Full 2011 Ford Flex Review
What's New for 2011
A new range-topping trim level, the Titanium package, debuts as a cosmetic upgrade. Besides that, the 2011 Ford Flex only sees a few minor changes in colors and feature content.
It's a rare car indeed that appeals to convenience-minded families and urban hipsters alike. But the 2011 Ford Flex does just that. Even though its boxy profile looks as though it was designed on an Etch-a-Sketch, this crossover wagon/SUV continues to impress us and shoppers with its artful blend of space, comfort, safety, utility and style.
As it enters the third year of production, the Flex sees only minor changes for 2011. Last year it received a turbocharged engine option, a telescoping steering wheel and a handful of other feature enhancements. The 2011 Ford Flex gets a new Titanium trim level, but it really amounts to little more than cosmetic changes added on top of the Limited model. Outside of the new trim level, an optional power-folding third-row seat feature debuts on Limited trim models, and HD radio is now included with the navigation system.
These 2011 enhancements are minor, but it's important to keep in mind that even if the Flex remained unchanged from last year, it would still rank as one of our favorite vehicles. Its comfortable seating in all three rows and smooth ride make it great for everyday commuting and long-distance road trips, while the Flex's optional turbocharged V6 makes it one of the quickest crossovers you'll find.
With as much praise as we heap on the Flex, it might still be worth your time to consider other vehicles. The 2011 Mazda CX-9 delivers a sportier drive, while the 2011 Honda Odyssey and 2011 Toyota Sienna minivans offer a more voluminous and versatile interior space. The 2011 Chevrolet Traverse and its Buick and GMC clones are also worth a look. But all things considered, the 2011 Ford Flex rises to the top of our list thanks to its well-rounded abilities, unique character and broad appeal.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Ford Flex is a seven-passenger crossover wagon; optional second-row captain's chairs reduce seating capacity to six. It is available in SE, SEL, Limited and Titanium 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-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 60/40-split-folding second row (with power-operated 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, HD Radio, digital music storage and a rearview camera.
The new Titanium package adds on top of the Limited's features 20-inch chrome wheels, unique interior and exterior styling accents, microfiber suede seat inserts and perforated leather trim for the steering wheel.
Options on every Flex include second-row reclining and sliding captain's chairs and contrasting roof colors. The SEL, Limited and Titanium 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 rear-seat DVD entertainment system. The Limited can be had with 20-inch wheels, power-folding third row seats and a refrigerated second-row center console.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2011 Ford Flex comes standard with a 3.5-liter V6 producing 262 horsepower 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, Limited and Titanium 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. Expect 60 mph to come up in a quick 6.6 seconds. Despite the added power and performance, the EcoBoost V6 manages to achieve the same fuel economy as the standard V6.
The 2011 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 -- and the EcoBoost wasn't significantly different. 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 seven-passenger seating -- even the third row is sufficient for adults. The optional reclining second-row captain's chairs shrink seating capacity to six, but comfort increases and their ability to slide forward expands third-row legroom. 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-engineered 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.
The 2011 Ford Flex isn't all that inspiring from behind the wheel, but it certainly is not disagreeable, either. The ride is always comfortable -- even with the bigger wheels -- soaking up bumps in the road with luxury car ease. 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 EcoBoost V6 is a different story, giving the Flex a sport wagon flavor and offering direct control of the transmission via the standard shift paddles. The tighter suspension, quicker steering and lower ride height also allow the Flex to corner with more immediacy and confidence. Sporty, it's not, but the EcoBoost variants should supply enough excitement for the majority of drivers.
Read our Ford Flex Long-Term 70,000-Mile Test