2009 Ford Flex Limited: Road Trip Part II
October 01, 2008
After being thankfully thrown from my original plan due to the lame headlights on the Flex (even the high beams weren't sufficient in that scenario), I was able to, as posted before, see Utah for all I never really knew it was. I wanted to hit Grand Junction by day one. I've been to Colorado before (for off-road driver training) and was won over by the views and the general 'vibe' of the state. I don't have any data to back this up, but I'm pretty sure there are more bike trails in Colorado than the entire rest of the world combined. (Unfortunately I don't have my bike with me on this leg of the trip...on the way back I will.) Losing my night running hours meant stops had to be ditched. Denver was out. Grand Junction was punctuated. Vail, however, was still very much in.
The Flex, after almost 1,000 miles, is doing well. But, somewhere around 10,000 feet, before the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnel (West of Denver) the Flex's second weakness showed. The transmission-- which it shares with the Buick Enclave amongst others-- just doesn't know what to do with inclines. With no manual option and a lousy L mode, the engine is constantly torn between fuel economy and maintaining momentum. Down. Up. Down. Up. Down. Down. Down. Up. It's not fun. If I were in the Enclave I could just push the button a couple of times, leave the thing in 4 and get on with my trip at a steady RPM. It's a great gearbox in GM vehicles, why isn't it great here at 11,000 feet where I need it?
Unfortunately the traffic piled up almost directly outside of the tunnel and continued for about two hours. When the traffic was finished Colorado stopped being fun. The eastern edge into Nebraska is boring. Probably trying to ween drivers off of the grandeur of the Rockies and prepare them for the harsh, bleak reality that awaits them in Nebraska.
Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 3,773 miles.