• Jul 17, 2008

2009 Ford Flex – Click above for high-res image gallery

When the Ford Fairlane concept bowed in Detroit in 2005, it proved that Ford could design a stylish crossover recognizable from a mile away. Unfortunately, Ford didn't exactly have a stellar record of bringing hot concepts to market, so expectations were low that we would ever see the Fairlane reach production. Fast forward to 2008, and the Ford Flex is born. It's bigger than the Fairlane, yet it looks very much like the outlandish wagon that we saw in Motor City a few years earlier. Does the Ford Flex have the style, capability and appointments to be a player in the suddenly crowded large CUV market? Or is this modern day Woody just another oversized people hauler that misses the mark? Hit the jump to see how the all-new Flex fared during its stay in the Autoblog Garage.



All photos Copyright ©2007 Chris Shunk / Weblogs, Inc.


While the Ford cupboard is full of crossovers of various shapes and sizes, only the Edge slightly stands out for its styling. That changes with the arrival of the Flex. Its boxy, love it or hate it looks signals that Blue Oval designers have finally learned the recipe for generating some type of enthusiasm from the American buyer. The square dimensions, low ride height and massive 19-inch rims give the Flex a truly unique appearance in the market place, and the distinctive features don't end there. Our Cinnamon Clearcoat Metallic tester arrived with a White Suede roof, which contrasted nicely with the exterior hue. Black and silver lids are also available and the raked side panels accentuate the length and brawn of the Flex while also giving it some old school Woody flare. The available chromed rear end makes things appear more interesting out back.

With a steady stream of new cars and trucks to test, we're used to hearing comments from on-lookers about what we're driving. Of the vehicle's we've reviewed in the past couple years, the Flex garnered more attention -- good and bad -- than most. Three neighbors wanted to take it for a drive. One guy said it looked like a hot fudge sundae with whipped cream on top (he wasn't impressed). A woman even walked into the barber shop and asked who was driving the Flex. She wanted to take a closer look, and then waited for me to finish getting my trim before scoping out the boxy people mover. The Freestyle/Taurus X has never received that kind of attention and it speaks volumes about the quantum leap Ford took with the Flex.


The Flex is in a league of its own with regards to styling (good or bad), but at heart it's simply a seven-passenger family hauler. The interior is a very important place for soccer moms and dads, and since the Flex is Ford's defacto minivan, it has to be comfortable and full of things families want and need. Our tester carried a $43,250 price tag, and included a massive 8.5-inch navigation system with Travel Link, a Vista moon roof that spans all three rows, all-wheel-drive, and a refrigerator/freezer located at the second row console.

When we first had the chance to sit inside a Flex at the 2007 New York Auto Show, we were met with the same hard plastic that adorns the Taurus X. Fortunately, Ford performed a complete 180 for the production model, and the result is a level of refinement that is unsurpassed in the Ford lineup, stacking up nicely against the Honda Pilot and Buick Enclave. Plastics are high quality, feel great to the touch, and have plenty of cushion in all the right places. The center arm rest is made of leather, the steering wheel is thick and pleasant to the touch, and the seating surfaces are well-bolstered with ample thigh support.

There were plenty of options on our Flex, and Ford's new navigation system with Travel Link was our clear favorite. It's bright, simple to operate, and has clever features like a gas station finder that can sort by proximity or price. The Vista roof is massive, and the kids loved it, but it's tough to justify at $1,400. Without the shade drawn, the interior temperature skyrockets and causes the air conditioner to work overtime -- not to mention the weight penalty it adds to the already hefty, two-ton Flex. The second row refrigerator, at $760, was another option that we would omit from the options list. It's minuscule, costs as much as a 25 cubic foot Frigidaire, and just doesn't provide much bang for the buck. We'll stick with a $15 cooler and a half bag of ice if we want to travel with cold beverages.

Out on the open road or in congested traffic, the Flex provided plenty of comfort and capability. Ford's 3.5L V6 performs its task well, providing 262 hp for the driver to play with. It won't strike fear into the hearts of radials and it isn't Lexus smooth, but it'll get you onto the freeway without much fuss. The 6F50 six-speed transmission, co-developed with GM, was smooth as butter, though we would have liked to have a manual mode to play with in place of Ford's standard "PRNDL" fare. Fuel economy was right in line with that of the AWD competition, averaging 20.6 mpg in mixed driving. FWD models score about two mpg better in the EPA cycle, so if fuel economy is a top concern, you may want to skip out on the ability to move all four wheels at the same time.

