2009 Ford Flex Limited: Mt. Whitney Road Trip - Summary
September 13, 2010
Four days and 800 miles in the 2009 Ford Flex has made me a real believer in both this impressive vehicle and Ford's new direction. I found that it hit a real sweet spot in size and fuel economy. As you'll see on the next page, we stuffed this baby full of gear and guys and it took it all in stride and still delivered a great driving experience.
Besides its retro good looks, which makes a nice contrast with the unusual setting in this photo, the Flex is loaded with new technology. What I liked was that the technology is under the surface. You almost have to dig for it, like in the case of the hill descent feature activated by the push button on the shifter (which I initially missed). But there were other design features I liked, which I'll describe on the next page.
First and foremost, I was totally sold on the 3.5-liter 262 horsepower V6. I'm a fuel economy freak so getting 23 mpg (according to the on-board computer) while carrying five guys seemed like a great achievement. But honestly, despite very severe grades into the mountains, I never felt at much of a loss for power. The only thing that bothered me was that, in Ford's quest for fuel efficiency, they tuned the six-speed transmission so it didn't like to downshift until you really needed it. The driving experience was also excellent. Good road feel and an extremely well insulated cabin.
The flexibility of the seating was really amazing. While the third row seats were adorned with all kinds of straps and instructions for folding them, it all worked. And check out how much stuff we took. It would have been hard to do much better unless you wanted a minivan.
The ice box in the center row turned out to be more of a gimmick than a really useful feature. It takes up a lot of space and doesn't hold much. Also, while the power rear tailgate was great, I wish there was a button in the rear to close it. I had to keep digging the key out of my pocket to close it.
The rear backup camera was essential on this trip since my rear visibility was nil. Often, I had to make three point turns on tight mountain roads with trees and rocks eager to put a scrape in the bumper. I avoided any such encounters even though the visibility over the hood is limited.
I wouldn't buy Flex since I really don't need such a big vehicle. But for families wanting to avoid getting a minivan or a large SUV, this is an outstanding alternative. I was a little amazed to notice that there aren't more of these on the road. I guess it's taking some time to get the word out.
Philip Reed, Senior Consumer Advice Editor @ 68,459 miles