In an April 25, 2018 press release, Ford announced it was not going to produce next-generation versions of its traditional sedans (Fiesta, Focus, Fusion, and Taurus) for the North American market because of declining consumer demand and profits. The only cars it would offer here would be the Mustang and a new crossover version of the Focus called the Focus Active, which has since been cancelled.

Instead, Ford is going to concentrate on manufacturing battery-electric vehicles, including green versions of the F-150, Mustang, and upcoming Bronco, “exploring new ‘white space’ vehicle silhouettes that combine the best attributes of cars and utilities” (aka crossovers), and commercial vehicles, trucks, and SUVs. Ford estimated that those will make up nearly 90 percent of its North American vehicle portfolio by 2020.

By exiting the sedan market, Ford has – at least temporarily – reduced its breadth of product offerings. Given how popular and lucrative trucks and SUVs are these days, it makes sense that Ford has increased the depth of those product lines. The 450-horsepower, 510-lb-ft high-output version of the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 used to be exclusive to the F-150 Raptor, but now it’s also under the hood of the 2019 F-150 Limited. The all-new 2020 Explorer lineup will soon include hybrid and ST models.

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Enter the Edge ST

Ford significantly updated the Edge for 2019. The midsize SUV has refreshed front and rear styling, a new eight-speed automatic, and upgraded safety technology. It also introduces the Ford Co-Pilot360 suite of standard safety and driver assist features, including a Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Information System with cross-traffic alert, Lane-Keeping System, and rain-sensing wipers.

Edge trim levels have changed to SE, SEL, Titanium, and ST, which replaces Sport. After spending a week with the 2019 Edge ST, I can honestly say Ford Performance is off to a good start. The ST deserves to be the new flagship of the Edge lineup. It’s everything the outgoing Sport model should’ve been…and wasn’t.

I discovered the Edge Sport’s shortcomings a few years ago when I tested a 2016 version of it (more on those below). Last fall, I drove a 2019 Edge Titanium for a week. Both the 2016 Edge Sport and 2019 Edge Titanium impressed me with the amount of features they offered. The Edge ST kept the streak alive. It comes standard with LED headlights and taillights, keyless entry and start, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, and a Bang & Olufsen sound system.

Ford made my test vehicle’s cabin even more pleasant by equipping it with the $5,585 Equipment Group 401A. That added three-stage cooling to the already-heated front seats; heated outboard rear seats; a panoramic Vista Roof; a hands-free, foot-activated liftgate; and touchscreen navigation with pinch-to-zoom capability. Thanks to the $495 Cold Weather Package, my press loaner had a heated steering wheel as well as a windshield wiper de-icer.

The 401A package bolstered the ST’s already substantial amount of safety features with Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go functionality and Lane Centering, Evasive Steering Assist to help me avoid disaster, a parking assist system to make a variety of parking scenarios less stressful, and a front camera with a 180-degree view and its own washer. That came in handy when meeting friends at a restaurant with angled parking and high, pointy curbs.

There’s no factory option that adds power to the Edge ST. However, Ford does offer a brake upgrade. The $2,695 ST Performance Brake Package’s 13.6-inch vented front and rear rotors are the same size as those found on the regular ST, but have a slightly different design and more aggressive performance brake pads. All of that hardware fits behind glossy black 21-inch wheels wrapped in 265/40R21 summer tires. Prices for the ST start at $42,355. By the time Ford was done configuring my press vehicle, they had buped the final price up to $52,125.

As part of its 2019 refresh, the Edge received a new front fascia topped with a tweaked grille and redesigned hood. Out back, the re-styled liftgate with new taillights fills the space above the redesigned rear fascia.

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First Impressions of the Edge ST

A few tasteful design choices set the ST apart from other Edge models. Black mesh fills the front grille. The lower fascia has a more chiseled look to it. Ford says the ST’s angular side skirts are designed to deliberately reduce downforce. Other 2019 Edges have dual round exhaust finishers. Ford Performance changed things up by switching to a pair with harder, upright lines. Only two badges, one up front and one in the back, remove any remaining doubt that the ST is more than just a regular Edge. My particular test vehicle’s Ford Performance Blue paint made it even more obvious.

The biggest change Ford made to the 2019 Edge’s interior is replacing the traditional gearshift lever for the outgoing six-speed automatic with a rotary dial for the new eight-speed gearbox. ST-exclusive touches are the Ford Performance door sill inserts, steering wheel badge, and leather/microfiber sport seats.

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Everything else inside the ST was what you’d find inside a regular Edge. That’s a good thing. In my experience, the second-generation Edge has always been comfortable, spacious, and user-friendly. The lingering cold of winter was no match for the heated wheel and seats. Both front cupholders were conveniently placed and there was a slot behind them wide enough to store my phone. As usual, Ford’s SYNC 3 system made pairing my iPhone to it and the Apple CarPlay system a breeze. The Edge ST’s eight-inch touchscreen was perfectly adequate, but given how large screens are getting these days (the 2020 Explorer will be available with a 10-inch display), it’s starting to seem a little dated.

