It’s happened more than a few times – I’m chatting with a fellow gearhead about the latest sports cars, old muscle cars, or whatever I’m in the mood for at the time. Then, the inevitable question: “What kind of car do you drive?” I ask. “Well,” he says as he looks at his feet, “I used to have a [insert cool car here] but had to sell for a minivan when we had kids.” Ouch! This has been happening all over America for years, folks, and we have to put an end to it.
So what are we to do when car guys across the country are being forced to trade in their beloved hot rod for a big bloated, bland, and boring minivan or SUV? Well, Ford hopes they have the answer with the brand new Ford Flex.
Sitting somewhere between a minivan and SUV in class, the Flex finally gives my above mentioned friend something to haul the family around without being too embarrassed. You might even call it cool. It certainly looks like nothing else on the road, proven by the intrigued and/or disgusted looks we got while driving ours down the street.
Our review model: 2009 Ford Flex Limited AWD
So what did we think of the Flex for the week we had one?
We had a top-of-the line Flex, which included 19-inch wheels, xenon headlights, adjustable pedals, perforated leather seats, Sync, SatNav, rear back-up camera, and the signature white two-tone roof. Our model was also fitted with an AWD powertrain, which is available on the top two trim levels (SEL and Limited.) All Flexs come with a 3.5-liter V6 producing 262 horsepower, mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission, which is a good match for the Flex and provides plenty of power.
The first thing I noticed when climbing into the Flex was that it had lots of room, but didn’t feel humdrum like a minivan or SUV. It felt more like a vehicle that a small rock band would drive around and have enough room to carry all their equipment (but no room for the groupies.) A modern day VW bus, perhaps.
I didn’t like the Ford Flex for the first couple of days driving it, but after a while it started growing on me. It has all the typical modern Ford charms like the Sync (although I had some problems with it this time,) the ambient lighting, and comforts like adjustable pedals, automatic power liftgate, driver memory seats, a rear seat refrigerator, and vista moonroof with four total openings (one in front, two for middle row, and one for rear.)
Ford has been good about their tech lately, and the Flex is no exception. In addition to regular comforts, the media options are adequate for anyone, providing Bluetooth, voice command, MP3 player integration (so far better than any other car maker,) a good navigation system, Sirius Travel Link, rear back-up camera, and a DVD entertainment system.
Most of this isn’t standard, of course, but is available nonetheless. Another note worth mentioning is that the Flex has a total of four power outlets and a 110V power inverter, which provides plenty of flexibility while on the go.
What impressed me most about the Flex however, was the way it drove. Instead of feeling like you’re driving a giant box – which essentially defines the Flex – it feels more like a large sedan. No excessive body roll, good acceleration and braking, a good suspension, and good overall maneuverability without feeling top-heavy.
Best of all, the Flex felt like it was quality built, which was a problem for Ford there for a while. Tight fit and finish all around, no excessively large panel gaps, and no “tin box” feeling inside or out.
Expect plenty of room for seven. The front and 2nd row seating has more than enough room for full-grown adults, but save the third row for the little ones or flexible teenagers.
What We Didn’t Like
There isn’t much about the Flex that they got wrong, unless you’re one of the folks who hate the boxy styling (or your friends telling you it looks like a hearse.) It can be rather expensive, starting at $28,550 for the base model (although a well-equipped base model.) Be careful adding options and packages, because it gets expensive fast.
Our 2009 Ford Flex Limited AWD came in at around $42,000, which is either a decent price, or expensive, depending on what you’re comparing it with. Oh, and Ford – at $42,000, I expect a telescoping steering wheel, which the Flex doesn’t offer at all.
Before You Buy
A few things to keep in mind about the Ford Flex: While it has plenty of cargo room for most people (83 cubic feet,) it still doesn’t hold quite as much as minivans and some full-size crossovers. Make sure to note that on your test drive and be sure it will work for you.
17/24 for the FWD models, 16/23 for AWD. Not great, but expect about the same from the other vehicles you’ll be looking at.
There are plenty of crossovers in a similar price range and specification, but none have quite the looks or attitude as the Ford Flex. It will be a good choice for many families, as long as they don’t mind the boxy styling. One of the only vehicles on the road that you can compare with a minivan and still call cool.