December 06, 2010
If you're going to try to sell a two-year-old car with 72,000 miles on it, you better make sure it looks sharp. We took our 2009 Ford Flex Limited to the car wash and had them detail the interior for $100. Two guys crawled all over it for an hour, vacuumed it, shampooed the carpets, cleaned all the surfaces and got the finger prints off the glass. I wouldn't have thought it would make such a difference but it did. Before the detail there was a generally worn look to the interior with scuff marks around all the doors where people had kicked the plastic getting in and out of the car. Afterwards, all the surfaces gleamed with not-too-much ArmorAll-type protectant.
November 22, 2010
I am so dizzy with gasoline fumes right now. I've got the windows down and the fan up but I can't flush the stank of gas out of our 2009 Ford Flex.
The fuel was going in really slow at my local 76 station. Reaaaaly slow. After more than 7 minutes, I was still standing there, watching the pump's readout tick reluctantly past 15 gallons. It holds a couple more than that, and I had run it really empty, so I thought nothing much of it.
A few moments later I started to hear the distinctive splatter of liquid on concrete as a pool of gas began spreading on the ground. There had been no click at the pump handle, no kick through the hose; gas had simply begun to overflow and run out as if it were supposed to do that.
I'm not sure why it happened. I guess the back-pressure buildup that's supposed to kick off the handle didn't occur properly at this particular pump's meager flow rate. I don't think the capless Easy Fuel system had much to do with it, though the system does seem intolerant of any fuel added after the first click. Trouble is, here that first click never happened.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 71,924 miles
October 25, 2010
The Flex has an analog clock built into its center console. Who knew?
It's too low to be truly useful, and it's redundant with the clock in the navigation screen. Maybe that's why I never noticed it.
Josh Jacquot, Senior editor
October 21, 2010
Yesterday we had a look at some of the Flex's not-so-finer points in the midst of a few weeks without being washed. But a closer look reveals some respectable details -- like the front seats, which despite time and neglect still look pretty darned good.
October 21, 2010
I'm not sure what I can say about the Flex that hasn't already been said in the previous 277 posts, so let's just do a quick walk around to look at its condition at about 70,000 miles. Clearly, the engine needs a scrub. I'll add that to my list when I clean this thing up.
September 28, 2010
I'm no clean freak, but there are some objects in my life that I absolutely must keep clean. Dirty sunglasses, TV screens, computer monitors and camera lenses make me batty. After hopping in our extra-long-term Flex last night, the sunlight hit the touchscreen, exposing all of the built up haze and smudges, making it all but unreadable. I gave it a quick wipe with my fingertip, but that just moved the crud around. I waited until I got home to use something I was sure would work.
I bought this stuff when I early adopted my home plasma TV about a decade ago. Monster Screen Clean is alcohol and ammonia-free and made for cleaning sensitive monitors. It's thicker than normal glass cleaner, almost a gel consistency like Purell hand sanitizer. This keeps the cleaner from running down into the monitor's crevices and potentially damaging the electronics. It also came with its own microfiber towel.
September 17, 2010
Nearly 70,000 miles on our 2009 Ford Flex, and two things that continue to impress backseat passengers are the car's wide, comfortable seats and rear seat heaters.
Soon as my daughter jumped in this morning, she exclaimed, "Ooooo, heated seats!"
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.
September 03, 2010
I had the Flex a night this past week. A friend was in town and we decided to pick her and a few others up for dinner.
I guess I've been in the Flex so much that the "cool" stuff is just normal to me. My friends, however, thought that the rear sunroofs were really something special. As we drove through the Wilshire corridor, they were pointing out the various sky high condos through the rear sunroofs, wondering aloud what the famous people must do on their roof top decks.
I'm in these cars a lot so I might be a little jaded, but it's the perspective of others that really remind me that the Flex has a lot going for it. Even if it's just hearing your friends ooh and ahh at the big city views through the sunroof.
Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer
September 03, 2010
Yesterday, Scott blogged that our 2009 Audi A4 Avant was holding up nicely. The seats, he said, looked fresh, "even the bolsters look new." And it's true, they do. But that's an Audi Wagon. It goes back and forth from school to shopping plazza to beach to work to home. It's a fancy purse and as such, it's wearing like a fancy purse.
Our 2009 Flex, however is a workhorse. It's not a mining half-wagon, it's all van all the time and we use it.
And still, look at that seat! It doesn't look new because it's got over 60,000 miles of butt on top of it-- it's broken in. The leather feels better than it did when new. Like an old jacket or a comfy leather chair, the Flex just keeps getting better, tougher, more unique as the miles pack on.
It's got witness marks and history on that seat, but not a single tear, pull or inch of faded leather and that's what really counts, right?
August 24, 2010
What's left to say about the Flex? Well, I noticed the little trim piece behind the driver door handle is missing.
Here's how it looks on the passenger side, nice and smooth.
August 19, 2010
Our long-term 2009 Ford Flex has a power back door. I haven't driven the Flex recently because it has been on many field trips, so I couldn't remember the location of the activation switch.
Most power back doors of course have the switch logically placed on the bottom end of the tailgate, so you can stand clear of the closing door. But Ford puts the Flex's inside the cargo area. Uh, OK.
JKav showed it to me and said the door moves pretty slowly and it shouldn't be a problem.
So you probably won't decapitate yourself. But don't quote me at your product liability trial.
Albert Austria, Senior Engineer @ ~67,000 miles
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, Inside Line @ 60,045 miles
July 14, 2010
I flipped open the center console of our Flex recently and noticed this oddly labeled button. Hmmm...foot lights? That's a new one.
After RTFM, I was informed that the button controls the Flex's ambient lighting feature. By pushing the disturbingly large button, you can choose among 7 different colors for the cupholders and footwell lighting. So yes, footlights indeed.
Ed Hellwig, Editor, Edmunds.com, @ 60,032 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.
July 05, 2010
Our return from the West Coast Run was, like many fast-track trips through California, nowhere near the coast. It was on the 5 freeway, through the lovely Central Valley. While not as flat as Kansas, the scenery is similar in its monotony. As such, I found myself constantly turning to our long-term 2009 Ford Flex's navigation screen to get some reassurance that we were, truly, moving south through the state -- versus being caught in some sort of never-ending Twilight Zone time-space loop.
The navigation display definitely helped, as I could see the Flex moving south along the 5, slowly inching toward Los Angeles on the touchscreen.
And then the afternoon summer sun came in through the passenger window. Suddenly all I could see were finger smudges, dust, and the odd hair.
I didn't think anything could make the Central Valley look good.
Karl Brauer, Editor at Large @ 59,223 miles
June 16, 2010
Last night was my first time in the Flex in quite a few weeks. I really took a shine to the cabin -- I guess absence really does make the heart grow fonder.
I was especially struck by how premium the gauges look. The metallic accents help a lot with this, but mostly I think it's that classy-looking fillet of wood within the binnacle that seals the deal.
Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 57,590 miles
June 03, 2010
Twenty-one months and 56,000 miles isn't exacty an extreme test of durability. Even so, I'm liking the way our Flex's leather seats are holding up. They still look good without any major signs of wear. The black interior also likely helps out; we've had some long-term cars over the years with light-colored leather and they were more prone to showing wear and dirt.
Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor
May 17, 2010
Okay, so it's not an even-Steven milestone. It's not even a mathmatical milestone, but it's kinda cool. Anybody into numerology? What does this mean?
Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton @ 55,555.5 miles
May 10, 2010
I rode shotgun a bit in our extended long-term Flex over the weekend and noticed this little storage cubby plus power point combo by my left leg. The storage space is triangular and measures about 2 inches at its widest point (next to the power point) and about 5 inches from one end to the other. There's a matching cubby (sans the power point) in the driver's footwell, too. Would be a good spot for a tin of mints, a parking pass, a little Stig doll. Most cell phones would probably fit in there, though I probably wouldn't store mine there if this were my car. I tend to fall victim to the "out of sight, out of mind" trap, especially when it comes to cell phones. Any Flex owners use this cubby regularly?
