Ford recently unveiled its 2021 Edge ST, which boasts a unique 7-speed transmission — but for eagle-eyed consumers, there’s something familiar about this transmission. In fact, it’s the same 8-speed HydraMatic 9Txx transmission developed with General Motors and used in previous Edge models, minus the shift from second to third gear. Will this change solve the issues consumers raised about Ford’s 8-speed transmission? Learn more about this design shift and what it may mean for Edge performance.
Ford’s 8-Speed Transmission — Complaints of Laggy Performance and Poor Efficiency
Ford’s 8-speed transmission used in the 2019 and 2020 Edge models unfortunately suffered from two big problems: poor fuel economy and a somewhat laggy performance. Although this transmission is cutting-edge in many ways (using two driving clutches and four brake clutches to create all eight forward speeds), consumers noted that there was a bit of a delay in boost after stepping on the gas.
Though this may not have been too noticeable in some of Ford’s smaller sedans or compact cars, for a heavy SUV like the Edge, this sluggishness was apparent to many drivers. And with gas prices likely to rise in the future, many consumers were understandably concerned about committing to a fuel-inefficient vehicle.
Initially, Ford planned to install a software update to improve these performance issues, but after some tinkering, it ultimately decided to keep the 8-speed as-is for existing models while dropping a gear and switching to a 7-speed model for new Edges. (It’s unclear whether this software update will eventually be available for prior year models or whether Ford intends its 7-speed transmission to essentially wipe the slate clean going forward.)
Dropping Second Gear and Boosting Transmission Performance
This new Edge ST transmission digitally eliminates the second gear, allowing drivers to shift directly from first to third. In concept, this will boost takeoff speed and eliminate any delays in shifting while also adding the slight bit of fuel economy that can come with reducing the number of times the transmission must shift. This is reportedly the first time that an auto manufacturer has digitally deleted a gear as part of a transmission redesign, but Ford is optimistic that this change will ensure that the Edge ST transmission is an appropriate partner for Ford’s award-winning EcoBoost engine. (Needless to say, this digital tweak is also far, far cheaper than redesigning a transmission that has only been in service for two model years; this has allowed Ford to keep the Edge’s MSRP fairly low, starting at $43,100 for 2021 models, and $31,250 for the non-ST Edge.)
The 2021 Edge ST has a 2.7-liter EcoBoost twin-turbo V6 and boasts 335 horsepower at 5,000 rpm, with 380 pound-feet of torque at 3,000 rpm. Many models have already made it to dealer lots, so if you’re intrigued by this first-of-its-kind modification, it may be worth taking a test drive to see what a second-gear-free transmission feels like. Depending on consumer reaction and overall performance, Ford may stick with this setup for the next few model years or continue to tweak its transmission until it finds the sweet spot: fuel efficiency and seamless performance under a variety of conditions.