I was on the Ford Flex EcoBoost launch in Boulder, Colorado where we got to steer these crossovers around mountain bends. The low ride height gives the Flex a serious handling advantage over the other crossovers in this class. The turbocharged Flex offers some serious grip and power. Of course, this is still a big, heavy crossover riding on relatively soft springs, so it does lean in turns.
Over the weekend with this particular Flex EcoBoost, I loaded it to its seven-person capacity with my girlfriend’s family, who are seriously considering replacing a tired 2000-era Dodge Caravan with a Flex. For them, the Flex’s low ride height is more of an undesirable trait, as it erases the sightlines and security provided with a higher seating position. The Flex’s tall roof leaves plenty of room to raise the driver’s chair without encroaching on headroom, but still leaves you lower than in a minivan. Their other chief complaint was that the second row doesn’t slide forward to provide more legroom for third-row passengers.
I was a bit disappointed by the Flex’s all-wheel-drive system. There’s still a sizeable amount of torque steer when you plant the throttle, which is a good indicator that this front-wheel-drive-biased setup won’t do much to help pull you through corners either. With a relatively advanced and powerful engine under the hood, it’s a shame Ford doesn’t have a better all-wheel-drive system to complement it.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
The Flex EcoBoost is, to my mind, THE solution for the family man who has to have a seven-passenger vehicle but who cannot abide the thought of a minivan and wants a vehicle with some style and a smoking-hot powertrain. I would never be embarrassed to drive this thing. It’s pretty darn cool and there is SO much power on tap, and it’s ready and standing at attention, waiting for the slightest movement of your right foot.
I drove the Flex EcoBoost to visit my mother and family for Mother’s Day, and I was amazed how many other Flexes I saw on the way to northern Michigan and back. It’s a very comfortable freeway cruiser, and braking and steering responses are good. I noticed a few miscues in the interior styling, such as an odd piece of trim at the top of the front door panels that meets the A-pillars in a haphazard fashion. It’s a filler piece that doesn’t quite integrate well. The doors themselves are really tall; this is a function, obviously, of the exterior styling, but it gets a bit claustrophobic inside. The controls for the sideview mirrors are also at the top of the door, which makes them a bit awkward to reach comfortably. I also don’t care for a row of buttons at the top of the center stack that are kind of hidden from view under the lip of an overhang from the dashboard. Among these buttons is the hazard light button, which can be difficult to spot quickly. It looks just like the “INFO,” “SETUP,” “RESET,” “PASSENGER AIR BAG,” and “TRACTION CONTROL OFF” buttons; it should be very distinct from them and easy to see in a microsecond-glance.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
Because it does so many things so well, the Ford Flex has been an Automobile Magazine All-Star for the last two years. It has a well-thought-out and nicely executed cabin, in which seven people can ride in comfort. It has a low step-in height to make ingress and egress easy, and yet it still manages to allow the driver to sit higher than he or she would in a regular station wagon. It can even tow 4500 pounds when properly equipped. With the 355-hp twin-turbo Ecoboost V-6 (which wasn’t available in its first year on the market), Ford has addressed what was arguably one of the Flex’s only weaknesses-a lack of power-thereby making the Flex’s package even more appealing.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
Eric wasn’t kidding about the torque steer. All-wheel drive or not, this thing is sending a lot of power to its front wheels. Indeed, it’s that final bit of dynamic refinement that’s missing from the Flex, which is pretty much beyond fault from a visual or comfort standpoint. Like the other cars riding this platform-the Taurus, the Lincoln MKS, and Lincoln MKT-the Flex could use stronger, better brakes and a bit less softness in the suspension. Even with these flaws, the Flex is a step up compared to most traditional minivans, especially from the power standpoint.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
There’s no denying $46,000 is a bit pricey for a crossover (it’s actually $1000 more than a four-wheel-drive Expedition Eddie Bauer), but it’s not that uncommon for modern minivans to crest the $40k mark. Tick every box on the new 2010 Sienna Limited AWD, and you’re staring at a window sticker that reads $46,098.
It is, however, uncommon for minivans to offer this much power. Throwing the 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine into the engine compartment is about as close as you’ll come to fulfilling that childhood dream of stuffing a 428 Cobra Jet into your mom’s Country Squire. You’ll be able to smoke those front tires, too, as the rear-biased weight distribution and the front-biased all-wheel-drive system don’t exactly partner for impressive off-the-line traction.
The Limited trim has virtually every goodie possible as standard equipment, but I would opt for the tri-panel moonroof, especially if you choose the charcoal-colored seating. In addition to triggering Vista Cruiser flashbacks, it also helps some natural sunlight enter what’s otherwise a dark, vault-like cabin.
Evan McCausland, Web Producer
2010 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost AWD
Base price (with destination): $42,785
Price as tested: $46,020
3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 engine
6-speed automatic transmission
Dual-zone climate control
Sony premium audio system
Sirius satellite radio
Power adjustable pedals
4-wheel disc brakes with ABS
Voice activated navigation system
Auto-dimming rearview mirror
Tire pressure monitoring system
Options on this vehicle:
Rapid Spec 304A — $795
– 20-inch aluminum wheels
Active park assist — $550
Panoramic vista roof — $1495
White two-tone roof — $395
Key options not on vehicle:
Trailer tow package — $570
16 / 22 / 18 mpg
Size: 3.5L twin-turbocharged V-6
Horsepower: 355 hp @ 5700 rpm
Torque: 350 lb-ft @ 1500 rpm
Curb weight: 4839 lb
20-inch aluminum alloy wheels
255/45R20 Goodyear Eagle RS-A 101V all-season tires