump most of its cars and concentrate its business on trucks, SUVs, and the Mustang, fans of Ford's ST models have to be wondering what will happen next. The Blue Oval has started to provide some answers in the form of the 2019 Ford Edge ST.
On the surface, the Edge ST serves as a replacement for the previous-gen Edge Sport. But the midsize crossover was handed over to the Ford Performance team for a thorough going-over. And gone over it they have, stiffening the springs, beefing up the brakes, and enhancing the engine. The 2.7 liter twin-turbo V-6 EcoBoost now puts out 335 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque, up 20 hp and 30 lb-ft from the 2018 Edge Sport. The ST also employs all-wheel drive as its predecessor did, but it uses a new rear-axle disconnect setup that helps save fuel when AWD isn't engaged.
A four-mode stability control system Ford calls AdvanceTrac allows the driver to choose from full on, traction control off, sport/track mode, and full off (though even in the latter setting the system will step in to prevent rollover). Performance-oriented options include 21-in wheels with Pirelli P Zero summer tires and a bigger brake package.
Ford invited us up to Park City, Utah, where we got a chance to attack some curvy mountain roads in the 2019 Edge ST. Equipped with the optional summer tires, the Edge displayed impressive levels of grip and body control for an SUV of its size and heft. Push harder and the Edge holds on well, eventually reaching its limits of traction with a slow and steady onset of understeer. Most impressive was the way the body stayed flat in the corners, unlike the standard Edge, which leans like a proverbial schooner in the bends.
Power from the twin-turbo V-6 is good—not knock-your-socks-off good, but more than adequate for a performance-oriented SUV. Ford claims a 0-60 mph time of "under six seconds" (our guess: 5.98). Off-the-line acceleration feels comparable to the 2.0-liter turbocharged four in other Edge models, but where the 2.0T runs out of steam at higher speeds, the V-6 continues to pull strongly.
But Ford's 'quick-shifting' 8-speed automatic transmission the engine is paired with proved to be a disappointment when we flogged it. Ford says when it's in Sport mode, the tranny will hold shifts longer in the power band, upshift faster, and rev match. We found it slow to shift up and down and it responded to part-throttle power requests as if it had been given a healthy shot of Novocain. Accelerate hard and back off the power, and the transmission would sometimes respond with a delayed upshift that came with a worrying thunk. There are paddle shifters supplied, but the transmission's Sport program ought to do a better job of paying attention to the driver.
Ford also set up an autocross of sorts to run the Edge ST through. Provided we didn't do anything dumb, like, say, crank the wheel too hard heading into a turn, (all in the name of evaluating the car, of course, and not because we forgot how sharp the turn was) the Edge ST went pretty much where we pointed it, hustling in a manner that made it easy to forget it's a bulky crossover.
But—and you knew there was going to be a "but", didn't you?—the price you pay for this accomplished handling is a rock-hard ride. Ford confined our test route to relatively smooth pavement, but the second the roads turned rough, the Edge ST's ride turned rougher, to the point of downright discomfort. It's the old trade-off that good handling comes at the expense of ride quality. Except that it isn't really true—just ask any Audi, BMW, or Volkswagen owner.
Perhaps the 21-in wheel and performance tire package were part of the problem. We're betting the standard-fit 20-in wheels probably wouldn't help much other than to potentially have a negative impact on the handling, as they come with lesser Hankook all-season tires.
The Edge ST's aforementioned Sport mode, which is activated by pushing a button on the center of the new rotary shifter, cranks up throttle and transmission response and turns the active noise cancellation system into performance mode (basically amplifying the tastier engine noises and pumping them through the speakers). Turning it off does nothing to relax the ride or the steering that we could discern, which feels unnecessarily heavy when you aren't charging hard through the curves.
Shame, because there are other things the Edge ST gets right. First and foremost is the look: The blacked-out trim, big wheels, and trapezoidal exhaust tips (functional, by the way, which is more than we can say about those on the Audi SQ5) give it great presence.
Inside, the ST gets unique interior trim to differentiate it from lesser Edges. Unfortunately, nothing's been done about the control layout other than the addition of the rotary shifter. The infotainment system's old-school graphics, sparse look-alike buttons on the center stack and plethora of them on the steering wheel lend the cabin a dated feel. It's an undeserved first impression, because this is a more modern system than it appears; along with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, it now offers compatibility with Alexa and Waze as well as a 4G LTE WiFi hot spot.
Like other 2019 Edge models, the ST gets a standard-fit safety suite Ford calls Co-Pilot 360, which includes collision warning with automatic braking, blind-spot warning, a backup camera, a lane-keeping system and automatic high beams. But features that actually make it work as a copilot—adaptive cruise control and lane centering—are optional extras. We sampled all the systems in the ST we drove and found they worked as intended.
The Edge ST even comes with a standard-fit towing package, though its 3,500 lb capacity is about 2,500 lbs less than the BMW X5 xDrive50i.
But the V-8-powered X5 will set you back nearly $77,000 if you can find one without options (good luck with that). The Audi SQ5 starts at $55,295, which just happens to be a mere $290 more than an Edge ST with all of the bells and whistles. The cheapest version of the Ford Edge ST is priced at $43,350, only a couple grand more than you'd pay for an entry-level Q5. That's some good ol' American value from this Canadian-built crossover.
As far as the Edge ST's role as the new face of Ford Performance, a couple of the Ford staffers we spoke with see the Edge ST as the next logical step for a Focus ST buyer who has started a family. Trading in an easily upgradable, manual-transmission equipped Focus or Fiesta ST for big turn-key SUV, even another Ford with an ST badge, seems a brook too broad for leaping. (An Escape ST—now there's something they may consider, something Ford no doubt is as well.)
For those who insist on cars, they say, there's always the Mustang, to which we say if they wanted a Mustang, they'd already have a Mustang. The about-to-expire ST cars appeal to very specific buyers for very specific reasons, and we don't think the Mustang (or the Edge ST, for that matter) hits those criteria.
We see the Edge ST targeting an older and wealthier buyer, one looking for strong performance and an edgier look with an American badge. But would such a buyer be willing to put up with the Edge ST's harsh ride? If they live back East, where winters wreak havoc with pavement, we can't see that happening, either.
It's interesting that Ford has dropped the Edge Sport for 2019. It seems as though a vehicle with the attractive styling of the Edge ST, the strong performance of the EcoBoost V-6, and the softer ride and easier steering of the standard Edge would make sense. Several manufacturers have done well with vehicles that look sporty and ride comfortably, we're sure Ford would as well.
Meanwhile, if the Edge is the new face of ST, then we think Ford will be looking for new faces among its buyers. Whether they will find them or not remains to be seen.
2019 Ford Edge ST Specifications
|ENGINE||2.7L twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6/335 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 380 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD SUV|
|EPA MILEAGE||19/26 mpg city/highway|
|L x W x H||188.8 x 75.9 x 68.3 in|
|0-60 MPH||5.9 sec (est)|
|TOP SPEED||122 mph (est)|