December 10, 2010
By now you all know our 2009 Ford Flex is headed out of the long-term fleet to make room for something fresher. I, for one, will miss having it around.
A sudden business trip popped up in San Diego, so I decided to take the Flex for one last jaunt before the "for sale" process gets well and truly underway. OK, San Diego isn't that far away, but this round trip still amounted to another 200 miles.
In short, our 2009 Ford Flex drives like it always has. Steering, brakes, ride comfort -- it's all pretty solid, much like it was the first time a drove it back in September 2008. The interior still looks great, too, especially after Phil Reed had it detailed in preparation for sale.
The new owner will have about a year of rubber left -- the tires are getting down there but they're not far gone enough to toss them out just yet. The windshield star crack at the a-pillar was repaired and stabilized, but it's still visible. And the wonky center storage box latch still lacks the spring it lost over a year ago. We could fix this kind of stuff, I guess, but I've found it's not a bad policy to have something minor to point out as a car's biggest flaw. Besides, we'd pay more to fix that latch than we'd receive in incremental value.
Fare-thee-well, Flex. I'd like to take you back to my driveway, but I don't want a car payment just now. My family will miss you. You've made the twice-annual trip to Oregon quite pleasant on more than one occasion.
Which brings up a relevant question: which long-term car do we take this year?
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 72,487 miles
October 20, 2010
70,000 miles, 24 states and 1 Canadian province. This is the map for our Flex Across America, and although most of those states were checked off on one Mike Magrath road trip, I'm throwing down the challenge right now to check off the rest of these states before we hit the sell-by tally of 100,000 miles.
Since I got British Columbia, I figure that's good enough to wipe out Hawaii. And if someone gets D.C., that's good to substitute Sarah Palinland. But other than that, I say we owe it to the Flex to hit every state in the Union.
But I have a challenge to you dear readers: We need reasons to go to these unchecked states. What should we see? Where should we stop? I'm looking for the sort of places like Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland or Snow's BBQ in Lexington, Texas. I suppose it doesn't have to be food joints that'll surely kill you, but you'll get bonus points for that.
Challenge thrown. Flex out.
James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 70,386 miles
September 16, 2010
We took the 2009 Ford Flex Limited out for a crash test.
Don't panic. We didn't crash the Flex (it's too pretty for that). What I mean is that four Edmunds staffers took the Flex on a four-hour round-trip drive to Adelanto in California's high desert to visit Karco Engineering, a test lab and automotive research center. If you ever get the chance to go, the people there are great, and the crash tests are fascinating. Just don't mock the test dummies' thermal underwear and bad shoes and watch out for the rattlesnakes that hang around, looking for a chipmunk snack.
The trek put a little over 250 miles on the wagon (including my commute to and from the Edmunds mothership in Santa Monica), and the route put the Flex through a variety of conditions. We had some stop-and-go freeway driving through downtown Los Angeles, wide-open freeway along the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, a climb to an elevation of 4,190 feet at the Cajon Summit on Interstate 15 and a stretch on straight-shot Highway 395 (where it's easy to speed, but where the CHP trolls in search of the unwary).
While I like the Flex overall, I didn't love its performance in the Cajon Pass. I felt like I really had to stomp on the gas to keep the vehicle at freeway speed while making the climb to the summit. (If you crave more power, you might want to look at the Flex with EcoBoost). Our version of the Flex doesn't seem to like steep and fast.
But aside from that, the Flex made the four of us very comfortable. The navigation system did its job admirably (although it did alert us to an accident that was no longer there). Satellite radio allowed the front-seat passenger to catch up on a little current music. There was plenty of room for the second-row passengers, two Edmunds guys who appreciated legroom and a quiet passenger cabin so they could go over the cars they've owned, cars they've sold and cars they wish they could buy. The cup-holders got a workout: Starbucks on the way out and water (lots of it) on the way home.
Only one problem, and it can be chalked up to operator error. Before setting out, I had stocked the Flex's little fridge with an array of soft drinks (including a medio litro of Coca-Cola from Mexico -- real sugar, not corn syrup). But I missed the part about turning it on. Duh.
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.
August 25, 2010
Nothing's more annoying on a hot day than a car with a wimpy air conditioning system that takes forever to cool down the cabin. You won't have that problem with the Flex.
Aaaaah... so refreshing.
Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 66,485 miles
August 13, 2010
Here's another shot of the Flex from the Wyoming road trip, this time just off Interstate 80 between Rock Springs and Rawlins at the Continental Divide. It was at this location that one of the fathers of modern interstate travel, Henry Bourne Joy, decided he wanted to be laid to rest.