Bryn MacKinnon, Senior Editor, Edmunds.com @ 54,887 miles
April 28, 2010
When we bought our 2009 Ford Flex, the refrigerator in the second-row center console was a $760 stand-alone option. That always struck me as a gigantic rip-off given the fact you could buy a full blown fridge for way less.
April 26, 2010
Above is a picture of the shifter in my wife's 2009 Mazda CX-9. It is a great shifter. Best in the affordable full-size crossover class. Notice how Mazda has given the driver control of the transmission with a manual gate, and it has even gone so far as to get the manual shift direction correct; push for a downshift and pull for an upshift.
March 04, 2010
And that's pretty amazing - to me anyway.
Not that James, or the other people on his road trip stink (I happen to think Canadians are odorless), but I've taken enough long trips in enough vehicles to know that after a week or so on the road, some cars just start to smell bad.
Remember our Dodge Caravan? After six months it's interior reeked like cheap, leathery ass. And that Kia Rondo we had; diapers and lemons. Oh, and don't forget our 2002 M3 that smelled like a box of crayons.
What gives? Why do some cars absorb every micron of stench while other cars, like our Flex, just shed stink? Whatever Ford did, they should build that in to all their cars - and so should everyone else.
Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 50,891 miles
February 01, 2010
Here's a little surprise I stumbled into this morning while fiddling with the Flex's seats. This might very well give the Flex the ability to carry a ten-foot-long piece of cargo (like, say, a 2x4 or rain gutter or any other piece of hardware sold in that length) without cutting it down. I haven't measured it, but it looks possible.
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 12, 2010
Last week I showed you the wear and tear on our M3's seatback bolsters. At the time the car had less than 15,000 miles. Certainly the seat in our Flex doesn't have a big bolster to rub every time you get in or out, but the fact that it shows very little wear is impressive at 44,500 or so miles.
More examples after the jump.
December 09, 2009
"Stop doing that," I said to the Ford Flex as I got in for the 4th time last night. I had lots of errands to run and every time I got back into the Flex it defaulted to another user's seating arrangement. Even though I had reset the memory to my liking.
So, I pulled out the manual to see if I was doing it correctly. It reads:
"To program position one, move the driver seat, exterior mirrors and adjustable pedals to the desired positions using the associated controls. Press and hold control button 1 for at least two seconds. To program position 2, repeat the previous procedure using control button 2."
That's exactly what I did. I set everything up to my liking. Then I held in the button until it beeped. The next time I got into the car, it moved back to mystery driver position.
Someone must have set the seat memory into the key, which is fine. I don't need my seat preference coded into the key because I don't drive this car very often. But I should be able to push the memory button once I'm inside the car and override it.
Instructions for setting up the key are a little more complicated. But that shouldn't render the interior buttons useless. Something is amiss. Could be me. Could be the car.
Anyone have a similar problem?
Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor
November 19, 2009
Let the sun shine in? Not if I can help it.
I'm a sucker for good lighting. I keep a string of lights in a backyard tree year round, and I even have purses whose interiors light up (strange but true). So it's easy to be seduced by the pretty azure lights encircling the Ford Flex cupholders, or the soft aqua glow of the gauges - though the color reminds me strongly of those metal school lockers from the '50s and '60s.
Mood lighting aside, the Flex has plenty of highly functional lighting to make driving a better experience. Dusk-sensing xenon headlights help navigate the road with confidence, and a strong bulb clearly illuminates the blind zone behind the car at night when using the rear-view camera.
But there is one kind of light I'd rather not see. And I'm not talking about the red and blue ones behind me.
No, it's the sun streaming into my eyes. Although it's been noted that the Flex has a massive visor, it's insufficient when the sun blazes through the driver's side window. A visor extender would fix that, but the Flex, with all its fancy-pants trappings, doesn't have one.
