• More stylish than a minivan
  • Plentiful interior room
  • Good driving dynamics
  • Gets expensive with options
  • Dated interior
  • Retro styling

By Automobile Magazine

What's New for Flex in 2014

There are two new paint colors, sunset metallic and oxford white...
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Vehicle Summary

A follow up to the Fairlane concept that was shown at the 2005 Detroit auto show, the Ford Flex made its first public appearance in 2007 and went on sale a year later as a 2009 model. Inspired by "woodie" station wagons but with a much more modern touch, the crossover showed that not all six- or seven-passenger vehicles had to be boring, amorphous blobs. A refresh, which debuted for the 2013 model year, brought a new front end with a more modern grille and larger Flex lettering, engine tweaks, and mechanical changes that improved handling and braking. Although it's a practical and appealing vehicle, the Ford Flex has failed to resonate with customers. The three-row Explorer (with which the Flex shares its platform) sells many times more units per year, and the Flex also lags far behind almost all of its rival crossovers.

Overview

The Ford Flex is a style-conscious alternative to a minivan. It still seats up to seven and the rear seat, unlike in some three-row crossovers, is usable and easily accessed. Other positives include optional all-wheel drive, a respectable driving experience, and an available twin-turbo engine. The standard 287-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 engine is perfectly adequate and returns smooth performance through its six-speed automatic transmission whether equipped with front- or all-wheel drive. The optional twin-turbo EcoBoost V-6 packs a 365-hp punch that necessitates all-wheel drive; while it's fun to drive, this engine costs buyers both in terms of sticker price and at the gas pump. Speaking of fun to drive, the Ford Flex handles much better than many three-row crossovers and minivans. Its electric power steering is well calibrated, and the 2013 update brought larger brakes that are reassuringly strong.

The Flex's retro, rectilinear styling is polarizing, although we're strongly in favor of the brash design. The crossover’s recent face-lift, which reduced the amount of chrome adorning the Flex's nose, makes it look even better. Unfortunately the 2013 refresh did little to update the cabin, which remains swathed in plain plastics and boring, square shapes. It's not nearly as modern as the interior of other contemporary Ford products, although options like MyFord Touch, a blind-spot warning monitor, and a self-parking function are available. Interior room and packaging are impressive, however, with easy-to-fold seats and a power-fold option for the third row. Other entries on the long options list include an appearance package with 20-inch wheels, a black-painted roof, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel; a Vista Roof with four individual skylights; a refrigerator for the second row that can chill seven 12-ounce soda cans or two 20-ounce bottles; and heated and cooled front seats.

Key Competitors

  • Chevrolet Traverse
  • Mazda CX-9
  • Ford Explorer
  • Honda Odyssey

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