July 19, 2010
Recently my wife parked her year old Mazda CX-9 and spent a few days driving our long-term 2009 Ford Flex. It was my idea. I wanted to find out which three-row crossover she preferred.
After three days in the Flex, my wife's review was short and sweet. "I'll keep my Mazda," she said. "That Flex feels like a boat."
When I asked her what she meant by that she said, "It's all floaty and the brakes don't feel as good as the Mazda's. I feel more in control of the vehicle when I drive my car."
Wow, what a woman. She could not be more right. Fact is, her sportier Mazda is more firmly sprung than the Flex and it certainly feels more secure and smaller on the road. The Mazda also has a firmer brake pedal than the Flex and its brakes reward the driver with more immediate bite.
Maybe next week I'll have her review the Viper.
Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief
July 15, 2010
Encountered a slight problem with the Ford Flex yesterday. Needed a vehicle to pick up four people at the airport. Take the Flex right? Wrongo.
You see, once you add four people to the Flex, you're not left with much in the way of cargo room. With no center seat in the second row, that fourth passenger has to sit in the third row.
That leaves one folded seat and the rather small cargo area left for luggage. Think you could fit four suitcases in that cargo area? We took the XC60 instead, worked fine.
Ed Hellwig, Editor, Edmunds.com @ 60,045 miles
July 07, 2010
The average American woman is 5 feet 3 inches tall. The step-in height of the average SUV is 5 feet, 4 inches.
That first statistic is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. I made up the second stat, quite honestly, but it feels accurate to me. In terms of height, I am the average American woman and getting into the average SUV nearly requires that I haul out a ladder for entry and a parachute for exit.
So that's why I like the Ford Flex (and yes, I know it's not an SUV, or a minivan. It's sui generis, and I like it).
I drove it to Seal Beach to meet a friend for dinner, and it was very nice to step into a vehicle that big without an alley-oop, and leave it without a geronimo.
Inside, of course, the Flex is like somebody's condo, what with refrigerator, entertainment system and storage unit. And I do agree with our managing editor, Donna DeRosa, on this point: Retrieving something from the floor of the Flex's second row nearly requires a Folding Helping Hand Long-Reach Pick-Up Gripper.
But that's a minor shortcoming. Pun intended.
June 23, 2010
Our 2009 Long-Term Ford Flex is long. Actually it's 201.8 inches (or 16.8 feet) long. That's great when you want to stuff six people in it and provide them all with a modicum of legroom, but not so good when you need to squeeze into curbside parking (particularly if curbside parking isn't all that common).
That was the situation I encountered recently after circling the Acedemy of Science in San Francisco. The parking structure was full, and street parking was not to be found. At least not until I spotted an open space that seemed only slightly longer than the Flex. I'm not sure if the photo above fully communicates it, but trust me -- the space between the Prius in front of me and the GTI behind was very tight.
I'll happily take some credit for maneuvering the big crossover into such a small spot, but in truth it was the second time I'd managed to squeeze the Ford into tight street parking in two days.
That's because the Ford's rear camera makes such parallel parking feats relatively easy. You can move right next to the vehicle behind you without actually hitting it, so if you cut the wheel correctly when first backing up you can get the Flex lined up almost perfectly with the curb while taking full advantage of whatever open space you've got.
That's not to say it's always easy parking the big people mover, but it's not nearly as difficult as it would be without the rear camera. If you can't spring for Ford's automatic parking assist system, this feature makes a reasonable (and cheaper) substitute.
Karl Brauer, Editor at Large @ 57,923 miles
May 28, 2010
I did another long drive in the Flex yesterday. And once again it proved to be a great highway companion. Quiet, comfortable, a long fuel range and a respectable stereo with an up-to-date satellite radio subscription -- can't ask for much more than that.
Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor
May 13, 2010
I had to go to Vegas this week for a quick conference, and as my bizjet G650 was in the shop getting fitted with anti-SAM flares (below), I decided to take our long-term 2009 Ford Flex instead.
The Flex is a terrific road trip car, with a comfortable, controlled ride, and spacious interior. The Navi is excellent, and the Sync and satellite radio keep you from getting too bored.
The only problems I had were a severe shudder in the steering wheel during hard braking from speed due to the warped rotors, and some instability due to some hellacious crosswinds (probably due to the vehicle's large size).
I stayed at The Palms Casino, which was just OK, but the view from Ghostbar is outstanding!
