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2013 LA Auto Show: Ford Edge Concept

Listening to Jim Farley, Ford’s marketing top dog, at a private preview event for the Ford Edge Concept before the LA Auto Show gives us a very clear idea what’s important to the Blue Oval these days. Within the first 60 seconds, a person could run out of fingers counting the number of times Farley mentioned the “utility” segment.

It’s no surprise; even with ever-rising gas prices, utilities are in hot demand (just like pickups), and Ford wants to have one in every size to fit every lifestyle. They’re even dumping F-350s full of cash into their Canadian production facility in Oakville in order to build utilities here and ship them to Europe and Ford’s most important utility market, China.

The Edge Concept (and by “concept,” we mean in name only) is a significant step for Ford. Even though overall proportions are similar and the design language is more evolution than revolution, Ford put some serious thought into the Edge Concept; about 90% of the concept is expected to make it’s way to production, after all.

2014 Ford Edge Concept
Photo: Mark Stevenson

The next Edge will be a truly global product and it’s important they get it right. The goal: Make the Edge leaner, “futurize” it, and give people something emotionally appealing while retaining the charismatic and muscular nature customers expect.

Creating a vehicle slightly narrower toward the top will give it a sportier and leaner appearance. While the Edge Concept certainly has a familiar silhouette (how much can you really do with an SUV?), the designers at Ford have penned in this lean and sporty quality by giving everything a slight tuck, especially in greenhouse width and tapering in the hood.

Up front, the Ford Edge Concept introduces a familiar technology in a whole new way. Active grille shutters are nothing new, but by adding some chrome and integrating them into the design of the vehicle, Ford has created a truly handsome and impressive active design element, setting the Edge Concept apart from the rest.

2014 Ford Edge Concept
Photo: Mark Stevenson

Further down, below the reshaped headlamps and boomerang-style LED fog lamps, an opening exists between the body-colour bumper and lower fascia to allow air to slip through the bodywork. This blade of air, similar to that which comes out of a Dyson hand dryer, is then spun 90 degrees and shot across the face of the front wheels. Ford calls it Air Curtain, an attempt to smooth the turbulent air travelling down the side of the vehicle by creating, literally, a curtain of air in front of the wheel. Smoothing the air results in greater efficiency, something the automakers are scrambling for these days.

Around back, the Ford Edge Concept compliments the front with additional advanced lighting. Small, polished crystal cubes are embedded in the taillamp housings to give greater visual clarity. Much like Chrysler has done with the Charger and Durango, the Edge Concept features a LED ribbon across the tailgate connecting the two taillamps.

2014 Ford Edge Concept
Photo: Mark Stevenson

Inside, the Ford Edge Concept looks rather production-ready. A floating console was borrowed from the current Ford Fusion, while a large display with SYNC MyFord Touch gets primary billing upon the dash. Below the touchscreen sits a number of primary controls, mostly traditional buttons, to manipulate on-screen functions.

However, when you start looking at the details, true concept ideas start to take shape. Tying into the orange-y/red (I’m a guy, and that’s a real colour) paint scheme outside, Ford has adopted copper accents for the interior. Copper inserts in the front headrests, shift knob, and other touch points begin to emerge. You aren’t truly amazed until you examine the carbon fiber trim.

Using a special carbon fiber weaving process, Ford incorporated single strands of copper wire between strands of fiber. The result is a copper-tick accent throughout the carbon fiber trim used; a nice upscale touch even if it is completely useless and unnecessary (they did call it a concept, I suppose).

2014 Ford Edge Concept
Photo: Mark Stevenson

Under the skin of it all, Ford really aimed at being a technology leader in the segment, and across their entire lineup of cars and trucks. The company showcased a number of new safety and convenience features that will surely maintain the Edge’s traditionally high transaction prices.

Equipped on the current Ford Focus, if a person so chooses, a self-parking system has the ability to maneuver automatically into parallel spaces. With the Ford Edge Concept, engineers wanted to up the ante by giving the utility the ability to park itself in parking lots -- without the driver. Through a series of button presses and other electronic wizardry, the driver can instruct the on-board computer and camera system to find an empty spot, leave the car in the laneway, and hit a button on the fob to have the vehicle put itself in the available space.

On the safety front, Ford integrated their latest version of advanced obstacle avoidance systems into the Edge Concept. If sensors in the car detect an impending collision, the system will steer you out of harm’s way and into the next lane if possible.