Now just past its first birthday, the Ford Flex is the manufacturer's first crossover to simultaneously offer mini-van and sport utility vehicle
characteristics. The Flex made its debut at the 2007 New York International Auto Show and was first available to the public in the summer of 2008 as a 2009 model.
The 2010 edition is offered in several configurations, including the all-wheel drive model that's ethanol friendly. Like other uniquely designed new vehicles (the Nissan Cube and Scion XB come to mind) the Ford Flex's rectangular shape (it's 201.8 inches long and 88 inches wide) and its signature two-tone exterior mean one thing:
The Ford Flex doesn't get too far down the road, particularly in Missouri where I recently drove it for a week and about 1,000 miles, without unsolicited comments.
Yes, it's crossover and it doesn't look particularly swift. But step on the accelerator, on a freeway ramp, for example, and the 3.5-liter, 262 horsepower V6 holds it owns. The only transmission available is a six-speed automatic.
It's hard to fault all-wheel drive systems, and having the feature in a van/SUV makes perfect sense. The AWD works smoothly. The Flex was always in control, particularly on the constant roller-coaster back roads of Missouri.
A few times while approaching stoplights or stop signs at medium speeds, the brakes seemed soft and I had to apply harder pressure than anticipated to stop.
Cargo Room (8)
The second and third rows of seats lay flat when not in use, offering a cavernous back cargo area, good for lots of suitcases, groceries, etc. The second row features independent seats with a mini refrigerator-sized space between the seats. Skis, lumber, fishing pools will all fit length wise without issue. And the space is ideal for a "mini fridge," too. Small side pockets are plentiful.
gauge on the console is small, but it's complemented by a digital read-out of miles left before the tank is empty. Radio and temperature dials are efficiently positioned on an angle floor-based console between the two front seats. All systems are intuitive.
The sterling gray metallic exterior complements the charcoal gray leather seats, carpet, side panels and leather-wrapped steering wheel. The side and third-row tinted privacy glass matches the interior and exterior color patterns. And with the off-white roof, the Flex has the appearance of saddle shoes on wheels — sort of. Somehow, it all works.
Front Seats (7)
Leather, firm, contouring, near captain's chair approach. You know the feeling of sitting a car for the first time and it's like sitting in the comfort of your family room? That's the Flex.
Fuel Economy (6)
Big vehicle, good-sized engine, V6, all-wheel drive. It sure would be nice if the numbers were better than 16 mpg (city) and 22 mpg (hwy).
Missouri has some of the country's lowest gas prices. It took awhile and the tank was pretty low (seven miles left in the tank, according to the digital display) before I found E85 flex fuel (gas-ethanol mix). But the prices were great, $2.04 per gallon in one location and $1.89 per gallon four days later for the second fill-up. The E85 fuel option isn't required, but that was the goal for the weekly drive. I also used regular unleaded
once at $2.29 per gallon.
It's a cavernous vehicle and thus there are plenty of potential problem areas for wind rush, but few were experienced. It's not luxury driving with no influences from the outside world, like when 18-wheelers pass. But the Flex is a sanctuary for its category. Roll up all the windows, crank up the stereo or CD player, and it might as well be the only vehicle on the road.
Rear Seats (8)
Like the front seat, the second row of independent seats couldn't be better. Foot and leg room are superior. Two friends traveled with me for three days in Missouri. One of guys is 6-foot-1 and wherever he sat, there was a foot of head clearance.
Ride Quality (7)
The Ford Flex joins the Honda Odyssey as a vehicle I'd purchase if I needed a family car. It's made well, absorbs road imperfections, has plenty of space, good performance and strong safety features.
Class — Sport Utility Vehicle
Primary competition — Honda Pilot, GMC Acadia, Hyundai Veracruz
For safety features/standard equipment/option package information, visit: Ford Flex
Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price — $36,115.
Price As Driven — Not available.
Mileage Estimates — 16 mpg (city), 22 mpg (hwy).
Warranty — Bumper-to-bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Drivetrain, 5 years/60,000 miles; Roadside assistance, 5 years/60,000 miles.
What Others Say:
"What if an automaker attempted to marry the "cool factor" of a crossover SUV and the unbeatable practicality of a minivan's shoebox-like shape? The result would probably end up something like the Ford Flex."
The Final Words:
The new Ford Flex deserves the attention it receives via its unique body style and two-tone exterior. But it also deserves a wealth of props as a comfortable seven-passenger, all-wheel drive mini-van/SUV with impressive interior features. And while embracing environmental concerns with its flex fuel component, it's hard not to like.
James, a journalist since 1976, is co-author of Tour de France For
Dummies. He owns several websites, contributes to many print and online
publications and is also the editor of TheWeeklyDriver.com. A long-distance runner for nearly 30 years, Raia also rides his bike — to nearby coffeehouses. E-mail: email@example.com.