Touch, not tackle
The main instrument panel has been redesigned to go along with MyFord Touch, and a left panel can be reconfigured to show a number of different functions, including a graphic tachometer. Also new, just below MyFord Touch, is a capacitative panel that houses supplemental audio and climate-control buttons. There's a physical button for the hazard lamps, but all else relies on touch.
On coarse surfaces and over choppy sections of road, it's readily apparent that the Flex is much quieter inside; Ford has added a host of improvements to lower noise and harshness in the vehicle—like wrapping shock towers with sound absorbers, adding insulation behind the dash and under pass-throughs, and adding wheel liners.
A second-row refrigerated console is a feature that's not available in any other vehicle in this class. Other new features include rain-sensing wipers, passive entry and start, and a new feature that lets you go up or down a gear at a time on all models, not just those with paddle-shifters.
New for the first time this year is an Appearance Package that brings a black (as opposed to white or silver) roof—plus black mirrors, unique door-trim panels, and 20-inch machined aluminum wheels with painted pockets. In all, Ford says that there are six new wheel styles, with three of them 20-inch.
Design sells—but now it drives even better
Our test Flex, an EcoBoost Limited, had the black roof, in addition to the panoramic vista rood, the Titanium Appearance Package, the refrigerated console, rear inflatable seatbelts, and the 20-inch wheels—at a total of $52,055. And since the Flex's design is largely what sells, it's going to be worth the money if it's what you love.
We like the Flex even more with this latest batch of changes; and we only wish that it might do a bit better yet than its current gas-mileage ratings (we saw a 17-mpg average over about a hundred miles). And given that it's popular in greener California, where gas tends to be more expensive, we're surprised that Ford didn't target them with a Flex EcoBoost 2.0T.
We think the Flex is one of the most overlooked vehicles today, and we'd rather have a Flex than either an Edge or Explorer. Not only does it make more sense; it's more stylish, and at least next to the Explorer, it drives better. You get the interior packaging goodness of a minivan, without the mommy-wagon image. Plus, with this year's changes, a more cohesive design than ever and with the EcoBoost, a vehicle that drives like a sporty sedan.
Boxy is even more beautiful.