The Flex was surprisingly able on a curvy road before, but with some improvements for 2013 it's now almost in the fun-to-drive category. Ford's electric power steering system, which was previously only fitted to EcoBoost versions, is now included in all Flex models; it's also hard-mounted to the front subframe and has a quicker steering ratio this year. Brakes are also upgraded with more friction area and a larger master cylinder (plus different booster tuning) for improved pedal feel. Altogether, turn-in is now crisp, the steering loads up predictably, and there's even a little feel of the road coming through; the brakes have a noticeably stronger bite as well.
Base 2013 Flex models aren't blisteringly quick, but Ford has added a bit more muscle to the base Flex this year—with a new version of the 3.5-liter V-6, incorporating Ti-VCT (variable camshaft timing) and making 287 hp and 254 lb-ft of torque. EPA fuel economy ratings improve by 1 mpg all around as well. With this engine pickup is only adequate off the line, yet passing power is pretty strong, even with a few passengers on board. The six-speed automatic shifts smoothly, noticeably better than the similar transmission found in GM's big crossovers (Acadia, Enclave, Traverse). We'd advise you check out all-wheel drive if you live in the northern tier, but otherwise give it a pass, since it adds more lead to the Flex's feet, since it already weighs about 4,600 pounds.
EcoBoost models make 365 hp and churn out the torque, with a seamless wave as the six-speed automatic upshifts. Steering-wheel paddle shifters are included with this model. You can now give the paddle-shifters a yank in drive, and it'll deliver a quick downshift. The system is smart and considers yaw and steering-angle sensors, as well as throttle, so if you're in the middle of a corner or still climbing a hill, it will stay in the lower gear; but if you ease off the throttle it will go back to the upper gear in as little as ten seconds.
Ride and handling are very well-tuned in the Flex, and with a quicker steering ratio this year plus a new electric power steering system (only EcoBoost models got it before) that's fixed to the subframe, there's more precision and quickness built in. The Flex comports itself like a smaller station wagon, with fairly crisp steering feel and a compliant ride that only gets boundy if you hustle the Flex into deep, tight corners, despite its size.