Let's hear about the Flex, and also tell us about your fav Vegas hotel.
Albert Austria, Senior Engineer @ 55,470 miles
May 03, 2010
A little more than a week ago my New York Yankees came to town, so we fired up our long-term 2009 Ford Flex and headed for Anaheim.
My "Suit up kids, we're going to the ballpark!" was enthusiastically greeted with cheers and requests for cotton candy. Angel's Stadium is about 60 miles from our home and I was glad to have the Flex for the trip. The more I use the Ford for freeway travel the more I like it.
Although once we got there, the Flex's lack of a cargo cover was a bit of a bummer. We had to hide some valuables under seats for them to be out of sight.
After the game, the late night drive home was comfortable and drama-free, which is exactly what you want. Kids crashed. Wife happy.
Sure the Yanks lost, but it was fun family outing and the Flex was the perfect vehicle for the job.
Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief
April 01, 2010
We are 700 miles closer to our goal of 100k on the 2009 Ford Flex. It just returned from a two day gambling mission in Laughlin, Nevada. The slots were tight but a 3-hour heater on the tables more than made up for them.
Any trip you can walk away ahead is a good trip. And this was a great one. The Flex seats were as comfortable and supportive on the drive out as on the exhausting drive back. It is easily among the most comfortable cars in our long term fleet.
Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 52,848 miles
March 18, 2010
As I pulled into my driveway yesterday evening, my neighbor came over to ask about the Flex. He is looking for something to replace his SUV that he bought before he had any children. His family is growing and he needs something that will pass the wife test and entertain his two kids.
I explained how everyone on our staff enjoys the Flex and how it is a great road trip car. It has enough room for plenty of kids and all the stuff that gets carted around with them. But I suggested that if he test-drives one, he also makes sure that his wife test-drives it, too.
At 5'4", I have trouble reaching some things in the Flex. I have to move the seat really close to the front to be able to drive comfortably. I swim in the Flex. And I've seen this guy's wife, she can't be more than 5'2".
So, although the Ford Flex is a versatile family vehicle, it may not suit smaller sized humans.
Have you driven a Flex?
Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor
February 10, 2010
Yesterday afternoon three of us Long Beachers formed a last-minute carpool home. After a quick look at the long-term car key board, we voted unanimously to take the Ford Flex.
With nearly 48,000 miles on its odometer, the Flex is still the vehicle of choice when it comes to group (even small group) transportation.
Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 47,900 miles
February 05, 2010
Despite the fact that our Flex has racked up nearly 50,000 miles, I had yet to spend any real quality time in it. That changed this week when I took it to Vegas, about a 600-mile round trip from my house in greater L.A. I averaged 22.4 mpg with the drive being mostly open freeway cruising running between 70-80 mph.
Herewith are some random cheers and jeers I had for this Ford, some of which you may have already seen noted by my colleagues.
-- Great seats: Plush, wide and yet supportive enough for a four-hour stint.
-- Nav system: Easy to use and clear graphics too.
-- Sync system: Easy hook-up to my phone, a voice recognition system that knows what I'm saying, and a cool weather forecast function.
-- Awesome highway cruiser. With the speed limit being 75 over much of the ride, I just set the cruise at 80. With the engine loafing along at 2000 rpm, the low levels of road and wind noise and the lack of vibration, it felt like we were going more like 50.
-- Capless fuel filler. I was surprised by how much I appreciated this feature which eliminates the minor steps of removing and replacing a fuel cap. Didn't think I was that lazy!
-- Plenty of cubbies for snacks, cell phone and wallet.
-- Nav system Traffic: Showed the freeway (yes the portion I was on) as "green" when it should've shown "red" -- it was very slow-moving traffic for a few miles.
-- The cruise control: The buttons are all the same, so you have to glance at them to operate the system, and there's no "cancel" mode.
As you can see, there's plenty good and not much bad to say about the Flex. Now I know why this car is so popular with the staff for road trips.
I did not see the Flock of Seagulls. The sign caught my eye so I had to shoot it as proof that, nearly three decades later, The Flock are still milking their crowd pleaser: "I Ran". Besides, I'll take "Space Age Love Song" over I Ran any day.
John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 46,921 miles
January 28, 2010
I had the Ford Flex throughout the deluge last week, and here's the reason. We had house-guests who flew from Portland to escape the rain and snow. D'oh! The plan was set in concrete with fly-or-die plane tickets so we were going to Disneyland come heck or high water. The good news is the Flex proved the perfect 6-passenger vehicle, once again, and even better, the Happiest Place on Earth proved to be the Emptiest (and Soggiest) Place on Earth.
