Too dull? What will the aging 2021 Ford Edge bring to the fight against newer five-seat midsize crossovers?

Ford Edge with Titanium Elite appearance package

By Ed Piotrowski and CarPreview staff

What changes will make the 2021 Ford Edge different?

Very little. This five-passenger, midsize crossover is treading water until an all-new Edge arrives in calendar 2022 for the ’22 or ’23 model year. That’s a painful wait for a vehicle last redesign for model-year 2015. Despite a model-year-’19 freshening, today’s Edge looks and feels stale against a host of younger rivals.

Still, with sales regularly topping 100,000 annually, Edge has been a consistent asset to Ford. Sales were up 2 percent through the third quarter of 2019, showing it still appeals to buyers, even against newer, more refined, and better driving five-seat rivals such as the Chevrolet Blazer, Honda Passport, Subaru Outback, and Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport.

Minor feature tweaks and new paint colors are likely the only changes of note for 2021. The Edge will again slot between the compact Escape and the larger, but still-midsize seven-passenger Explorer in Ford’s crossover lineup. It shares its underskin engineering with the Nautilus, from the automaker’s premium Lincoln division. Originally badged the MKX, the Nautilus was also freshened for model-year 2019. It has more upscale styling and luxurious appointments than the Edge, and its sales climbed 21 percent through 2019’s first three quarters. Nautilus is on the same redesign timetable as its Ford cousin.

Should I wait for the 2021 model or buy the 2020?

You should probably hold out for the redesigned model. We know that’s a significant wait, but it’ll be the only way to get a truly modern Edge. Although it’ll reportedly retain a front-wheel-drive-based platform and not transition to Explorer’s new rear-drive foundation, the next Edge will probably offer a gas-electric-hybrid, unlike today’s lineup. 

The main argument for shopping a 2021 Edge is the sporty, 335-horsepower ST model — although it is among the priciest entries in the competitive set. Otherwise, the crossovers mentioned above, along with the Hyundai Santa Fe and even the warhorse Jeep Grand Cherokee, are better alternatives.

The 2021 Edge lineup should be a rerun of the 2020’s:  SE, SEL, Titanium, and ST.  trim levels. The ST will remain the only ’21 Edge with a V-6 engine; the others will return exclusively with a turbocharged four-cylinder. All-wheel drive (AWD) would remain standard on the ST and a nearly $2,000 option otherwise. Expect the SEL to again account for around 47 percent of Edge sales, the Titanium at 35 percent, the ST 10 percent, and the SE 8 percent.

Will the styling be different?

Ford Edge ST

Not before the next redesign. In fact, the ’21 will retain the basic shape Edge has had since the first-generation version launched back in 2007. The 2015 second-generation took no styling risks, even with a minor model-year-’19 facelift.

Not even its blackout grille, lower body addenda, extra-cost “Rapid Red” paint, and optional 21-inch gloss black wheels can fully deliver the ST from the gravitational blandness of its stablemates. Until the next redesign, Edge will epitomize generic crossover design. Does it strike you as comfortingly traditional or troublingly conventional? 

Ford Edge Titanium interior

Inside, every 2021 Edge will again feature a dashboard and control layout little changed since 2011, when the first-generation was refreshed. It is functional, with an available pair of driver-customizable LCD screens that can show trip data, a tachometer, audio playback, or navigation information. All models come with an 8-inch touchscreen integrated with the upper center dashboard. For better or worse, that’s contrary to today’s attached-tablet trend, although there’s no debate that its diameter is on the small side these days.

Although some climate settings are made through the touchscreen, most have separate, physical controls, which you’ll appreciate. And the ’21 Edge will continue with some advanced connectivity features, including Apple CarPlay, Google Android Auto, Waze, and Amazon Alexa. Note that Ford eliminated the CD player from the 2020 Titanium and ST, and don’t be surprised if its banished across the Edge lineup for ’21.

Edge’s interior materials will for the most part remain nothing special. The swath of dull, hard plastic covering the central control stack is an eyesore. The Titanium and ST should again come with rich-enough leather upholstery. New for 2020 was the Elite Package for the Titanium; it included nicer contrast stitching and aluminum instrument-panel appliques. And the ST will continue with contrasting stitching and metal- and carbon-fiber-look accents. These help spruce things up, but the overall ambiance still lags that of top rivals.

Passenger accommodations will again be quite good. The SE, SEL, and Titanium should reprise front bucket seats that are very cushy but are shy on thigh and lateral support. Turns taken quickly can send you sliding across the Titanium’s leather upholstery. The ST’s sport buckets deliver much more support without feeling confining.

Rear seaters will again enjoy generous leg, shoulder, and headroom on a couchlike 60/40 split/folding bench with a backrest that reclines. It’s a selling point, along with cargo volume near the top of the competitive set, at 39.2 cubic feet behind the rear seatbacks and 73.4 with them folded.

Any mechanical changes?

Ford Edge ST

Not for ’21. Edge SE, SEL, and Titanium models will reprise a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 250 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque. It’ll again link to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Unfortunately, the turbo four feels overmatched here. You must mash the gas pedal to get a semblance of strong acceleration. The transmission does its best to keep the engine in its optimal power band, but there’s only so much it can do. Of little assistance are steering-wheel paddles that let the driver mimic manual-type gear control; they’re standard with AWD.

