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2009 Ford Flex: So What's the Verdict?

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2009 Ford Flex

2009 Ford Flex

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A few weeks ago, I told you about the 2009 Ford Flex in depth from a first drive in New York City--but held off on some details at Ford's request while the dead-tree media world caught up to speed.

Now that Ford's embargo on driving impressions has expired, it's time to talk about how the Flex drives. And for Ford, it's good news.

For starters, the Flex feels amply powerful for most driving in and out of the city. The 3.5-liter V-6 has enough power to get the job done, though there's a slight amount of engine roar at the top of the rev range. The most noticeable trait of the engine is that it's not often noticed; it executes on command, with few complaints. Still, I can't wait to see what Ford's 315-horsepower EcoBoost V-6 would do in this application.

The Flex's six-speed automatic transmission is related to the unit used in GM’s big crossover vehicles--Ford and GM joined forces to build the transmissions, but each has its own programming. In the Flex, the six-speed seems to hunt for gears less. Regardless of the circumstances we encountered, heading northeast into WASPy Connecticut or back into the city, the Flex's gearbox always extracted enough power to respond quickly to the throttle.

The Flex's handling is fine for a vehicle of its size,too. Its steering feel is smooth and fairly lightweight, if a little slow on response in the all-wheel-drive model I tested. It's a huge improvement over cars like Ford's own Explorer, which is pretty numb at every angle of the steering wheel, and even matches the new Honda Pilot, while completely outpointing the Pilot on matters of taste and style.

Maybe the best quality of the 2009 Ford Flex is its ride. It’s not soft and not firm, just ideally tuned to a comfortable setting that keeps its vertical motions controlled while absorbing most of the atrocious impacts you can find on the Sawmill Parkway--or Lexington Avenue. The Flex doesn't use an air suspension or complex suspension technology to get this sophisticated feel--just a well-tuned multilink rear suspension. Sure, there's body roll to be expected from a big crossover, but Ford's clearly been watching how its country cousins at Mazda tuned their own big CX-9.

In overall performance, the Flex is surprise-free, and if it’s not terribly exciting, it is certainly more than amply powerful and quiet. And in all, the Flex feels confident, assured--and fresh. I used to believe that Honda's Pilot had few peers in this class, but it's grown kludgy and thick; the Flex and Buick's Enclave are now the class of the class, and Ford's superior in-car features give it my nod.

Decide for yourself, though--you can read my full review of the 2009 Ford Flex and get more details on the Flex and on the opinions of some other respected Web sources, too.
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Comments (9)
  1. Does Ford really need this car? Shouldn't they focus on the Focus for example? Or produce more Escape hybrids for the willing public? Tauruses have suffered and will probably be going extinct soon - how is this vehicle going to change things and help Ford exactly? I just don't see people rushing to buy this high teen city MPG car the way they would five years ago. Too late Ford, back to the drawing board.
     
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  2. I'm still trying to come to terms with a car that looks like the mongrel child of a Range Rover and a four door Mini. And we accuse the Chinese of 'stealing' with respect to car design????
     
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  3. seano, u and a bunch of others just dont get it, but thats ok... Flex is a crossover that does everything a minivan would do, except, and here's the part you dont get, it doesnt look like a minivan, or anything else on the road for that matter. Its brilliant! How do you stand out in a sea of look-a-likes? Look different. And Ford is obviously betting theres a bunch of people out there who need the space and seating of a minivan or crossover but want to look different than everything else on the road. From a marketing standpoint it's brilliant!
     
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  4. I used to think that Ford's "me to" strategy for minivans could be solved functionally by going either significantly smaller like the Mazda5 or to make a product significantly larger that the Caravan & Pilot and try to capture a niche.
     
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  5. Flex is an amazing design and all reviews are saying the vehicle is well built and nicely packaged. Yes, there is a resemblance to Scion, Land Rover, Element, etc. Yes, this might be a tough sell with low mpg numbers. But, Ford got this right and my prediction is that the vehicle will result in a high number of conquest sales. Living in MI we see lots of pre-production cars and the Flex looks even better on the road than in pictures. Ford still has plenty of work ahead and the Flex is a great addition to the fleet.
     
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  6. mar - Let's hope the bet works out for Ford... The two key features that vans have are the sliding doors and a slightly better fuel economy than the crossovers. They ususally have more room too but I haven't compared the specs in this case. Those things are very important. Van sales are on the decline - if Ford can reverse this trend and/or make up sales that Taurus X is losing dramatically then it'd be great. The square look is all the rage but in cars two times smaller and targetting buyers who are twice younger than a typical fairly conservative van buyer. What are the chances of this bet working out for Ford? Probably less than in Vegas. I'd bet on the world-class Focus instead.
     
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  7. JKD you mention that "The square look is all the rage but in cars two times smaller and targetting buyers who are twice younger....." Well the boxes that you are refering to the Scion xB and the Element, actually have a median age that is a lot higher than you think. I know that the Element has a median age of the buyer around 47. The xB might be a bit lower, but I see a lot of 40-something's driving them around. I think this could work for Ford. And I have to admit, I like the Flex, based on everything that I have read. Good luck FoMoCo!
     
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  8. I have test driven the Flex, and let me speak for all the mom's that are out there who don't like mini vans, and who have owned a gas hog in the past. This crossover is a winner. The features that the Flex has well surpass any mini van and suv. I am so sick of hearing about Gas miles on this crossover. It's a seven passenger crossover people, I personally think it's 17 city/24 highway, is good for the size. I have two Ford Five Hundred's and they get 22 city/28 highway. These cars are not little either they are the biggest full size cars out there. Some of us out there need a 7 passenger vehicle and are wanting a lot of luxury a decent price. We can't fit 6 people in a focus nor a escape. This crossover is a perfect fit to any family.
     
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  9. We just bought our first Ford Flex and are looking at our second in just a few months. Reading all of the reviews and driving the vehicle one just MUST fall in love with it. What's not to love? It is AWD with predictive braking against skids and rollovers. It is super safe 5 star. It has a roomy interior and loads of cargo space and can haul something in the order of 4500 pounds of trailer, plenty for us. The entertainment system and SYNC is about the best on the market... hey, I can take my iPod or laptop out to the car and put 2000+ songs onto the built in memory; or I can just Bluetooth whatever I want into the system including my cellphone. High intensity headlights and foglamps? Great for Canadian winters. Inside noise? Much much more quiet than our Freestars. The list goes on and on. The only thing I don't like is those darned ribs along the side and the aluminum rear panel... which I think is going to be prone to dents and scratches but I could be wront. It had 19" wheels.. equals a smoother ride in conjunction with a tuned suspension - just amazing. All the bells and whistles, carries 7 with luggage (minimal). All this on a Volvo chassis - tough as nails. We looked at most everything on the market before choosing. And if you haven't bought one yet, better have a look. The intro price is not going to last long once the fever hits. I think Ford has a hit on their hands. Maybe.
     
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