First Drive: 2013 Ford Flex Review
Ford's quirky crossover remains as odd as ever.No Comments
The Flex appeals to a crowd that just likes to be...different.
If you're like us, you're wondering why Ford needs three crossover SUVs. There's the five-seat Edge, the seven-seat Explorer, and the boxy seven-seat Flex. We get the Edge and Explorer, but the Flex appeals to a crowd that just likes to be...different. Apparently Ford's doing something right, though, since 20 percent of Flexes get sold in California, which isn't exactly a small market.
The Flex is certainly different, and for 2013, the differences consist of refreshed exterior styling, updated interior trim, more power for the base engine, and an updated MyFordTouch multimedia suite. We traveled to the snowy Pacific Northwest to sample the updated Flex.
We spent our afternoon behind the wheel of a SEL with all-wheel drive, heading from Oregon's scenic coast back to Portland by way of the mountains, with the latter part of the trek taking us past rolling fields and putting us into suburban traffic.
The only way to get an EcoBoost engine in the Flex is to spring for the Limited EcoBoost, which comes standard with AWD, and since we were behind the helm of an SEL, we had the base motor sitting under that long hood. The 3.5 gives gamely at the office, but it's tasked with hauling a fair amount of mass around, and it shows. A slow throttle response doesn't help.
Steering response is much improved from past Flexes we remember, it's generally precise with a good amount of feel, although there is some looseness just off-center. The ride is stable-as one might expect from a vehicle this size-and the handling is competent, although you never forget the Flex's size, and body roll does creep in. The Flex drives like you might expect it to, and the experience is never unpleasant, though it's never engaging either.
Not surprisingly, there's ample headroom and legroom up front and in the second row, and our six-foot-one tester fit (though just barely) in the third row. One reason that seven-seat crossover buyers might choose the Flex over the Explorer while touring the Ford showroom is that the Flex is about five inches longer in both wheelbase and overall length, and that means more cargo and passenger room.
One key new feature is the available rear seat-belt airbags, which look and feel a bit different than the norm, but are easy to get use to wearing. Thankfully, we never tested out the airbag part of the equation.
For those that are wondering, a refrigerated center console remains available.
Fuel economy numbers measure out to 19 mpg city/23 mpg highway on base Flexes with AWD, and 18/25 with FWD. EcoBoosted models check in at 19/23.