Lifestyle solutions will lead the auto consumer towards dependency on the connected and autonomous future, reports Paul Myles.

A quick flick through the brochure of Ford’s new Edge CUV/SUV is enough to show how things have changed in the way carmakers market their products.

It’s clear, from the very first pages, that it’s all about lifestyle these days with marketeers trying to match a car to an imaginary customer’s demands. The brochure starts out focused on lifestyle issues with cosy sofa-speak messages like, ‘For your real life’, ‘All the space you want’ and ‘Reacts before you do’, this one highlighting the Edge’s collision avoidance system.

Those thinking this could be a serious mud-plugger have to wait until Page 18 for anything about its all-wheel drive capability and the oil-stained overall-clad mechanics out there won’t read anything about the engine options until Page 34. And even here, there’s something of a disconnect with what old-school motorists would expect because the ‘sportier’ manual gearbox is married to a lower powered 180PS 2.0-litre Duratorq TDCi diesel powerplant while the automatic gets the quicker, yet just as frugal in CO2 terms, 210PS motor. Maybe that’s because very few owners of mass market crossovers today care very much about whether the quicker motor can sprint to 62mpg in 9.4 seconds. That said they will be very interested in wallet worrying CO2 emissions which, with both versions, is rated at a tax-friendly 149g/km.

It’s likely that Ford reasons the typical Edge customer will prefer the easier-to-live-with automatic and would be targeting the higher level Titanium and Sport trims coupled with the punchier engine. These buyers would also appreciate safety features like the front wide-view camera to help at road junctions, inflatable rear seat belts to reduce the risk of injuries to passengers, active park assist and the hands-free tailgate operation.

The Edge is big, too, being at 4.8-metres long only a touch shorter than the beefy Range Rover Sport and offers up to 800-litres of boot space with all the rear seats in place. This plus prices starting from just £29,995 for the entry-level Zetec model, it’s a whole lot cheaper than a lot of big crossover vehicles.

Styling is also as sleek and sloping as an executive coupe and far removed from the boxy lines of a traditional off-roader as Ford pitches this ‘soft-roader’, with comparatively most levels of ground clearance, squarely at the active family end of the market rather than hard-core weekend green lane warriors. That said, its ‘intelligent’ all-wheel drive system did come in handy on our test drive where the sat-nav led us down a rutted and muddy service track to the greens of the Roxburghe Golf Club in Scotland – a faultless display of grip on road tyres while a cluster panel illustrated where the power was going to which of the wheels.

So it’s clear that carmakers are pushing the lifestyle enhancements their product can offer and, naturally, that means some very sophisticated connectivity functions.

Ford’s latest SYNC 2 comes with voice control to control music selection, climate control, navigation, phone calls from your list of contacts and it will even read out incoming text messages. The home screen is simply quartered into different information zones for ease of use too. But pairing your phone through Bluetooth is still a bit old-school needlessly, in my opinion, requiring passkeys and is also hardly fast in operation.

Nonetheless, the connectivity suite is hardly less comprehensive than many much more ‘premium’ big executive cars on the market right now.

All this, together with the market’s seemingly never-ending love-affair with the crossover vehicle, points clearly to a future for automakers firmly as lifestyle solution providers rather than just transport suppliers.

And this being the case, the future bodes well for the eventual mass adoption of autonomous features as they march ever onward into our cars at the vanguard of our journey towards the autonomous vehicle.

TU-Automotive ADAS & Autonomous USA 2016

03 Oct 2016 - 04 Oct 2016, Novi, USA

The most focused forum on the here and now of self-driving technology. As these technologies storm the headlines, we focus on the current challenges and unite players from research labs, automakers, tier 1’s and the complete supply chain to plan for the imminent future.