Visors without extenders are a pet peeve of mine, as I'm often driving at times when the sun is at just the right angle to make seeing difficult or to fry my left arm and half my face (not an attractive tan). Drivers in the desert or other warm climates know that the heat blazes right through the window, special coatings notwithstanding.
A little research offered two possible reasons why extenders aren't included in more vehicles. A writer claiming to be a former sunvisor engineer suggested that first, visor extenders don't work well with rollover curtain airbags: If the airbag inflates when the visor is down, you'll get bashed in the head.
The other reason, of course, is money:
"The primary reason those blade extenders aren't more common? Tooling costs. Tooling for the plastic clamshell that makes up the visor is typically about $300,000 US and a real pain to tool and develop, whereas if you do foam or cardboard it's alot cheaper. Trouble is, your choices for inclusion of features is more limited with the cheaper ones. Hard to make a business case for smaller vehicle runs."
So there you have it. At least now, when I'm blinking and maneuvering to avoid the sun, I know why.
Joanne Helperin, Senior Features Editor @ 39,014 miles
November 16, 2009
I had our 2009 Ford Flex this weekend for a roadtrip/family visit/helping out a friend in need. Here's what I've come to like and dislike about it.
- That power tailgate! Every car with a cargo area should have this regardless of size! I like how it opens and closes so smoothly and quietly. A great way to get my dad, or really anyone, to say, "Ooooh!"
- So easy to connect my iPhone to Sync. Of course you have to be parked to do this, a pain when you have a perfectly capable passenger to do it for you but once it's connected, it stays connected.
- Once connected through Bluetooth, the tunes from my iPhone automatically come on the sound system every time I get back in the car and my iPreciousss is deep in my bag. Feels so welcoming.
- Easy-to-read controls and I especially like the fact that I could figure out how to reset the tripmeter without having to pull out the owner's manual for a change.
- Despite our Flex's 19.2 mpg average, I liked that I really only had to gas up once during the 380-mile trip up north. If I didn't need a bathroom break or food, I would have tried to go all the way through without stopping once. Ford says the range in highway miles is 409.2.
- Doesn't have a lower gear other than "Low." PITA in traffic especially since brakes are kinda plush.
- Doesn't seem to be a way to advance songs, go through playlists, etc. on the steering wheel controls or stereo controls even when iPhone is hooked up through Bluetooth. Only thing that works on the controls is volume.
- When iPhone is plugged into the USB port in the center console, not only can you not skip to the next song, etc. on the stereo controls but you can't on your iPhone either. Best to hook it up to the USB port adapter located in the passenger footwell. That way your phone will charge and you can at least control the tunes through your device.
- Cruise control's "increase" and "decrease" functions aren't too responsive.
- Seat heaters have only two settings: "lukewarm" and "boiling."
In any case, I was very appreciative of having the Flex for this special trip up north, especially when it came to helping out a friend in need. It definitely made it very easy to do that, providing ample space so she wouldn't have to worry about having to leave anything behind, soothing interiors and did I already mention that handy power tailgate?
Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 38,993 miles
October 05, 2009
The trim piece behind the driver side door handle is gone. It's been gone for a while now and I've searched through all the cubbies and under the seats to see if it's just hiding, but to no avail. If you see it out there on the mean streets of Santa Monica, can you tell it to come home?
At least the passenger side is still intact. Here's what it's supposed to look like.
September 24, 2009
Our Ford Flex has so many different seating possibilities that you can discover new ones even after a year of ownership.
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?
August 31, 2009
We opted for the optional autofold second-row bucket seats (MSRP $870). The above video of the passenger side second-row seat shows how nicely they work when they work. Hit the jump to see what it's like when things go otherwise.
August 28, 2009
I like a big sunvisor. Too often, when I make that turn toward the rising or setting sun and reach up for relief, the visor that greets me is inadequate (it was particularly so in our departed LT Scion xB). And it's more than just a comfort thing; it's a safety thing.
