Special Coverage

Chicago Auto Show

CHICAGO – Ford Motor Co. seeks to redefine the meaning of a “mid-cycle refresh” with the new ’11 Ford Edge cross/utility vehicle, which will receive a 2.0L 4-cyl. version of the auto maker’s direct-injected, turbocharged EcoBoost technology.

“The new Edge demonstrates how a refresh at Ford has become more than just a few design and interior tweaks,” says Elaine Bannon, chief engineer.

Unveiled today at the auto show here, the ’11 Edge builds on what Ford says has been the leader in its segment since its launch in 2006 as an ʼ07 model, a time period in which the auto maker says it sold 330,000 copies of the midsize CUV.

Since its inception, the Edge has been powered by a lone engine – Ford’s 3.5L Duratec V-6 mill, which produces 265 hp and 250 lb.-ft. (339 Nm) of torque.

For ’11 the 3.5L is now the base engine, with the 2.0L EcoBoost aimed towards those looking for fuel economy without sacrificing performance, while the 3.7L now will be the top-end mill.

Both the 3.5L and the 3.7L utilize twin-independent variable camshaft timing to increase horsepower to 285 and 305, respectively.

Ford hasn’t officially announced performance specifications for the 2.0L EcoBoost, but various reports indicate it will be good for at least 230 hp and 240 lb.-ft. (325 Nm) of torque, while consuming 30% less fuel than the Edge’s original 3.5L V-6.

The two V-6s will share a 6-speed transmission, while the EcoBoost model will have a revised version of the same transmission “to deal with things like torque delivery,” Ford says.

The Edge lineup also gets new wheels and tires. The SEL and Limited versions will come shod with 18-in. tires and wheels that are 0.5 ins. (1.3 cm) wider than the outgoing product. Twenty-inch tires with new wider wheels are optional on the Limited, while the Sport has 22-in. wheels standard.

Ford says the ’11 Edge will offer a sportier drive experience, courtesy of retuned springs, stabilizer bars and shocks.

Exterior changes include a new hood, fenders, headlamps and taillamps and revised rear and front fascias. Body lines are “more expressive,” the auto maker says.

The interior features upgraded materials and redesigned chrome accents.

On the higher-priced Limited and Sport models, Ford teamed with Sony to develop a center stack that incorporates the theme found on other products from the Japanese electronics company, including dividing the audio portion of the control panel into “source” and “sound” sections.

The stack also sports a piano-black finish, which Ford says allows the controls to “pop” as they light up.

The Limited and Sport models also will come standard with MyFord Touch driver-connectivity technology.

Building on Ford’s multi-media Sync system that allows voice-activated use of MP3 players and Bluetooth-equipped cell phones, MyFord Touch gives consumers greater control over vehicle functions such as climate, audio and navigation, while also minimizing driver distraction.

Meanwhile, Jason Mase, Ford's CUV marketing manager, says he expects the new Edge to pick up where its predecessor left off in terms of conquest customers.

“Since we launched (the Edge), we’ve had about a 49% conquest rate,” he tells Ward’s. “And when those folks come back into the market, we’ve retained about 70% of them.”

Although Ford already has a number of CUVs in its lineup, with more to come, Mase says there isn’t much cannibalization of sales among Blue Oval product, as each is focused toward a distinct buyer.

That includes the new Explorer. Scheduled to go on sale in 2011 as a ’12 model, the next-gen Explorer will transition from a traditional body-on-frame SUV to a unibody CUV platform.

But unlike the Edge, the Explorer will be marketed as a “modern interpretation” of an SUV, Mase says.

“It’ll have different capabilities and different styling, and we’ve seen through research (the Edge and Explorer) have very distinctive feels and different customers,” he says.

Pricing for the ’11 Edge, scheduled to arrive in dealerships this summer, has yet to be announced. The CUV will continue to be built at Ford’s Oakville, ON, Canada, assembly plant.

bpope@wardsauto.com