The Flex is underpinned by a reworked version of the Taurus-X platform, and the ride is very smooth while providing some driver feedback that other crossovers miss. Ford engineers did an adequate job of giving drivers steering feel, and while the result is better than what we've experienced in the Edge, we'd still like a little more feedback. Since the Flex has a relatively low center of gravity, body roll is well controlled, but predictably, the 19-inch wheels don't soak up bumps quite as well as vehicles with more moderately sized rollers.


Over the past couple years, the number of crossovers on the roads has skyrocketed. Ford has invested plenty of time and money on the segment, and after coming close to getting it right with the Edge, the Blue Oval has struck gold with the Flex. It has the technology customers crave, its interior is world class, and it turns heads everywhere it goes. Does the Flex have enough of what customers want to make it a hit? We think Ford finally struck the bulls-eye.



All photos copyright Chris Shunk / Weblogs Inc.


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 89 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      This car is uglgy and updated! This car is 20 years late. I saw one yesterday! What the hell Ford's thinking? Oh God, have a mercy on Ford.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Glad you so passionately dislike it...that bodes well for Ford: polarizing design. It will do well.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Sweet baby Jesus, that's ugly. A Clubman that had a giant enema, that's what that... thing is.
      • 6 Years Ago
      If you think the picture is ugly, wait until you see it in person. Like they said, love it or hate it. I like Square vehicles, this one is a bit square retro in a turn off way for me.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I've seen and been in one in person. Yes, it is even uglier live than in pictures. I guess if you can't do good you settle for weird.
      • 6 Years Ago
      the styling has some possiblity but i could do without the
      side panel grooves and the alum trim on tailgate. the interior seems to ordinary. i'm not suggested that it should be overdesigned like the mini but it could use a bit more umph. perhaps this biggestest problem with this car is the engine and gas mileage. ford better have a few alternatives up its sleeve and reveal them real soon! hybrid, turbo 4 or something. when they offer that, they will sell these cars.
      people will move from suburbans to flex but the gas milage has to be better.
        • 6 Years Ago
        To me, the design looks good, but its 5 sizes too big. It might look good if it was based on the Focus platform, as in take the same design, but the size of a Focus sedan.
      • 6 Years Ago
      OMG what is going on in the US. This is one ugly car. The styling is not only dated on the outside but what is going on inside?

      Why not build a left hook Ford AUS Territory its available in both RWD & AWD. It is by far a better SUV. Follow this link and have a look, see what you think, let me know!
      http://www.ford.com.au/servlet/ContentServer?cid=1137384156002&pagename=Page&c=DFYPage
        • 6 Years Ago
        Mate, your dollar's within a couple cents of ours, a fact that actually makes me a little sick inside due to worry. The Aussie dollar should not be as close as it is...

        Regardless, you've just linked us to an SUV that could be over US$60,000...that's just not going to work.
      • 6 Years Ago
      At $4 a gallon for gas this thing is all dressed up with no place to go.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I can't take it anymore, just stop it. Who are you talking to anyway? Who doesn't know how pricey gas is? Is it so important that someone HAS to bring it up every other friggen post?! Damn...
        • 6 Years Ago
        What 7 passenger vehicle gets 30 mpg? It's a minivan. People who need to haul kids around still needs a vehicle like this no matter what the gas price is. Kids still need to go to school, and that average 2 1/2 kid household needs a vehicle to drive everyone around. It is still cheaper than taking 2 cars.
          • 6 Years Ago
          My Mazda5 gets 29 on the highway.
        • 6 Years Ago
        ...which doesn't seat 7...
        • 6 Years Ago
        While there will be roomy 7 passenger vehicles that get 30 mpg highway within a few years, it's going to be pretty lean for all automakers in the U.S. until we get there.

        With the right current gasoline engine/transmission and some weight reduction, vehicles the size of the first Toyota Sienna or the short wheelbase Dodge Caravan would get 30 mpg highway. It won't take revolutionary technology.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I know someone with a Mazda 5... which look cool, is a minivan, has a slick 5 speed manual trans, is sporty and fun to drive (vs this brick) and she manages to get 30 mpgs on a regular basis with that - sans diesel (apples to oranges).
        • 6 Years Ago
        Oh yea, let's add that the seats are probably some of the most comfortable and roomiest that you're going to get in a 7-passenger vehicle, from what some of the reviewers are saying.
        • 6 Years Ago
        In the past, most people who bought 3 row vehicles didn't need all those seats all the time. They had two or three kids, but they bought larger for the occasions where they had the in-laws over, or the kids friends with them. They seldom actually needed a car this large, but there wasn't much penalty for buying larger than they needed and it was convenient.

