- The Washington Times - Friday, September 8, 2000

RENO, Nev. Hauling an abundance of charisma into the compact-pickup market is critical in attracting under-30-year-old buyers. For the 2001 model year, Ford is slicing into this fast-growing segment with a new Edge.

Sandwiched between the entry-level XL and top-line XLT in the Ranger lineup, Edge is built to lure buyers with its aggressive looks and mild price tag. Starting at $14,995, Edge stands out with a bold monochromatic exterior and tall stance. Whether purchased as a two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, the 4x4 ride height with 7.4-inch ground clearance is maintained. Tow hooks peek through front bumper fascias of 2WD and 4WD models, adding 4x4 flavoring.

The chrome-yellow test trucks illuminated the drab desert terrain outside of Reno, glowing like neon signs until veiled with an off-road dusting. Available in red, blue and black, Edge's monocolor theme and body reshaping team to create maximum macho appeal. Most notable among sheet-metal upgrades is the resculpted hood with raised "power dome," giving the illusion something monstrous lurks beneath. Distinctive thick bumpers with round fog lamps and bulging fender flares also contribute to Edge's muscular, monochromatic exterior effect.

Monocolor mystique is strategically interrupted with touches of black. Borrowing from its full-size F-Series sibling, the grille is a black honeycombed mesh. Black door handles, side mirrors and box rails offer an additional contrast. High on functionality and visual impact, thick box rails elevate bed sides, keeping the rear in sync with the raised hood. Optional black step bars add similar appeal below and offer an appreciated boost into the tall cab. Punctuating the fact that Edge is no ordinary pickup is "EDGE," powerfully inscribed with block lettering just ahead of the rear wheel-well openings.

Another touch of black comes with the standard P235/75R-15 outline white-letter tires the same as those fitted on XLT 4x4s. Wheels are chromed steel and provide the only sizable flash of chrome. Grabbing a bigger chunk of road surface and eye appeal are optional P245/75R-16 outline white-letter all-terrain tires with five-spoke aluminum-alloy wheels. Power to these wheels is supplied by a standard 3-liter V-6 or optional new-for-2001 4-liter V-6. The 3-liter delivers 150 horsepower and 185 foot-pounds of torque, and the 4-liter cranks out 207 horsepower and 238 foot-pounds of torque.

The standard transmission for both power plants is a five-speed manual. A tall shifter plugged into the floor delivers the expected no-frills, tough-truck appeal. A "smart" five-speed automatic transmission is an option delivering enhanced performance that might wean some away from a manual gearbox. This new-design automatic features adaptive-shift technology, which varies shifting to suit driving styles. Mild-mannered driving may push a shift into a higher gear earlier to accommodate leisurely driving. Aggressive stomps on the accelerator can result in shift points held longer to milk out optimum power.

Linked with either transmission, the 4-liter maintains a healthy torque curve that handles the average driver's highway and off-road needs. Nevada's higher elevations didn't flatter the 3-liter, which felt anemic on uphill climbs. A decent performer on flat land, the 3-liter's plus is its fuel economy, estimated at 18.9 mpg, city and 27.8 mpg, highway. The 4-liter posts estimated fuel-economy figures of 17.7 mpg, city and 25 mpg, highway.

Successfully maneuvering the 4-liter 4x4 through a twisting off-road track with challenging sections of deep dirt, mud, dips and bumps drove home the message Edge is an ideal battlewagon for weekend warriors. With "wash-and-wear" interior there isn't anxiety about getting off-road grime into the cab. Front seats are 60/40-split benches covered in durable cloth and vinyl, and super cab rear jump seats are vinyl. Big boot imprints are no problem for the floor, which is entirely covered in a rinse-and-ready textured rubber.

Along with tires sloshing mud or crunching rocks, young Edge buyers generally are interested in sounds pumped through a high-quality stereo system. In tune with these consumers, Ford made one exception to the no-frills interior a standard 60-watt, four-speaker, AM/FM/single-CD audio system. An optional 80-watt unit with six-disc in-dash CD player is expected to be a popular upgrade.

Scheduled to roll into showrooms in late September, Edge's pumped-up exterior design and paint treatment are ideal for those who like cruising in a wheeled billboard that flashes, "Hey, look at me."

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