2009 Ford Flex Limited: Tour de Cali
May 25, 2010
Our long-term 2009 Ford Flex Limited was conscripted into domestique duty this past weekend, hauling cycling fans to several stages of the 2009 Tour of California. With the race shifting from February to May, lofty roads that would have normally been closed due to snow were now open to the race, and our Ford Flex.
Ford's boxy but cool hauler is available in front- (FWD) or all-wheel-drive (AWD), and in normally aspirated or turbocharged form (which requires AWD). Our 2009 Flex Limited is the front-wheel-drive, non-turbocharged version. That may not sound all that sexy knowing that there's a twin-turbo-all-wheel-drive model in the offing (and now a new Titanium trim), but for the vast majority of folk, this drivetrain is all they'll ever need. Hauling a day's worth of spectating equipment up over 7000 feet on the Angeles Crest Highway and crawling down several fireroads in search of unique viewpoints, there wasn't a moment where we really needed more power or traction.
On our way up to Inspiration Point for one of the King of the Mountain (KOM) stages of the race, the Flex was an adequately swift sherpa, even if it needed to downshift more to keep pace on some of the steeper grades. There is some torque steer with the front-wheel drive, but you only notice that when loaded down and getting hard on the gas to merge into traffic from a stop. Such a launch will often inspire a small weave in the steering wheel, one of the few clues to the Flex's front-driven wheels.
Skipping the turbos and all-wheel drive in the Flex will save you a few mpg at the pump (the EPA says 17/24/20 [city/hwy/combined] vs. 16/22/18), but it will also save you some coin up front. In SEL trim ($31,875), a FWD Flex will save you roughly two to five grand versus the AWD ($33,725) and EcoBoost ($36,720) models.
If you live where it snows, or do lots of towing or family-of-six travelling, you'll probably love the added traction and grunt of the AWD and EcoBoost versions of the Flex. But if you read back through our long-term posts, you'll find few mentions of wishing for more grip or power. Much like the cyclists who clawed their way over multiple passes, the FWD Flex may not be the swiftest way over the mountains, but it still easily gets the job done.
Paul Seredynski, Executive Editor @ 56,152 miles