Mustang, Edge fight car-SUV rivalry

John Gilbert

 For 2019, Ford Edge gets a new front, rear, interior and a new silhouette. Photo credit: John Gilbert
 For 2019, Ford Edge gets a new front, rear, interior and a new silhouette. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Mustang, redone for 2018, has the power to match its sporty new look. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Mustang, redone for 2018, has the power to match its sporty new look. Photo credit: John Gilbert
New Edge grille gives midsize SUV a different personality. Photo credit: John Gilbert
New Edge grille gives midsize SUV a different personality. Photo credit: John Gilbert

If you really enjoy driving, and you have $40,000 to $50,000 in your budget for a new vehicle, which would you choose: a new, sleek Mustang GT, or a new Ford Edge, the stylish middle-sized SUV?

It might depend on your family. With the Edge you can haul the family anywhere, vacation trips, hockey practices, or to the shopping center, with all the comforts of home. With the Mustang GT, you will attract attention every time you start the engine, or cruise the neighborhood, resembling a slightly older Max Verstappen without the helmet.

Maybe we really have gone over the edge in our society - I mean in car selection, not in politics - and maybe we really do prefer trucks and SUVs to cars. Or maybe we don’t, but are victims of auto manufacturers who are eager to build us SUVs and trucks rather than cars because they can push them out the dealership doors for three or four times the profit.

Whatever, we keep hurtling down that highway to changing the family car for the family truckster, and nowhere is that more evident, and curious, than with Ford Motor Company.

Ford can be excused for being truck-crazy, because it builds the F-150, which has become the most popular vehicle in the country, in fact the world, and continues to dominate the hotly competitive pickup segment.

Where it gets curious is that Ford executives announced several months ago that it will stop building several popular models of cars, and devote more attention to trucks and SUVs. The first word was that Ford would eliminate all but the Mustang, and the compact Focus, in its drive to truck nirvana. That announcement of the Focus preceded some recall issues Ford more recently had with the Focus, so its future might be less certain.

But we know the Mustang is alive and well as it continues its amazing story of survival that started with its stunning introduction in 1964. The new one came out all new for 2018, so we don’t expect anything major when it comes out as a 2019 model. Just as well. It’s hard to imagine many improvements that could be made on the 2018 - especially the Lightning Blue GT model that arrived just in time to beat what could be an early arrival of winter.

When it was picked up, the Chicago new-car delivery agency dropped off a new Edge, the loaded-up Platinum model.

Pleasing look from the side houses roomy interior on huge, 20-inch wheels.  Photo credit: John Gilbert
Pleasing look from the side houses roomy interior on huge, 20-inch wheels. Photo credit: John Gilbert

Hopping out of one and into the other made for an interesting comparison, because we already know the front-engine, rear-drive Mustang will remain the icon of Ford’s car fleet now and in the future, and the Edge comes down right smack in the middle of Ford’s SUV herd, which includes the Expedition at the top, then the Explorer, and then the more compact Escape and the subcompact EcoSport below the Edge. There are others, such as the squarish Flex and the coming rebirth of the Bronco.

But the Edge wears a stunning new look, which can fool most of the people most of the time, but is really a partial renovation with only the newly restyled front and nicely tapered rear and a redone interior carrying the model into its latest iteration. It wasn’t bad as it was, of course, and the new styling assures the Edge of staying hot.

The test vehicle had the 2.0-liter Ford Ecoboost 4-cylinder engine, with a twin-scroll turbocharger helping the transition from low RPMs to higher revs, and the Ecoboost scheme delivers 250 horsepower and 275 foot-pounds of torque. That’s a lot, out of a 2.0, and it is a lot of power for a midsize SUV. The 8-speed automatic handled it all well. I was, however, disappointed by the fuel economy, because we registered 24 mpg in mostly city-rural driving, and there are a number of competitors that can reach 30.

I thought the leather seats were luxurious, and the switch work was fine with the latest SYNC plan. The rear seat is also nicely appointed, with a big sunroof overhead and electrical plug-ins, including a household electric receptacle, in between the rear seats.

One more criticism is the tendency to follow the norm and put bigger and bigger tires and wheels on SUVs. The test Edge had 20-inch wheels and all-wheel drive, and while it had only front-wheel drive instead of all-wheel-drive, it felt that it was taller than necessary. It handled well, but I couldn’t escape the idea that 18-inch wheels would provide a lower stance and the feeling of more stability and better handling.

At about $40,000 — the sticker diplomatically avoided providing the price — the Edge had pre-collision warning and assist, rear camera, lane-keeping assist, and LED headlights, with hands-free tailgate and rain-sensing wipers and blind-spot assist.

Since mid-60s, Mustang has lived by the stylish fastback roofline.  Photo credit: John Gilbert
Since mid-60s, Mustang has lived by the stylish fastback roofline. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Quad tailpipes, distinctively carved taillights set off Mustang rear. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Quad tailpipes, distinctively carved taillights set off Mustang rear. Photo credit: John Gilbert

If you want big-time handling, of course, the Mustang is waiting in the wings. New Car Picks reported on the Mustang GT a short while ago, and that one was fun, with a 6-speed stick. The second trial is the very neat blue with all the hot-rod equipment you might want, and the same 5.0-liter V8 with 450 horsepower and 410 foot-pounds of torque, and with a 10-speed automatic that shifted smoothly and quietly. 

You can go to a noisier and sportier mode that firms up the suspension and heightens the shift points, eliminating a couple overdrive gears to give you more punch at any rev range. The sport setting adds a thrill to the exhaust sound, as well. You can get over 20, and even up to the mid-20s, but you’d want to resist the urge to hammer the gas pedal to do it.

Comfortable bucket seats, trimmed in leather, and adaptive cruise control, cross traffic alert in the rear, a high-performance package that includes an upgraded audio, LED headlights, and a neat ambient lighting trick that displays a galloping mustang on the street or parking place you’ve chosen, just below the door. A lot of slick electronic choices from the changeable instrument panel add to driving enjoyment.

There is, however, precious little room in the rear seat, so the Mustang would work if you have no small children, or if your kids are small enough to bring their legs with them.

The Mustang with touchscreen navigation, smart package and sport package among nearly $13,000 in options, has a sticker of $51,965. At that, it’s a bit more than the Edge, but you are choosing between a great disparity in motoring enjoyment. The Edge handles and performs pretty well, but without impressive fuel economy; the Mustang handles like a race car on the street, and is built for fun, with potent acceleration and handling, but also without great fuel economy.

Both vehicles strike a pleasing stance, with the Edge sporting its new sheet metal, while the Mustang is altered too, and is obviously equipped to fight for its position in the product line without joining various other cars as a dinosaur.