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Ford Edge...Are Crossovers the Future of Police Vehicles?

Written by Law and Order Staff

What will the future police vehicles look like? That’s easy. They will look exactly like future retail vehicles. They will have the same size passenger compartments. They will have the same size trunks. They will have the same size engines.

Rewind back to 1996 and the good ol’ days of the Caprice: Corvette V-8. Rear-wheel drive. A 116-inch wheelbase. Roomy interior, both front and back. Massive trunk. As fast around a road course as a Mustang. Yet the future of retail cars at that time, and actually the reality of retail cars at the time, was V-6 powered, front-wheel drive, midsize cars. Smaller engines. Smaller interiors. Smaller trunks. In four short years, the iconic Caprice police car of yesterday became the Impala of today. Today’s Impala is where the future of police cars was in the mid-1990s…a very typical (and now large) retail car.

Now fast forward to today. What are the trends for today? What is the immediate future for retail vehicles? That will tell us the future of police vehicles. And like it or not, that future is three short years away when the Ford CVPI disappears. With the one-two punch of 35 mpg CAFE and uncertain gasoline, the future of retail vehicles is small and midsize sedans and midsize crossovers. Large sedans and large SUVs are absolutely doomed.

The REAL question is this. What if the small and midsize sedans are not big enough for officers, upfitted communications and enforcement gear and the emergency cargo that we need to carry?

You don’t need to be much of a futurist to see the role in policing, both patrol and special service, for the midsize crossover. The choices are really only 1) to plan for it now or 2) to have it thrust upon you later. With that reality in mind, we borrowed a 2008 Ford Edge from Sutton Ford in suburban Chicago. Would it be roomy enough? Would it haul enough? Would it get good enough gas mileage? And, no kidding, would it have enough performance?

What is an Edge?

First, here is what an Edge is not. It is built on an extended Ford Fusion platform, but it is NOT a midsize sedan. It has a lot more front and rear seat room. It is bigger than an Escape, smaller than an Explorer but is not an SUV. It rides like a sedan, handles like a sedan but has the ground clearance of an SUV. It is powered by a gas-friendly V-6 but accelerates faster than a Ford CVPI.

The Edge is a cross between a sedan and an SUV, a crossover, i.e., a midsize SUV built on a car chassis. While SUVs use a trunk chassis and drivetrain, the crossovers use a car chassis and drivetrain. The midsize crossover may have all the advantages and capabilities of a large sedan with some of the advantages of an SUV with none of the disadvantages. Really.

The V-6-powered Ford Edge is faster than a Ford CVPI, has the same interior room and up to 50% more cargo space behind its rear seat than the trunk of the Ford CVPI. The Ford Edge has the same 8-inch ground clearance as the Chevy Tahoe. The Edge is a FWD crossover but is also available in all-wheel drive. Finally, the car-platform, thanks to a 3.5L V-6 and 6-speed transmission, gets the same gas mileage as all the other V-6 powered sedans in your fleet.

The Edge was introduced in 2007. It is powered by a 265-hp, 3.5L DOHC V-6 with variable valve timing, bolted to a 6-speed trans. The Edge comes standard with front, roof-rail and seat airbags, and with Ford’s (electronic stability control) AdvanceTrac® stability control as a safety device.

The Edge is built of off one of Ford’s most proven platforms, the CD3. This designation stands for C/D-class and is a Ford global midsize car platform. This in an improved version of the excellent Mazda6 platform and is now used by the Fusion. The Edge uses a lengthened version of this same CD3-Mazda 6-Fusion platform. The Edge is built at Ford’s Oakville Assembly Complex in Ontario, Canada.

Interior Room Like CVPI

The Edge has a front seat roomy enough for a 6-foot 4-inch officer wearing a duty belt. The front seat head and legroom in the Edge are within an inch of the Ford CVPI. The front seat hip room on the Edge is not as wide as the CVPI, but with full gun belt on, we could find the seat belt receptacle and latch the belt. No front seat dimensions on the Edge were smaller than the Dodge Charger or Chevy Impala.

