Three-row crossovers may have replaced the minivan as the preferred form of family transportation, but that doesn't mean they're hip. Enter the Ford Flex, which is a lot like a large wagon, but in a stylish way. By adding a few Mini Cooper-inspired design touches (such as the blacked-out roof pillars and contrasting roof colors), the Ford Flex strikes us as perhaps the coolest choice among seven-passenger crossovers. It also happens to work just fine as a family vehicle with its roomy cabin, comfortable ride, excellent build quality and pleasant driving dynamics. As a new or used vehicle, it's one of our top choices.
Current Ford Flex
The Ford Flex is a seven-passenger crossover wagon with a boxy body designed to maximize interior volume and style. Available second-row captain's chairs that slide and recline increase comfort, but decrease seating capacity to six.
Standard across the board is a 3.5-liter V6 that sends 287 horsepower and 254 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels, with all-wheel drive as an option. The Limited offers the option of a turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 good for 365 hp and 350 lb-ft that is all-wheel drive only. Both engines send their power through a six-speed automatic.
The Flex comes in three trim levels: SE, SEL and Limited. The base SE comes pretty well equipped, with feature highlights including 17-inch wheels, rear parking sensors, the Sync voice command system and a six-speaker CD stereo. The midlevel SEL adds 18-inch wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, the MyFord Touch electronics interface, an enhanced Sync system, heated front seats and a 12-speaker stereo with satellite radio. The Ford Flex Limited gains 19-inch wheels, xenon headlights, a power liftgate, keyless ignition/entry, a blind-spot warning system, a rearview camera, a navigation system and an upgraded sound system with HD radio. Notable options, depending on the trim level, include a multipanel sunroof, second-row captain's chairs, a refrigerated second-row console, adaptive cruise control and an automated parallel parking system.
The Flex's interior has an upscale appearance and very good materials, although both the standard and MyFord Touch electronics interfaces can be unintuitive. The Flex features three spacious rows of seats, and even the rearmost seats can comfortably accommodate those taller than 6 feet. Entry and exit to those seats are eased by the Flex's low ride height and the second row that can tumble forward at the push of a button. Both back rows fold flat for cargo storage.
In reviews, we've found the Flex a great road trip companion with its responsive performance, handy features and smooth, quiet ride. The standard V6 powertrain is fairly refined, and handling of the SE and SEL versions composed, if not entertaining. The Limited's turbocharged V6 and tighter suspension tuning give it more of a sport wagon demeanor that should please enthusiasts who need a spacious family vehicle.
Used Ford Flex Models
The Ford Flex was introduced for 2009 and ran through 2012 mostly unchanged. That first year, the standard (and only) engine offered was the 3.5-liter V6, then producing 262 hp. Three trims were offered: base SE, midlevel SEL and plush Limited. Although generally very well-rounded and comfortable, the debut-year Flex lacked a telescoping steering wheel, which made it difficult for taller drivers to get comfortable. For 2010, Ford introduced the telescoping steering wheel as well as the turbocharged, 355-hp 3.5-liter V6 option. The following year, the glitzy, chrome-wheeled Titanium trim level joined the lineup. Oddly, the very next year would be the last for the Titanium.
The Flex received a midcycle refresh for 2013, which swapped out the triple-blade shaver-inspired grille for a sleeker, simpler look. Other changes that year included increased engine output (with the base V6 making 285 hp and the turbocharged version cranking out 365 hp) and the availability of cutting-edge features such as MyFord Touch, the automated parking system, inflatable second-row seatbelts and adaptive cruise control. Today's Flex is pretty much identical save for a small bump in output for the base V6 (to 287 hp) and a minor shuffling of equipment.