OK, so Ford is still affixing the dreaded and meaningless "crossover" label to the Flex, but we're going to call it a station wagon - and it's the most faithful rendering of the genre to come from Detroit in over a decade.
Introduced just moments ago by J Mays (who then proceeded to stand directly in front of the vehicle for the remainder of the press conference), the Flex has a wide, long and generally low-slung appearance in person if not in photos - or maybe we're just used to the too-tall profiles that define most of the two-box shapes currently on the market. Concave strakes break up what might otherwise be an excessively slab-sided appearance, a metallic silver insert on the power rear liftgate compliments the three-bar front grill, and the two-tone paint of the displayed prototype couldn't be more appropriate. Inside, passengers get one-touch folding second and third row chairs along with a mid-mounted fridge, while the driver obtains information from a blue-backlit instrument panel.
Plenty of folks have opined that the Flex should be called the Fairlane, and while we don't disagree with that, we'd like to go one step further (and perhaps a step too far?) and suggest that it be called the Country Squire. On second thought, scratch that truly horrible idea.
Check out the gallery for more photos from the Flex intro, and don't forget to browse our other posts from the New York Auto Show.
2009 FORD FLEX: AN ALL-NEW FULL-SIZE CROSSOVER REDEFINES THE JOURNEY FOR THE AMERICAN FAMILY
- Bold Design Inside and Out: New Ford Flex full-size crossover is the first vehicle of its kind with a bold design, striking interior and seven-passenger seating for families.
- Cool Features: Interior refrigerator, second-row footrests, Ford Sync™ in-car communications and entertainment system, capless fueling, a 2,300-song personal juke box, programmable ambient interior "mood lighting" and a Multi-Panel Vista Roof™ are among the many customer-inspired innovations.
- Safe and Secure: An available rear back-up camera, s tandard f ront-and-side-seat mounted air bags, three-row Safety Canopy ® side curtain and AdvanceTrac ® with RSC ® (Roll Stability Control) offer the safety and security customers demand for their families.
- Powerful and Confident: An award-winning 3.5-liter V-6 engine, fuel-efficient 6-speed transmission and available intelligent all-wheel-drive provide powerful and confident road manners.
- On Sale Next Year: The 2009 Ford Flex goes on sale in the summer of 2008, joining the Edge and Taurus X in Ford's popular crossover lineup.
"The new Ford Flex crossover is a game-changer. It's the first vehicle of its kind that combines seating for seven, interior spaciousness and surprising features with a striking design that looks great on the road and at home for today's modern American families," said Mark Fields, Ford's president of The Americas, as he revealed the new vehicle at the 2007 New York International Auto Show. "The Flex builds on Ford's leadership in crossover vehicles, which is the fastest-growing part of the auto market today."
On sale in the summer of 2008, the Flex is arriving as crossovers continue to outpace even the remarkable growth of SUVs during the 1990s and minivans of the 1980s.
Last year, crossovers surpassed traditional SUV sales for the first time, and they are trending toward annual crossover sales of 3 million units by the end of the decade. Such growth likely will make crossovers the first or second largest vehicle segment in the U.S.
"Flex is another example of Ford creating more of the products that our customers really want," Fields said. "Ford intends to define crossover vehicles this decade just as we did SUVs in the 1990s."
The Flex joins the Edge and Taurus X in Ford's expanding crossover lineup. Ford's success with crossover utility vehicles is substantial. In March alone, the company's U.S. crossover
sales were up more than 40 percent over last year – led by the success of the new Edge.
Redefining the Family Journey
Bold, expressive design and exclusive innovations define the new Flex.
"The Ford Flex has the power to move people emotionally as well as physically," said J Mays, Ford's group vice president of Design and chief creative officer.
"This crossover has been created for people who know it's the journey – not the destination – that matters most," Mays added. "Its upright, upscale design, versatility and clever touches allow Ford Flex to stand out in an increasingly crowded sea of crossovers."
The Ford Flex brings to production the Ford Fairlane concept vehicle that turned heads at the 2005 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
"Flex is following in the tire tracks, so to speak, of Ford vehicles like the Taurus, Explorer and Mustang. It's the next iconic Ford," said Peter Horbury, Ford's executive director of Design for The Americas. "It shatters today's image of people movers."
Flex's signature exterior design includes:
- Ford's signature chrome horizontal three-bar grille, which builds on the family "face" that defines the Ford Edge and Taurus X crossovers, as well as the Ford Fusion sedan.
- A unique, all black "greenhouse" – defined as the windshield, rear and side windows,
- and the pillars separating and connecting them to the roof. The design brings together seamlessly the body with the available multi-panel roof. Customers can pair a White Suede or Silver roof option with one of Flex's 10 available exterior colors or choose a body-color roof.
- Standard 18-inch or available 19-inch bright aluminum wheels, which plant the new crossover firmly on the road.
- Flex's integrated rocker panel design, which eliminates the need for customers to step over the rocker panel when getting in and out of the vehicle.
- Edge-inspired taillamps, which are outlined in chrome. Flex Limited models have LED taillamps and a brushed satin finish metal appliqué spanning the center of the liftgate.
Inside, Ford Flex delivers textures, features and functionality – including segment exclusives – that create an ideal atmosphere for discerning customers and their families.
"More than 90 percent of crossover customers make their vehicle purchases based in part on
the overall quality of interiors," said Kate Pearce, Flex marketing manager. "When they see
the Flex's exterior, they'll be intrigued. When they see its interior, they'll fall in love."
Flex's interior provides a level of craftsmanship inspired by fashion and furniture design,
with modern materials and soft touch points.