January 19, 2010
During my roadtrip to Sacramento, I loved all the conveniences of our 2009 Ford Flex -- its Bluetooth so I could call my parents and let them know I was now passing Coalinga, its satellite radio so I wouldn't have to keep changing radio stations and the soft lights in the cupholders so I can safely set my cup of coffee down while driving. But the feature I appreciated the most had to be that the second row of passenger seats had their own seat heaters!
I had to pick my dad up from the hospital this weekend and it was really nice that we could get him all cozy for the ride back home. We had to put him in the passenger seat behind me because that's where the nurse wheeled him as it was closest to the wheelchair ramp. In any case, I was thrilled that he, too, could enjoy heated seats, since being a lover of them myself I know how awesome they are. And how often do backseat passengers get to enjoy such luxuries? I mean, besides DVDs.
Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 45,462 miles
January 04, 2010
Our winter Oregon trip in the 2009 Ford Flex is over. We're all home safe and sound.
You may be wondering what happened to the updates from the Bend leg of our trip. Well, they weren't necessary because, for a variety of reasons, that part of our trip was cancelled.
The night before we were to leave it snowed 6 inches in the mountain passes between the beach and Bend, with more forecast for the day we would need to leave. Tracy and the kids were in no mood to spend 10 hours in the car--slowed by snow an the likely need to fit chains--for what would amount to a one-day visit on the other end, no to mention the longer drive home--slowed by still more snow on rural two-lane roads--that would result. I was game for the drive, but since it was her sister we were to visit I wasn't going to force the trip on them for the sake of an interesting blog post or two. This is our vacation, after all.
Instead we stayed a couple of extra days at Dad's hilltop hideaway and then drove home. Everyone was anxious to get home at that point, so we decided to tackle the entire 816-mile return trip in one day.
October 30, 2009
Back on October 29, 2008, I wrote a post about our Ford Flex's quiet cabin at highway speeds. One year later, you wouldn't know that we've added about 27,000 miles unless you looked at the odometer. The Flex is still quiet and, impressively, there are no rattles or squeaks to be heard.
The only thing that seems a little different -- and my memory could be faulty here -- is that the Flex's ride quality doesn't seem to be quite as good on broken pavement as it used to. Director of Vehicle Testing Dan Edmunds suggested that the worn rear tires might be the cause, as there's not as much tread as there used to be to provide cushion and flex.
Speaking of tires, some readers commented on my last post noting how much we've been using the Flex. I believe the Flex's 37,000 miles (we started reporting on it in Sept. '08 with 1,700 miles on the clock) is a record for an Edmunds/Inside Line long-term test vehicle. There have been others with more total mileage, but none with as much of a rapid gain. Of course, it helps that we've driven back and forth to Oregon twice (Dan), to Colorado (Paul), and to the East Coast (Mike).
Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor
September 23, 2009
You've heard me rail constantly about the fixed and faraway position of our 2009 Ford Flex's steering wheel. My long legs want me to slide the seat back and stretch out a bit, but then the steering wheel is simply too far away.
So I usually split the difference by sliding the the seat forward a little bit and hunching forward a little bit. I've managed to get through two 2,000-mile road trips like this without the need for chiropractic assistance, but I'm never able to ignore this uncomfortable compromise.
But the 2010 Ford Flex gets relief in the form of a telescopic steering wheel. But how much does it telescope, and does it go the right way?
September 14, 2009
I ventured up to a cabin in Big Bear, Calif., this weekend for a bachelor party. I tasked myself with bringing three of the nine other guys up, and although any number of our sedans could have done the job, the Flex was once again called upon for a road trip. Quite simply, there's no other car that's been in the long-term fleet during my nearly three-year tenure that approaches the Flex's desirability for treking distances.
I've driven a Flex to Big Bear before, so I've previously noted how its lack of manual gear selection hampers the journey up and down the 7,000-foot climb. When hauling derriere up the mountain to make up for the time we lost in traffic, the Flex was surprisingly capable of taking turns, but wasn't happy to do so and I doubt many drivers would duplicate my pace.
Yet, what about the thoughts of the nine other guys?
Well in short, they loved it. When we ventured into town with six aboard, the power flip-and-fold second row seats elicited oohs, aahs and the demand for the four other guys traveling by 4Runner to check them out. The Vista Roof, back seat refrigerator, DVD entertainment system and the sheer fact that six grown men could comfortably fit in a vehicle that's not a minivan were other plus points. One guy noted he appreciated the styling much more in a dark paint scheme where the side ribbing is less noticable.
