2009 Ford Flex Road Trip Rest Day: Driving Position Update
August 14, 2009
You're looking at one of my biggest complaints about the 2009 Ford Flex. The steering wheel is too far away (by at least a couple of inches) and it does not telescope in and out. Sure, there are power adjustable pedals, but they mainly adress the needs of shorter drivers. Taller folk like me need to pull the wheel back to maintain an ideal reach to the steering wheel as we slide the seat backward to gain legroom and kneeroom.
But in the '09 Flex, setting the seat where my legs want it results in a straight-armed, elbows locked 9 and 3 driving position that is really tiring. I find myself cruising along the straighter sections of insterstate with my fingertips down at 5 and 7 -- not a good thing.
But relief is on the horizon.
Here's the inside of the 2010 Ford Flex SEL with EcoBoost. I sat in one a couple of weeks back when a pair of them were in the hands of the Ford Fiesta race team that contested the Pike's Peak hillclimb and the X-Games.
A couple of differences are readily apparent. Both are very welcome, indeed.
1) This is a telescopic steering column, and in the above picture I've pulled it all the way out. Compare the position of the turn signal stalk relative to the dash as you shuffle between this picture and the last. See how much more daylight there is? I estimate that the 2010 Flex steering wheel pulls back about 1.5 inches, perhaps more. Whatever the figure is, it makes all the difference to me.
2) There are steering mounted shift paddles to allow easy gear selection: press on the front to downshift, pull on the back to upshift. Use the left or right side as you choose, because they both do the same thing.
Meanwhile, our '09 Flex has a really lame shifter with meager control options: 'D' or 'L'. There is a 'grade assist' button that acts like an 'OD off' switch, but the results are unpredictable and unsatisfying. Overall, the driver has poor control over a 2009 Flex's transmission.
But there are two problems with this new solution. First, you have to shift the lever to 'M' before the manual buttons do anything. That's OK as far as it goes, but it's also nice to have them 'live' when the transmission is in 'D' because there are many times when you want to command a temporary downshift without committing to full manual mode. There are plenty of well-executed examples of how this can work really well out there in automobiledom. Second, we have an unconfirmed feeling that this arrangement will only be paired with the EcoBoost engine. Anyone who buys a 2010 Flex with the base 3.5L engine (the one we have in our '09 model) will probably have the same lame shifter that we have.
Still, it's nice to see that the already-good Flex is going to get better in 2010.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 30,089 miles