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HEELS ON WHEELS: 2010 FORD FLEX WITH ECOBOOST REVIEW


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2010 Ford Flex

SEE ALSO: Ford Buyers Guide

"Step out of the SUV box long enough to take in this stylized square that will meet your needs"

HEELS ON WHEELS
By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

INTRO TO THE FLEX VEHICLE
The unique Ford Flex offers space and urban style without being a traditional or bulky SUV. Going into its second year of existence, the look of the wagon-like Flex should be settling better into the minds of consumers, as box-shaped vehicles are now the new trend.

I drove a 2010 Ford Flex mid-level SEL trim with the all-new twin-turbocharged EcoBoost technology, bumping the regular 6-speed, 262-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 Duratec engine to 365 horsepower. With three trims available, my SEL added SYNC hands-free communication and AWD on top of Ford's MyKey and AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control. The next level up, Limited, adds a power liftgate and a Sony stereo. My vehicle price came to $41,555.

The EcoBoost technology is a Ford homerun, combining turbo technology with direct gasoline injection for a V8 engine experience. You get better fuel economy, lower CO2 emissions and excellent power compared with larger-displacement naturally aspirated engines.

HEELS ON WHEELS REVIEW CRITERIA

Stylish But Comfortable Results: For $40k, you get a highly stylized interior with all the fixings – so many interior command buttons, your tech cravings will be satisfied. You'll notice the wider, comfortable seating, which delivers a staying powering. The Flex has one of the most highly functional third-rows on the market, with easy in-and-out access and room for two car seats. The Flex continues to offer the vista moonroof or skylights, composed of one moonroof and the three additional non-opening skylights located on both sides of the second row and one in the third.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The IIHS named the Flex a top safety pick for front and side crash tests, along with rear impact, for second year in a row. The standard MyKey system allows parents to program the vehicle key in order to limit speed and audio volume. The AdvanceTrac with RSC is Ford's stability control system, which helps apply brake pressure and reduce engine power for an added sense of assurance to consumers nervous about carrying precious cargo in larger rides. Other safety items include: Belt-Minder, LATCH, Personal Safety System, SecuiLock Passive Anti-Theft System (EPATS), and SOS Post Crash Alert System.

Cost Issues: Base price starts at $29,270 with the non-turbo engine, but it’s the EcoBoost and updated Ford interior tech that makes this vehicle what it is. Unfortunately, Ford's add-on packages are really expensive and every bonus feature has a price tag: It's a $40k-vehicle.

Activity & Performance Ability: EcoBoost delivers immediate throttle satisfaction. It's amazing to feel this weighty-looking SUV to fly forward. I appreciated the performance a lot last year, and can say I love it now. One might find it's large rectangular shape intimidating at first, but once you have the dimensions down it’s a dream to parallel park or pull into tight spots – I've had to tame much harder SUV-beasts to park. The driving doesn't feel stiff but completely maneuverable. It's a balanced and predictable on brakes.

The Green Concern: You'll get V6 gas mileage with V8 performance with the Flex, or 16/22-mpg for an average of 18-mpg with the turbo/AWD engine. The regular V6 gets 17/24-mpg. By 2013, Ford plans to stick EcoBoost in 90 percent of their North American lineup fleet.

FINAL PARTING WORDS
Best-in-class third row, Ford now offers twin-turbocharged power on its V6 for a V8 experience while cutting down emissions. If you can step out of the SUV box long enough to take in this stylized square, you'll find it meets all your space and performance needs.

©2009 Katrina Ramser