- Against-the-grain styling
- Wealth of features
- First- and second-row seating comfort
- Tight headroom in third-row seat
- Uncomfortable headrests
- No telescoping steering wheel
The 2009 Ford Flex is one of the most stylish new crossovers, with great passenger room and more features than some minivans.
The 2009 Ford Flex, with its slab-sided styling, is unlike any crossover vehicle on the market, not to mention any Ford of recent vintage. Its heritage is part American station wagon, part MINI Cooper, and even part Land Rover Range Rover, from its ribbed sides to its wide nose to its white- or silver-painted roof. Inside, the Flex sports a low instrument panel with blue-lit gauges, a red-lit pair of cup holders in the center console, and a choice of fabric seats with tweedy trim or leather.
The 2009 Ford Flex relies on a 262-horsepower V-6 engine for its power. The engine is coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is the norm, while the Flex also offers all-wheel drive as an option. This powertrain means the Flex is competitive at 17 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. The fuel economy isn't due to blistering acceleration, as the Flex runs from 0 to 60 in about 9 seconds. Handling is surprisingly adept for such a large vehicle, and the Flex's ride quality shows what a well-tuned conventional set of shocks and control arms can do, instead of an expensive, fancy air suspension.
In its vast, airy cabin, the 2009 Ford Flex offers seating for seven. The front two seats have the comfort of Volvo chairs, with equally intrusive headrests. The second-row chairs are seats of honor, with high seating positions and lots of adjustable legroom. The third-row seat has enough legroom for adults, but tall passengers will want for headroom. The second-row seats tumble with the push of a lever—or a button—to ease access to the third row.
The Flex’s safety hasn’t been tested by the insurance industry, but a comprehensive set of safety features includes six airbags, anti-lock brakes, and stability control with anti-rollover technology. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the Flex five stars for front- and side-impact crashworthiness, and four stars for rollover resistance.
The features offered as standard equipment and as options on the 2009 Ford Flex are pretty astounding. It’s gone far beyond power windows; the Flex will have third-row seats and a CD player standard, with options including Ford’s SYNC system, navigation, a second-row refrigerator and footrests, a Sony audio system with Sirius Travel Link, and a glorious four-panel Vista Roof that opens up the Flex’s cabin to the sky.
2009 Ford Flex
The 2009 Ford Flex is like nothing in the crossover segment—but it echoes two of TheCarConnection.com’s highest-rated vehicles.
The 2009 Ford Flex simply looks like no other vehicle in its class—and you have to scan the sides of the much smaller MINI Cooper or the much higher-priced Range Rover to see the resemblance to anything on the road.
Automobile sees the “quirky, modern designs of the Mini Cooper and Scion xB” in its profile, while Car and Driver imagines the Ford Flex as a “nearly perfect doppelgänger for the Fairlane concept shown at the Detroit show in 2005.” It stands “ramrod upright, with four strakes along its flanks, tinted glass all around, and a body-color top or a Mini-esque contrasting top that will be available in white or silver,” they add. Edmunds colorfully describes it as a “rolling stare magnet,” from the “four horizontal grooves stamped into the outer door panels to the Range Rover-like blacked-out pillars to the Mini-with-elephantiasis roof.” Another Edmunds editor writes, “If nothing else, the Ford Flex will not look like every other $30K crossover,” while Jalopnik reports that “on the streets the Flex actually looks pretty cool.” Automobile circles back to explain how the Flex’s “ribbed doors recall classic American 'woodie' station wagons, but not in a cheesy, retro sort of way.”
The interior of the 2009 Ford Flex “will be the best in the Ford lineup,” Automobile promises. “The overall look and feel of the interior” is “impressive as well,” Edmunds says. It’s “exceptionally spacious,” they add—but Jalopnik giggles at “Star Wars robot trooper inspired headrests.”
TheCarConnection.com recently drove, and was driven in, the 2009 Ford Flex in New York City. The Flex’s two-box styling and its all-black greenhouse, along with those four ribs on the sides and a continuous belt molding, give it a low, long look and styling unity. It’s squat and square, with one foot planted in British heritage (the side view is pure Range Rover; the front stance, a knockoff of the MINI Cooper), the other in good old-fashioned Americana, circa 1955.
