Payne: Smoothed Ford Edge

Henry Payne
The Detroit News

We've all had that fashion hiccup we regret.

The used-car salesman mustache. The Elton John-sized sunglasses. A decade of 1970s leisure suits. I wore a pair of plaid pants in my middle-school years that haunt me to this day. Not just plaid, but too-short plaid.

"Hey, Payne, expecting a flood?" my buddies would ask of pants that showed plenty of ankle. I blushed like Michael Keaton in "Birdman" walking across Broadway in his underwear.

Auto companies have their glitches too. The Ford Motor Co. is finally putting its fashion faux pas behind it.

You remember the original Ford Fusion. The one that debuted Ford's "three-bar" grille in 2006? Bold, chromed, and very American, tri-bar fashion looked awesome on big trucks. But just because a shaved pate on Michael Jordan looks cool doesn't mean it'll flatter Britney Spears.

The three-bar looked awkward on Ford sedans. It was variously derided as looking like a Gillette razor or braces on a teenager. Its victims included the Ford Focus, which went from one of the market's sexiest compacts to looking like a refugee from the Island of Misfit Toys.

But most tragically, the stylish Ford Edge got stuck with it.

I've always admired the Edge. Birthed in 2006 for the 2007 model year, it followed the Chrysler Pacifica and Nissan Murano as pioneers of a new breed of crossover vehicle. Departing from the traditional, truck-based SUV (of which Edge's bigger sibling Explorer was itself a pioneer) these mechanical satyrs combined truck-like utility with a car-like chassis (the Fusion/Mazda 6 chassis in the case of the Edge). The formula took America by storm and crossovers have now infiltrated every segment down to subcompacts.

The aptly named, cutting-edge Edge also wowed with an exterior that appeared chiseled from granite. Oh, but that face. Metal mouth distracted from Edge's other, considerable assets. Mrs. Payne and I took a long look at the Edge in 2006, but we adopted the prettier Pacifica crossover instead.

A cathedral-like acoustic-glassed quiet is the most significant interior change.

The good thing about auto facial fads is that, unlike Mike Tyson's tattoo, they can be easily erased. Mercifully, Ford's 2010 Taurus and 2013 Fusion introduced elegant, open grilles that recognized car and truck fashion are two different things. The transformation has energized Ford's lineup.

The '15 Ford Edge is the last family member to get its Extreme Makeover.

Having endured a mid-cycle, 2010 refresh that actually grew its Gillette grille to Brobdingnagian proportions — you thought Jaws' chrome teeth in "The Spy Who Loved Me" were scary? — the new Edge finally gets the face it deserves.

Edge adopts Taurus' hexagon grille then integrates it with angled, LED headlights. How striking is the new look? It shames a similar effort by Audi on its new Q7 — though the upscale Audi's fashion statement will cost you $20K more. The integration continues around back where Edge fuses Fusion taillights with Dodge-esque LED tube. Nice caboose. This hottie will make heads turn coming and going.

The plastic surgery comes just in time for the Edge's debut on Europe's runways where it is leading an invasion of new product including the Mustang. With crossovers sweeping the Continent, the Edge will make an impressive accessory in downtown London, Paris, and Berlin.

A panoramic Vista Roof features a forward panel that tilts up or opens fully.

Face by Taurus, body by Adonis. The Edge's bod is brawnier than ever. Credit Kenner-toy-designer-turned-Ford-designer Kevin George who has scalloped the dense sides of the Edge for a sexier, trimmer look.

That athletic stance complements a more toned Edge chassis, which — for all the buzz over the Edge's exterior — is the real revelation of the new Edge. After all, Edge isn't the cutting edge anymore.

Sure, the comely crossover continues to dominate the niche it trailblazed. The Pacifica is gone. The Toyota Venza and Honda Crosstour will soon follow. The wild Nissan Murano is JWoww of "Jersey Shore" on wheels — and just as polarizing. And sure, the Edge continues to load on cool, new tech features like kick-open hatch and parallel and perpendicular self-parking.

But self-driving isn't for everyone. Mrs. Payne tried the self-parking feature and was freaked out when the Edge's steering wheel started spinning about and beeping at her like it was possessed. I thought she was going to hit it with a blast of pepper spray.

Such features aren't novel to the Edge anymore. Similarly equipped, more affordable utes now ply the streets competing for customers. Ford Escapes. Mazda CX-5s. Chevy Equinoxes. Looks and tech aren't enough anymore. The Edge must compete in handling as well.

My wife's pal, Mary, is right out of the Edge marketing textbook. Female. Fifty-something. An empty-nester who still wants a roomy, all-wheel-drive, mid-sized ute — but with more panache than an Explorer mom-mobile. How about an Edge? Sold.

But her '13 Edge feels like a tank. Solid, but like a hammer. Throw it at a corner and she needs the arms of Thor. With a recipe of stiffer chassis, aluminum-multi-link suspension, and calibrated e-steering, the '15 Edge feels lighter on its feet. Still 4,000 pounds. Still cut like the Seattle Seahawks' Marshawn Lynch. But sure-footed like him, too.

I took the two-ton beast through the winding roads of Arizona's Mazatzal Mountains and — surprise! — had a ball. Mary would be stunned. And could cancel that barbell weightlifting class she's signed up for. Ford complements the Edge chassis by updating its suite of engines with Ford's latest Ecoboost powerplants — part of its Quixotic quest to meet Washington pols' random 54.5 mpg fuel economy mandates (why not 73.333 mpg? Or an even 100?). Good luck with that. By the time Ford figures out how to make 50 mpg Edges, Washington will have mandated that vehicles be powered by wind turbines.

More significantly to buyers, the base, 2.0-liter 4-banger and 2.7-liter V-6 turbo engines offer more performance with better fuel economy. My favorite is the turbo 6 — exclusive to the Sport model — which not only gains 10 ponies over the shelved, 3.7-liter V-6, but boasts a throaty exhaust note that actually penetrates the ute's hushed interior. Edge's cathedral-like, engine compartment-sealed, acoustic-glassed quiet is the most significant change in an interior that otherwise largely mimics the old.

With new Edge, it's all about style. The braces are off. The body is gym-tuned. When this Ford waltzes down the French Riviera, no one will blush.

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne.

2015 Ford Edge

Vehicle type: Front-engine, front and all-wheel drive, five-passenger sport ute

Price: $29,890 base ($46,180 AWD Sport as tested)

Power plant: 2.0-liter, turbo 4-cylinder; 3.5-liter, 6-cylinder; 2.7-liter, turbo 6-cylinder

Power: 245 horsepower, 275 pound-feet of torque (turbo 4); 280 horsepower, 250 pound-feet of torque (3.5-liter V-6); 315 horsepower, 350 pound-feet of torque (turbo V-6)

Transmission: six-speed automatic

Performance: Towing capacity: 3,500 lbs, base; 0-60 mph, 6.7 seconds for Edge Sport (Car & Driver)

Weight: 3,912 pounds base (4,060 as tested)

Fuel economy: EPA (all figures AWD): 20 mpg city/28 mpg highway/23 mpg combined (2.0-liter turbo); 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway/20 mpg combined (3.5-liter V-6); 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway/20 mpg combined (2.7-liter turbo)

Report card

Highs: Chiseled good looks; The foot-kick hatch comes to Edge

Lows: Thirsty V-6 turbo; Self-park may freak you out

Overall: 4 stars

Grading scale

Excellent 4 stars

Good 3 stars

Fair 2 stars

Poor 1 star