2009 Ford Flex

So this is it: the segment changing, ultra-hyped crossover that's going to save the blue oval. The one that was a big hit as the Fairlane concept in 2005, yet still won't see production for another year. And sorry, it doesn't have the cool suicide doors, and the interior has been penny pinched quite a bit.

Overall, the Flex is an impressive package. It takes the quirky, modern designs of the Mini Cooper and Scion xB, then manages to squeeze six or seven people (two interiors will be offered) inside the thing with nearly endless headroom. The ribbed doors recall classic American "woodie" station wagons, but not in a cheesy, retro sort of way. The roof - available in white or silver - is very cool, and standard eighteen inch wheels (with nineteens optional) finish the package.

The interior doesn't make us ooh and ahh like that of the Fairlane concept, but will be the best in the Ford lineup. There will even be options for a houndstooth seat pattern and contrast stitching on the seats and console. As far as buzz-inspiring features go (it wouldn't be a new American car without at least three,) Ford's Sync system leads off the list, offering Bluetooth, a music-holding hard drive, and voice recognition software. In six-passenger versions, a refrigerator will be offered between the second row captain's chairs. Driven by a compressor, it will cool seven 12-ounce cans or two 20-ounce bottles to forty-one degrees. Ford's capless fuel filler system will find its way down to the Flex, too, and ambient lighting will continue its sweep through the Ford family.

Speaking of finding its way places, the Flex will use the same 3.5-liter V-6 found throughout the Ford, Mazda, Mercury, and Lincoln brands, with a rating here of 260 hp and 245 lb-ft. It will be mated to a six-speed automatic transmission and an intelligent all-wheel-drive system, capable of routing 100 percent of the engine's torque to either axle, will be available. Stability control with rollover prevention will be standard.

We're not thrilled about Ford's naming choice for the car. To be honest, we sort of liked Fairlane, and it's also really hard to hold back jokes about the Funkmaster Flex Edition Flex, or the Flex Fuel Flex, or even a combination - the Funkmaster Flex Flex Fuel Flex. Say that five times fast. If people can get around the name, the Flex promises to be a decent people mover, and it should sell pretty well. We're excited to see a return from unnecessarily tall SUVs like the Expedition back to something more traditional and wagon like. So is Earth.

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