2012 Ford Flex


2010 Ford Flex — Review

This 2010 review is representative of model years 2009 to 2012.
By Tom Wilson of MSN Autos
Rating: 9.0

Bottom Line:

Urbanely boxy, the Flex debuted to great acclaim last year despite lackluster power. Now, optional twin turbochargers and direct fuel injection have rounded out this interesting upmarket hauler.
  • Finally, power to succeed
  • Expansive 4-passenger room, plus three more
  • Fun styling is also space-efficient
  • Seats may be too firm for some
  • We wish it were less expensive
  • 4,900-plus pounds is too much for a family wagon

Ford hates it when you call the Flex a station wagon, so let's call it a full-size crossover. (That is, it's a modern station wagon.) Already pampering occupants with a quiet, extra-roomy cabin stuffed with nifty features and uptown styling, the Flex now offers generous power for any hauling or towing need, or for simply whipping traffic when required. Still a relatively new vehicle — it was introduced just last summer — the unique Flex is built for people on the go.

Model Lineup
There's no stripped-down Flex; the range starts with a reasonably equipped SE, then moves to the popular and heavily featured SEL and tops out with the near-luxury Limited. Designed as people movers, all Flex versions employ 3-row seating with two buckets in front; a 60/40 bench second row, now with auto-folding on the smaller section; and a 50/50 split third-row bench. This holds seven passengers; a 6-passenger option is available that splits the second row into a pair of buckets with a twin-cupholder center console. Ford calls this a 40/40 split bench, although the seatbacks recline independently. In any case, the first two rows offer excellent room for adults; the third row accommodates adults for short trips and requires some agility to access. Kids, of course, scamper back there with glee.

The Flex SE is offered strictly with a base V6 engine, 6-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. Seating is cloth; the signature two-tone exterior paint scheme is optional; and climate control is single-zone. Wheels are 17-inch aluminum with 235/50R-17 black sidewall tires.

The SEL trim comprises the bulk of Flex sales. Here, the exciting EcoBoost (turbo and direct fuel injection) version of the V6 is optional, which automatically has all-wheel drive. Leather seating is optional, and dual-zone climate control is standard, as are a 6-disc CD player and satellite radio, Ford's Sync connectivity software, fog lights, chrome door handles and beltline trim. Expect Flex SELs on dealer lots to load up with fun options such as the two-tone roof ($395), the big Vista Moonroof ($1,495) and maybe the Class III tow package ($570). A self-parking option is also available ($550). Standard issue are 235/60R-18 tires on 18-inch machined aluminum wheels.

Buyers of the Limited get it all, with standard perforated leather seats, dual-zone climate control, ambient lighting, wood inlay on the steering wheel, voice-activated navigation and entertainment, HID headlights, power liftgate, chrome mirrors, plus the EcoBoost V6 and AWD. The major options are a dual-headrest DVD system ($1,995), refrigerated center console ($795) for keeping drinks cool, and self-parking. Limiteds roll on 235/55R-19 rubber and 19-inch polished aluminum wheels; a 20-inch option is available.

Under the Hood
Standard Flex muscle comes from a 3.5-liter 4-valve V6 that smoothly spins up 262 horsepower at 6250 rpm and 248 lb-ft of torque at 4500 rpm to the front wheels. It can be paired with AWD and gets 20 mpg highway. Unfortunately, it is a bit overmatched by the Flex's sobering weight (4,471 pounds in front-wheel-drive guise, 4,643 pounds with AWD and 4,839 pounds with the mandatory pairing of EcoBoost and AWD).

EcoBoost — Ford's new combination of twin turbocharging and direct fuel injection — is definitely a more capable option on the same 3.5-liter V6. It transforms the Flex from OK to zoomy. It produces 355 horsepower at 5700 rpm and 350 lb-ft of torque seemingly from just off idle to near redline; Ford calls the torque peak at 3500 rpm.

All Flexes use the same 6-speed automatic, and all Flexes with EcoBoost have AWD. However, non-EcoBoost engines can be paired with AWD for winter traction. Furthermore, the EcoBoost combos employ paddle shifting in addition to the center console shifter. The paddles are handy for holding gears in the mountains but normally you'll just let the automatic gearbox shift itself.

Ford also increased suspension stiffness a bit to better match the increased power from the EcoBoost engine.

Inner Space
Interior space and comfort for seven are where the Flex bulges its biceps. There's generous room in the two front rows, so much so that rear-seat footrests are optional. Furthermore, the large windows and optional huge sunroof make the interior feel even larger and aid rubbernecking. Materials and detailing such as double stitching, cubbies, grab handles and the like are nicely done, giving a near-luxury, coffeehouse ambience, especially in the SEL and Limited.

Features abound, from the optional power liftgate to a bevy of electronics such as voice-activated navigation and Ford's popular Sync infotainment system. People and their luggage are always the emphasis, hence the optional refrigerated center console — think a soda cellar on wheels.

Safety is another Flex selling point. Hidden in the chassis is steel-tube reinforcement against side impacts, plus extensive airbag and seat belt technologies. Ford's MyKey system is provided as an adjustable speed- and sound-system-limiting valet for when the kids are driving.

On the Road
As a full-size crossover, the Flex certainly has a presence. But its ample glass and relatively flat hood mean sight lines are good, and the feel is of an overly tall full-size sedan rather than a behemoth. In fact, the main difference is that the Flex's higher center of gravity means cornering loads are felt a little more, but that's about it. The ride is gently firm; wind and road noise are muted so high-speed travel is not tiring.

With the EcoBoost under the hood there's definitely power on tap, and with essentially no turbo lag. The flat torque curve launches the EcoBoost Flex eagerly either from the stoplight or from highway speeds — a major improvement over the standard engine.

As a hauler, the Flex offers a large liftgate in the rear and 4-door practicality. It's handy enough around town, but as a full-size crossover it requires a bit of care in tight traffic or parking. A reverse camera included with the optional navigation system display is especially helpful then.

Right for You?
Distinctively styled and well-appointed, the Flex bypasses the entry-level market, starting at $29,270 for the SE. Adding options — the two-tone roof costs $395, all-weather floor mats are $75, the Class III tow package is $570, Sync is $395 and the Vista Moonroof is $1,495 — can move the SE into the SEL's $32,895 starting point relatively quickly, however, and the SEL is the first level where EcoBoost is offered.

That most popular combination — SEL with EcoBoost — starts at $36,890, which is close to the naturally aspirated, FWD Limited at $37,940. The EcoBoost Limited is a hefty $42,785, but the Vista Moonroof and refrigerated center console are about the only large options left at that point.

Longtime Road & Track contributor Tom Wilson's credits include local racing championships, three technicalengine books and hundreds of freelance articles.


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BB04 - 9/16/2014 6:56:53 PM