People seem to either love the Flex or hate it. I don’t know if I love it, but I most certainly like it. I like the distinctly American, elegant, modern exterior styling. I like the seats in the first and second rows, and even the third-row seats are fairly roomy and comfortable. I like the performance of the upgraded V-6; 287 hp is plenty of grunt, and if you want more, you can choose the turbocharged and direct-injected EcoBoost V-6. There’s no question that a minivan would be even more practical and versatile than the Flex, but no minivan looks even remotely as cool as the Flex. So you learn to live with the more cumbersome liftover height at the tailgate and the high and thick instrument panel that seems to be a barrier between you and the windshield. If I had a family of two or three kids and didn’t want a minivan, the Flex would be at or near the top of my shopping list.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
I got into the Flex on Friday after work and headed to Grand Rapids for the weekend. Immediately after I got onto US-23, traffic halted — a result of lane closings for the summer roadwork season. As I was at a dead stop at the time, I decided to take the opportunity to pair my phone (an Android) with the Sync/MyFord Touch system. It was very simple to connect the phone, and no sooner was I done than I received a call. The sound clarity was very good, and I was able to negotiate the heavy traffic while keeping both hands on the wheel even as I continued my conversation. Unfortunately, this particular Flex doesn’t have a navigation system, instead being equipped with turn-by-turn directions, which are great if you have a particular destination in mind but not so useful when all you need is a map to show you a possible alternate route.
Because it was just me (and one small overnight bag), the Flex was more car than I needed for the weekend, but it turned out to be a decent highway ride. The long wheelbase helps to smooth out rough pavement somewhat, although there was still a fair amount of jostling due, likely, to a combination of some very rough road patches and the twenty-inch wheels. The V-6 has enough power to comfortably sustain 80-mph cruising, but the EcoBoost V-6 would likely feel more refined and would return better power and fuel economy, to boot.
A final note: the flip and fold third-row seats are quite clever and simple to use. There are two pull straps on the back of both sides of the split third row. The straps are labeled “1” and “2”. First, you pull strap 1, and the seat folds forward. Then you pull strap 2, and the seat performs a gymnastic tumble and presents you with a flat load floor. Very neat and easy.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
I’ve always liked the Ford Flex. There’s something about an anti-minivan that looks like it was designed solely with straight lines. The Flex might not be as angular or chiseled as some of its competitors (especially in person), but it’s undeniably unique in its segment. With the 2013 model, it’s even more distinctive, thanks to a new grille/headlight setup that reminds me of Levar Burton’s eyepiece in Star Trek (yes I am a nerd), and the Range Rover-esque F-L-E-X badging on the hood.
But with all of this bling, I’m beginning to wonder if the Flex’s exterior has outpaced its interior. There’s nothing hugely wrong with the interior styling, but an interior of black leather and square, blocky shapes on the doors doesn’t mesh well with the car’s chic exterior. And while that bricklike, two-box exterior shape ensures that the Flex has plenty of space inside, it also means that many controls are a reach, even for someone like me, whose shirts have the word “long” in the size.
With that said, the Flex is a bold statement that no, Ford doesn’t need a minivan after all. I’m a fan.
Ben Timmins, Associate Web Editor
After having the Ford Flex for a long holiday weekend with my family, this is definitively on the short list for the next vehicle that my wife and I will buy. We currently have a Ford Focus, but when its lease comes up in a few years, our kids will be older and bigger and we might have some nieces/nephews to regularly cart around. A Flex would certainly allow for that. A minivan would, too, but quite a few things set the Flex apart from a minivan, such as third-row seating that’s slightly more comfortable for adults than some minivans, the fact that it doesn’t look like a minivan (which isn’t really a factor for me but is for some people), and available all-wheel drive, which allows for the Flex’s biggest advantage to my family: its impressive 4500-pound towing capacity. As our kids get older, we’d like to upgrade our tiny pop-up camper to something more spacious, and the Flex could tow the type of hybrid camper that we’d prefer. The General Motors trio of three-row crossovers (Chevy Traverse, Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia) offers similar amenities, but I prefer the packaging and styling of the Flex, especially after the face-lift for the 2013 model year, which loses some of the overwhelming chrome on the beak.
Not that the Flex is perfect: for $40K, I’d expect auto up/down functionality for all windows, not just the driver’s glass. I’d also expect a Bluetooth system that could actually work with an iPhone (this car’s system failed both me and Joe DeMatio on multiple occasions: the call would go through but none of the audio would go through the car’s microphone or speakers; it worked OK with my wife’s Android phone, though). I also am not a big fan of the cargo cavern beneath the third-row seats. I’m sure that if I owned a Flex, I’d lose groceries/toys/sundries beneath that area until I went to lower the back row, squishing whatever had slid down there. Overall, though, the Flex is a highly desirable vehicle for someone like myself who needs a minivan but would like to tow something more substantial than those venerable front-wheel-drive all-purpose vehicles can do. And as a very important added bonus, the Flex corners, accelerates, and drives remarkably well for this kind of vehicle (hence its two Automobile Magazine All-Star awards). Pardon me while I go to ford.com and build a Kodiak brown Flex SEL AWD with a vista roof, second-row bench seats, and the towing package.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
2013 Ford Flex SEL
MSRP (with destination): $34,050
PRICE AS TESTED: $39,720
3.5-liter DOHC V-6
Horsepower: 287 hp @ 6500 rpm
Torque: 254 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
WHEELS AND TIRES:
20-inch aluminum wheels
255/45VR-20 Hankook Optimo tires
FUEL ECONOMY (city/highway/combined):
Cargo (behind third/second/first row): 20.0/43.2/83.2 cu ft
Legroom (first/second/third row): 40.8/44.3/33.3 in
Headroom (first/second/third row): 41.8/40.5/38.7 in
Towing: 4500 lb
Ingot Silver/Charcoal Black
Automatic halogen headlights
Heated front seats
10-way power driver’s seat, 6-way power passenger seat
60/40-split folding second row
50/50-split folding third row
Tilt-and-telescopic steering column
Dual-zone climate control
Sync w/MyFord Touch
SiriusXM satellite radio
Rear parking sensors
Stability and traction control
OPTIONS ON THIS VEHICLE:
All-wheel drive- $1950
Equipment group 202A- $3000
110V power inverter
Blind spot monitoring system
Second-row 40/40-split folding seats- $650
Second-row center console- $100
20-inch painted aluminum wheels- $795
KEY OPTIONS NOT ON THIS VEHICLE:
Titanium appearance package- $1495
Black painted roof and exterior mirror caps
20-inch wheels w/black accents
Leather-trimmed seats w/gray inserts
Unique instrument panel, door trim pieces, and floor mat logos
Panoramic roof- $1595
Trailer tow package- $570
This car’s V-6 was updated for 2013 with variable valve timing, increasing output to 287 hp and 254 lb-ft.