EAGLES NEST, N. M. -- A driver plants both hands at 3-9 o'clock posts on a sporty steering wheel with both feet on the two pedals -- using our right foot to accelerate and the left one to decelerate in racer style -- as we test the chassis dynamics for a new iteration of the Edge, Ford's athletic and agile crossover utility vehicle.
Our test track for Edge is a blacktop ribbon stretching from Santa Fe to Eagles Nest, tucked in a high valley of the Sangre de Cristo Range of New Mexico. We follow the snake-winding Rio Grande up a red-rock canyon to Taos, then hang a right on U.S. 64 and tackle the switchbacks climbing over a mountain saddle called Palo Flechado Pass.
Edge devours this kinky route with the sure-grip posture of a sporty machine, hugging every contour of the convoluted course as we cut clean and quick lines across apexes of so many curves.
It also delivers a kick each time we tap the throttle of the high-powered yet fuel-thrifty EcoBoost engine, a twin-cam 2.0-liter four-in-line Ford plant with turbo-charger, direct fuel injection and variable valve timing.
Numbers for Edge's optional EcoBoost turbo add up to 240 hp at 5500 rpm and muscular torque of 270 lb-ft at 3000 rpm yet EPA fuel economy estimates climb to 21 mpg city and 30 mpg highway.
Ford also puts two V6 powertrains on the chart of options for 2013 Edge issues in four trim grades -- SE, SEL, Limited, Sport -- with standard FWD (front-wheel-drive) or optional AWD (all-wheel-drive) traction.
The SE, SEL and Limited editions draw from a 3.5-liter V6 engine with DOHC (dual overhead cams) and performance-enhancing Ti-VVT (twin independent variable camshaft timing) technology to muster 285 hp at 6500 rpm and torque of 253 lb-ft at 4000 rpm.
Shifter is a six-speed electronic automatic, and a SelectShift manual controller goes to SEL and Limited trims.
The 3.5 powertrain achieves fuel economy scores of 19 mpg for city driving and 27 mpg on the highway for FWD versions and 18/25 mpg (city/highway) with AWD.
Standard plant for Edge Sport is a dual-cam 3.7-liter V6 with Ti-VVT. It hits 305 hp at 6500 rpm plus 280 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm.
For Sport's 3.7-liter plant, the six-speed SelectShift automatic gains paddles mounted on the steering wheel for finger shift manipulations.
The powertrain on Edge Sport racks up EPA fuel numbers of 19/26 mpg for FWD and 17/23 mpg for AWD.
Edge's optional AWD mechanism is a smart traction system which distributes the engine's power between front and rear wheels selectively as changing conditions of road or trail may warrant -- the intent is to maintain a firm tire grip no matter what happens on pavement or dirt.
Edge's EcoBoost 2.0-liter turbo engine teamed with a six-speed electronic automatic transaxle and FWD traction becomes the power option on SE, SEL and Limited editions.
All versions of Edge '13 employ a monocoque structure which unites chassis and body into one cohesive unit that remains extremely rigid when set to motion. A generous wheelbase length of 111 inches and a broad wheel track (65.4 inches in front and 67.0 inches at the rear) set up a long and wide platform which brings stability when turning.
All issues of Edge also tote independent suspension components -- MacPherson struts and an isolated subframe up front and a trailing blade design in back with integrated knuckle and lateral links plus isolating subframe -- to deliver car-smooth ride sensations for riders.
Brakes on Edge consist of a disc at every wheel with linkage to ABS (anti-lock brake system) plus Ford's AdvanceTrac ESC (electronic stability control) device with RSE (roll stability control), which measures vehicle motion on both the yaw and roll axes.
And Ford packs aboard a load of safety gear. Edge's strong unibody structure serves as the first line of defense for passengers, surrounded by a safety cage rigged with force-deflecting energy management zones fore and aft plus reinforced side panels and doors.
Front riders have dual two-stage frontal air bags plus seatbelts with load-limiting retractors and buckle pretensioners, while in the rear there are anchors to tether a child's safety seat.
Side-impact air bags mounted on outboard front seats and Ford's Safety Canopy consisting of curtain-style air bags concealed in headliners above side windows front/back are also on tap as standard gear.
Other safety tools extend from a TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system) to integrated blind spot mirrors for better blind spot visibility and the MyKey programmable vehicle key to encourage safer vehicle operation from teenaged drivers by limiting the top speed to 80 mph, preventing the deactivation of the vehicle's traction control system and capping the volume level on the audio system to 44 percent of maximum volume.
New Edge models also get the latest versions of MyFord Touch and the Microsoft-powered Sync system, and new safety and driver aids such as the optional BLIS (blind spot information system) with cross traffic alert via icons in side mirrors.
MSRP figures for the 2013 Ford Edge with FWD traction extend from $27,520 for Edge SE to $37,120 for Edge Sport. The AWD versions range from $33,020 for Edge SEL to $39,050 for Edge Sport.