The Flex's windshield is a large piece of real estate, which is great for overall visibility, but can pose a challenge when the sun is low in the sky. That's why I love the size of the Flex's sun visors. At 8.25 inches by 17.5 inches, they can block what seems like half of the windshield, handy at sunrise or sunset when you're driving toward the blinding star that warms our planet.
Bryn MacKinnon, Senior Editor, Edmunds.com
August 26, 2009
I know, I know. Some of you are rolling your eyes at the mere mention of it. But it's too late for that -- the sunroof gap in our 2009 Ford Flex has taken on a life of its own. Mention of it shows up as a non-sequitur in other unrelated posts. There are songs. We hear it figures prominently in the next Quentin Tarantino film.
Besides, Donna is hogging this week's Car of the Week all week.
Back to the sunroof gap. When Scott Oldham first complained about it, many scoffed. "Picky, picky", they said.
Later, when prepping for our Oregon trip, I found a use for it. The gap became a handy place to mount the Wii sensor bar. Maybe it's not so bad, after all.
But as I was unloading the Flex and removing the Wii, the sunroof gap revealed itself as something that wasn't designed like that, wasn't supposed to be there, and the reason for it became all too clear.
First, let's get out bearings. Above, the yellow arrow indicates the sunroof wind deflector that pops up when the sunroof is open, as it is in this photo. White shows the edge of the sunroof frame. The black arrow points to the headliner. Finally, the green arrows represent the infamous sunroof gap.
Between the arrows, you can see a strip of industrial-strength velcro, the kind that has the firm hooks on both sides and no fabric loop. I don't know if you've ever played with this version of the stuff, but it's quite strong.
No problem. This should be a simple matter of re-engaging the velcro.
Here we go...
August 10, 2009
Someone in the office recently whined about the sunroof gap in our 2009 Ford Flex. It's true, there is a lot of daylight between the headliner and the sunshade, and it isn't particularly pretty. But it isn't all bad -- the girls and I found a use for it during our vacation prep.
They wanted to bring their Nintendo Wii game system, you see, because the Flex has a fold-down screen and DVD player with external inputs. Ummm, OK, but where does one put the sensor bar -- the long receiver that talks to the Wiimotes? At home, it usually sits on top of your TV.
It took only a few minutes to come up with a prime candidate -- the infamous Sunroof Gap.
The sensor bar fits perfectly. It slips right in and the sunshade doesn't even know it's there; it opens and closes normally.
July 08, 2009
As power tailgates go the one hung on the back of our long-term Ford Flex is a quiet and smooth as I've seen. Sure it's a little slow, but the fact that it doesn't slam and the absence of a nasal whine from its electric motors is worth an extra second or so.
Scott Oldham, Edmunds.com Editor in Chief
July 07, 2009
Man, some of you people are dense. I was not prying the Flex's sunroof shade up or open with my finger or my Blackberry. That's the size of the gap, I was just using those things to illustrate the scale of its enormity.
By the way, if the ill-fitting sunroof cover doesn't bother you that's fine, but this is at $42,000 vehicle, and for my forty two grand I want stuff to fit right. And trust me when I tell you that this is not the way it should be. I drive hundreds of vehicles a year and the majority of them have sunroofs. And only this Flex and other Fords have this huge space between the shade and the headliner. Every other car company seems to be able to do it the right way. You would never see that kind of low standard in the interior of a Audi for instance, at any price point.
Why is that?
Scott Oldham, Edmunds.com Editor in Chief
July 06, 2009
I drove our Ford Flex over the weekend. I like our Ford Flex. A lot. Enough to consider buying one. The lease on my wife's Passat wagon is up and she's making noise about wanting a third row.
But there is one thing about the Flex that has bugged me from day one; the huge crevasse between the sunroof shade and the headliner. No I'm not kidding. Look at that gap. And it's not just our Flex, they're all like that. In fact, it's a Ford across the board thing. I was just in a new F-150 and it had the same gape. Not cool.
