DETROIT – Except for the Mini, I don't know that I've ever seen a relatively flat sided vehicle that is as snazzy as Ford's Flex. My hat is off to its designers.
The 2009 Ford Flex was a head turner. It was big, with three rows of seats, had side grooves in the doors and it had a distinctive roof; for $395 you can paint the Flex's roof white or gray and turn it into a two tone vehicle. The Flex is the reason that Ford could stop producing minivans.
It's made for comfort. There was plenty of room in the fully adjustable second row seats. The center console was a chill box. There's was a 110 volt, three pronged, electrical socket as well as a 12 volt power plug. The second row seats were also heated.
They would fold and flip forward with the push of a button. In other words, the second row seats' fold and flip capabilities could be done by power or manually. The third row was somewhat cramped but I got back there before I had the second row seats forward. Once I did that, access was relatively easy.
However, because of the rear wheel wells' intrusion into the interior, foot space wasn't as wide as I would have liked. Still, it was nothing to really complain about.
The front row wasn't bad either. First the Flex had an ambience that is not found in many American cars. There was faux wood which was nicely done and Ford used silver satin finish on the center console. I hate that stuff. But this was one of the few times that it worked. That is the Flex's center stack didn't look like it was covered with a shiny cheap plastic template.
There was also some thoughtfulness. In addition to heated first and second row seats, my test vehicle had adjustable pedals and its perforated black leather interior had a diamond motif that looked pretty good. My only quibble was that the Ford blue oval logo looked out of place in the center of the steering wheel. But those seats were awfully comfortable.
Also impressive was the entertainment and communications system. In addition to a six disc CD players, the Flex had a USB port as well as an auxiliary jack. The touch screen navigation system was also outfitted with a rearview camera. There was also a back up sensor system.
With Ford's Microsoft powered Sync system, all of the controls could be operated with voice commands. And the Bluetooth system kept a record of all the cell phones it had been connected to; that made reconnecting relatively simple.
My test vehicle had a Vista Roof which was just what it sounded like: a glass roof. The front section had a standard moon roof. And there was what amounted to immovable sky lights over the second row seats as well as the third row seat.
And when I say big, no other vehicle comes to mind that is not as big as it appears. At 4,600 lbs., the Flex was rather light in the axle given its size. It was also sat relatively low to the ground and it had a low center of gravity. Rollovers, when it comes to the Ford Flex, are really not realistic.
What's more, the Flex was easy to drive. It had a 262 horsepower V6 that made 248 foot-pounds of torque. Mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, it was the smoothest gear shifting I've ever experienced in a Ford.
Either front-wheel-drive or all-wheel drive models are available. I had all-wheel-drive and not only could the system send torque from the front to rear wheels, it could send torque from side to side as needed.
The suspension was great. Not once did I feel like I was driving a truck or a sport-utility. Only when turning a corner was I reminded that the Flex was full size. It had a power liftgate which I really didn't use and the third row seats could flip over and fold like a crouton creating a flat cargo floor.
With options and freight costs, my test vehicle was $43,250