Occasionally, I find myself sitting inside of a vehicle whose infotainment system engineers got too clever for their own good. I’m all for new technology, but only if it’s better than what’s worked in the past. Large knobs and hard buttons just work. It’s that simple. I’m glad Ford realized that and included those kinds of controls in the Edge. They could’ve gone a step further, though. They used a big knob for the volume, but they should’ve included one for the tuning function as well. Sometimes there’s nothing on preset stations so I like to be able to grip and rip my way through them until I find something I want to listen to. A knob for the fan speed wouldn’t have hurt, either.

Back seat room was plentiful and I had no problem fitting all 5-foot-10-inches of me behind the driver’s seat. The reclining rear seats and huge moonroof instantly made the ST feel more premium and European.

During my week with the ST, I had to fly to Sacramento for the media launch of the 2020 Jeep Gladiator. That gave me the chance to test its cargo capacity. Granted, I packed light, but that doesn’t change the fact that the ST had no problem fitting my suitcase, briefcase, and camera bag. Judging by the picture, I’m confident I would’ve been able to fit three suitcases next to each other if I would’ve laid them on their sides.

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Behind the Wheel of the Edge ST

The ST is powered by a 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 with twin turbos and direct injection. It’s a sandwich made out of a compacted graphite iron block and an aluminum head and filled with a forged steel crankshaft, forged steel rods, and cast aluminum pistons. On 93 octane, that combination produces 335 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque. An eight-speed automatic with a Sport mode and all-wheel drive that can uncouple the front axle from the rearend puts that power to the road.

Ford introduced the 2.7-liter EcoBoost as an engine option for the 2015 F-150. Since then, Ford and Lincoln have put it in several of their vehicles. I got my first real taste of it in the summer of 2016, when I tested the Lincoln MKX. It was an attractive and comfortable all-wheel-drive people-mover, but the EcoBoost (tuned to produce the same figures as the Edge ST) seemed to be too much for it. The MKX felt sloppy and – I didn’t think I’d ever find myself using this word – overpowered.

A few months later, Ford sent me a 2016 Edge Sport with all-wheel drive. Even with 315 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque, it felt as if it had plenty of get-up-and-go. Output wasn’t an issue for it. The Edge Sport’s major issue was that it didn’t have steering or brakes to match its engine. They certainly didn’t live up to the Sport badge. I’d enter a turn eagerly, only to exit it disappointed with how insulated and numb the steering felt. The brakes were equally disappointing. They had no feeling, no bite, and no sense of urgency to them.

During a regional (Central Texas) media drive event for the aluminum-bodied 2015 Ford F-150, I heard someone say that the lighter pickup was a “10-foot” truck. That had nothing to do with it looking better from a distance than up close. It meant that if you had driven the then-outgoing steel version of the F-150 before and then got behind the wheel of the 2015 F-150, you would be able to tell the difference between them within 10 feet.

That memory went to the front of my mind a minute or so after I started driving the Edge ST. It was a 10-foot SUV. That’s all the distance it took me to tell that Ford Performance had finally matched the 2.7-liter EcoBoost to the right hardware. They had done a fast, sporty Edge the right way.

I could feel it through my fingertips. The electric power steering was immediately responsive off center. Once I dialed the wheel more right or left, it loaded up with the right amount of natural weight. It was tight and focused.

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Ford Performance had shown it had learned from the so-called Edge Sport in one major way so I was hopeful it had improved upon the brakes, too. I’m happy to say they did. When automakers use a more aggressive braking system, such as a carbon-ceramic setup, they run the risk of upsetting the balance between ease of use and effectiveness. I’ve been in vehicles with stoppers that snatch and grab with the slightest push of the left pedal, but were designed to go hot lap after hot lap without fading. The Edge ST’s performance pads didn’t make it any less pleasant to drive, no matter how fast I was going. I still would’ve appreciated a little more feel from them, but I didn’t sense any of the fluff I felt in the Edge Sport when I had to bring the ST to a stop.

I was especially grateful for that while I was out with my girlfriend one night. We were exiting the highway and I saw a vehicle with its hazards on sitting in the striped section between the interstate and the access road. I thought to myself, “I hope they stay put.” They didn’t. The driver made their way onto the access road without signalling. I would’ve been surprised if they had looked in their rearview mirror once. It was a shockingly stupid and dangerous move to make. Luckily, I had left plenty of room between them and the ST. The brakes scrubbed off speed as quickly as I started yelling out expletives.

The ST’s ample torque and all-wheel drive was a potent combination, especially when I had the transmission in Sport mode. Sometimes it was a little too much for the front end. If I got too deep into the throttle too soon after leaving a dead stop, I could feel the steering wheel wanting to jerk. Aside from that, the ST built its power smoothly. Sport mode did a fine job of holding gears and timing downshifts. In fact, I preferred to let it do the shifting because the gear changes from the paddle shifters were a bit slow.

I got the chance to really put the ST’s power to the test when I met up with four of my friends for breakfast and a drive through the Central Texas Hill Country. Using simple math, I concluded the weight of five adults would make the ST struggle or at least feel as if it was working hard to hit bigger numbers on its speedometer. My calculations were totally incorrect. We didn’t seem to phase it.

Before Ford dropped the Edge ST off at my house, I was cautiously optimistic about how it would perform. I knew what I wanted it to be, but I also knew how it could go terribly wrong. Ford Performance got it right. The Edge ST was what its predecessors couldn’t be. And in these post-sedan days at Ford, it’s what the blue oval needs it to be.

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