The first Ford Performance SUV. (Ford)

2019 Ford Edge ST test drive: Who needs sports cars?

Ford is getting out of the family car business to focus on trucks and utilities, which means its sports sedans and hot hatchbacks are also hitting the road out of town.

But even high-riding folks like to have a little fun – and don’t mind spending a lot of money for it – so Ford is cranking up the “sport” in its utility vehicles, starting with the 2019 Edge ST.

(Ford)

It’s the first SUV tuned by the Ford Performance division, which is behind the Shelby Mustangs, Ford GT supercar and F-150 Raptor, and is meant to be a step above last year’s Edge Sport.

The entire Edge lineup has been updated for 2019, with the most significant changes coming under the skin. The big giveaway in the cabin is the switch from a gear selector lever to a knob and the addition of Ford’s latest Alexa, Apple and Android-compatible infotainment system.

(Ford)

All trim levels, including the $29,995 entry level Edge SE, also come with Ford’s CoPilot360 driver aid package, which includes automatic emergency brakes, adaptive cruise control and an active lane-centering system. The last of those is a hands-on feature that will disengage if you let go of the wheel for more than 15 seconds or so, and is nowhere near as robust as Tesla’s Autopilot or Cadillac’s Super Cruise.

(Ford)

The $43,450 ST swaps the standard 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine for a 2.7-liter V6 with 335 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque that puts it in league with the likes of the Audi Q8 and BMW X5. Its all-wheel-drive system features a fuel-saving disconnect that lets it operate in two-wheel-drive most of the time and contributes to a 26 mpg highway fuel economy rating, which beats the 308 hp Chevy Blazer RS’s mark of 25 mpg. More impressive, however, is the fact that it equals the EPA rating of the Ford Fusion Sport sedan that's powered by the same engine as the Edge ST and is much sleeker and smaller.

What the Edge ST doesn’t feature are any cool Ford Performance tricks, like a drift mode, a liquid cooling system for the power transfer unit to the rear driveshaft suggests it was built to handle a habitually hot shoe.

Much attention was paid to the suspension, which has been lowered and stiffened to improve handling, but not too much to make it uncomfortable. The Edge ST has a luxurious tank-like feel with a ride remains smooth enough to fool you into thinking it has some of those fancy electronic adaptive shock absorbers, which it does not.

(Ford)

It does have the sort of deep bucket seats you’d find in a sports car. They aren’t very cushy, but do a good job of holding you in place in the curves. The Edge ST takes them pretty well for a tall boy, and can presumably do even better when equipped with an optional $2,695 package that adds upgraded brakes, 21-inch wheels, and sticky summer tires that trade all-season utility for dry road grip.

Unless you’ve really been dreaming of taking a Ford SUV to the track, you can probably live without it. The Edge ST is more than fun enough for public roads. The power from that turbocharged engine comes on like a tidal wave and is entirely satisfying. I brought it to an event where I drove a couple of dozen sporty cars and wasn’t really longing for any of them as I took the long, winding way home. Except maybe for the Mustang, which Ford is planning on keeping around.

The Fusion Sport, on the other hand, is on deathwatch. But considering it currently starts at $41,010, the Edge ST isn't a bad alternative at all.

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2019 Ford Edge ST

Base price: $43,450

As tested: $49,825

Type: 4-door, 5-passenger all-wheel-drive SUV

Engine: 2.7-liter turbocharged 6-cylinder

Power: 335 hp, 380 lb-ft torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

MPG: 19 city/26 hwy