July 02, 2009
Suddenly the interior of our long-term 2009 Ford Flex is showing some age. The small chrome latch on the center console is broken (actually it's about the fall off) and will no longer grab hold and secure the console lid. Funny, the same thing has happened to our long-term Mazda 6.
And that's not all.
July 02, 2009
This morning on the way to work I realized that our $42,080 long-term 2009 Ford Flex Limited does not have auto up and down windows. Only the driver's window has the feature. The other three aren't auto up or down.
The fact that I haven't noticed this until now (the Flex has more than 26,000 miles on it) tells me this isn't a big deal, but I still find it disappointing in such an expensive vehicle.
Scott Oldham, Edmunds.com Editor in Chief
June 29, 2009
Ford's been on this kick for a while now where they equip their cars with the most pathetic cruise control interface possible. Our longterm 2009 Ford Flex is the most recent victim. Pardon the lint in the pic above; the Flex was fresh from the car wash.
I've ranted about this before for other Ford vehicles. To re-reiterate, Ford's cruise interface fails on many levels:
First--still no 'cancel' button. Mystifying. Tapping the brakes is a terrible way to accomplish this. Ever wonder how traffic forms?
Second--since there's no cancel button, the on/off button takes its place. This means that every time you press 'off' to 'cancel,' you have to then un-cancel by using the 'on' button. And yes, you will have to rely on your memory for this because:
Third-- there is no telltale in the instrument cluster to inform you whether the cruise is currently 'on' or 'off.' Sure, it tells when it's 'set,' but not when it's 'on.'
Fourth--at a fundamental level, having to turn on the cruise before setting it is silly. I have to turn it on before I turn it on? Seriously? And it defaults to 'off' every time you turn the Flex off. We have nobody but overly paranoid lawyers to thank for that.
Fifth--the buttons are all too similarly shaped and in a neat column. I'm sure some designer received mad props from a middle-level desk jockey when he or she came up with this golly-gee-looking arrangement fifteen years ago. However, even after living with this for days or even weeks, I still find myself having to look down at the buttons every time I want to use them. Ergonomics fail.
Sixth--they're on the wrong side of the steering wheel. The correct layout if you must have buttons is audio on the left; cruise on the right.
Attention, Ford Cruise Control Department: grow a pair and don't have the lawyers or designers tell you how to do your job. Then do what you know is right and copy the BMW stalk.
That is all.
Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor at 26,xxx miles.
June 25, 2009
After 26,000 miles things are bound to break. Fortunately, the non-functioning pieces I discovered last night are minor, but irritating nonetheless.
The first thing I do once I get in the Flex is plug in my iPhone to get the tunes playing. One of the few reasons I like the Flex is for its Sync system -- almost enough to overlook the bizarre seating position I'm forced into (This is one car that really needs a telescoping wheel).
June 07, 2009
Our funky-looking minivan alternative -- or is it a wagon on steroids -- has been in our fleet now for about 8 months and more than 25,000 miles.
In that time, we've driven it across country to Fenway Park, cooled our lunch, stuffed it full of furniture, got pooped on in Oregon, got rear-ended in an unrelated incident, gave it the woodie treatment, and drove it bananas.
And now the Ford Flex is car of the week.
Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor
May 18, 2009
Breaking: Santa Monica, Ca.
Top olfactory scientists were baffled at the sudden, gripping funk that took over the Inside Line Ford Flex.
"It smelled like bad bananas," says one editor who asked for anonymity, "but I searched, there were no bananas. No bananas!"
The source of the fruity fragrance remained a mystery for literally days until 6 Edmunds editors crammed into the 3-row crossover to escape the blistering desert heat and stumbled upon something horrifying.
Continued on Page 2.
A piercing "Ewww" rang from the third row, says Vehicle Testing Assistant Mike Magrath. "I heard the yell and then someone said 'We're going to need paper towels. And bleach. And do we have any latex gloves?' and that's when things got gross."
