SAN FRANCISCO – Ford Motor Co. brass would like to think the new Edge cross/utility vehicle will give the auto maker, well, an edge over the competition.

On a recent test drive here, the Ford Edge lives up to some of the hype, while falling short in other key areas.

The CUV is stylish enough to draw glances, albeit fleeting, here in San Francisco, where Toyotas and Hondas dominate the streets. Ford believes it’s the bold styling that will tip the scales in the Edge’s favor in a growing, but increasingly crowded, market sector.

The 3-bar grille that adorns the front fascia, a design cue also found on the Ford Fusion midsize sedan, eventually will make its way across the Ford lineup, the auto maker says.

The grille and the Edge’s big haunches give the CUV an aggressive look, a nice change from some of Ford’s more pedestrian designs of the past.

The Edge is available in front- or all-wheel drive, the latter a $1,650 option Ford officials expect half of all buyers to choose.

Along some twisting, hilly roads, the FWD Edge SEL’s handling proves exceptional, belying a vehicle of its proportions. An AWD model was not tested, so it is unclear whether the option would improve on that. But the front-driver is 209 lbs. (952 kg) lighter, which means those purchasing an AWD Edge may have to sacrifice some performance.

That’s not to say performance is awe inspiring in the first place.

Ford’s new 3.5L V-6 needs all 265 horses to pull the hefty Edge to the top of some of San Francisco’s steeper climbs, a task that no doubt would prove challenging for many other engines, as well. Along flatter terrain the V-6 churns along nicely, with little noise escaping the engine bay.

Braking is adequate, but at 4,073 lbs. (1,848 kg), even the FWD Edge could use a bit more stopping power than provided by the 11.7-in. (29.7-cm) front and 11.9-in. (30.2-cm) rear disc brakes with antilock capability.

Although the engine and brakes are a tad under whelming, on paper the Edge is comparable to most other CUVs on the market, even surpassing some, including the Nissan Murano, which squeezes out 25 hp less from its 3.5L V-6.

The Edge stacks up favorably with the Murano when it comes to price, as well. The Edge bases below $26,000, including destination charges, while the AWD version starts at less than $28,000. Murano prices begin at $27,750 and reach $31,850 for an AWD model.

Power is transferred from the 3.5L mill to the road courtesy of a smooth-shifting 6-speed automatic transmission developed with General Motors Corp.

Even on the humpbacks, the 6-speed never hunts for gears. Rather, shift points are nearly indiscernible, almost equivalent to a continuously variable transmission. Further enhancing the gearbox’s virtues is its tall overdrive gear, which Ford says results in 7% better fuel economy than a 4-speed automatic.

The Edge is chocked full of safety features, in line with the auto maker’s new marketing strategy. Standard are Ford’s Advance Trac system with Roll Stability Control, seat-mounted side airbags, Safety Canopy air curtain system and Ford’s Personal Safety System, which includes standard driver and front passenger dual-stage airbags, energy-absorbing steering column and 3-point seatbelts at all seating positions.

Inside the cab, Ford paid close attention to ergonomics, with all controls within easy reach and intuitively operated.

A variety of textures found inside the cabin provide a nice touch. However, fit and finish are not equal to Toyota standards, with too many large gaps throughout. A pressed-felt headliner also detracts from the interior’s overall good looks.

More impressive is the amount of interior space, both for hauling loads and providing overall passenger comfort. The 5-seat Edge boasts 40.7 ins. (103.4 cm) of legroom in the front and 39.6 ins. (100.6 cm) in the rear. The seats are wide at 54.8 ins. (139.2 cm) in front and 56.3 ins. (143.0 cm) in back, indicating Ford clearly is accommodating the ever-widening American consumer.

With the second-row seats folded flat, cargo volume is 69.6 cu.-ft. (1.97 cu.-m). That shrinks to 32.1 cu.-ft. (0.9 cu.-m) when rear seats are in use.

Ford needs the Edge, arriving in showrooms in late November, to be a hit. The auto maker has been relying too long on a lineup of aging vehicles and has seen its market share nosedive as competitors roll out fresh product.

One indication Ford may be on the right track with the Edge is its residual value rating by Automotive Lease Guide, which ranks the CUV highest in its segment. According to ALG, an Edge SEL with AWD will hold 51% of its value after three years.

bpope@wardsauto.com