Anyone remember those early Ford Edge commercials in which young people who liked living life on the edge drove the vehicle around on the edges of tall buildings to show how edgy they were? Me, I was thinking that Ford's rolling square didn't look anywhere near agile enough to pull that off, even in a commercial, and that the vehicle's bland appearance'”outside of its notable proportions'”would soon consign it to ye olde dust-heap of history. Well, it turns out that that kind of opinion is one of the many reasons I'm not running an automaker right now. Because, as the Blue Oval has recently let us know, the Ford Edge has sold over 400,000 units since it debuted in 2006, more than any other "mid-size crossover" since that time.
And impressively, it's still going strong today. July sales for the Ford Edge were up 18.9 percent compared to last year, and that actually represents a slipping year-to-date rate, as the number of Edge customers through the first seven months of the year have climbed 33.1 percent over the same period in 2009. Remember, too, the 2011 Edge is now trickling into dealerships; usually when a new model-year vehicle is coming out, sales of the past one dip precipitously.
In other words, the Edge's performance, both last month and in the last four years, is an amazing feat. That's especially the case when you consider how competitive the mid-size crossover segment has been recently, and all the strong entries out there fighting for customers. In fact, if you just went by the spec sheets, you might end up scratching your head over the Edge's success.
For example, the Edge has always been significantly more expensive than the Chevrolet Equinox'”comparing current models, the Ford has a +$4,500 premium over the Chevy'”while also being significantly less fuel efficient. The 2011 Edge, trumpeted as providing a best-in-class EPA rating, puts up a line of 19 mpg city/27 mpg highway/22 mpg combined, while the thriftiest Equinox goes 22/32/26. And now we're getting to secret behind the Edge's success: The reason the Edge's best-in-class EPA numbers are lower than those of its rival is that the two vehicles really aren't in the same class.
For EPA purposes, the difference is that the Ford holsters a V-6 and is the least thirsty of its six-cylinder competitors, while the base Chevrolet comes with an I4. The six-pot Equinox only achieves an EPA line of 17/25/20.
For Krome on Cars purposes, the difference is that the Ford is a sophisticated crossover that just doesn't cross over that much. What I mean is that the original concept behind a crossover was to combine the driving experience of a car (including its fuel efficiency) with a certain amount of SUV style and capability. The actual mix of characteristics spans a wide range: A very few entries remain committed to some amount of serious off-road ability, like the Jeep Grand Cherokee or, I suppose, the 2011 Ford Explorer. Most players, however, put the emphasis on SUV style and toss in an optional all-wheel-drive system as sort of lip service to their traditional roots. That's the path taken by popular performers like the Equinox, Hyundai Santa Fe, etc.
But lately we've started to see more and more crossovers that are essentially five-door hatchbacks with some extra ground clearance. A notable progression of this strategy can be found in the Nissan Murano, Nissan Rogue and the coming Nissan Juke, which show a continued move to more and more car-like exteriors. And I don't mean station wagon-y exteriors, like those found on the Subaru Forester or the Volvo XC family. The profile of the greenhouse on the new Juke looks like it borrows its lines from the Nissan 370Z.
Sure, these vehicles still offer optional AWD, but in this context, the systems parallel the use of all-wheel drive in today's premium sedans and sports cars.
And as the sales numbers show, when it comes to defining this section of the crossover market, Ford definitely has the Edge.