Ford Edge: 'There's better stuff out there but Ford should be thanked for trying'
There might be too much bulk in the Ford Edge for Campbell Spray, who is trying to read the American experience
The nearest I have been to the United States for some time has been reading Richard Ford's latest Frank Bascombe book Let Me Be Frank With You.
The four stories in the book has the former sportswriter turned estate agent retired but living again in the New Jersey suburb of Haddam amid the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. It is wonderful sparse writing of wit and candour which unmasks the frailties of American life. I can identify with Frank, for both sad and intellectual reasons, although he gave up journalism many moons ago while I still "ply my pitiful trade". He is mocked for driving a Hyundai: "A hybrid, I suppose, like you Frank," an egotistical bully who bought his old house, now destroyed by the hurricane, berates him.
I finished reading this latest Bascombe book last weekend, the same time as I was driving the Ford Edge, very much an American-style SUV which is built in Canada, coincidentally the title of Richard Ford's best-seller.
I could imagine driving the Edge through the debris left in Sandy's wake as the late-season post-tropical cyclone swept through the Caribbean and up the east coast of the United States in late October 2012.
It looks very big and is absolutely cavernous inside, although the floor of the boot is very high. Strangely for such a large vehicle it will only seat five rather than the seven which seems to be the more popular choice nowadays.
Maybe this is because of the supersized American mothers and their over-large brats (that, of course, is a dreadful and outrageous generalisation) who have been buying it since the first edition came out in 2007. It sold 225,000 units last year of which 120,000 went to the US where it is the biggest selling "Crossover/SUV", a larger vehicle concept than here.
I am not exactly compact-sized myself but it seemed my partner and I were miles apart when we went out over the bank holiday weekend with Sam. That I could get even more lost in my own reveries was not lost on her.
The Edge is far bigger than Ford's Kuga and this year's most popular new car, the Hyundai Tucson.
It seems to be aimed at more of a premium market where Land Rover, BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo are scrapping it out with the latter's XC90 being the star performer. But it does remain a Ford despite the posturing and some pretty excellent capabilities. There are premium abilities but not everything has the same promise. Yet it has a permanent and very intelligent AWD system which keeps you informed just where the power is going. It made me feel very confident last weekend and I really wanted to go off-road, find a ford, that word again in its third form, to wade or storm a beach.
The interior is rather humdrum compared to its target market.
However, the version I was driving was incredibly well-equipped with voice-activated systems, automatic safety devices and a lot of sound, sat-nav and other functions which could not be mastered in a week.
Some of the controls were very messy and over-complicated to use when driving. I also found that the large air-ducts could start to freeze you like an Emperor Penguin at the South Pole.
The all-new version of the Edge was launched across the Atlantic last year and has the same underpinning as the S-Max and Mondeo, which shows how good it could drive. It isn't a fast car but will still get you to 100kmh in under 10 seconds, but it takes a lot of work and determination to get this two-tonne beast rolling.
There might be some in this world of continuing desire to go bigger and meatier who want the Edge. It looks dominant, but it's not needed here. It is fine enough - powerful, reasonably fuel-efficient and with lowish emissions - but it is a big car more suited to the US than picking up kids in Ranelagh.
The range starts at €55,700 plus p&p but the Ford Edge Sport being tested, with a massive 25 or so "features" and "additional options" one of which was the inflatable rear-seat belts, was €62,100; powered by a 2.0 turbo diesel engine with 210bhp and there is also a 178bhp available.
There's better stuff out there, more our size. But Ford should be thanked for trying.
If you want to be close to the real America, go to the Richard Ford books or those of John Updike, whose hero Rabbit ran a Lexus franchise.
Of course there's always the Ford Mustang, but that's more of a song and a feeling.