Ride comfort is best with the standard 18-inch tires and alloy wheels standard on the SE and SEL, the 19s included with the Titanium. The Titanium’s optional 20s are less absorbent and, oddly, seem to introduce unwanted body motions over rough pavement. Regardless of wheel size, SE, SEL, and Titanium Edges will likely remain segment backmarkers for handling. They’re composed enough, but the steering is numb and they show little appetite for spirited cornering. Directly competing Blazer or Passport models have honed road manners these Edges can’t match.

Edge ST drivers should again enjoy a far more engaging experience. The Ford Performance Team that tuned the ST’s engine, eight-speed automatic transmission, and suspension did a fine job breathing new life into an aging crossover. The ’21 ST will return with a twin-turbocharged 2.7-liter V-6 of 335 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque. Be a just little liberal with the throttle and that ample torque helps it get away from a stop with authority and merge and pass with real muscle.

The ST rides notably firmer than other Edges, but its tamped-down suspension copes more confidently with bumps and wavy pavement. To keep the ride from becoming harsh, avoid the optional 21-inch wheels and tires and stick with its standard 20s. Sadly, neither choice does much to make the ST feel as alert as it should when you command it to change direction quickly. Given the ST’s performance positioning, there’s a lack of handling finesse here that disappoints.

AWD aids the grip and balance of any Edge, even on dry pavement. The system should return as a $1,995 option for the SE, SEL, and Titanium in place of standard front-wheel drive. It’ll remain standard on the ST. It’s not intended for off-road work more demanding than negotiating rutted gravel paths. But it is a traction advantage in snow. The system operates in front-wheel drive until sensors detect tire slip, then automatically apportions power fore and aft to maintain progress. When in front-drive, it disengages the linkage to the rear wheels as an efficiency strategy.

Will fuel economy improve?

Ford Edge with Titanium Elite appearance package

Unlikely. The ’21 should reprise the 2020 Edge’s EPA ratings. That would keep the four-cylinder models in the upper tier of the class for fuel economy, while the ST would again be reasonably fuel efficient given its power.

Expect the 2021 Edge SE, SEL, and Titanium to again rate 21/29/24 mpg city/highway/combined with front-wheel drive and 21/28/23 with AWD. An AWD Titanium review sample averaged 21 mpg in our suburban test loop. The ’21 ST should again rate a laudable 19/26/21 mpg. We averaged 18 mpg during our test, but we dealt with lots of urban crawling and dealt out more than a few jackrabbit starts.

While both engines will again be tuned for regular-grade 87-octane gasoline, Ford should continue to recommend costlier premium-grade 91 octane for best performance.

Will there be new features?

Expect no changes of consequence, but the features set is already praiseworthy.

Credit Ford with again making a fine array of safety gear standard on every Edge trim level. This includes autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning with automatic steering correction, automatic high beam headlights, and blind-spot and rear cross-traffic detection.

Also returning as standard should be FordPass Connect telematics with built-in WiFi hotspot connectivity, Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment suite with CarPlay and Android Auto, keyless access, pushbutton ignition, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and dual-zone automatic climate control.

The ’21 SEL would again add LED fog lights, rear-obstacle detection, upgraded audio system, and heated power front seats. Titanium grades would get front-obstacle detection, remote engine start, Bang & Olufsen-brand audio system, leather upholstery, driver-seat memory positioning, a heated steering wheel, hands-free power rear liftgate, and a wireless smartphone charger. Expect the ’21 Edge ST to again include most of the Titanium’s equipment, save for the heated steering wheel and power liftgate.

Will 2021 prices be different?

Don’t look for Ford to raise prices much beyond the rate of inflation. Given that, here are 2020 Edge prices for reference. Base prices here include the manufacturer’s $1,095 destination fee, which could increase for 2021.

The 2020 Edge SE started at $32,195 with front-wheel drive and at $34,190 with AWD, the SEL at $35,450 and $36,445, respectively. Base price for the Titanium was $39,195 with front-drive and $41,190 with AWD. The AWD-only ST was priced from $44,360.

Key returning options would again include the Ford Co-Pilot360 Assist+ Package. Available on the SEL, Titanium, and ST for a very reasonable $795 or so, it should again include an imbedded navigation system, adaptive radar cruise control, and Evasive Steering Assist, which provides additional steering support if the radar sensors detect a potentially unavoidable collision.

Ford’s CoPilot 360 Assist+ upgrade should again be available as part of a $4,150 option package on the Titanium. It’ll include all the above plus a front-facing 180-degree camera, heated outboard rear seats, hands-free parallel park and reverse perpendicular park assist, side-obstacle detection, and a panoramic sunroof (a $1,595 standalone option otherwise).

A similar package would be available on the 2021 Edge ST at a cost of around $4,840. It should again include a feature that reclaims engine heat to warm the transmission faster. Ordering this package would be required to access the available 21-inch wheels ($995) and high-performance brakes ($2,695).

Expect SE grades to return with no noteworthy factory options. For the ’21 SEL, the options list should again include a $935 Convenience Package with a wireless smartphone charger, built-in garage door transmitter, hands-free power liftgate, remote engine start, and an extra 110-volt cabin power outlet capable of delivering up to 150 watts of power.

Also expected to return is the Titanium Elite Package, which would include specific exterior and interior trim and cost around $1,595. Available on the SEL and ST, the $495 Cold Weather Package should again add a heated steering wheel and windshield wiper de-icer.

When does it come out?

The 2021 Ford Edge release date will likely be in the fall of 2020.

Best competitors

Chevrolet Blazer, Honda Passport, Hyundai Santa Fe, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Subaru Outback, Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]