The Ford Flex is an important vehicle for ford, as it is basically the automaker's replacement for its dead (and not missed) minivans. Absent the Flex, which doesn't arrive until MY2009, the only 7-passenger vehicles the Oval offers are the fuel-thirsty Expedition, the slow-selling Explorer, and the lame-duck Freestyle, which gets reincarnated as the Taurus X later this year.

Popular Mechanics was able to get some shots of the Flex while it was testing on public roads. Since the car is a known commodity, having been shown in new York last month, the prototype seen here is refreshingly devoid of the bras and cladding most development mules wear in public. Ford does the bare minimum, giving it black bumpers and a white Gilette grille, but it's all production bodywork.

Looking over the spy shots reminds us just how big the Flex is. It's as long as a Tahoe, and its lower stance seems to exaggerate the length when viewed in profile. Of course, that size is what's supposed to make it such a comfortable way to haul you, a bunch of friends, and a fair amount of stuff, too. Hopefully, the 3.5L V6 is up to the task, because while its perfectly good in the smaller Edge and Lincoln MKX, we wonder how spunky it'll be pulling around the sizeable Flex. Time will tell -- and there's time enough between now and when the big crossover arrives in showrooms for Ford to make sure everything's as it needs to be to make it successful.

[Source: Popular Mechanics]
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