2019 Flex New Car Test Drive
The 2019 Ford Flex was introduced in 2009 with fanfare and to hails of innovation. It's now in its 11th year. Was its original idea that brilliant? Well, Ford's boldly blocky people-moving crossover, a geometric cross between a minivan, sedan and limo, continues to stand apart from the crowd. The Flex remains a practical, seven-seat, family-friendly utility vehicle, while being distinctive in the driveway.
At 118 inches, the Flex wheelbase is almost 7 inches longer than that of a Honda Pilot and 5 inches longer than the Ford Explorer. It's also a whole lot lower than both, and that looks cool.
There's been no redesign for a decade, although it was facelifted in 2013. This is now the third year with no changes, save for two new colors, and the universal garage door opener is more available.
Standard engine is the long-lived 3.5-liter V-6 making 287 horsepower and 254 pound-feet of torque, paired with Ford's familiar 6-speed automatic transmission. This engine works well with front-wheel drive, but because the Flex is fairly heavy to start with, the available all-wheel drive claims a significant amount of performance. The AWD system is a good one, able to transfer 100 percent of the power to either the front or rear wheels.
Optional engine is a twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6 that develops 365 horsepower and 350 pound-feet, also working with a 6-speed automatic. All-wheel drive is standard on a Limited with the optional engine, and it's really the way to go to get the most out of the Flex. But this adds a lot to the price of a front-wheel-drive Limited with the standard engine.
Three-row seating is standard, along with a rearview camera, important so the driver doesn't have to look in the mirror through the heads of the passengers in the third row.
Torque vectoring is standard, too; it was added along the way, and we say kudos, to have this feature on an 11-year-old design. Torque vectoring works by dabbing the brakes on the inside front wheel in a corner, to help rotate the long, heavy Flex. The driver doesn't specifically feel it, but he or she feels the result: security in the corner.
The fuel mileage is disappointing, though compared to a full-size SUV, it isn't that low. The standard V-6 with front-wheel drive is EPA-rated at 16/23 mpg City/Highway, or 19 mpg Combined; with all-wheel drive it drops 1 mpg. The twin-turbo V-6 gets 17 mpg Combined; that's still low compared to some rivals (although it might be argued that there aren't any, because the Flex is unique), but 2 mpg isn't a big price to pay for its extra power. The good news is the Flex uses regular unleaded fuel even with the twin-turbo engine.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the Flex its top Good scores for most crash tests, with an Acceptable rating in the challenging small-overlap frontal-impact test. But it calls the headlights Poor, or just Marginal on the Limited model.
Ford offers some valuable active-safety technology for the Flex, but most features are optional, and only for the more costly models (the Limited, for example, comes with blind-spot monitors). Forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, coupled with adaptive cruise control and a power-folding third-row seat, costs about three grand more.
One nice safety option is the second-row seatbelt airbags, which Ford says hold passengers in place better than conventional airbags..
Flex SE ($30,575) has a 3.5-liter V-6, 6-speed automatic, front-drive, three rows of seats, a second-row bench, Bluetooth-enabled and voice-controlled SYNC infotainment, 17-inch wheels, CD player, cloth seats, heated power mirrors, rear parking sensors, and a rearview camera. All-wheel drive is not available on the base model. (Prices do not include destination charge.)
Flex SEL ($33,290) adds an 8.0-inch touchscreen, SYNC 3 infotainment, remote start, keyless ignition, heated power front seats, 18-inch wheels, woodgrain trim, and dual-zone automatic climate control. All-wheel drive adds $1,950.
Flex Limited ($38,790) gets 12-speaker Sony audio, perforated leather seat trim, power front seats with driver's memory, navigation, power liftgate, 19-inch wheels, and blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alert. All-wheel drive adds $1,950.
Only the Limited is available with the optional twin-turbo, 365-horsepower V-6 engine. It's $43,590.
A $1,495 Limited appearance package adds Shadow Black exterior details, deluxe leather-trimmed seats, and 20-inch wheels.
Ford's optional MyKey system lets parents set limits on a youngster's driving habits. MyKey can restrict vehicle speed, stereo volume, and various entertainment features.
Additional Flex options include a panoramic sunroof, second-row captain's chairs, a power-folding third-row seat, a heated steering wheel, and a towing package..