Details include tweed-like fabric for the base-level Flex SE's seats, with inserts in a miniature houndstooth. Meanwhile, the Flex SEL features a soft insert with a more pronounced grain on the seat bolsters, while the Flex Limited features unique diamond-pattern perforations on the leather seat inserts. Contrast stitching also is available on leather seats and the center console.
Cool Features Built Right In
Flex is set apart from other vehicles thanks to a long list of surprising features. They include:
- Class-exclusive refrigerator, mounted between the second-row captain's chairs. Unlike competitors' systems that merely keep cold beverages cool, the Flex's available compressor-driven refrigerator can cool up to seven 12-ounce cans, four half-liter bottles or two 20-ounce bottles from room temperature to 41 degrees in just more than two-and-one-half hours. That's 40 percent faster than a standard home refrigerator.
- Multi-Panel Vista Roof™. It not only brightens the interior, it gives Flex occupants seated in each row their own special skylight.
- Second-row, best-in-class legroom, including class-exclusive adjustable and removable footrests. The Flex's second-row seats fold and tumble to provide access to the third-row and fold flat into the floor for added cargo space. An available one-touch system folds and tumbles the second row.
- Seven-color programmable ambient lighting. Flex owners can choose interior lighting to fit their mood. With this feature – which also is being introduced on the 2008 Ford Focus – customers use a dashboard switch to change the lighting on two LEDs mounted on the front console, two on the footwells and two around the cupholders.
- Capless fuel filler system. This exclusive feature eliminates the likelihood of forgetting to put the gas cap back on after fueling. It also saves time by doing away with unscrewing and replacing a fuel-filler cap and provides a better seal, cutting down
- the emissions of smog-forming vapors.
- Ford Sync™, Ford's industry-exclusive, voice-activated hands-free in-car communications and entertainment system. This available system fully integrates mobile phones and digital media players into the vehicle. The Sync in-car communications system was developed in collaboration with Microsoft and will be offered exclusively on Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles later this year.
- Ford's next-generation navigation system, featuring voice recognition technology and more than 150 hours of music storage. Users can browse the music jukebox via touch-screen or by using voice recognition. They can also create custom play lists and burn CDs for storage on the system's hard drive. The system also integrates the climate control and SIRIUS Satellite Radio into one easy-to-use, smudge-resistant, 8-inch touch-screen display. Premium AM/FM/MP3 audio systems also are available with a six-CD changer, auxiliary jack to accommodate MP3 players and the latest generation DVD entertainment system with a large 8-inch, drop-down screen.
- Ford's exclusive second-generation door-entry keypad . Housed within the vehicle's black B pillars, the flat-panel, backlit keypad eliminates the need for door-mounted buttons and gives customers the ability to unlock doors, disarm the alarm system and disable the auto-lock function by entering a five-digit code.
- Quiet, Confident Ride
"A quiet ride is no longer a luxury," said Gary Boes, Flex chief engineer. "It's something
that customers have come to expect from their vehicles and equate with quality. Flex has
been engineered from the onset with reduced noise, vibration and harshness in mind."
Engineering advancements include a new independent rear suspension system (IRS) with
unique geometry that allows for better tuning to deliver a broad range of capabilities without compromising the interior package. Interior noise was minimized by using sound-deadening materials in the dash panel, headliner and under the carpeting.
In addition, a 6-millimeter thick windshield helps reduce wind and powertrain noise, while specially selected tires make road noise nearly unnoticeable.
Powerful V-6 with AWD
Flex is powered by Ford's award-winning 3.5-liter V-6 engine and is mated to a fuel-efficient
6-speed transmission. The powertrain is expected to deliver more than 260 horsepower,
245 lb.-ft. of torque and good fuel economy.
Flex's available intelligent all-wheel-drive system is tuned to provide confident driving in all weather conditions. Intelligent AWD uses an active, on-demand electronic center coupler to allocate a precise amount of torque from front to rear – up to 100 percent to either axle. The system also can anticipate wheel slip before it happens.
Safety Families Demand
Flex comes equipped with features that reflect Ford's commitment to keeping customers and their families safe and secure. The new crossover's body structure has been optimized with side intrusion beams in the doors, strategic use of high-strength boron steel and specially designed, energy-absorbing interior door trims.
Other safety advancements include:
- Rear back-up camera. Mounted in the bottom of Flex's liftgate badge, the available camera is activated when the vehicle is shifted into reverse, giving the driver a view of what's behind the vehicle. The system works in conjunction with the vehicle's reverse sensing system and uses the navigation screen as a display.
- AdvanceTrac ® with RSC ® (Roll Stability Control). This system can predict a vehicle's path, using a sensor to measure oversteer and yaw by monitoring the vehicle's speed, throttle position and steering wheel angle. When the system senses wheel slip or the loss of traction, it applies braking where needed to keep the vehicle safely on its intended path.
- Ford's Personal Safety System. This suite of safety features includes dual-stage driver and front passenger air bags, thorax side air bags for front seat occupants, safety belt pretensioners, seat weight sensing system for the passenger seat and crash severity sensing.
- Ford's exclusive Safety Canopy ® side curtain air bag. Designed for all three rows, this feature utilizes roll-fold technology to efficiently deploy the air bag when an occupant's head is resting against the side glass. In the event of a crash, the roll-fold bag will deploy between the occupant's head and the side of the vehicle.
- Ford's BeltMinder™ safety belt reminder for driver and front passenger. Flex also comes equipped with such standard features as child safety locks on the rear doors, the trunk LATCH system and Ford's tire pressure monitoring system.