Full 2010 Ford Flex Review
What's New for 2010
The 2010 Ford Flex gains the company's much-hyped "EcoBoost" V6, a twin-turbocharged, direct-injected engine that returns impressive fuel economy given its ample power output. There are also changes to the standard and optional equipment rosters, with one new notable addition being a telescoping steering wheel. The SEL now has Sync standard, but leather upholstery is bumped to its options list. Every Limited model now comes with the navigation system and Sony stereo. Additionally, a power-folding second-row bench is now standard across the board.
Remember those Kix cereal commercials? You know, "Kid Tested, Mother Approved!" Well, the 2010 Ford Flex flips that marketing classic on its head. This seven-passenger crossover wagon provides the sort of space, comfort, safety and general practicality that moms and dads everywhere are looking for, yet the Flex also has kid appeal, with its funky box styling drawing thumbs-up from 10-year-old boys who wouldn't look twice at another big crossover or minivan. When it comes to shopping for your next family conveyance, the Ford's all-family appeal isn't to be ignored.
Now in its second year of production, the Ford Flex builds upon its solid freshman campaign with the introduction of an intriguing optional engine on SEL and Limited trims. Available only with all-wheel drive and dubbed "EcoBoost," this 355-horsepower V6 is direct-injected and twin-turbocharged, yielding 93 more hp than the Flex's otherwise perfectly adequate base V6 while essentially matching its fuel economy. Also notable is the EcoBoost's standard manual override shift paddles, which would be a handy option to have with the base engine in light of its transmission's reluctance to downshift.
The new turbo V6 is certainly a welcome addition to the Flex's already impressive qualities. We've even had a Flex in our long-term fleet for testing. It has been a particular favorite for road trips, crossing this great nation twice and cruising confidently from Los Angeles to Oregon in the dead of winter. Its ample creature comforts, high-tech entertainment features, generous space and pleasant driving demeanor give it undeniable long-distance poise. It is equally at home around town, whether ferrying children to school or picking up giant boxes from Ikea. Rarely have we found ourselves yearning for a bigger vehicle.
Overall, the 2010 Ford Flex is a vehicle with few faults. Even if you're not wild about its hip-to-be-square styling, there's no denying its extensive capabilities as a practical family vehicle. However, there are still alternatives. A sportier driving experience can be found in the Mazda CX-9, and those in need of more space should consider a Honda Odyssey or Chevrolet Traverse (or its Buick and GMC siblings). The Honda, in particular, is more appealing from a practical standpoint. But if the kids (or their parents) turn up their noses, the appealing Ford Flex is just the thing.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Ford Flex is a seven-passenger crossover wagon; optional captain's chairs reduce seating capacity to six. It is available in SE, SEL and Limited trim levels.
The base SE comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, foglamps, rear parking sensors, keyless entry and an exterior access code pad, cruise control, automatic climate control, eight-way-driver and two-way-passenger power front seats, a tilt-telescoping steering wheel, a 60/40-split-folding second row (with power-activated 40 portion), a 50/50 split-folding third row, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a trip computer and a six-speaker stereo with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack.
The SEL adds 18-inch wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, driver power lumbar adjustment, a six-way power passenger seat, wood interior trim, the Sync electronics interface system (optional on SE, includes Bluetooth and iPod control), an in-dash six-CD changer and satellite radio. The last three items are optional on the SE. Options on the SEL include leather upholstery (third-row vinyl) and a 12-speaker Sony stereo. The SEL Convenience Package adds a power tailgate, heated mirrors, driver memory functions, adjustable pedals and a 110-volt inverter jack.
The Limited adds those SEL options, plus 19-inch wheels, HID headlights, satin aluminum tailgate trim, perforated leather upholstery, ambient lighting, a wood-trimmed steering wheel and a navigation system that includes real-time traffic and weather, a touchscreen interface, a single-CD/DVD player, digital music storage and a rearview camera.
Options on all Flexes include second-row reclining captain's chairs and contrasting roof colors. The SEL and Limited can be equipped with the turbocharged V6, the Vista Moonroof (consisting of a power front sunroof and three fixed units over the two back rows), front parking sensors and a DVD entertainment system. The Limited can be had with 20-inch wheels and a refrigerated second-row center console.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2010 Ford Flex comes standard with a 3.5-liter V6 producing 262 hp and 248 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive are standard with this engine and all-wheel drive is optional. In our performance testing, our best run from zero to 60 mph in an all-wheel-drive Flex required a class-average 8.8 seconds. EPA fuel economy estimates are 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined with front-wheel drive and 16/22/18 with all-wheel drive.
Optional on the SEL and Limited is the turbocharged 3.5-liter "EcoBoost" V6. It produces 355 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic with manual shift control are standard. Ford estimates fuel economy to be 22 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined.
The 2010 Ford Flex comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags, side curtain airbags and rear parking sensors. A rearview camera is optional. In brake testing, a Flex Limited with the standard 3.5-liter engine stopped from 60 mph in 131 feet -- average for the class -- without the excessive fade common to Ford's other crossovers. In government crash testing, the Flex achieved a perfect five stars in all front and side categories. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded it the best possible rating of "Good" in its frontal-offset and side-impact tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Ford Flex's interior quality is top-notch, with abundant soft-touch materials and an attractive, upscale design. The spacious layout affords true seven-passenger seating -- even the third row is hospitable for full-size adults. The optional reclining second-row captain's chairs shrink seating capacity to six, but comfort increases. With either configuration, the standard power-folding mechanism in the second row makes getting into the third row a snap. With the rear seats lowered, the Flex can hold 83 cubic feet of stuff. This is less than minivans and several other large crossovers, but the Flex's conveniently boxy shape makes the most of it.
The available Microsoft Sync system lends the Flex a high-tech character, offering trick features like advanced voice-recognition software for iPods as well as cell phones. Other intriguing options such as the Vista Moonroof, Sirius Travel Link and rear-console refrigerator extend the Flex's appeal. This year's addition of a telescoping steering wheel corrects one of the Flex's few glaring problems, making the driving position friendlier for drivers of above-average height. The front headrests were also re-engineered, a reaction to criticism from drivers who complained they pushed uncomfortably forward.
The 2010 Ford Flex is rather unremarkable to drive, but it's not offensive either. The ride is always comfortable -- even with the bigger wheels. The base V6 is adequate for a vehicle this size, motivating the Flex with enough gusto to keep up with competing crossovers. The six-speed automatic can be frustrating, though, often refusing to downshift unless you put your foot to the floor. The twin-turbo V6 is a different story, giving the Flex a sport wagon flavor and offering direct control of the transmission via the standard shift paddles.
Read our Ford Flex Long-Term 70,000-Mile Test