I have a nickname for the Ford Flex. “The Converter”. And no, it doesn’t have a removable roof, nor did it cause me to change my religion. It also didn’t earn that nickname for its myriad of power-folding seating and cargo configurations. The Flex is “The Converter” because everyone who drove it was converted.
I heard the Flex referred to as “the fridge”, “that horrible boxy thing” and “the stupidly big thing” by various people, all of whom came away from driving it with nothing but glowing praise. Yes, it’s boxy – but I quite like it. Yes, it’s big – but it doesn’t drive like something that’s enormous.
Yes, it’s boxy – but I quite like it. Yes, it’s big – but it doesn’t drive like something that’s enormous.
People were impressed by the power delivered by the 3.5L Ecoboost V6. It made the six-seat Flex feel positively nimble off the line thanks to a prodigious 365 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. The AWD system provided plenty of traction and the steering feel was surprisingly good. Body roll was well inside acceptable limits and handling was enough to inspire confidence and make the Flex easy to drive.
To a letter, they said they’d put this on their shopping list, one colleague even took her husband out to test drive one after sampling ours.
I likened it to a big comfy lounge chair – that just happened to turn corners like a small wagon.
The seats, by the way fold to create an enormous flat floor that extends all the way to the first row. They are also split down the middle so you can have four people in the car plus one long narrow flat floor and there is even an option to fold the rear row backwards for a tail-gating perch! In this edition, each configuration can be dialed up via the bank of switches mounted just inside the tailgate. To be fair though – the third-row folding seats and the 3.5L Ecoboost engine come at a $6,800 premium.
The second-row also flips forward for easy access to the rear – again with the touch of a button. The rear seats when folded can be tucked forward, to allow for a super-deep rear cargo area, or folded flat for convenience. I left one flat and one deep so I could stand a water-cooler bottle in the “hole” created. Worked a treat.
Styling wise, I’m a fan of the new headlight and grille treatment. It added some much-needed flair to the bland and dull front fascia of old. The rest of it I liked but understand I’m in minority. White is not the Flex’s best colour, and frankly the optional 20-inch rims look a little too “Online Autos Clearance Special” for my liking – but the rest of the Flex’s dorky and funky looks make me feel happy in my soul.
MyFord Touch, however, does not make me feel happy in my soul. Or anywhere else for that matter. It makes me a sad panda. MyFord Touch could be so good, but it isn’t. The instrument cluster section is great – as are the steering wheel mounted controls that power it. The main screen, though, is a hot mess of slow-to-react menus and miniscule touch points for your options. The large rotary that controls volume isn’t immediately apparent as a volume controller, but at least works well once your figure it out. I experienced freezing and crashing twice during our week in it. I think secretly the folks at Ford are turning cartwheels with excitement now that MyFord Touch is on its way out and Sync 3 is on its way in. Goodness knows I am!
The Flex is also not wonderful on fuel. I ended the week at 13.8 L/100 km and unlike most weeks that are 90 percent city, this week in question was 75 percent highway. The EPA rates it at 14/10.2/13.1 L/100 km city/highway/combined. Not exactly a thrifty sipper.
Those are the complaints – how about the good stuff?
First, the seats are comfortable and wide, with excellent access for all three rows. Loading my daughter was a dream. The feature list is good, with XM, adaptive cruise, lane-keep assist, park assist, self parking (!), a “panoramic” sunroof and leather interior. There’s even a 115V household power outlet.
That panoramic roof is a bit of a long bow to draw; it’s not so much panoramic as just three extra little sunroof portholes cut into the top. If you’re expecting something like in a Kia Rio or a Land Rover Range Rover Evoque you’re dreaming. Still, I could see myself gazing at the stars through those portholes as I slept, warm and secure on the fully flat floor. Come to think of it, the Flex is an ideal impromptu camper van. Just add mattress. And if the Flex is a rocking… I’m probably having a seizure. I’m married after all.
Out on the road bumps are barely noticeable and wind noise is far quieter than I was expecting. You could easily do a full day of driving in the Flex without a single complaint. The roominess of the interior and the softness of the seats, coupled with that ultra-smooth ride will have your entire family arriving at their destination with sanity and pleasant demeanours intact.
If one of you in the family likes to hit off ramps in silly ways, that person will also be satisfied by the unjustifiably nimble Flex – it turns in well, holds its line well and has little understeer. The wheel is weighted appropriately and has a firm centre even in the face of strong side winds. All this is even more surprising given that the Ford Flex is a fatty-fat-fat. A fatty boombalada, if you will, at a cake-loving 2,226 kg. It’s nice and low, which is why it does such a good job of hiding its weight. The Flex would make a good front-rower in Rugby.
My only major complaint – the price. As tested this one came in at $57,314. In fact, that was almost everyone’s major gripe. To put it into perspective, the Toyota Sienna SE I had in January was worth just $38,995 with power sliding doors – but not the power folding third row. The fully loaded Toyota Sienna XLE senior editor Jonathan Yarkony drove the year before came in at $50,670. Both Siennas had better fit and finish in the interior with more luscious materials and just a better finish overall. The Flex has some cheap, easy-scratch plastic in key locations – like where the folding seats grind against the side of the interior. It also feels tinnier and looser than the Sienna in terms of doors and interior drawers/bin covers.
Ford is counting on a lot of love for ease-of-use, sporty power and handling and funky styling to bring people over from the fit and finish and convenience of things like a Sienna. Of course, that means one would have to drive a Flex, to be converted.
|Model Tested||2014 Ford Flex AWD Limited||Destination Fee||$1,615|
|Base Price||$44,399||Price as Tested||$57,314|
White Platinum tricoat paint - $400, Equipment Group 303A (3.6L Ecoboost V6, adaptive cruise control, collision warning, power fold third-row seat) - $6,800, 20-inch machined aluminum wheels and black roof - $950, panoramic sunroof - $1,750, voice-activated navigation - $800, Tow package - $500.