Wrap-Up & Clean-Up - 2009 Ford Flex Road Trip Long-Term Road Test

2009 Ford Flex Road Trip: Wrap-Up & Clean-Up

August 25, 2009


Put a fork in me, 'cuz I'm done. Done with vacation. Done with sleeping in different places every other night. Done with doing laundry on the road. And done with living out of a suitcase.

But one thing I'm not done with is the 2009 Ford Flex. If I were willing to take on a car payment right now, I'd own one -- tomorrow. But my 2003 Honda Odyssey is paid off and still has some miles left in it, so I'm probably going to remain on the sidelines until 2010 or 2011.

Or not. These past two weeks are likely to renew talk among the Edmunds clan of replacing the old minivan. If asked, all four of our right brains would march down to the local Ford dealer right now. A goodly portion of our left brains would go along, too, because the Flex makes sense for our family on a variety of levels.

The only part of the brain -- OK, my brain -- that is holding back is the region devoted to money and the fear of spending it at this moment in time.

In case you're not in the same cheapskate mode as I am right now, here's what we liked -- and disliked -- about the Ford Flex on this vacation.

+1 Ride & Handling: The steering is sure and the Flex goes down the road with effortless ease. And no one got carsick the whole time, despite miles of mountain roads -- unheard-of with my family. Kudos to the chassis development engineers.

+1 Seat Comfort & Space: There's plenty of space in all three rows, and the seats are comfy and supportive. Adults as tall as me (6'-2') fit in the 3rd row.

-1 Headrests: My wife and I share this gripe. The front headrests jut too far forward. Not sure if this issue gets relief on 2010 or not.

-1 Steering Wheel Reach: I won't waste time here, because this problem goes away when a telescopic steering wheel finally arrives sometime in 2010.

+1 Storage Space: Sure, our minivan has more cubic feet -- it's a taller box. But the Flex sports a minivan-like deep well behind that the 3rd row emerges from -- it easily holds luggage or groceries when the 3rd seat is in use.

+1 Electronics: Sync, Bluetooth, iPod integration, satellite radio, navi, traffic -- it's all here. And few other automakers tie it all together as seamlessly as this Ford. And our girls took full advantage of the aux inputs to play Wii on the rear DVD screen about half the trip. Our '03 Odyssey is crude by comparison.

+1 Grade Assist: This speed-regulating transmission mode works sort of like off-road Hill Descent Control, but at regular highway and freeway driving speeds. Much better than expected after I lived with it.

-1 No discreet gear selection: Even with the above system, I still want to choose my own gear in certain situations. 'D' and 'L' alone don't cut it.

+1 The Duratec 3.5L V6: Enough power for this trip. I never really found myself bemoaning the lack of the PowerBoost EcoBoost twin-turbo direct-injection V6 that's coming in 2010. Still, if the mpg is the same as this engine, as it's reported to be, why the heck not? Bottom line: There are no bad choices in this department.

-1 Interior Fit and Finish: What I would like is the Limited in content, but without the fake wood (or even real wood) and without so much obvious plastic-chrome trim on all of the knobs. I'd like to see the inside that is a bit more high tech - maybe even a touch of Steam Punk. The interior does not have the same 'it' factor that the exterior has. Audis have it. Our Nissan 370Z has it. I wish I could get it here.

+1 Looks: I've always said that whoever comes to market with the first cool minivan will rule the family hauler segment. The Ford Flex is it, even though its more of a tall wagon/CUV thingy. Sure it doesn't have sliding doors, and OK it holds a wee bit less than our Odyssey. But this thing looks like a big Scion xB -- in a good way.


Don't like the hearse look? Don't buy all black. Go for the surfmobile look instead. Just choose bright red or brown, and then add the white roof. Point is, my wife was dragged kicking and screaming into the minivan world. She really appreciates her Odyssey now, for all the logical reasons you care to name, but her fashion sense has never made peace with the thing. But she LOVES the Flex. Thinks it's cool. And she's right.

FInally, here's the final trip tally of fuel economy...

Total miles driven: 2,496.2 Total fuel added: 115.9 gallons Total Fuel Cost: $360.42

Trip average fuel economy: 21.5 mpg (24.6 mpg best, 19.4 mpg worst)

[EPA rated fuel economy is 17 city, 24 highway, 19 combined]

Average in-car meter reading: 22.7 mpg for an exaggeration of 5.3% or 1.2 mpg.

That about does it. When the time comes, I'll be sorry to see this one go.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 31,705 miles

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