        Yes, there are some families with four kids, but they are a very small minority.

        Now there is a very large penalty for buying larger than you need on a daily basis -- $4/gallon gas. Those folks with 2 or 3 kids are not going to buy another vehicle the size of a Grand Caravan or a Flex. They are looking for a more fuel efficient car. They will buy a two-row vehicle, or a much smaller 3-row like the Mazda5.

        The Flex was a great idea when the project was started. It is well executed. But the market has changed in the meantime.

        Dan Neil's review of the Flex was spot-on: "It's too good a vehicle to be ignored entirely. It will scavenge minivan sales away from league leaders like the Honda Odyssey and the Toyota Sienna (the redesigned Chrysler Town & Country never really achieved escape velocity). It will garner the attention of buyers with big families, and only those with big families. In the space of six months, the Flex has gone from mass-market vehicle to niche product."

        http://www.boston.com/cars/car_reviews/articles/2008/07/12/ford_flex_brilliant_idea_with_bad_timing/
        • 6 Years Ago
        Gets better MPG than a Audi A4 Quattro 3.2L V6 @15/25 mpg!
        • 6 Years Ago
        24 MPG is still pretty good for a 7 seater.
        • 6 Years Ago
        $40k for a 4000 lb cow that gets 19 mpg in real world city driving with gas at 4 a gallon for good? And looks ungainly awkward and ugly to boot? This thing is going to sink like a lead zeppelin.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Mazda5 does have a 3rd row but i think only seats 6. I saw one of these Fords on the road yesterday here in Austin. It really stands out that is for sure.

        What we need is a minivan exactly like the Mazda 5 only with a hydrid powertrain. Mazda5 is a seriously good car as is but the extra bump in economy would make it perfect. Still better than anything else in its class though.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Agreed. I don't think there's still a mass market for passenger vehicles that can't get 30 mpg on the highway.
        • 6 Years Ago
        @jordan
        Can either of you two name a 7-passenger automobile that does give 30mpg?

        ...oh, that's right, there really isn't one...

        In Europe Ford has the Galaxy, which is enormous and seats 7. The most powerful diesel gets 35 mpg (US) in the European combined rating, so a 30 mpg EPA rating would be quite realistic.
        Volkswagen has the Sharan (The Bluemotion model boasts a 38 mpg rating). Dodge has the Journey with a VW 2.0 TDI and DSG. (34-36 mpg combined, depending on trim level)
        There are similar choices from France, Italy and Japan, plus a lot of smaller, even more efficient 7-seaters. Basically, a 30 mpg rating would be perceived as inacceptably bad for a family vehicle in Europe.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Not bad on the execution Ford....but $40K?

        $40K is a new in ground pool. or a finished basement.

        $40K for a family hauling, gas guzzler?

        I'll find a nice used one in a couple of years, I can grab for say, $19K with about 30K miles on it.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Ford have excellent hybrid technology and they also have a new diesel engine coming up for use in all 50 states of the USA. Perhaps, they need to look at offering one of those on the Flex and keep the Ecoboost engine for the luxury Lincoln version. In the bread and butter versions the significantly better fuel efficiency of a diesel or a hybrid would put them ahead of the competition in a huge way. They would also be able to sell the hybrid Flex to the New York and Chicago taxi fleets in solid numbers, making the extra cost of development well worthwhile. Right now, they are about to get a kick in the pants when the Lincoln Town Car effectively gets legislated out of the taxi market and the Escape Hybrid isn't doing all that well because it is too small in comparison with the Town Car.

      I have been a Ford owner on three continents and for many years and I have been recently disappointed with their US offerings. The Flex, however, does strike me as being a positive development. If the car is practical and if it offers ease of use and the excellent fuel efficiency of a hybrid, there would be many more sold - money in the bank looks much better than any car ever made looks on the driveway.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Every car that gets criticized by AB commenters ends up selling like gangbusters. This happened with the new Focus as well. If AB commenters can be used to measure future sales, this thing will do quite well.
      • 6 Years Ago
      is this thing trying compete with the scion xb/ honda element/ nissan cube??
      • 6 Years Ago
      CTRL-C ... CTRL-V ... From Honda Element and Scion xB ... Stretched out a bit then added another row of seats.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Looks like a mini on steroids.

      20 mpg. Whaw!!! That's a lot.

      End of sarcasm .
      • 6 Years Ago
      this thing is horrendous looking ... what were they thinking?
    • Load More Comments