HEELS ON WHEELS: 2013 FORD FLEX REVIEW
HEELS ON WHEELS
By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel
INTRO TO THE FLEX VEHICLE
The Ford Flex is a pioneer amongst crossovers, offering families a wagon-shaped three-row SUV centered on roominess, capability and modern technology. Its close-to-the-ground poise makes it an attractive alternative to those not fully committed to the idea of a minivan entering their lives, yet are realistic enough to know a utility vehicle flexible on seating up to seven with ease is paramount.
I drove a 2013 Ford Flex with the upgraded 365-horsepower twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost direct-injection engine paired to a six-speed SelectShift automatic transmission with Paddle Activation and all-wheel drive. The Flex is available in three trims – the base SE, SEL and Limited. My Limited model came with the following standard features; leather upholstery; woodgrain interior accents; ten-way power driver’s seat; dual-zone climate control; leather-wrapped steering wheel with mounted controls; SYNC with MyFord Touch that includes Bluetooth, navigation and a vivid touchscreen; a rearview camera; upgraded Sony audio system; fog lights; a power liftgate; nineteen-inch wheels; and High Intensity Discharge headlamps. Optional equipment included a $3,295 power-fold third-row seat and collision warning system, along with a $750 power-fold second-row seat, $795 refrigerator console, $195 inflatable rear seat belts and $395 two-toned roof paint job. Total vehicle price came to $50,105.
For 2013, the Flex takes on a new front end and improvements to the MyFord Touch connectivity screen that includes clearer button graphics. Also, the standard 3.5-liter Ti-VCT V6 engine delivers 25 more horsepower with a 1 miles-per-gallon gain on fuel economy. Style-wise, the Flex is in a class of its own but gets grouped into pricier family-based three-row SUVs with main competitors including the Nissan Quest, Chevrolet Traverse and Toyota Sequoia.
HEELS ON WHEELS REVIEW CRITERIA
Stylish But Comfortable Results: Inside, the Flex is undoubtedly spacious and comfortable. One of the best features is how easy it is for passengers to navigate into the second and third rows. Yet the wide girths of the front seats aren’t supportive for turning and twisting, a frequent occurrence for mothers with a young clan in back. There are some awkwardly place controls (like memory seating) and a complex level of mounted touch-sensitive buttons to work the SYNC system. The Flex features a new Appearance Package that includes a two-tone black roof and black mirrors, twenty-inch machined aluminum wheels, leather seats, unique door trim panels and other distinct upgrades.
Reliability & Safety Factor: The Flex seems to fair well with The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) with ratings of “Good” in frontal, side impact and roof strength crash testing – yet the Buick Enclave and Chevy Traverse are recommended Top Safety Picks. It is not yet rated by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Standard safety features include anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control, an advanced airbag system and rear parking sensors.
Cost Issues: A base SE trim starts at $30,900 and limits the free goodies to a reverse sensing system, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, the voice-activated SYNC with MyFord, and MyKey features to control the speed and audio volume for young household drivers. As with my test drive, this utility vehicle can reach $50k. Most competitors follow the same cost structure, so a more affordable three-row option might be the all-new longer wheelbase Hyundai Santa Fe.
Activity & Performance Ability: As with models of the past, the Flex’s EcoBoost engine delivers significantly felt throttle action and flies quite effortlessly on open roads and at inclines. This go-around I had mixed experiences regarding its predictable rectangular shape – on one hand, I was confident to squeeze the wagon through extremely tight openings; yet I found visibility limited and the vehicle cumbersome to park even in the most basic of spaces. Also, the lowered suspension means most road abrasions are noticed.
The Green Concern: The Flex’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 engine with all-wheel drive proved to be a bit of a gas hog for me and my aggressive driving style, averaging around 17 miles-per-gallon. EPA-stats for this powertrain are 16-city and 23-higheway for 18 MPG all around.
FINAL PARTING WORDS
With nostalgic style and versatile comfort, the 2013 Ford Flex leads the way in one-of-a-kind crossovers focused on modern family travel. Yet potential buyers might want to spend some extra time behind the test-drive wheel to see if they can accept this utility’s cumbersome response at the corners and fuel economy.
©2013 Katrina Ramser