We sit down with Ed Krenz, chief functional engineer for Ford Performance
As the chief functional engineer for Ford Performance and the chief program engineer for the Ford GT, Ed Krenz has years of experience bringing high-performance cars to market. But his latest project is a little different. It’s Ford’s first performance crossover, the Edge ST. Recently, we sat down with him to ask him a few questions.
What was it about the Edge that made you guys say, “Hey, let’s make this the one that we’re gonna turn into our first ST crossover?”
As a strategy, going back over a year, the decision was made that we were going to migrate what had traditionally been Sports, across different SUVs, to STs. And my role in that exercise was to define what the ST is, what it means, it’s attribute requirements, and the content required to deliver that across the different SUV products. The sequence of which they come forward is really more of a function of the program cycles, and cycle plans. As opposed to, “Let’s lead with the Edge and then follow with the Explorer.” But it was more of a strategic decision that we wanted to take the on-road SUVs, a very growing segment, within the Ford Performance team and really show their capability.
What would you say makes this an ST as opposed to just a sportier Edge Sport?
[With] the Edge Sport, it has a big engine. Big wheels. But really, outside of the engine, it was more of an appearance package. When we moved to the ST, we took all of the DNA from the Focus and Fiesta STs and the heritage of STs and refined that with a competitive set and a customer profile, and we created customer expectations of what an ST is. Really those four things that we call the DNA principals are: fun to drive, so vehicle dynamics; performance; sustained capability; and appearance. And all the content on that vehicle, I can attribute to one of those four key elements of the DNA that fundamentally the STs achieve and fundamentally the Sports don’t.
Can you talk a little bit about that third one, sustained capability?
What sustained capability means to Ford Performance is sustained track capability. So the Edge ST, with my vehicle dynamics team and my powertrain team that do Shelbys for a living developed the chassis setup on the track. And we do objective testing to ensure no powertrain derate and no brake fade through a specific track cycle. Once again, that’s what dictates the upgrade of brake rotors, what drives the incremental coolers, and the front end opening of 40 percent increased airflow, to really allow this thing to cool.
Is there something you wish could have been part of the car but for whatever reason didn’t make it?
I’ll tell you the item, the single specific attribute, that we’ll continue to improve is the transmission software. We have a new eight-speed transmission, fundamentally very capable. Our target is DCT-like shift speeds. We’re not quite there yet. We will see, we know how to do it, and we will get there over time with additional software.
Were there any specific performance metrics or vehicles that you tried to benchmark against?
So when we do a Focus ST, there’s a very clear competitive set. And we have the vehicles, we benchmark the vehicles, and we set targets to position the product appropriately. With the Edge ST, when we set out and were like, “All right, who are we competing with?” It was kind of a blank space. And we—much against what our marketing team would prefer to do—we ended up having to go out looking at some of the premium sport SUVs just to give us some direction on where that segment should be. I personally went out and benchmarked with my team: Audi SQ5, Porsche Macan, and several of our objective targets are derived from those types of vehicles. But you know, the big takeaway from this product is it really is in a, from a non-premium sport utility, it’s kind of a one of a kind at the moment.
Now, are you guys gonna go out and turn some hot laps on famous tracks so that you can show off the Edge ST’s times?
As I said, we’ve developed the vehicle on the track. The reason we’ve done that is we don’t believe most of our customers are aspiring this vehicle as a track vehicle. Certainly, if they do, we’re happy for them to do it. We think it’ll be capable. We develop it on the track for the more aggressive enthusiast, on-road driving. The twisties, for example, that we got to experience here in Utah. It’s just a safer environment for us to do the development work. We have no plans right now to take this vehicle out and do track comparison tests, but if we’re asked to do so, I’m happy to show it off.
Who’s that person that you put up on the wall and say, “This is who our theoretical buyer is,” for the Edge ST?
I would say there’s absolutely two people on the wall. The first person on the wall might look like somebody that has a family or a lifestyle that requires utility and capability. And up to this point that person has had to sacrifice the performance driving capability at an affordable level. That’s certainly one target. Somebody that maybe previously wouldn’t have considered a Focus or Fiesta ST because it just wasn’t consistent with their lifestyle.
The second target is our Focus and Fiesta ST customer. And I met with a group of them this morning, social media influencers, and the goal of that discussion is really to allow them to ask questions around, “Why is the Edge ST an appropriate alternative from a Focus ST?” And I go back to, it’s the same DNA, it’s engineered to the same standards, and I think there’s gonna be a wide acceptance of our ST enthusiasts into these new products.