One Week With: 2016 Ford Flex Limited
Ford’s alt-ute continues to forge its own three-row path
There's never been a better time to be in the market for a vehicle that seats at least six. In addition to minivans and body-on-frame SUVs, the last few years have also seen a rapid proliferation of swoopy, edgy, three-row crossovers. One notable exception in this space continues to be the Ford Flex. With a boxy design that nods to Ford's '50s era Country Squire wagons, the Flex continues to stand apart from the ever-growing crowd.
Powering our 2016 Ford Flex tester with optional all-wheel drive was Ford's EcoBoost 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6, which is the option engine. The powerplant is a smooth operator that scoots the big Flex forward with a sense of urgency and hits 60 mph in 5.9 seconds, according to our friends at Truck Trend. Having 365 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque on tap will do that, even when there's a massive 4,828 pounds of crossover to pull. Power is sent to all four corners via a six-speed automatic, which compensates for the relative lack of cogs with a well dialed-in logic.
The Flex's braking performance is adequate for a large crossover with so much mass to stop. Steering is effortless but also fairly precise and markedly devoid of slop or play. Its suspension is set up for comfort, so there's a fair amount of body roll when you wheel it into a turn. Wind and tire noise is limited, and what is heard is easily drowned out by the 390-watt, 12-speaker stereo, which is controlled through Ford's standard Sync 3 system. While some of the icons are overly small, the latest iteration of the automaker's oft-maligned infotainment setup is far more responsive than before and dramatically improved overall.
Visually, the key ingredient of the Ford Flex is its optional $495 appearance package, which adds a black grille, mirrors, roof, and 20-inch aluminum wheels plus two-tone leather upholstery, an upgraded steering wheel, and unique floor mats. Without the extra black bits, the Flex looks downright pedestrian. Unfortunately, the lovely "Too Good to Be True" aquamarine paint our tester was sprayed with was cut from the lineup for 2017.
Aside from its unique style (which, given its sales numbers, clearly isn't for everyone), the Flex' biggest asset is its packaging. The slab-sided sheetmetal allows for large, full-length doors that make ingress and egress a snap, even if a large object like a child seat is involved. The flat room makes it easy to move around inside, such as when trying to navigate your way into the third row. Second-row occupants are the real winners here though, as they get to enjoy 44.3 inches of leg room, 3.5 inches more than the front passengers. Headroom is ample for all occupants as the Flex bucks the trend of sloping rear rooflines.
All three rows of seats are power operated, with the third row operable from the cargo area. When the third row is upright or simply folded forward, a fair amount of cargo space is available behind it. Additionally, it can also be folded completely into the floor to create a flat load surface or flipped backwards to create seating space for tailgating. With both rows folded, the Flex offers 83.2 cu-ft of easy-to-use cargo space and enough length for an 8-foot surfboard; volume shrinks to 43.2 cu-ft with the second row up and a still-useful 20.0 cu-ft with row number three up as well.
There's a catch, though: The power folding second- and third-row seats aren't standard. Most of the extra cost is rolled into the $3,895 303A equipment group. In addition to the powered passenger rows, the package adds heated and cooled front seats, a heater for the steering wheel with a power adjustable steering column, adaptive cruise control, and active park assist. An extra $695 is tacked on for the captain chair second row, which normally comes as a 60/40 bench.
Rounding out our tester's option list was the $1,595 Vista Roof panoramic sunroof, a $570 tow package with a Class 3 hitch, and $195 inflatable rear seatbelts. All can safely be skipped, though the seatbelts aren't a bad idea if you have kids too old for child seats, which shaves more than $2,000 off the fairly hefty $50,445 price tag.
Although the Flex's design dates back to the start of the decade, the big box has aged gracefully, thanks in part to a well-executed mid-cycle refresh for the 2013 model year and the addition of the Blue Oval's latest tech. All in all, a well-equipped Ford Flex is a compelling package for those looking for something luxurious, roomy, and unconventional amidst a sea of similar looking crossovers.
2016 Ford Flex Limited Specifications
|Price:||$42,600/$50,445 (base/as tested)|
|Engine:||3.5L twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6/365 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 350 lb-ft @ 3,500 rpm|
|Layout:||4-door, 6-passenger, front-engine, AWD SUV|
|EPA Mileage:||15/21 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H:||201.8 x 75.9 x 69.3 in|
|0-60 MPH:||5.9 sec|