Inside, TheCarConnection.com sees hints of the high-end fashion and furniture that Ford stylists say they looked to when designing the interior of the 2009 Ford Flex. The influence of the Land Rover Range Rover is evident, too; the center stack of instruments and some gray plastics look like those on the Range Rover. The instruments are clear and lit with blue, while the cup holders have low-watt red lighting. The best interior package also has black leather seats with white stitching, a handsome touch.
2009 Ford Flex
The 2009 Ford Flex has ample power and a smooth, controlled ride, as well as reasonably athletic responses.
The 2009 Ford Flex will offer a single powertrain, with a choice of front- or all-wheel drive.
Automobile notes that the 2009 Ford Flex’s standard engine is “the same 3.5-liter V-6 found throughout the Ford, Mazda, Mercury, and Lincoln brands.” In the Flex, Ford will push the V-6 to 262 hp and 248 pound-feet of torque. In other applications, TheCarConnection.com notes, this engine produces ample power, with a touch of noticeable engine noise at the very top of its rev range. Edmunds says with “an estimated curb weight of 4,650 pounds, Ford says the Flex will accelerate to 60 mph in about 9 seconds,” which may put it a second slower than the large crossovers from General Motors (Saturn Outlook, GMC Acadia, Buick Enclave, and Chevrolet Traverse). Edmunds adds that a 2010 Ford Flex will include a twin-turbo version of the engine, with about 340 hp.
The 2009 Ford Flex comes with a single gearbox, a six-speed automatic transmission that was co-developed with General Motors. There’s also an “intelligent all-wheel-drive system, capable of routing 100 percent of the engine's torque to either axle,” Edmunds adds. All-wheel drive will be “optional,” Car and Driver points out.
Ford says the front-drive version of the 2009 Ford Flex is rated at 17/24 mpg, while the all-wheel-drive Flex gets 16/22 mpg. Edmunds says it is rated to “tow up to 4,500 pounds.”
Autoblog says "the tuning of the four-wheel independent suspension kept body roll to a minimum, and driver confidence in sweeping corners high." They also note that the Flex's "fuel economy ratings of 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway (16/22 in AWD trim)...trump[s] all of the 7-passenger full-size SUVs." Motor Trend adds that "the Flex demonstrated reasonable acceleration, and its handling was about as sprightly as one expects in a two-ton car. Ride is supple and controlled with minimal lean or fuss in turns, but the long wheelbase and mass are natural deterrents to any boy-racer inclinations." Car and Driver feels "there is nothing overtly sporty about the Flex," but later adds that "the chassis is well tuned for a family crossover, with pleasantly direct steering that has just the right amount of boost and good on-center feel."
TheCarConnection.com's editors drove the Ford Flex recently in New York City and the nearby suburbs. 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 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--but in the Flex, the six-speed seems to hunt for gears less.
The Flex's handling is fine for a vehicle of its size. Steering feel is smooth and fairly lightweight, if a little slow on response in the all-wheel-drive model tested. Perhaps 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 multi-link rear suspension. In overall performance, the Flex is surprise-free, and if it’s not terribly exciting, it is certainly more than amply powerful and quiet.
2009 Ford Flex
Comfort & Quality
The 2009 Ford Flex is an exceptionally roomy crossover vehicle, and quality seems to match Ford’s best intentions.
The 2009 Ford Flex has crisp styling and a strong powertrain, but its killer application is its ability to haul seven passengers in comfort.
The 2009 Ford Flex has “impressive interior packaging,” according to Edmunds. “The second-row seats literally flip and fold forward at the touch of a button…and the third-row seat is fully functional for full-sized adults.” Jalopnik reports that the second-row seats “are firm and they travel on tracks so you can go all the way from huge legroom in the middle row and a reasonable amount in the wayback, or comfy legroom for all.” Edmunds adds that “there is 7.5 inches more legroom in the second row of the Flex than in the slightly longer Chevy Traverse crossover,” and in the third row, “some 8 inches more than a Chevy Tahoe.”
The seats themselves are “firm, with nice perforated leather and remind us of minivan seats,” Jalopnik reports. “And the sunroofs--all of them--were quite a sky-sight to behold. All in all, we were pleasantly surprised and look forward to spending some time with it on our own terms.” Visibility is a strong point in the 2009 Ford Flex, Car and Driver says.
Edmunds thought the interior quality was higher than most recent Fords, too: “There were also soft-touch inserts along the door panels where your hand or arm is likely to contact them, and while much of the dash (and the bulk of the door panels) were hard plastic, the plastic had a rich texture that at least made it look premium.”
