Nearly three years since TireKicker's first review of a Ford Flex, I'm left with many of the same emotions and questions. Actually, only one question: Why am I not seeing a lot more of them on the road?
First of all, I like the Flex...a lot. Enough to buy one with my own money, were I in the market. And this is one of the few 125 or so vehicles that pass through my hands in the course of a year where wife and kids agree. The Flex is a great big happy-maker. Room, comfort, utility and (especially when equipped with EcoBoost as the one provided to us for a week by Bell Ford in Phoenix was) power.
I also see the same things when I look at it that I did in the summer of '08...a bit of Range Rover here, a hint of Country Squire there. I also see a much more sensible approach to a car I owned and loved nearly 20 years ago.
We're a road-trip family. And when the kids were little, that meant a week or two on the road with strollers, Pak-N-Plays, and assorted other little people supplies. Back at home, it meant kids and their friends wanting to ride together to the movies, Build-A-Bear and other fun places. At the time, there was one sensible choice...so we bought a brand-new 1993 GMC Suburban. I called it the "Swiss Army Knife of cars". Keep the seats upright, and haul 8 people. Fold 'em down (well, actually, the third row had to be removed, was heavy and where do you stash the backseat of an SUV when you're not using it?), haul the big tables and chairs for the backyard birthday parties yourself and save yourself the anxiety of wondering whether the delivery guys would get there on time.
But the 'Burban had big drawbacks, too. It wouldn't fit in a standard-sized garage. It had the handling characteristics of an aircraft carrier. It weighed darn near three tons and it got 12 miles per gallon in the city and 16 on the highway. And every part except the door locks (there may be a bit of artistic license in that, but not much) needed to be replaced within the first five years.
If only there'd been a Ford Flex. Let's start with utility, shall we?
That, my friends, is the view from the tailgate of a Flex with the rear seats, the middle seats and the front passenger seat folded down. Game 7 (if needed) of the NBA Finals could be played in here. Meantime, here's your view:
Yes, that is the Limited model we drove, but there's actually a level above that, Titanium. And even without the wood and MyFord Touch system, you still get that clean design in the SE and SEL models.
Pop for the Limited, though, and you get SYNC, dual-zone automatic temperature control, leather-trimmed first and second row seats, a premium Sony audio system and a whole host of other goodies for $37, 865. Choose all-wheel drive and it's $39,715 and go full-boat like ours, with EcoBoost and all-wheel drive and the base price is $44,000. A base Yukon XL (what GMC calls their Suburban these days) is $42,415. Load one up so it's competitive with the Flex Limited and you'll be deep into $50,000 plus territory.
And let's talk about EcoBoost for a moment. 355 horsepower from a 3.5 liter V6. Without EcoBoost, it's 262 horsepower. That's right...a 97 hp improvement. That's boost, so where's the "Eco"? Well, an AWD Flex with the standard 262-horsepower V6 gets an EPA estimated 16 city/22 highway. Check the EcoBoost option box, get that extra 97 horsepower and it's 16 city/21 highway.
That's right...the same city MPG. You're trading one mile per gallon on the highway for 97 additional horsepower. Useful in a vehicle that can hold this many people and that much stuff, especially when passing.
This is definitely my new Swiss Army Knife. And if the price point of the Limited version is beyond the budget, the SE starts at $29,220 and the SEL at $31,850. You can't get EcoBoost with either of those, but you'll still have a brilliantly capable machine with the utility of a big SUV and none of its drawbacks.