Sunday, June 12, 2011

2011 Ford EDGE: The Ultimate Triathlon Machine | My Review

(Full Disclosure Statement:  As the coach of the IRONMAN Ford Training Team, I was given use of a Ford car during the term of our agreement.  My obligations to them do not include writing this or any review of a Ford vehicle. The opinions written here are mine and a not representative of Ford or any other company or individual. So there.;)

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I like cars, a lot.  I'm not sure why really, but I just do and always have.  I bought my first car, a 1972 Toyota Celica, when I was 16 years old and have gotten a new (or used) one every 1-2 years ever since.  I just like having a car that's new to me, drive it for awhile and then move on to the next one.  And much to my financial advisor's dismay, I like driving nice and relatively expensive cars. Depreciating assets are not great investments, as it turns out.  I'm kinda the same way with bikes too.

My parents owned a 5 Series BMW back in the early-mid 1980's, before BMW was the brand it is now in the U.S market.  I learned how to drive a manual transmission in that car, and loved it.  A few years later, a good friend and mentor of mine who was very successful in business and a class act overall, a man with the initials JH, once told me to always drive a nice car because it'll make you feel good about yourself and help you 'raise the bar' in pursuing business and personal success.   When I turned 26 and was starting to finally earn some decent money in the new and growing field of triathlon coaching (when there only around 10 triathlon coaches, not 10,000), I decided to set my bar high and buy my first BMW, a 325is Coupe, Forest Green/Tan with manual transmission. Man, did I love that car!

Since then, I've owned around eight more BMW's, including an M3 (my fave!), a few 5-Series (including a 535xiT ... sports wagon), an X3, X5, an M-Roadster (Zseries) and even an M5.  I used to live in Maryland in the rural suburbs so I could appreciate the power and the superior handling of these incredible machines on the twisty country roads. I loved to drive and would log 15-20,000 miles per year enjoying the "Ultimate Driving Machine".  And no, I never broke the speed limit. ;)

Bottom line is, I appreciate driving a high performance car just like I appreciate riding a high performance bike.  I notice the subtle things that a superior car has to offer and demand them, like the solid 'thunk' of the turn signal stalk, the lateral support of a bolstered leather sport seat, the crisp short throw of the stick during a quick downshift and the muffled airtight sound a door makes when it shuts.

So, when the opportunity to get involved with the Ford Training Team by Ford Motor Company came to me, I was a bit skeptical. I was loyal to my brand (BMW) and wondered if I could get behind the wheel of another car as a brand ambassador and be truly excited to endorse it to people who've I've worked hard to establish a level of trust in.  Decisions, decisions, decisions!

During one of my many trips to triathlon events last year, I had the lucky opportunity to drive the new Ford Taurus as a rental car, for a few days.  This experience was so positive that I realized that Ford had stepped up their game and were making cars that would appeal to people who like to drive, as evidenced by their recent financial success. The hook was set... and I looked forward to getting behind the wheel of a Ford.

I recently received, direct from Detroit with 'manufacturer' tags, a 2011 Ford EDGE Limited... their crossover vehicle the fits nicely in the line-up between the small SUV (Escape) and the larger SUV model, the iconic Explorer.    As soon as I saw it roll off the trailer under the bright mid-day sun here in Oro Valley AZ, I thought to myself, "WOW"!  I am SO impressed and excited about this car, and here's why...

EXTERIOR
Mine came in the Tuxedo Black metallic color with the LIMITED version trim.  This includes 18" chrome clad aluminum wheels.  The stance of this car is incredibly muscular, with a short front overhang, wide wheel wells and long wheelbase.  Add an updated, aggressive looking chrome grill and two large chrome tailpipes, and you've got a very cool (and fast) looking vehicle.   The SPORT package looks even more aggressive, complete with 22" wheels, updated grill, rear diffuser and 4" chrome tailpipes. NICE! (Note to FTT: Please send me a Sports model next year!!:)

INTERIOR DESIGN / TRIM
The value and quality here is unbelievable.  Starting with soft leather seats with contrast stitching (usually seen in cars starting in the $60K range), this car is roomy and comfortably seats 5 adults with tons of storage for carrying wheels, your bike or groceries... or all at the same time!  Options include automatic rear folding seats, automatic lift gate, etc.

TECHNOLOGY
The technology is incredible too... as Ford partnered with Sony to create SYNC, an intuitive and easy to operate command center.  In my car, the trim is piano black with stainless steel (love it) and touch sensitive dials and controls are easy to see and to get to, with ambient lighting  (light blue).  It's ultra modern and looks very clean and technologically advanced.  The rear view camera can be seen through a center oriented touch screen console. The steering wheel has finger tip controls for practically everything, and is wrapped in leather with nice 'grips' for performance driving at 10 and 2 o'clock.     I'd like the steering wheel to be a little bit smaller and thicker, (like the M Sport package in the BMW), but it's more than adequate for everyday driving.

Another great feature of this car is it's size and ease of entry and egress.  The seat, unlike a full size SUV, is just about 'butt height' for most people in the 5'10" - 6' range (i'm 6'), so it's easy to 'slide in' and 'slide out' of the car without hopping up or down.

And the full panoramic sunroof makes the car feel even more open and airy.

DRIVING EXPERIENCE
Sony SYNC console/display
For the kind of driving I do now as opposed to when I lived on back country roads, which is mainly suburban driving in Tucson to the store, shuttling the kids around and driving with my bike (and athletes) somewhere for a ride and sometimes taking a longer trip with highway driving, the EDGE offers a nice combination of performance and comfort. The larger tires help soak up road shock, and the chassis is soft enough to make driving over bad roads comfortable.

The EDGE is nicely powered too with a 3.5L V6 engine and 6-speed automatic transition.  Step on the gas and it moves!  The speed freak in me however would prefer the 300+ HP found in the Sports Package. Gas mileage is good with an advertised 27 mpg highway. I find that I get around 20-22 mpg driving around town at avg. speeds in the upper-30 mph range.

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS
I find myself excited to drive this car, and that's important for me.  A car has to 'inspire' me , and this one does the trick.  Being a new model, it gets prolonged stares from people as they try to figure out what it's all about.

I feel it has a great blend of practicality and sportiness.  For the triathlete, it has ample room to grab a few friends from the tri - club and load up with bikes and accessories for a road trip.  For everyday driving, it's easy on eyes, offers good fuel economy, fun to drive and with the SYNC technology and entertainment package, convenient in every way.

Pros:  Bold styling, incredible technology, quick, good fuel economy, price for value
Cons:  Somewhat numb steering, use of cheap plastic in doors
Price range:  $27,700 - $45,000

I think Ford has done a fantastic job with the new EDGE and recommend you at least give one a test drive if you're in the market for a new car in the crossover category. I've had my eye on a new X5 now for sometime, but the EDGE could very well be "The Ultimate Triathlon Machine" in terms of practicality, technology, performance and most importantly, overall value.

Train Safe,
Coach Troy

Coach Troy Jacobson is the Head Tri Coach of Life Time Fitness (NYSE: LTM), the Official coach of IRONMAN and the coach of the Ford Training Team.  Learn more at www.coachtroy.com

SUPPORT THOSE WHO SUPPORT YOUR SPORT!  Visit mid-west FORD Dealer, Bill Walsh Automotive. Test drive a new Ford Edge!

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