Review: 2010 Ford Flex SE

Now in its second year of production, the aptly named Ford Flex fits two voids in Ford’s lineup – it’s both a minivan and crossover.  The former term is a dirty word in the automotive marketplace these days, unlike the latter, which usually includes all-wheel drive vehicles, sized like SUVs but closer to the ground.  While it may not be as tall as full-size SUVs, it surely provides the same amount of room, if not more.  So how does the Flex drive and execute its duties?  Read on to find out.

The Flex is a long vehicle.  Its shorter height makes it look even longer.  Its overall shape can be compared to the Mini Cooper, albeit much larger.  It’s also reminiscent of the “woodies” from the 1940s and ’50s, with boxy lines and the sculpting on the doors.  The front end features the Ford corporate grille, which consists of 3 horizontal chrome bars, and with the wide and flat hood, gives the Flex a snub-nose look, which I find attractive.  The lines on the Flex are mostly straight, which works with this body style, and any curves other than the wheel wells would break up the paradigm Ford’s designers were going for.  While driving the Flex, I found that its looks were polarizing.  Passers-by either loved it, or hated it.

Continuing the retro but modern design on the interior, Ford fitted the Flex with modern gauges, controls, materials, but used a retro pattern on the seats.  A comfortable place to sit, the driver’s seat featured 6 ways of power adjustments, including forward/backward, up/down, and seat cushion angle.  Lumbar support adjustments are accomplished by turning a knob on the side of the seat, and the seat back’s angle is controlled by a lever which provides plenty of available angles.  The driver’s seat can be raised or lowered a good amount, which leaves plenty of head and leg room for taller drivers or people who want to sit higher.  The steering wheel was disappointing though, with only tilt and no telescope.  Another missing feature on the tester, but an option on SEL and Limited trim levels, is adjustable pedals.

The rest of the interior is nicely done, with a lot of soft touch plastics, mixed in with harder plastics for controls and surfaces which might take more abuse.  The gauges and controls all feature “Ice Blue” lighting, which is nice to look at but can be distracting at night.  There are more buttons on the dashboard than expected, but thankfully the audio and HVAC knobs are big and easy to reach.  The knobs also feature good detents for positive feedback when driving, so you know exactly how far you turned up the radio without having to look over at the display.  The gauges are easy to read as well, although the speedometer only has markings every 20 MPH.  If the lighting is too bright, you can use a dimmer switch to tone down all the interior lighting.  Moving to the back seat, there is a huge amount of leg room and deep cushions for passengers, but the standard 3rd row is strictly for children.

The third row seat limits the cargo area, a disappointment that is somewhat mitigated by the fold-flat seats, and points to the Flex as more of a people hauler than a cargo hauler.  Albeit small, the cargo area is easily accessed, only requiring a slight pull on the liftgate before the struts take over and lift it the rest of the way.  If you fill up the cargo area, there’s plenty of room to put bags or other detritus between the first and second row of seats.

For your listening pleasure, the Ford Flex features a 6-speaker audio system tied into the optional SYNC system, although it’s only so-so.  Clarity from the speakers is ok while not great, and the lower bass notes are a bit boomy, which was a let-down.  For anyone who is unhappy with the audio, an optional Sony system is available, which sounds good in other Fords that I’ve driven.  While the tester did not feature automatic climate control, it at least had temperature control for the rear seats, both on the dashboard and on the back of the center console.

Driving around town, the Flex has decent power, but passing maneuvers and quick acceleration are hampered by the overworked engine.  Those who need more power will want to opt for the available EcoBoost engine, which comes packaged with all wheel drive.  The EcoBoost engine will satisfy anyone’s need for more power in the Flex.  The handling is also good, if not excellent, allowing more body movement than one would like to see, especially given how firm the suspension feels.  While not overly stiff, you feel more of the road and its imperfections than most buyers of a crossover really want.  Given the tester’s tire and wheel package, this was surprising.  A good mark for the suspension is that going through curves with the Flex never caused it to become unsettled.  The tires never made any noise, and traction was very good when going around corners at faster than normal speeds.  The Flex’s cornering ability is a good match for the brakes, which worked well and hauled the crossover down from speed fairly quickly.  They definitely don’t work like sports-car brakes, but were impressive for such a massive vehicle.  Because of the steering and brakes, the Flex drives like a smaller vehicle than it is, with good manners on the highway and around town.  Speaking of highway speeds, the loudest thing you’ll notice is the wind coming around the windshield and hitting the side-view mirrors, and only if you have the volume turned all the way down on the radio.

Conclusion:

The Ford Flex is an interesting vehicle.  A throwback to cars from the past, but with features like SYNC and rear seat temperature control, a link to more modern cars.  A comfortable drive which won’t do anything too surprising, it makes a good people-hauler, if not the best cargo vehicle.

Competitors: Chevrolet Traverse, Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander

As-Tested:

Year: 2010
Make: Ford
Model: Flex SE FWD

EPA Fuel Mileage: 17/24 City/Highway

Base Price: $28,550.00

Options:

$570: Class III Trailer Tow Package
$395: SYNC Voice Activated System
$395: White Two-Tone Roof

Total: $29,910

Destination: $775

As-Tested Price: $30,685

Ford has an online Window Sticker viewer.  Click here to view the Window Sticker for the actual test vehicle.

View Scorecard

Special thanks to Steve Fransisco and Century Ford of Mt. Airy, MD for loaning the tester to Road Reality.  Click here to view their web site.

By John Suit

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