Finally, a breakthrough.
In the last row of the Ford Flex is a storage bin directly next to a round cupholder. Think back to kindergarten: round pegs go in round holes, square pegs go in square holes. Fast forward to being a parent and giving a small child a juice box and then a round hole to put it in. The contradiction must be maddening.
One child, it seems, solved the problem.
A furry box, bluish-green with mold was extracted from the cubby with expert care. Onlookers were too disgusted for photography. This grainy cell phone shot, taken with one hand cupped over the user's nose, is the only evidence that remains.
May 11, 2009
Could raising or lowering the 3rd row seats on our 2009 Ford Flex be any easier?
Yes, of course: they could be power-operated.
But like all of us, Ford is trying to save money.
So instead they devised some easy-to-use pull straps on the seats.
But what's the order for pulling on those straps?
If you had a fancy-pants 3G phone, you could watch Brent's award-winning video before loading your luggage.
Or you could go old-school and read the clearly marked labels just below the seatbacks.
April 30, 2009
An open letter to car manufacturers (those that are left, anyways),
Please standardize steering wheel controls for all makes and models accordingly: Audio controls on the left, cruise control on the right.
From time to time, I like to hold the hand of my significant other while we motor down the highway. I'll hazard a guess that most drivers use the wheel-mounted audio buttons more often than the cruise control buttons. For that reason, as well as for those who need their right hand free to shift gears in a traditional manual transmission, the most commonly used controls should be situated on the left side of the wheel.
While we're at it, please make sure the buttons are illuminated at night, and keep the buttons as simple as possible -- this isn't Formula One, after all.
March 20, 2009
This is what you see when you look over your shoulder in the 2009 Ford Flex. With the third row lowered, you have an amazing amount of glass space (it's not that different with the seat raised). As such, there's really no excuse for errantly backing into things -- especially with the rearview camera. The Flex's boxy shape might provide its trademark look, but its subsequent interior space and visibility advantages add to this family vehicle's overall practicality.
James Riswick, Automotive Editor
February 04, 2009
Inside Line Editor in Chief Scott Oldham takes you on a tour of the warning chimes in our 2009 Ford Flex. We've submitted this short moody piece to the Cannes film festival.
February 02, 2009
I just spent an enjoyable weekend in our long-term 2009 Ford Flex. It's not exactly a perfect vehicle, but it's as close as Ford has gotten to perfect in a very long time. Although I have issue with the Flex's seating position and its shifter, most of the time I find myself thinking, "Man this is a well done vehicle," or some such gush. I've even recommended it to several friends.
One thing that jumped out at me this weekend was the Flex's solidity. So far our Flex does not have a single squeak or rattle. There's no loose trim. No bugs in the Sync or navigation systems. In fact, after more that 16,000 miles in just six months you'd swear our Flex is brand new.
Okay, it did have to return to the dealer once for an unscheduled fix; at 1,686 miles its brakelights stayed on, so Santa Monica Ford replaced the brake pedal switch. But that's it. Otherwise solid as a rock. If you ask me, one trip to the dealer in 16,000 miles is a record any vehicle manufacturer would be proud of.
Now I don't know how the Flex is going to hold up over the next six months or six years, but up until this point, it's been one of our most reliable and durable long-term cars ever.
Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 16,158 miles
December 30, 2008
Turns out our 2009 Ford Flex is well suited to those who aren't so flexible. Dad still gets around pretty well, but he appreciates the Flex on two counts:
The seat height is neither too low nor too high. No gymnastics are required on the mount or the dismount.
The door sill is much narrower than it looks when the door is closed, thanks to a very narrow rocker. He can get into position to sit down while keeping his outside foot planted firmly on the ground.
All of the above applies equally to the front and rear seats.
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.
December 15, 2008
I bought a Christmas tree this weekend. And put it inside the Flex. Because I'm an idiot. Christmas trees have needles. Lots of them. And they come off inside a car. No problem, I figured. "Tomorrow is Monday and I'll be getting this rig cleaned up before I take it to the office anyway." This is IL policy, lest you suffer the wrath of Oldham.
