Ford has given up on the minivan, and that’s why we have the Flex. The Freestar /Winstar was not well loved by the public, so Ford is re-approaching the family market with the Flex crossover.
Ford is going heavy for the crossover market. Of the Flex/Edge /Taurus X siblings of crossovers, the Flex is clearly the big brother. It is the largest, most expensive, and possibly the only one you will catch soccer dads driving.
The shape of the Flex takes the two-box style of cars to a new extreme. It is believed in some circles that the most effective design for a car is one box for the engine and a larger box for passengers. This was originally made popular on the first Mini, and with the Flex’s two-tone paint scheme, our white roofed Flex looks a little the like result of what would have happened if a Hummer and a Mini got together. Maybe an odd family tree but major cool points.
The inside of the Flex is pure truck. Everything is set up to make you feel like you are riding in a high and wide vehicle. The instruments are set up in a flat way that makes everything a little reach away. It isn’t inconvenient, just the kind of reach that would make you feel more like driving an F-150 than a Focus.
Supportive and wide seats lend themselves to the truck theme again. The leather bound buckets up front were comfortable enough that one tester though it was better than his living room furniture. There is seating for seven, and everyone’s got plenty of room as long as you’re not trying to put adults in the third row.
Ford’s Sync system is very intuitive. Just press one button on the steering wheel and accessories like the phone and radio are now in control. Once you learn a few basic commands, it’s like having your own intern.
The 3.5-liter V6 engine is the same one that is also used in the Edge and Taurus X. Because of the Flex’s size, all of its 262 horses have to work the hardest of trio. Our Flex was no slouch, but the pedal sometimes had to go to the floor to get the desired highway performance.
The steering was pure truck. The Flex never drove like a big car, but in attempt to make the steering track correctly, it becomes more soft than nimble (much like the F-150.) Another part of the Flex that was borrowed from the truck department was the driver set-up. The accelerator and brake pedal are set far apart, and their operation is heavy and deliberate. The instruments are set low to make the Flex feel like it’s riding higher than it actually is. Although our tester had four-wheel drive, be warned, the Flex’s low ground clearance insures that its there to master puddles, but not climb mountains.
The Flex has a good ride in the city. Our optional 20-inch wheels were good enough to absorb the little bumps with little reporting back to the driver. The body may be somewhat tall, but because it is based on car architecture, there isn’t the excessive body roll. The four-wheel independent suspension helps make sure that the ride is better than what you may find with an SUV. It’s based on a minivan; so it drives like a minivan (it just doesn’t look like a minivan).
The minivan is a tough sell for many companies these days. That’s why General Motors abandoned its countless cookie cutter family haulers in favor of the Acadia/Outlook/Traverse crossover. For Ford, the Flex is a no-brainer. This is a superior car to the minivan it replaces.
The Flex is distinctive and different. While it is likely that the Flex will mostly be seen at soccer practice, Ford has found a good way to hide the family-friendly nature of the car.