This journey proved to me once again the Flex's ability to make practicality cool. Would a Honda Odyssey or Buick Enclave garner such positive reactions from a group of 26-year-old beer pong-playing dudes -- one of which said he'd consider buying one? No way, not a chance. Go Flex.
James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 33,439 miles
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.
August 14, 2009
You're looking at one of my biggest complaints about the 2009 Ford Flex. The steering wheel is too far away (by at least a couple of inches) and it does not telescope in and out. Sure, there are power adjustable pedals, but they mainly adress the needs of shorter drivers. Taller folk like me need to pull the wheel back to maintain an ideal reach to the steering wheel as we slide the seat backward to gain legroom and kneeroom.
But in the '09 Flex, setting the seat where my legs want it results in a straight-armed, elbows locked 9 and 3 driving position that is really tiring. I find myself cruising along the straighter sections of insterstate with my fingertips down at 5 and 7 -- not a good thing.
But relief is on the horizon.
July 24, 2009
I love our 2009 Ford Flex's wide, cushy captain's chairs.
At least for the first 20 miles.
At that point, the luxury of driving from my couch mysteriously changes to piloting from a bean bag chair. You know, when the styrofoam pellets split to both sides, leaving just a washable vinyl cover between your behind and the hard floor. No amount of adjusting the seat eases that collapsed feeling once its begun.
So as much as I like the Flex's seating at first sit, our love affair only lasts a couple of freeway exits.
Kelly Toepke, News Editor
June 11, 2009
Last Saturday, I was lucky enough to get tickets to the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. And by "lucky," I mean "received the honor of paying an arm, leg and pancreas to attend four events." But it still took some effort, so I still feel accomplished. If you care, I go into more detail after the jump.
What does this have to do with our long-term fleet? Well, I need your help blogosphere. I'll be driving to Vancouver in the dead of February and will need something to get me, three friends and all our stuff through the wintry climes of Northern California, Oregon, Washington and a sliver of British Columbia. Therefore, I'll prefer all-wheel-drive. At first glance, our present fleet actually has quite a few vehicles that meet that criteria: Audi A4 Avant, Audi S5, Mitsubishi Evo MR, Suzuki SX4, Infiniti FX50 and Nissan GT-R. On second glance, never mind. The Infiniti is orobably the best candidate, but as Phil discovered back in December, our long termer has summer tires on it. The Audis would be great for making a hip Olympic entrance, but neither satisfies the friends and stuff criteria. The GT-R would be awesome if my friends were Keebler Elves and we had a plow escort.
If I were to leave tomorrow, I'd probably just take the Flex and its chains since I know they can handle a snowy road trip. But I have eight months before Vancouver and we'll have a different fleet by then. What cars and SUVs should I lobby for to make my Olympic road trip? The serious and ridiculous are certainly welcome.
James Riswick, Automotive Editor
About those tickets. Even as a Canadian citizen with an in-country address (a family member's) my first request for several ticket packages was denied during the "Phase 1 Priority Access Period" of ticketing back in December. Actually, I got three tickets for curling (shut up, I like it). I certainly wasn't alone in my frustration. The next phase was last Saturday, when a la carte event tickets went on sale. Since the system was so overwhelmed with traffic, the Olympic Web site diverted into a "virtual waiting room" where I "sat" for an hour and 20 minutes before being logged into the system. When I got in, I was able to snag tickets for women's luge, women's 1000m speed skating and one of the nightly victory ceremonies at the Olympic Stadium (aka BC Place). And all the women's events is due to scheduling, not because I especially enjoy watching ladies in spandex. Also, Alpine skiing and ski jumping were sold out.
But I'm going, and I'm thrilled. Should make for a fun time (and blog) in eight months.
December 19, 2008
I cannot drive this car.
It pains me to say this, because in most ways the Flex is a home run. Its interior materials are what Lincoln's should be. Real adults can lounge comfortably in the third row. The second-row seats are veritable thrones. It performs well. It looks cool. Et cetera.
October 29, 2008
One notable attribute about our long-term 2009 Ford Flex: road noise is impressively quelled. Even on concrete, only a minimal amount of tire noise makes it into the cabin. (Our car is shod with Hancook Optimo H725 tires.) There's more wind noise than road noise, but even so the Flex remains library quiet during 75-mph highway drives. Too bad Flex owners with squabbling children in back probably won't notice.
Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 10,034 miles