This morning, we traded our Ford Flex in on an off-lease BMW. And since I never got to it before, here is a review of the old wagon.
(Full Disclosure: Ford wanted me to drive this Flex so badly that in 2005, they showed the world the future of American station wagons, the Ford Fairlane concept. When he saw it in the car magazines, my dad said something to the effect of, “If they actually build this thing, I will buy it.” Almost four years later, my dad kept his word and took delivery of one of the first Flexus in Omaha. I say “took delivery” because my dad knew exactly how he wanted his Flex specced, and that car was Mississippi, so that’s where it was shipped from. Since then, he and I have put just under 150,000 miles on the car, including me learning to drive on it.)
One of the selling points of the Flex over the competition is the unique styling. Think about most of the other cars in the category. The GM Lambda cars, Nissan Pathfinder, Dodge Durango, Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, and Hyundai Santa Fe all have the same sort of generic crossover SUV blob shape. Not the Flex. The basic styling language was derived from the sketches of one Ford designer who was asked to pen a custom transport box for the Taurus. Ford then added an optional white roof a lá the Mini Cooper, grooves running down the back and sides to remind you of the woodie wagons of yore, and a big fake chrome grill for that extra bit of bling. Ours has the white roof paired with a metallic brown paint so it looks like a cinnamon roll, fitting since the color is call cinnamon. Those don’t love the Flex’s styling find it absolutely hideous, but I’m in the camp with most other people, who think it looks way too cool to be your stereotypical soccer mom whip. Considering that that’s what it is, it wears the disguise well. At least it’s not pretending to be a rugged off-road trail crusher. Ford may call it a crossover, but it’s even more of a station wagon than any other crossover SUV you can find.
Unless you have a Winnebago, you will be hard pressed to find a car with more interior space than the Flex. That’s the square shape for you. The second row if big enough for even a pair of NFL linemen to relax in comfort, and the third row is still more generous than the second row in some smaller SUVs. The only area that really lacks room is the driver’s footwell. Interior fit and finish is pretty good compared to a 2008 Ford, but there are still cheap bits here and there, and some trim pieces have broken off over the years. Oh, and the overhead 2nd row DVD player has squeaked since the car was new. The seats in the second and third row are good, but the ones up front are perhaps a tad flat, and have the most diabolical headrests ever conceived by man. I’d give the Flex a 9/10 for interior practicality and a 5/10 for luxury, which I’ve averaging to a 6/10 because reasons.
The Flex isn’t slow enough to be a nuisance, but it certainly lacks pep. If you’re trying to merge in front of someone by speeding up, odds are about 45% that they’ll be able to outpace you. It also torque steers quite a bit, and if you try to accelerate while already at highway speeds, it is gradual. It’s adequate, but for my and my father’s driving styles, adequate isn’t adequate enough.
A friend of mine once ran out right in front of the car, chasing after a basketball. We were doing 25, and managed to not hit him. Furthermore, we’ve never actually hit anything in the Flex, so the brakes certainly work. However, they get a low score because they are extremely touchy, yet at the same time very light and vague. They can also get shaky at times. Still, it’s a family crossover, and it stops safely. They’re fine.
I’m going based off of when the car was new, because right now the shocks are very much warn out. However, out of the factory, the Flex was a very good highway cruiser and not too jiggly on the rougher roads. It wasn’t a Lexus LS, but it certainly didn’t wear you out.
I’m only going based off of what I’ve driven. No, it’s not a truck, or an old land yacht, and like the brakes it’s nowhere near unsafe, but it’s a front wheel drive box. Understeer and body roll are pretty much all you’ll get.
Once again, I’m going based off of when the car was new, and the tranny has started to slip and jolt and other nasty things. Initially, it was smooth, and not too shaky, although it often held shifts for too long.
It’s got Satellite radio, a backup sensor, a DVD player, SYNC/Bluetooth, pointless interior mood lighting, a power tailgate, and that’s about it for noteworthy toys. Oh, and a three row panoramic sunroof.
I am running out of different ways to explain what “Perfectly okay and average but not great or noteworthy” is.
This Flex was over $42,000 new. It’s not bad value, but for an upper-mid trim Ford, that’s a lot of dough, so it’s not particularly good value either. I’m going to sum up the Flex by saying that I loved it when it was new, and it’s been a good family truckster, and served us very well. It’s just time for something new, but I will miss it a little bit.
(I’d put it as more like 83/100 within its own segment. But y’all wanted a standardized grading system, so there ya go)
Engine: 3.5 Duratec V6
Power: 262 horsepower, 248 lb./ft of torque
Transmission: 6 Speed Automatic
0-60 time: 8.4 seconds
Top speed: Probably around 115-120, on a good day with a tailwind. Or up to 185 if pushed off a cliff.
MPG: 17 city, 24 highway
Price as tested: $42,317