Crossovers. They re pretty popular with families these days and there are many to choose from. In the mid-sized market there s the Toyota Venza, Nissan Murano, Mazda CX-7 and Honda Crosstour. Ford s offering is the Edge. Launched in late 2006, the 2011 version gets a significant refresh.

Now, the word refresh can mean a number of different things. Often it s just a new grille, taillights and a different color fabric in the cabin. Wow. Very exciting. If you ve driven a Ford lately (ahem) it s clear they ve been doing things differently. Like Fusion, Edge gets more than just a new face and rear end. There s a completely different interior, engine upgrades, subframe mount changes, and additions to the SNYC system among other refinements. While the side profile remains very familiar, this is not just a token warm over.

In Case You re Not Familiar With It...

In the Ford family of crossovers, the five passenger Edge slots right in the middle of the smaller Escape and the seven passenger Explorer (which Ford calls an SUV). They also have the under-appreciated Flex, the only one of the bunch that doesn t start with the letter E . Like the others, Edge is available in front or all-wheel drive.

My tester is a lightly optioned mid-level SEL model with front-wheel drive. At a retail price of $31,200 including destination there s no sunroof or heated seats here. It, like most Edges, gets the smaller of two V6 engines. It s a 3.5-liter unit that gets 20 more horsepower this time around for a total of 285. The transmission is a six-speed automatic with manual control using a small button on the console lever.

Those on a power trip will want to go for the 305 horse 3.7-liter in the Sport model (which also gets massive 22 inch wheels and paddle shifters on the steering wheel). Fuel sippers should wait for the 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder estimated to make in the neighborhood of 230 horsepower. Its fuel economy rating and ETA is unknown at this writing, stay tuned.

Edge of Performance

Edge has good power off the line, hustling to 60 miles an hour from a dead stop in just over seven seconds (7.3 according to my equipment). A new engine mounting system reduces vibration and noise. That and additional sound insulation keep things on the quiet side at highway speeds.

A firm retuned suspension tightens up the handling. Edge rides a little high, just like others in class but still corners well for a crossover. There s a solid, hefty driving dynamic about it, which like many Fords these days, I d describe as European.

Fuel economy? That s on everyone s mind days. My tester is EPA rated at 19 city, 27 highway, among the best in class. All-wheel drive drops that to 18/25. Max towing is 3,500 pounds.

Ford improved the anti-lock brakes for 2011, the stopping distance is now average. Pedal modulation is good, it just feels like Edge doesn t want to slow down as fast as I d like it to.

Edge has a little bit of torque steer which is a tugging of the steering wheel under hard acceleration. Hard to dial that out of a front-wheel drive automobile. It s easily fixed by ordering AWD though obviously that affects price and drops fuel economy.

Inside It s All About Touch

The 2011 cabin is completely different and much richer looking. Materials, including the instrument panel, are soft to the touch. Gone are the slots and seams that made the old dashboard busy looking. Even with cloth seats the space is more elegant now and the plastics on the center console look rich. There are lots of storage areas including one behind the heat and AC controls, reminiscent of Volvo s signature space.

The gauge cluster can be configured the way a driver likes it. High resolution color screens flank a center mounted speedometer and using buttons on the steering wheel, different information can be displayed. Want to choose between two different tachometers? Have at it.

Ford is known for its great Microsoft SYNC system that interfaces with cell phones and iPods then controls them with voice commands (plus so much more). Now there s a new enhancement called MyFord Touch. Look at the main LCD screen home page and you ll see it s divided into four different color coded quadrants- red for entertainment, blue for climate, green for apps and/or navigation (if you ve ordered it) and yellow for phones.

On the home screen each of the four sections displays basic information. Touch a colored tab, blue for instance, and it expands to offer full control of the heating and cooling system. Below the screen there are dedicated touch activated buttons for things like climate control and sound system so a driver doesn t have to dig into the screen if they don t want. I find MyFord Touch elegant though wish the screen had better tactile response. Even though the hazard flashers button located below the screen is recessed, I ve managed to set then off three times. Perhaps it should be on the top edge. Know that there are reports of software glitches with this new system, I m sure Bill Gates and Company are on it.

There are now different apps that can be loaded up. Owners can select a diagnosis button and get Vehicle Health Reports texted to their phone. I tried it but since I m not the registered owner it won t show up on my phone.

Cargo and Back Seat

The back seat can handle three average adults nicely and it will do everything an owner can ask of it except slide fore and aft to offer more legroom or cargo room. Good to find storage in the doors and in pockets on the seatbacks. There s a power port back here too.

People buy these rigs because they re useful. A tour of the cargo hold finds small cubbies and a 12v power port for charging stuff. The split seatbacks drop with the push of a button. Under the floor there s the spare and a few small nooks to stash things. Cargo room is good, in the ever popular TP trunk test, nine bundles of Kirkland brand TP fit in back with the second row usable by passengers. Drop those seats and it s easy to get large boxes in.

How Much Edge Do You Want?

Ford allows shoppers to pile on some significant options and technology. In addition to SYNC and MyFord Touch there s a glass panoramic roof, blind spot warning system, and radar adapted cruise control. A Limited AWD model with many of the bells and whistles can shoot up to $42,000. A loaded Sport can climb past $43,000

Overall it seems Ford s new strategy is to build premium products that people will be proud to own rather than compete solely on just price. The improved 2011 Edge certainly feels more upscale now. It s worth a look if a midsized crossover is what you re shopping for. And these days it seems everyone is.

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