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Thread: 2009 Ford Flex

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Jul 2006
    The Land of The Edentulites

    2009 Ford Flex

    Minivans were a fresh idea 25 years ago when the first of the Chrysler K-car based units rolled out en masse - shortly to be copied by everyone, literally. It got to the point that (with a few exceptions here and there) all minivans were pretty much identical except for the badge on the fender and the price tag you paid. And they were almost all as boringly utilitarian as a mud room laundry sink.

    Now the public is mostly sick of minivans - which is why we have crossovers. You know, those wagon-looking, sort-of SUV-like things that - like minivans before them - are now everywhere.

    And too much alike for their own good, too.

    Which is why the Ford Flex is good to see. Finally, something that's not (Elvis help me) another crossover that an already flooded market simply can't absorb - and which is most definitely not a minivan, either.

    So - what is it, exactly?


    The Flex is a custom-looking, medium-sized party bus that straddles the gap between the utilitarian but soul-killing minivan and the sportier but look-alike mob of crossovers out there. It offers similar space (three rows of seats, room for seven) and functionality (including available AWD, rear seat DVD entertainment system, GPS, etc.) but with an additional layer of uniqueness conferred by its unusual looks and unusual features - including things like a multi-panel Vista Roof and even a mini-fridge between the second row seats.

    If you want something different, this is it.

    Prices run from $28,550 for the base SE model with front-wheel-drive to $36,810 for a top-of-the-line Limited with all-wheel-drive.


    The works; Flex is a new model for Ford.


    Snarky, different drummer profile, large interior that has the feel of a corporate jet; cool features like an available multi-panel Vista Roof, two-tone paint jobs and a real mini-fridge built into the second row center console. Not a minivan.


    Fairly high price; fairly low fuel economy. Available second-row fridge only holds about a six-pack. Limited color choices. If you want AWD, you have to buy a more expensive SEL or top-of-the-line Limited. Lower cost SE versions come only with FWD.


    Choosing an engine/transmission is easy because Ford has done it for you. Every Flex comes with a 3.6 liter, 262 hp V-6 working through a six-speed automatic. Your big choice is whether to spend the extra money for the optional all-wheel-drive system.

    Flex 's V-6 is stronger than what you'd find in most any standard minivan - and comparable in output to what's available in current mid-size crossover wagons. Acceleration also falls right in the middle of these two categories of vehicle. Zero to 60 takes about 8.6 seconds with the front-drive version and a tenth or two more if you order AWD (which adds a little weight and also a little bit of driveline drag to overcome). These numbers make it quicker than most vans, on par with most crossovers with six-cylinder engines.

    Gas mileage is not so great - especially with AWD: 16 city, 23 highway. Front-drive models do slightly better, but not much: 17/24 MPGs.

    Part of the reason for this is the Flex's beefy 4,468 lb. curb weight (AWD versions are almost 200 pounds more). For perspective, that's in the same weight class as several current mid-sized, V-8 powered 4WD SUVs. A 2010 Ford Explorer with 4WD, for example, has a curb weight of 4,628 lbs. - almost exactly the same as a Flex w/AWD.

    On the upside, the Flex's V-6 is designed to burn 87 octane regular unleaded - and once you've got all that weight up to speed and the transmission settles into overdrive, you can score highway mileage around 25 mpg - if you keep it under 65.

    Maximum towing capacity is 4,500 lbs. with Class III hitch - better than most minivans, which typically max out at 3,500 lbs.


    The Flex has a fairly wide-tracked stance (the distance between each pair of tires, side to side) which along with a 117.9-inch wheelbase gives the Flex a solid, grounded feel as you trundle along. The flat hood and upright glass all around provide generally good visibility forward and to the sides. An available back-up camera helps with the rear-view. People with shorter legs or less than great knees will like the tall, wide-opening. doors, low step-in height and the excellent access to the second and third row seats.

    The six-speed automatic shifts precisely as well as smoothly. Most drivers will find the 262 hp V-6 to be plenty powerful. I like that Ford didn't add "F1-style paddle shifters" or a "manual" mode. Please. This is a cruisemobile alternative to a minivan or crossover - not a Let's Pretend street racer.


    Ford may have cribbed some styling cues from the BMW Mini - which could be the Flex's much-smaller cousin except they're in no way related. But the Flex has similarly pugnacious styling, including available contrast-color roof (for example, white with silver). It also has its own unique touches, such as the grooved side-panels, the optional multi-panel Vista Roof (Ford must have acquired the rights to the name from GM/Oldsmobile, which used the moniker in the '70s), capless fuel filler, foot rests for the second row passengers - and the available party time mini-fridge between the two second-row seats.

    The Vista Roof has tilt and slide main sections and fixed rear glass sections (with privacy shades). You get air and natural sunlight throughout the interior. The mini-fridge is a great idea and it's also one of the few such that isn't merely a "cooler" but a real-deal refrigerator with its compressor that can chill your stuff down to 41 degrees. The only downside is it's kind of small - it'll hold about a six-pack - and it takes two-plus hours to achieve full cool-down.

    Like a standard minivan or crossover you can drop and stow the second and third rows of seats to maximize cargo-carrying capacity - which totals 83 cubic feet with the second and third rows down. You've got 20 cubic feet behind the third row when they're up. This is less than 100-plus cubic foot volume that's typical of most current minivans but it's still a lot of space and may be plenty for your situation/needs. The length of the Flex is enough to permit carting home eight-foot-long boards with the rear gate closed.

    Eighteen-inch rims are standard, with 19 and even 20-inch rims available. But you can also order 17-inch rims with winter/all-season tires, too.


    A very well-executed piece, this is. Cool-looking on the outside, very handsomely fitted on the inside. The seats are especially nice. They're semi-buckets, without the over-the-top bolsters that may be fine for sports cars and track days but which aren't the hot ticket for a mobile lounge/party bus - which is what the Flex pretty much is.

    Things like side-impact /curtain air bags, traction/stability control and ABS are becoming like radial tires - i.e., givens, things that pretty much every new vehicle save the meanest $10k econoboxes come standard with. In a $28k-$36k vehicle like the Flex, rest assured they're included. The optional AWD system is pretty much the only safety-related system you'd need to pay extra to get.


    The only issue I have with the Flex is its fairly high cost - almost $30k, just for openers. My test vehicle - a top-of-the-line Limited with AWD and pretty much everything (including the $1,485 Vista Roof, $2,375 GPS and $760 rear seat fridge) stickered out just shy of $44,000. That's steep enough, I think, to scare off some buyers who might otherwise find this thing very groovy indeed.

    On the other hand, the economy (and car industry) being in the condition they're in probably means there's a lot of room to haggle. That means you can probably drive home a well-equipped Flex for around $35k - and feel a lot better about life than you would if you were stuck behind the wheel of a diaper-duty minivan or dime-a-dozen crossover wagon.
    Last edited by Eric; 06-01-2009 at 07:31 PM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member
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    Jul 2006
    Raleigh NC, USA
    The only criticism of the Flex that I've read is that the handling isn't what the body promises.

    But if like you say, you regard it as a party/cruiser, then who cares?

    Chip H.

  3. #3
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chiph View Post
    The only criticism of the Flex that I've read is that the handling isn't what the body promises.

    But if like you say, you regard it as a party/cruiser, then who cares?

    Chip H.
    Exactly. Anyone who is looking for a bus-like vehicle to mimic a BMW 3 is barking up the wrong tree...

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