More Expert Reviews
|2009 Ford Flex
|2009 Ford Flex
- Cavernous interior
- Unique styling
- Incredible fit and finish
- Lazy transmission
- Polarizing brick look - aka - biggie-sized Scion xB
- Some may think it’s overpriced
Ruling: The highest quality, best built Ford we’ve driven in…dare we say…decades?
Okay, first the most commonly asked question – why is it called the Flex? Does it have some kind of flex-fuel capability, is it a hybrid, or is the name paying homage to the jello-mold characteristics of its unibody construction? The answer is no on all counts. Perhaps, and we’re going out on a limb here, the Flex is named so due to its flexible nature. It’s part SUV, part CUV, part station wagon, part luxury sedan, part rolling shoebox, albeit an attractive, designer shoebox. It’s longer than a Mazda CX-9 and only five inches off the ground, yet the Flex is nearly as tall as a Toyota 4Runner. This can only add up to one characteristic – more interior space than an auditorium and more headroom than an aircraft hangar.
So what would you classify the Flex as? It’s definitely not an SUV, it’s not as high off the ground as a CUV, and at a ridiculous 4,800 pounds, it’s nearly 1,000 pounds heavier than the mid-1990′s behemoth Buick Roadmaster, so it’s too porky to be a station wagon. Maybe the Flex is just, well, the Flex. The essence of it is unclassifiable. Sure, you can lump it into the crossover category, but that’s just as much an injustice as filing Frank Zappa under the Pop/Rock genre. Like any idea or concept well ahead of its time, it defies classification.
Although it shares the same drivetrain as the Ford Edge and the now seemingly pointless Taurus X, the Flex brings a level of refinement, quality, uniqueness and sticker price that the other two Ford products can’t even come close to matching. In fact, the Flex brings a level of refinement and quality that many European manufacturers can’t match. Yes, you read that correctly. A Ford. It seems that at least in the case of the Flex, quality is finally Job #1.
From just looking at photos, you really can’t get the full experience of how massive the Flex really is. It wasn’t until I parked it next to my wife’s 1997 Toyota 4Runner that I realized the Flex is gargantuan. The sheer mass makes the Flex a remarkable highway cruiser. So silent your brain forgets which exit you were supposed to get off at, so stable and solid that if the big blue Ford badge wasn’t emblazoned on the steering wheel, you’d swear you were driving a Mercedes. Of course its two-and-a-half tons of heft help make it a pleasure on the freeway, but on winding back roads, it’s a handful; at least its low center of gravity helps the Flex handle better than most CUVs. But don’t be fooled, this machine is waaaay too big to even think about ripping through switchbacks.
The Flex’s weight problem also puts an inevitable toll on performance and fuel economy. The 3.5 liter V6 puts out respectable numbers – 262 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque – but it is no match for the Flex’s body weight. Its 8.5 second 0-60 time is slower than most CUVs, as well as its 192 feet required to stop from 70 mph. Fuel economy suffers too, with 16 city/22 freeway, and a CarReview.com observed 20 mpg overall.
Although the Flex seems underpowered, we are not so sure if it is the engine or the transmission that is to blame. We were quite underwhelmed with the six-speed automatic in the Flex. It was lethargic and lazy, requiring us to slam the throttle through the floorboard just to be graced with enough downshifts to not be steamrolled by traffic when getting on the freeway. And the tranny didn’t have your traditional 3, 2 and 1 low gear selection, just an L with a hill-descent assist button on the shifter. It seemed to work fine until we hit a steep grade and the engine suddenly revved to near redline, making us fear of a mechanical meltdown.
This was without question one of the most impressive aspects of the Flex. We can say with all confidence that it has been literally decades since we’ve seen a Ford built so well. The doors are solid and close with the same timbre as a BMW or Mercedes. Panel gaps are tighter than Buddy Rich’s snare drum. The chrome grille and tailgate trim doesn’t reek of cheapness. And as an added, tasteful design detail, the doors even wrap around beneath the rocker panel. On the inside, for once Ford managed to find woodgrain trim that doesn’t look like it was taken straight from the living room of a doublewide. The seats do resemble trash bags, as one automotive editor already pointed out, but I’ll be damned if they aren’t the most supple, comfortable trash bags my backside has ever had the privilege to recline in.
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