The rear seat head, hip and legroom in the Edge are roomier than the CVPI, especially the rear legroom. With the front seat adjusted for a 6-foot 4-inch officer, the Edge had enough rear seat room for that same officer to sit in real comfort. The rear shoulder room on the Edge is about an inch less than the CVPI, but overall, the rear seat room is greater than the CVPI, Charger and Impala.

The Edge does not have a third-row seat, and there is no provision for one. This is the main difference between a midsize crossover like the Edge and a full-size crossover like the Ford Flex. When raised, the Edge liftgate height allows a 6-foot-tall officer to walk under the lowest part. The Edge is 10 inches taller than the Ford CVPI but 2.5 inches narrower and more than 2 feet shorter.

The higher ride height does two things. First, it allows extremely easy entrance exit from the vehicle. You don’t step up or stoop down to get in. You just get in. You don’t climb up or jump down to get out. You just get out. You don’t notice how comfortable this entry and exit is until you do it in full uniform for a full patrol shift, thus the “one ticket book review.” Second, the higher ride height gives better visibility of everything going on around you, including farther down the road.

Trunk Size Equals CVPI

The official cargo capacity of the Edge is 32.2 cubic feet. An even more important figure is the amount of space under the line of vision out the rear window. We measured the space behind the seat without blocking any of the view out the rear window, i.e., no higher than the top of the rear seat or the bottom of the rear window. Not counting the well for the mini-spare, from the floor behind the rear seat to the top of the rear seat, the Edge has 21.0 cf of cargo space. That is exactly the same usable cargo space as the Ford CVPI trunk, and much more space than the Impala and Charger, at 18.6 cf and 16.2 cf, respectively.

Faster than a Speeding CVPI

The Edge’s 265-hp DOHC V-6 with a 6-speed produces an entirely different “seat of the pants” feel than the Ford CVPI’s 250-hp SOHC with a 4-speed. The Edge IS faster than the Ford CVPI, Impala and Charger V-6. It is faster to 60 mph, 100 mph and to its top speed of 115 mph.

Performance

The zero-to-60 mph time is a critical performance measurement for the low speeds of urban and suburban patrol. The 265-hp Edge hits 60 mph in 7.7 seconds, which is a full second faster than the 8.7 seconds for the Ford CVPI, based on Michigan State Police results for 2006, 2007 and 2008.

The 265-hp Edge runs the ¼-mile in 16.0 seconds at 86.9 mph. In comparison, the Ford CVPI runs the ¼-mile in 16.6 seconds at 86.2 mph. The Edge is faster much than the CVPI on the mid-range speeds seen in rural or county patrol.

The Edge hits 100 mph in 22.7 seconds, a critical measure for the high speeds of state police and highway patrol. Again, this is a full second faster than the Ford CVPI. The Edge is a little flat in the 90-to-100 mph range, but then it picks up the pace and pulls strong all the way to 115 mph, the electronically limited top speed.

The Edge is perky if not downright aggressive at the bottom end. Just when you think torque steer is a thing of the past, along comes this kind of power. No kidding. You don’t just smash the throttle without tightly hanging onto the wheel. Under partial throttle at low speeds, the Edge is very passive. Under full throttle at low speeds, the Edge is very aggressive, like wheelspin and torque steer after making a sharp U-turn at the crossover on a divided highway. Sweet!

Test protocols will differ slightly between everyone testing a vehicle, but the overall answer is this: the 3.5L V-6 Edge accelerates to its top speed of 115 mph faster than the 4.6L V-8 CVPI, the 3.9L V-6 Impala and 3.5L V-6 Charger. The Edge has the performance for urban policing, and it has the performance for rural policing.

Brakes Were Just Fine

An Internet search of driving reviews (some credible, some not so much), all pointed to one apparent weak spot in the Edge: braking distances. The conjecture of these journalists was that brakes designed for a Fusion may not be big enough for an Edge, weighing 400 pounds more. Brake testing protocols vary widely, with some reviewers doing cold brake panic stops and some doing their testing on hot-hot brakes. In very general terms, the Edge may stop from 60 mph in 150 feet, compared to 120 feet for other midsize crossovers.

We put 1,400 miles on the Edge and totally disagree with these retail-oriented journalists. We did not notice any shortcoming in the brakes. And we drove the Edge in a decidedly more aggressive way and for a longer period of time, than the typical writer’s daylong ride-and-drive. Of course, the solution to braking distance, if it is an issue, is an easy upgrade from retail brake pads to aftermarket semi-metallic pads.

