2019 Ford Edge ST First Drive: High-Riding Performance

Can a crossover ever be a true performance car? A quick check of the Motor Trend inbox would suggest the answer is a resounding no. If we had a nickel for every “Maybe it’s just me, but SUVs should only be body-on-frame off-roaders like the Jeep Wrangler” email that came in, we’d probably be able to pay cash for said Wrangler.

The people at Ford, however, have a different opinion. They think an ST-badged Edge makes perfect sense. And although Ford is the first mainstream automaker to add a sport-tuned crossover to its lineup, if CUVs can’t be fun to drive, someone forgot to tell luxury brands such as Alfa Romeo, BMW, Mercedes, and Porsche.

Heck, the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio didn’t just earn an invite to this year’s Best Driver’s Car competition. It beat several other entrants and placed eighth. If that’s not enough to put the performance-crossover controversy to rest, we’re not sure what is.

But even though a performance crossover can be fun to drive, there’s no guarantee that will be the case for every single one. So is the 2019 Ford Edge ST as sporty as the folks at Ford Performance would have you believe? Not necessarily.

It certainly looks the part, though. The front end got the only significant styling changes for 2019, but the result is a crossover with a sportier, more cohesive look. Inside, Ford stuck with the same basic design but swapped the old shifter out for a new rotary knob. Beyond that, you’ll only find subtle differences in the cabin layout, such as reconfigured cupholders.

The Edge ST does, however, get a Sport button and an excellent set of leather-trimmed sport seats. Larger drivers might find the bolsters too narrow, but for most drivers, the seats in the Edge ST do an excellent job of keeping you in place while still being comfortable on long drives.

Although the Focus ST’s ride may have been a little too choppy for road trips, the Edge ST makes an excellent highway companion. Not only is it comfortable, but it also comes equipped with quite a few convenience features. In addition to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, you get Co-Pilot360, Ford’s suite of driver-assistance and active safety features. That includes adaptive cruise control with steering assist, which works extremely well. Add in a healthy dose of passing power from an engine that’s still reasonably efficient (19/26/21 mpg city/highway/combined), and you have a recipe for a great daily driver.

If you were hoping Ford Performance had managed to infuse the Edge with the Fiesta ST’s handling, though, you’re going to be disappointed. The suspension is firmer, and there’s less body roll than you’ll find in the non-ST Edge, but it’s not quite sporty enough to encourage you to take the long way home.

And although the 335 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque provided by the 2.7-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 give you plenty of grunt once you’re moving, it takes a while to build boost. As a result, the Edge ST hesitates to accelerate from a stop and doesn’t feel as quick as the numbers would suggest. As for the transmission, it shifts quickly enough, but the eight-speed automatic is a little slow for an ST.

Steering was also an issue. It’s heavy enough, but in the corners, you have to turn the wheel more than you’d expect. Sport mode provides better throttle response, gives you quicker shifts, and pipes in a louder exhaust note, but without quicker steering, driving down a winding mountain road starts to feel like work.

Surprisingly, despite those complaints, there is one area where Ford Performance’s efforts shone through: sustained performance. Despite a group of aggressive auto journalists mercilessly flogging one poor Edge in an attempt to set a quicker autocross time, brake fade and overheating were never an issue. Understeer was a problem, even with stability control in its sportier setting, but it’s clear a lot of work went into making sure the Edge ST wouldn’t melt down on the track like lesser crossovers.

So Ford’s first performance crossover might not be a home run right out of the gate, but it’s still got a lot going for it. With a sportier steering, quicker turn-in, and less body roll, the Edge ST would be a great choice for an enthusiast who needs more space than hot hatches provide. But for now, it feels more like an improved Edge Sport than a mainstream (and probably more reliable) Stelvio.

If the ST sells well enough, though, perhaps Ford will address those issues in the future with an Edge RS.

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