The optional Vista Roof in the 2009 Ford Flex will “brighten the interior,” Car and Driver says. Base versions also offer a “faux tweed” seat trim with “miniature houndstooth patches.”
TheCarConnection.com’s recent rides in the 2009 Ford Flex proved many of the same points. The front seats are the place to be, not only because they’re comfortable, but because most of the fun entertainment systems are within hands’ reach. The seats themselves show that Ford is picking up lessons from Volvo, which has the best seats on the planet. The headrests on the Flex, though, push intrusively forward and can’t be adjusted backward since they incorporate anti-whiplash protection.
The second-row seat is best for leg- and headroom. The seats move to and fro for limousinelike room, and a single lever folds the seatbacks down and tilts the seat forward for easy access to the third row. There’s also a power button that will do the same for you.
The third row has limited use for adults, but kids should be happy back there. Head- and legroom are fine for anyone under 5 feet, 8 inches or so—six-footers will be impinged by the Vista Roof headliner. The third-row seat isn’t small—and it seems better than the same position in the 2009 Honda Pilot.
In terms of fit and finish, early versions of the Flex showed fine assembly quality—and materials, and the way they work together, are a step up for Ford. The door panels have faux-wood trim, metallic bands, leather, and plastic all next to each other, and they come off as high-quality pieces. There is some hard gray plastic, banished to places where hands don’t usually touch. Everything within arm’s reach seems to feel soft and considered.
2009 Ford Flex
The 2009 Ford Flex is outfitted with all the latest safety equipment, but has not yet been tested.
The 2009 Ford Flex earned five stars for front- and side-impact safety from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It also scored four stars for rollover protection. The private Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has not tested the Flex.
Standard safety features on the 2009 Ford Flex will include front and side-mounted airbags, a three-row “Safety Canopy” curtain airbag, AdvanceTrac stability control with rollover-limiting technology, and an optional, rear backup camera, Edmunds reports.
Ford’s stability control system incorporates Roll Stability Control, which should give the Flex superior rollover resistance ratings.
2009 Ford Flex
The 2009 Ford Flex will be one of the best-equipped vehicles on the road, with a laundry list of high-tech options.
The 2009 Ford Flex outfits its passenger cabin with a glorious amount of electronic and commonsense features that are meant to set it miles apart from the current crop of crossovers.
Just in terms of electronics, Ford offers its SYNC system, which uses voice activation to command MP3 players, cell phones, and an optional navigation system; Sirius Satellite Radio with optional Travel Link services that provide traffic, weather, and other information on the go; Sony audio systems with 700 watts of power and surround sound; and a rearview camera for safety and visibility.
“In six-passenger versions,” Automobile reports, “a refrigerator will be offered between the second row captain's chairs. Driven by a compressor, it will cool seven 12-ounce cans or two 20-ounce bottles to forty-one degrees. Ford's capless fuel filler system will find its way down to the Flex, too, and ambient lighting will continue its sweep through the Ford family.”
Other key features will be the optional four-panel Vista Roof, and a hidden keyless entry pad that responds to a swipe of a finger like the Apple iPhone. “My only complaint thus far?” Edmunds says. “No telescoping steering wheel. That seems like an oversight in a segment this competitive.”
Edmunds also points out that with a base price of $28,995 before destination charges, the 2009 Ford Flex will be “more expensive than a 2008 Honda Pilot, about $1,000 cheaper than a base-level GMC Acadia and a bit more than a decently equipped Dodge Grand Caravan SXT minivan.” Add to this the all-wheel-drive system, voice-activated navigation, second-row captain's chairs, SYNC, upgraded Sony-branded stereo, rearview camera, and the Vista Roof, and you'll find your Flex nearing the $40,000 mark.
TheCarConnection.com adds that all three versions of the 2009 Ford Flex offer ample standard features. The Flex SE includes an AM/FM/CD player, 18-inch wheels, and three-row seating. The Flex SEL adds on some chrome exterior trim, a Sony audio system, and Sirius Satellite Radio. The 2009 Ford Flex Limited piles on features like a 110V power outlet, high-intensity discharge headlamps, a power tailgate, and Ford’s SYNC entertainment system, which uses voice commands to control MP3 players and Bluetooth to control cell phones.