- Utilitarian-chic look
- EcoBoost rush
- Supportive seats
- Third-row still hard for adults to access
- Capacitive climate controls seem unnecessary
- High price tag in Limited form
With an unmistakable design, strong performance, and a roomy, comfortable interior, the 2013 Ford Flex proves that three-row crossovers don't have to be boring.
The boxy 2013 Ford Flex wagon isn't just fashionable; it's one of the better picks for a cross-country trip; and for carrying six adults out for the evening; and for busy moms; and for all of an afternoon's ill-advised IKEA purchases.
Catch our drift? While the Flex looks like a vehicle that must have some sort of deal-breaking packaging flaw, there really isn't. Compared to most other crossovers on the market, the Flex not only makes 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 can be hustled as quickly as some sporty sedans.It’s a pleasant vehicle to drive, too, and we think it's a step up from the likes of the Traverse, Pilot, and Highlander. Mostly, it's because of the superior ride quality, descended way back from the Volvo XC90 that spun off the Flex' platform, the same one underpinning the Taurus, the Lincoln MKS and the MKT. Even the base Flex carries itself like a smaller wagon, with crisp steering feel and a compliant feel that comes from its long wheelbase, but great control over its body motions even when it's hustled in a way no family vehicle will ever be used. Trust us on this one.
Ford has made good by fitting variable cam timing to the base 3.5-liter V-6 this year, so it now makes 287 hp and returns 1 mpg better compared to last year. But the star of the lineup remains the turbocharged, 365-hp EcoBoost Flex, which runs off 0-60 mph times of under seven seconds and lightens up the Flex's footwork, making it faster than anything in the class. Thanks to a new electric power steering system, a quicker ratio, and a steering unit that's now locked onto the subframe, steering feel is more precise, while a host of improvements improve ride harshness and keep the cabin much quieter from road noise.
As large as the 2013 Flex is (it's 202 inches long, with an also-long 118-inch wheelbase), it's surprisingly manageable to park and drive around the city. It doesn't exactly drive small, but it doesn't feel much more cumbersome than a mid-size sedan. All the seats in both the first and second rows are cozy, with limousine-like room in every direction, and a choice of buckets or a bench. The long wheelbase pays off most here, but even the third-row seat has leg room for smaller adults, though head room is scant for six-footers.
The Flex is among the safest vehicles you can buy. Its comprehensive safety package includes six airbags, anti-lock brakes, and stability control with anti-rollover technology. A rearview camera and parking sensors are available, as are a blind-spot warning system and adaptive cruise control, and this year it gains inflatable second-row seat belts, and adaptive cruise control (with forward collision alert), and a blind-spot monitoring system.
The 2013 Ford Flex isn't only about bold looks and three-row seating; it aims to be an excellent, full-featured family wagon, and especially in its top Limited guise feels like a full-fledged luxury model. The base Flex SE comes standard with three-row seating; a CD player; power windows, mirrors and locks; capless fuel filling; and MyKey, which lets owners set pre-programmed levels for radio volume and vehicle speed, effectively putting an electronic leash on younger drivers. Upscale Flex crossovers can be fitted with the EcoBoost turbo engine; all-wheel drive; a leather interior; and a glass panoramic sunroof. All 2013 models except the base SE include the new, upgraded version of MyFord Touch, which includes improved responsiveness, a less cluttered look, improved fonts, and a better design for on-screen buttons. 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 capacitive panel that houses supplemental audio and climate-control buttons. There's a physical button for the hazard lamps, but all else (even climate controls) relies on touch.