2009 Ford Flex: Oregon Wrap-Up
January 06, 2009
It's over. The 2009 Ford Flex has been washed and gassed for the final time and the keys are in someone else's hands for a change.
All told, our trip lasted 2,275 miles. Over that distance, I added a total of 99.8 gallons of unleaded gasoline.
Average trip fuel economy: 22.8 mpg (Enclave last year = 22.1)
Best tanks: 26.7 and 26.5 mpg (Enclave last year = 25.6)
Longest run: 454.5 miles
Worst tank: 18.2 mpg (multiple runs up the steep switchbacks to my folks' mountaintop lair after feeding seagulls and such)
Number of other Ford Flexes seen on the road: Zero (dealer lots don't count.)
Yes, but what do we think after all of that time?
Of all the long-term cars my family has taken on this trip, this 2009 Ford Flex Limited is far and away our favorite. If not for the fact that it's already paid off and we don't want to take on a new car payment, my wife would gladly ditch our previous-generation 2003 Honda Odyssey for one of these. I can get behind that.
The Flex rides and handles better than any other long-term car we've taken over this route. Ford got the suspension right: It rides comfortably, but doesn't roll excessively or float and bob over waves in the pavement. On the same roads, the Jeep Commander had been an absolute vomit comet. The Enclave was better, but still tended toward queasy in the coastal mountain highways of northern California; too much 'Buick ride' for this terrain.
Our departed Cadillac SRX was perhaps as good as the Flex in this regard, and it steered a bit more precisely. But it's only a player for the summer version of this trip. I wouldn't chose it it for the winter edition on two counts: The cargo area and 5-seat layout is too small for holiday duty and I would have been reluctant to take the rear-wheel drive SRX in the snow.
We made a lot of side trip to places like the 'cat houses' on the Gold Beach jetty (above), so there were many occasions where we had 6 people in the car: 4 adults, 1 pre-teen and 1 kid-sister. The Flex excels in front and middle seat legroom; the latter is almost limo-like. Even the third row is quite roomy, and a nifty flip-fold mechanism makes them easy to get in and out of.
The seats are comfy enough, but, as Josh mentioned earlier, the headrests jut too far forward and are not adjustable for rake. And I desperately needed a telescopic steering wheel to bring the rim at least an inch closer.
Cargo space is less cavernous than an Odyssey, but for us, it was more than enough. And the fold-flat third row reveals a deep storage well when the seats are in use, so there's still a lot of room back there for groceries. But the presence of first and second row consoles make the 2x4-down-the-middle trick impossible. Even though it doesn't totally avoid the issue, I'd pass on the rear console and integrated cooler; we didn't use it much, anyway.
The lines are so straight on this thing that a sliding rear door would seem to be easy to implement gracefully and not ruin the look. Ford should have done it. As it stands, the rear doors are long and they need to be opened wide. 'Let me pull out of this parking space [or garage] before you get in,' was a common refrain on this trip.
Finally, there are the electronics. This was a slam-dunk hit. The kids played DVDs in the back, they used the 110V outlet to keep their Nintendos charged-up, and we kept the iPod running up front playing through the interface built into the nav screen. One complaint: every page needs a 'back' button to retreat one level. Synch made us go back to the main menu and work back from there to where we were. Annoying.
The navigation system works pretty well, but the database it feeds from is still full of errors. Like the Enclave before it, the Flex tried to route us through the same locked gate across private property. For this and other reasons, I'm not ready to fork over tons of cash for a factory system just yet.
The engine isn't particularly strong, but neither is it weak. The biggest problem I faced is the lack of a way to downshift out of drive to a desired lower gear. There are only two choices: D or L. Well, there is a 'Grade Assist' button that tries to do something, but the response was never consistent and it never did what I wanted. Just let me pick the gear, OK? Your computer can't see down the road. I can.
And the Ford Flex looks very cool. I know, I know. Image isn't everything. But for a people hauler, I like looking at it. And I have no doubt that the lower stance is one of the main reasons why this crew arrived at our final destination without stomach upset and largely intact.
For me, the 2009 Ford Flex is a good candidate to replace our current minivan when it finally wears out. Or maybe when it wears out its welcome. At this rate, that might happen sooner rather than later.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 15,475 miles