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Ford looks for an edge against upscale automakers

The Ford Edge shares its platform with the

The Ford Edge shares its platform with the Ford Fusion mid-sized sedan and for North American markets the Edge will be offered in four model trims and three engine options. Credit: Ford

With an all-new 2015 Edge tall wagon, no one can accuse Ford Motor Co. of aiming low. And in point of fact the automaker has some mighty high ambitions for the new Edge: specifically, taking on high-end offerings from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz and expanding the Edge's reach worldwide.

Heady stuff, for sure, but can Ford pull it off? Time will tell, but on paper the new Edge looks to be an interesting competitor. Ford just invested $700 million in its Oakville Assembly Complex in Oakville, Canada, near Toronto, where the new Edge will be built. The 2015 model will debut in North America early next year, with sales to follow in South America, Europe and Asia Pacific. Ford plans to offer the edge in more than 100 markets worldwide.

According to Ford, it was the top-selling utility vehicle brand in North America for a third consecutive year in 2013. Ford utility vehicle sales were up almost 20 percent in Europe last year, and in China, where Ford's share of the utility vehicle segment grew to 4.5 percent last year from less than one percent in 2012. In 2013, Ford sold 1.2 million utility vehicles worldwide, up 38 percent from 2012.

The Edge actually shares its platform with the Ford Fusion mid-sized sedan and for North American markets the Edge will be offered in four model trims and three engine options. The models include the base SE, the well-equipped SEL, the Sport and a luxury model dubbed Titanium.

The engine offerings in North America include a turbocharged 2.0-liter "EcoBoost" four-cylinder with preliminary ratings of 245 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. Ford said the new engine is substantially upgraded from the old 2.0 EcoBoost offering. There's a lighter engine block and pistons, higher compression ratio and a new direct-injection fuel system. Ford's Auto Start-Stop system will be available to decrease fuel consumption by shutting down the engine when the Edge is stopped in traffic.

The Edge Sport comes with an all-new 2.7-liter turbocharged "EcoBoost" V6 engine that will produce more than 300 horsepower, although final specs have not been announced. This will be the highest horsepower engine ever offered in an Edge and will deliver the best performance since the model was introduced in 2006.

Last but not least, Ford will offer a non-turbocharged, non-Ecoboost 3.5-liter V6, with specs to be announced. Regardless of engine, though, the only transmission is a six-speed automatic, which for the first time will be available with paddle shifters mounted to the steering wheel for manual gear changes.

In terms of appearance, the Edge retains its familiar shape as a five-door tall wagon, but Ford has gone all out with upgrades and new technology to make this vehicle more desirable to consumers. For the first time, there are features such as front-camera technology to help drivers see better in certain instances, an enhanced active park assist system to enable perpendicular and parallel parking in tight quarters, and an advanced adaptive steering system.

Other tech goodies include adaptive cruise control that speeds up or slows down the Edge to match traffic; Ford's Blind Spot Information system; cameras mounted front and rear; forward and reverse sensing systems; heated steering wheel, front and rear seats, with front-seat cooling; active glove-box knee airbag; and the latest-generation Microsoft Sync system to run many of the vehicle systems.

Another area where Ford has devoted considerable time and effort is improving the quality of materials, as well as the appearance of the interior. Overall, the cockpit exudes much more sophistication and technology than before. A one-inch longer wheelbase (the distance between the front and rear wheels) and more efficient packaging means there is more headroom, legroom and cargo room.

By any measure, though, the 2015 Edge appears at first blush to be a big step up for Ford Motor Co., but it won't be until it actually reaches the North American market next year before we'll know whether it's a true competitor for the best Europe has to offer. If nothing else, it should be a spirited battle.

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