I really, really like the Flex, mostly because I am absolutely taken with the design: the shape, the proportions, and yes, the squareness. This is the American people mover boiled down to its pure, classic element. It is the utter antithesis of every jacked-up, pseudo-macho SUV and every bloated, trying-to-be-swoopy crossover.
It also helps that the interior is almost as fresh as the exterior. There's loads of space under the low roofline, and the electronic interfaces are as user-friendly as can be. The driving experience isn't scintillating, but it's hardly unpleasant, and the cabin is almost eerily quiet.
The only real negatives are a driving position that's awkward for the long-legged (I'd happily trade away the power-adjustable pedals for a telescoping steering column) and a price that's pretty steep (well into the $40Ks loaded up). I suspect the latter is to blame for the car's relatively slow start out of the gate.
Joe Lorio, Senior Editor
This was my first time in the Flex. Great interior. I like the perforated leather seats, the subtly applied wood trim, and the generally elegant ambiance. I fiddled with the new entertainment screen only briefly, but it appears to be a first-class design.
The engine sounds coarse but actually delivers pretty decent acceleration. More so than additional power, I would like to see more refinement from this powertrain. The six-speed automatic works well. The second row is comfortable, and ingress to the third row is fine, although the frame of the vehicle is a bit high in the door opening, and there's a higher step-over than you'd find in a minivan. That said, I could sit in the third row for a spell without whining.
One complaint: the rear wiper sweep covers only two-thirds of the window, and it's offset to one side, which is weird.
Overall, this seems like a viable alternative to a minivan for a family with one or two kids.
Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor
This is a fun take on the Wagon Truckster Family Queen. But if you've driven an Edge, or a Taurus X, or a Lincoln MKX, or a Mercury Montego ... then you've driven a Flex. It'll get a whole lot more interesting when they drop the twin-turbo EcoBoost motor in it. For now, though, this is a quirky alternative to the anonymity of an SUV or a minivan.
Ezra Dyer, Contributing Writer
The badge on the tailgate says "AWD," but I'm hesitant to believe it, after all the torque steer I experienced during some back-road trials. The sluggish transmission and the droning engine note also undermined my search for sport.
The Flex has many positives, though. Ride and, to a slightly lesser extent, handling, are very impressive for a vehicle this size. From behind the wheel, the Flex feels smaller than it is, and I found the driver's seat quite comfortable once I got settled. I agree with Lorio that the Flex needs a telescoping steering column, though.
I know it resembles a refrigerator, but I, too, like the look of the Flex's exterior, and the interior implements some nice details (not the least of which is that crystal-clear, multifunction navigation unit) that I hope to see in future Ford products.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
My first impression is "smooooth!" Great shifts from the tranny, including "D" engagement. The engine is muted well. It's a little weak down low but ultimately is enough for this type of vehicle. The seating position is a bit cargo van-like (pedals too close), and the seats look flat, but they are comfortable.
I like the new Sync interface, except for the fact that it crashed on me when I was using the navigation system. The screen locked up, but there were no changes to HVAC, the radio station (although the volume reacted slowly), or the navigation. A quick restart didn't solve the problem. It unlocked only after the car was parked for a few hours. Unacceptable.
Otherwise, the Flex is pretty great. You're immediately impressed by the amount of space - the second row is huge! The vehicle is much bigger than you think it is. And it's great-looking.
But why doesn't Ford illuminate the volume control or the lighter? That's annoying.
Jason Cammisa, West Coast Editor
The first thing you come across in the Flex is its bad driving position. The seats aren't very comfortable, and the lack of a telescoping wheel, as others have noted, is a huge oversight. It doesn't drive as well as a Mazda CX-9, but the Flex's ride and handling are quite good for its size and weight.
The steering is OK, but it's too light and quite dead on center. I disagree with Jason about the interior size -- as you play around with the interior configurations, you realize that the Flex is very old-school America: big on the outside and not big enough inside. Ford should have taken a page from the Land Rover LR3 playbook when it comes to folding seats and cargo room. The satellite navigation unit in the Flex is brilliant, though. Too bad Jaguar was sold before the XF received that system.
But ultimately, I think that if you don't need AWD and can handle the minivan image, the Honda Odyssey is a better (and cheaper) choice.
Marc Noordeloos, Road Test Editor
They took the minivan and turned it up to eleven! I love the flavoring of the interior. Styling, overall, is really nice, too.
I wish the Flex had a better engine, though -- it still sounds like a Windstar, even though the powerplant essentially comes from the Mazda CX-9. On the plus side, the ride is very quiet, and the seats are very comfortable.
Darin Johnson, Creative Director
2009 Ford Flex Limited AWD
Base Price (with destination): $37,255Price as tested: $43,875
Fuel Economy: 16/22 mpg (city/hwy)
Engine: Size: 3.5-liter DOHC V-6HP: 262 HP @ 6250 rpmTorque: 248 lb-ft @ 4500
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Weight: 3230 lbWheel/Tire Info: 235/55R-19