Payne review: Ford Edge ST, the family hot-hatch

Henry Payne
The Detroit News

Performance SUVs aren’t as crazy as I thought. I caught up with some of my pocket-rocket brethren at the Ford Edge ST’s media debut in Utah last week. Like me, they love Ford’s compact ST (short for Sport Technologies) hatchbacks. Like me, they think hot hatches are the best combo of fun and utility. And like me, they are stoked about the Ford Edge ST sport utility vehicle.

The 2019 Ford Edge ST is not your average SUV. It provides SUV performance for an affordable price compared to the Jeep Trackhawk and Mercedes-AMG GLE. Offered in an exclusive Ford Performance Metallic Blue, it's the color to get.

Think of it as a giant hot-hatch for motorheads with kids.

“The cornering on the autocross course was phenomenal. I would never have expected a big vehicle to handle so well,” said Karl Weber, 30, father of two and owner of a Ford Focus SVT (ST’s predecessor badge). He wants an Edge ST. Now.

“I’ve got two boys and I’ve got an Escape, and this would make a good jump for more space,” said Ben Richter, 32, father of two boys from Nebraska who owns a Ford Focus ST and recognizes its DNA in the Edge ST.

Every ST generation has to grow up. Young leadfoots whose first hot hatch was a VW Golf GTI (me) or Honda Civic Si (my sons) or Hyundai Veloster R-Spec or Nissan Juke NISMO.

With kids and disposable income, they have graduated to the diaper-changing, soccer-game-shuttling, upstate-vacation phase of life. But they haven’t been neutered of their auto enthusiasm: The growl of dual pipes. The Woodward stoplight drag. The call of a country road.

Ford has found the right horse for the job.

While the Ford Escape compact ute would seem the logical SUV for the job — starting at $25,000, it is the next hatch in the lineup after the Focus – but the upright ute is more Barbie than Ken. And hot-hatch demographics are decidedly male.

The mid-size Edge is, well, edgier. Its sculpted looks are more butch than the Escape. Edge sales skew male. And then there’s the chassis: Where the Escape is an SUV platform, the Edge shares its toned bod with Fusion and Taurus cars.

The Edge is a big athlete, an advantage Ford has previously recognized with a Sport version. The last-gen Sport got a substantial engine-upgrade from the base Edge, putting out a healthy 315 horsepower and 350 foot-pounds of torque.

The Edge ST takes the Sport and pumps it with steroids.

At speed over the undulations of Utah country roads outside Salt Lake City, my ST gulped the landscape, setting fire to the fall leaves. WAAAAUGHHH! wailed the V-6, while the two-ton chassis stayed remarkably true to my direction. Make no mistake, this is a rhino compared to the Focus/Fiesta pitbulls. But it’s a rhino in tennis shoes.

Ford achieves this feat the old-fashioned ST way: more power from the twin-turbo V-6 (335 horses and a whopping 380 pound-feet of torque), bigger sway bars, and stiffer shocks and springs. The Frankenstein surgery of ST and ute (Ford performance engineer: “Let my creation live!”) is aided by some fundamental changes to the base Edge for the 2019 model year.

Credit upgrades like a smooth, eight-speed automatic transmission that delivers silkier shifts and 2 mpg better fuel economy on the highway. Also an all-wheel drive system with better traction that can throw torque front-to-rear as well as side-to-side in order to avoid getting stuck in snow ruts.

I drove an Edge Titanium back-to-back with the ST (like other ST models, the Edge ST pricing starts close to where the upper-trim Edge Titanium tops out — $45,000 vs. $42,000 for the ST). I appreciated the hatch utility that makes ST such a versatile vehicle. Signature Ford tech is everywhere. The brand that first brought you the kick-open trunk, panoramic sunroof and self-park assist offers all those features here and more.

Standard on the $29,999 base Edge are camera and connected systems that offer essentials like blind-spot assist, collision-mitigation braking and remote start (“Alexa, start my car”). There’s more on offer from adaptive cruise-control to smartphone apps to a nifty rotary dial.

“With the technology and space and everything you’re getting, it’s a good bargain,” hot-hatch brother and Fiesta ST owner Lou Rivera, 29, raved.

And once you go ST, you’ll never want to go back.

It’s not just the power and rock-solid handling, the ST brings presence to an SUV segment that sorely needs it. Handsome as the Edge is, it has melted into the SUV field. Hyundai’s utes have copied its pentagon grill and LED rear-lighting.

If an Edge ST looms in your mirrors, you’ll know it. Like Patriot tight end Rob Gronkowski smeared with black face-paint, the Edge comes ready for battle. The front clip has been swapped for a new, blacked-out grille and lower intakes. Wheel wells are engorged with black 20-inch wheels (21-inch optional). And all the trimmings – from window sills to rear diffuser have been wrapped black.

Paint it in ST-exclusive Metallic Blue and the big ute reminds of my other favorite blue-devil performance car, the BMW M2.

Living with the Edge ST, like its brother Focus, will require putting up with flaws (but not the Fiesta ST, which is a consistent member of my Top 10 cars list). Despite the added torque and twin turbos, the Edge ST exhibits noticeable turbo lag under the cane. That sluggishness isn’t helped by the eight-speed tranny’s odd lack of urgency when called upon to shift. At full flog, I was constantly tempted to use the shift paddles.

These negatives would be more annoying if they were in track-day cars like the Focus or Fiesta. But a track-focused vehicle this is not, which Ford telegraphs by not offering heavily bolstered Recaro seats or a manual shifter. Still got the need for track days? Keep your old Fiesta ST around.

Especially since the Fiesta and Focus are exiting the U.S. market after 2019 – along with other Ford cars. Which begs the question, is the Edge ST about to lose its buyer base? We’ll see.

For now, hot-hatch graybeards rejoice – the Ford Edge ST means you don’t have to leave ST performance behind when you graduate to a family ute. Performance SUVs are no longer just for the $100,000 Jeep Trackhawk or BMW X5 M jet set.

A new segment is born. What are you waiting for, VW and Nissan? Will we see a Tiguan GTI or Murano NISMO soon?

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne. Catch “Car Radio with Henry Payne” from noon-2 p.m. Saturdays on 910 AM Superstation.

2019 Ford Edge and Edge ST

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

Price: $30,990 base Edge, $43,330 base ST include $995 destination fee ($44,890 FWD turbo-4 Edge Titanium and $46,540 AWD Edge ST as tested)

Powerplant: 2.0-liter turbo inline 4-cylinder, 2.7-liter twin-turbo V-6

Power: 250 horsepower, 275 pound-feet torque (turbo-4); 335 horsepower, 380 pound-feet torque (V-6)

Transmission: 8-speed automatic 

Performance: 0-60 mph, 5.5 seconds (Car and Driver est.); top speed: 130 mph; tow capacity: 3,500 pounds (V-6 ST)

Weight: 3,959 pounds base FWD (4,477 AWD ST as tested)

EPA fuel economy: 22 city/29 highway/25 combined (FWD turbo-4); 19 city/26 highway/21 combined (Edge ST)

Report card

Highs: Aggressive look; sure-footed power

Lows: Turbo lag; upshifts too casual 

Overall: 4 stars