What is it?
What better way to test the 4x4 credentials of Ford’s new SUV and its intelligent All-Wheel Drive system than on a crisp winter’s morning and on a mixture of wet and slushy frozen ground?
Much rests on the capability of the Edge given its position at the helm of the manufacturer’s SUV range in the UK, especially as it's going up against strong rivals such as Mazda's CX-5 as well as more premium offerings such as the BMW X3 and Audi Q5.
Buyers will be given a choice of two variants of Ford's 2.0-litre Duratorq diesel engine, with 177bhp and 207bhp versions available from launch. The former is mated to a six-speed manual and the latter, which we're experiencing, to Ford's six-speed Powershift dual-clutch automatic gearbox.
What's it like?
Inside, first impressions of the Edge are positive, with the lashings of leather on our particular car giving it a premium feel not too dissimilar from an Audi Q5 or BMW X3, although the basic dashboard architecture looks to have been borrowed from the Kuga, which isn't quite so premium.
Beyond that parts-bin similarity, however, it's very different. The instrument binnacle has a fresh look, while the centre console is dominated by an 8in Sony infotainment system, which includes sat-nav, Bluetooth, DAB and the ability to control certain cabin features, such as climate control, the heated seats and steering wheel.
There's good space for two in the front, while the rear quarters are spacious enough for two adults to sit in comfort, with ample head and leg room. The middle seat is certainly useable for short journeys, although shoulder space is at a premium. It's a refined space, too: this more powerful diesel is quiet on start-up, with very little noise making its way into the cabin.
As soon as the asphalt gives way to the rough stuff, the Edge's all-wheel drive system adjusts automatically to the changing level of grip. Ford’s intelligent set-up defaults to sending the torque to the front wheels to ensure the best fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions.
However, if the terrain or road conditions change for the worse and the system detects that traction from the front is being lost, the system can deliver a 50/50 front/rear torque split within 20 milliseconds. With the system being so quick to react, the only way of keeping track of where the power is going is via an infographic on the instrument binnacle.
It's clever - although not necessarily new - technology, but does it work in practice? Well, the short answer is yes. It's impressive at adapting quickly to the changing circumstances, but this is no hardcore off-roader - and to be fair, Ford isn't pitching it that way.
Deeper into the off-road course at Ford’s proving ground in Lommel, Belgium, it becomes clear that the Edge is at home tackling dirt tracks, with the suspension happily absorbing the impacts across the unevenness. Only the very largest protrusions catch the Ford out, with the suspension feeling a touch eager on rebound.
Even so, the Edge tackled the course, including a couple of steep, rutted inclines and a sharp descent, manfully and with minimal fuss. There were a couple of occasions where the four-wheel drive system could be felt in action, with the front wheels beginning to start to slip, but the rears quickly rectified the situation.