Driving Impressions

During a couple days of task force traffic enforcement, including 40-over enforcement on a holiday weekend, we had a chance to drive the Edge in a whole different way than Ford intends for a retail vehicle. We repeatedly did hard braking from highway speeds, did turn-arounds on median crossovers as fast as the tires would let us, accelerated to well past 100 mph, drove at the top speed for extended periods, braked to a stop and then idled for a while, i.e., regular traffic enforcement.

We did urban speed accident avoidance maneuvers (sudden lane change) and highway speed evasive maneuvers (sudden lane change, then change back). We accelerated as early around entrance ramps and braked as late around exit ramps as the tires and electronic stability control would allow.

The Edge handles like a high roll center Fusion, which, of course, it is. However, the retail Fusion handles in a much sportier way than the retail Taurus, and this sporty heritage carries over to the Edge. At one point, we had 450 pounds of gear in the back. The rear-end sag and the effect on handling was nil. Body roll was both very minimal and predictable, without any wallow or tail wagging. It’s not a Mustang, but it is very easy to drive hard.

With traction control and the 8.0-inch ground clearance of a Tahoe, the Edge is a median-crossing marvel. (The Ford CVPI has 5.5 inches of ground clearance.) The Edge handles much more responsively than its SUV-like ground clearance should allow. Hard to believe, but the FWD Edge crossover handled more confidently than the AWD Taurus sedan. (See the July-August 2008 issue of Police Fleet Manager at www.pfmmag.com)

The Edge has one very valuable option for police work, an option that makes the step from retail to special service or policing a relatively small one: a Class II Trailer Tow Package. No, you won’t use the tow hitch, but you certainly want the auxiliary engine oil cooler, larger radiator, upgraded cooling fans and upgraded battery. Our test vehicle was a low-trim SEL with FWD, and we couldn’t have been happier with it for the various tasks of policing. We can only imagine the AWD version with the Trailer Tow Package. The perfect police car.

Gas Mileage

The EPA estimates, using its revised testing procedure, are 16 City / 24 Hwy for the FWD version with a combined mileage of 19. The AWD version is 15 City / 22 Hwy. We drove the Edge in traditional traffic enforcement, cruised on interstates, did some county patrol, then suburban calls for service, and finally braved Chicago’s brutal rush hour traffic a couple of times.

We idled with the A/C on during traffic enforcement and the different photo sessions. We did formal acceleration and top speed tests, then as many blasts past 100 mph as we wrote tickets. On the interstates, however, we limited the cruise speeds to 70 mph. In 1,400 miles of mixed driving, we averaged 19.7 mpg, doing real police work, which confirms the EPA Combined estimate of 19 mpg.

Drawbacks?

The center console with floor shifter is, of course, the biggest issue. And, this center console isn’t going anywhere in the foreseeable future. One option is to simply work around what is there and make creative use of the compartment in the center. Another option is an aftermarket replacement console like what Havis-Shields has done for the current Explorer. Of course, no one is going to make such a device until enough demand exists.

Upfit gear? Again, nothing from anyone will fit. That means either custom-made brackets or universal-fit brackets. LED lights are easy to install, even the lightbars. But prisoner partitions, push bumpers, trunk-cargo trays are a challenge. In-car camera mounts, radar antenna mounts and MDT mounts are all a challenge. Frankly, while none of this is easy, neither is any of this a show-stopper. Any competent upfitter should be able to do it. The first one, however, will take awhile.

What You Gonna Do?

Gas prices are making you question your V-8-powered sedan. But the trunks in some of the police sedans are too small for the gear you are now carrying. Or you still want the performance of a V-8 but want to use less gas. Gas prices are forcing you to get rid of the truck-based SUVs in your fleet, but you still need to carry a lot of gear. Or you still need the ground clearance, traction AWD and occasionally off-road capabilities. A crossover is the answer. With policing in mind, the Edge is an awesome crossover. Frankly, the Edge is the perfect replacement for the disappearing “large” police car.

Published in Law and Order, Mar 2009

Rating : Not Yet Rated


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