The plan comes undone after the jump.
November 03, 2008
When not in use, the 2009 Ford Flex's 50/50-split third-row seat folds flat and stores in a fairly deep rear well. When the rear seats are raised, the well is exposed. It's perfect for securing grocery bags, especially if you're using the reusable kind.
A low-production-value video of me raising the third-row seat and operating the power liftgate follows after the jump. Why bother watching Marina's HotForWords on YouTube when you can watch this instead?
October 31, 2008
Mike actually mentioned this in Part Two of his road trip cross-country odyssey, but it's worth focusing on specifically here. Like on many other Ford products, the Flex's automatic transmission gear selector has just two forward gates: Drive and Low. There's no manual mode.
If you leave it in Drive and are driving on hilly terrain with steep inclines, the transmission hunts between gears in response to your changing throttle inputs. There is a button on the left side of the shifter ("Grade Assist") that drops the transmission out of overdrive. It helps, but it seems to be designed more for getting additional engine braking on declines rather than ideal gearing for inclines. And dropping down to Low seems like overkill.
But wait, there's more...
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
October 10, 2008
This is the interior of the refrigerator inside the 2009 Ford Flex. Pictured is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. There was also a fluffernutter, but it didn't last long enough to be in the photo. It's a neat idea but the execution here is a little lame. First, they put the rear armrest hinge on the front. Probably to dissuade the driver from attempting to reach in while driving. Sorry, Ford, not gonna work. Humans are where we are today by adapting and bending the will of our opponents, animate or not. It's possible to get inside if one's willing to drive with their foot (cruise control is a necessity here) and contort a little. It's easier still to make your passenger do it. Its second shortcoming is the size. That's not trick photography, folks it really is that small. The third thing wrong with the fridge is the freeze setting. 12-hours and there's only some frost on the side of the water. It keeps things--and even gets things--very cold, but if you're going to give me a button that says freeze, the damn thing better freeze. Solid. Maybe I should have gone 24-hours straight.
The fourth thing that warrants complaints about the availability of a fridge is the lack of a microwave. Don't laugh. It's got a TV and a DVD player and a refrigerator already. Why not? 10 years ago I would have punched the current me for suggesting a car have any of those things. Now I'm jealous of future-Mike for having an in-car microwave.
Take, for instance a road trip across the country. You drive through a town that actually has food that looks safe and edible, but you're just not hungry...or maybe it was so good you want another order to go. Why not? It won't spoil thanks to the modern marvel of refrigeration. But then the problem arises that cold BBQ sucks. Sure, I could've wrapped it in foil and chucked it under the hood for a few hours but that's not the point.
Speaking of Road Trips across the country, today's installment covers the first few days of the return trip. Boston, NYC, Columbus, St. Louis and Tulsa!
The return trip was intended from the beginning to simply be a return. I was going to go the southern route for a change of perspective, but it was going to be a straight shot. Unless, of course, I ran into some crazy road-side nonsense that I simply couldn't resist. Day one was great. I love NYC and got to spend a few hours there before the clock told me I had to leave. Driving west through PA was marked by cops. Lots of them. Everywhere. On the 76 the only thing I saw more frequently than highway patrol was deer carcasses. Seriously, give out some hunting licenses or something, there were dozens. Day one ended in Columbus with no drama.
Day two was Columbus Ohio to Tulsa, OK. Just over 800 miles and save for a short visit to St. Louis, not much to report. Tulsa did have the cheapest recorded gas of the trip, $2.75 / gal. So that was neat.
Day three I hit the wall. Somewhere around Groom Texas I just couldn't do it anymore. I was done. The pressure and dehydration of the last week finally caught up with me and I had to stop. It was a huge disappointment for me, but preventing a horrible crash seemed prudent at the time.
Driving one way was easy. Having to return was proving a bit more problematic.
Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 8,150 miles