What is it?
The Ford Edge Vignale is the car that sits at the very top of Ford’s new semi-premium brand model tree. Building on the proposition of the normal Edge, it is a five-seater SUV that’s at once the size – and, now at least, potentially also the equal on leather-bound luxury and equipment level – of a generously kitted BMW X5 xDrive25d, but priced at many thousands of pounds less.
Built in Ontario, Canada and imported to Europe in fairly small numbers, the Edge may be a more comfortable fit for the premium-brand treatment than other models that have already been swept up into Ford’s Vignale family but that are a much more common sight on UK roads. Luxury 4x4s remain in high-demand in Europe; and the feedback of Ford dealers, who report customers demanding Edges in high trim levels and with lots of fitted options, has encouraged the Blue Oval to dare to take on the likes of BMW, Audi, Volvo and Mercedes with a large 4×4 priced at more than £40,000.
Just as things are with the rest of the Edge range, Vignale customers get an engine range limited to 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbodiesels, the lesser of which offers 178bhp and a six-speed manual gearbox and the greater 207bhp and a six-speed Powershift automatic. Both versions get four-wheel drive as standard.
Even so, the Edge is left looking underpowered compared with the more established full-sized 4x4s it seems made to undercut. On power, though, it is at least competitive with the medium-sized SUVs (Audi Q5, Land Rover Discovery Sport) that it’s directly priced against.
As the dedicated Vignale ‘relationship manager’ at your local Ford showroom might explain, the top-of-the-line Edge actually makes the buying process easier for anyone looking for a well-stocked car. You get a Sync3 touchscreen infotainment system, Sony DAB premium navigation, adaptive LED headlights and a lane keeping safety system as standard, where you’d have to pay for them as options further down the range. That leaves Vignale customers effectively paying less than £1000 for the car’s polished 19in alloy wheels, its exterior design tweaks and its extended ‘tuxedo-stitched’ two-tone Windsor leather. Going by this maths, the car’s price may not seem so crazy.
Given that Vignale models qualify for preferential finance deals compared with lesser Fords, stepping into one could actually save you money if your mind’s set on having as many options as you can afford. However, Ford isn’t giving everything away for free. The 20in alloys, panoramic glass sunroof, heated steering wheel, inflatable rear seatbelts, motorized steering column, wide-view camera, adaptive cruise control and active park assist on our test car were all cost-options, and pushed up the car’s after-options price beyond £45,000: a figure it may be best for prospective owners not to think about too hard.
What’s it like?
The Edge Vignale’s extended leather upholstery turns out to be quite an effective route to lifting the car’s cabin ambience. It’s very widely deployed indeed: not just on the seats, but the interior door panels and armrests, the centre console and the upper dashboard. And such generous use is a wise move, because the prominence of hard, dull interior plastics generally works towards the undoing of the regular Edge’s credibility as a decent rival to a European premium-brand SUV. The more of those plastics that can be covered up with plush hide, the more believable the car’s claim seems.
The Vignale’s prevailing standard on material quality isn’t totally convincing, though, and this is mostly to do with the few nastier, slightly ill-fitting bits of plastic that remain: the ugly-lidded central storage cubby sitting on top of the centre stack, for example, or the cover for the cubby at its base. You just wouldn’t find fittings this cheap feeling on the cars the Edge is trying to compete with. That’s a great shame because, where the cabin’s extra-rich design and specification works, it works well. The car’s seats are very comfy and appealing to the senses, occupant space is good and boot space is outstanding.
The Edge’s 207bhp 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine is well mannered at all times: smooth at a standstill, hushed at a cruise and remaining fairly civil even when stretched. It doesn’t make for particularly assertive outright pace in a car of this size and heft, but the engine does feel torquey and works particularly well with the twin-clutch gearbox on part-throttle, making the car easy-to-drive in town.
Contributing to interior refinement is an active noise cancellation system that detects cabin noise and broadcasts opposing sound waves to mitigate your perception of that noise. Since there’s no button to switch it on and off, it’s impossible to say how effective the system is – but the Edge certainly seems a pleasant cruiser. What Ford’s Vignale brochure may not make clear is that the noise cancelling system is standard-fit on the entry-level Edge, rather than a luxury-enabling perk of the full-house version.
Beneath the Edge’s skin there are, in fact, no mechanical differences between a Vignale and its brethren. But handily, Ford did a habitually thorough job of developing the regular car’s ride and handling – and so, like every Edge, the Vignale handles surprisingly keenly for something so large, and it rides quite well.
The standard-fit suspension and steering systems are well-suited to the car, endowing a taut but usually fluent primary ride, and a meaty and direct feel to the tiller that’s well-matched to the car’s grip levels, and that makes for a wieldy and pleasingly precise handling impression both around town and on a swooping B-road. On the motorway, there’s great high-speed stability to the chassis and plenty of centre-feel to the steering, too.
Our test car rode on optional 20in alloys and low-profile tyres, whose unsprung mass and shortness-of-sidewall was a bit noticeable in some brittleness to the ride over sharper edges, and some unhelpful weight to the steering off-centre. Neither shortcoming was enough to spoil a generally relaxed but responsive and enjoyable drive, though.
Should I buy one?
Of all of Ford’s first-generation Vignale models, the Edge is the most convincing. The desirability conferred by its quietly distinctive design and large SUV bodystyle makes its bid to be taken seriously as a pseudo-premium offering all the more acceptable.
The car’s well-resolved dynamism, its creditable refinement and its acres of leather add some substance to that bid – only for the cheaper parts of the cabin, and for what remains a disappointing infotainment system even in its latest guise, to take it away again.
Overall – until Ford can make what actually goes into its Vignale models as special as most of what wraps and dresses them, at any rate – we’d recommend saving your premium, buying a mid-spec Edge Titanium instead, and confining yourself to the more useful options in the catalogue.
Ford Edge Vignale 2.0 TDCI 210 Powershift AWD
Location Vienna, Austria; On sale now; Price £40,250; Engine 4cyls in line, 1997cc, turbodiesel; Power 207bhp at 3750rpm; Torque 332lb ft at 2000rpm; Gearbox 6-spd twin-clutch automatic; Kerbweight 1949kg; 0-62mph 9.4sec; Top speed 131mph; Economy 47.9mpg; CO2/tax band 152g/km, 30% Rivals: Land Rover Discovery Sport TD4 HSE Auto, Audi Q5 2.0 TDI Quattro S line