The 2015 Ford Flex Limited with EcoBoost is a stylish alternative to more traditional three-row SUVs. Some have described it as looking like a big Mini or a hearse, but no matter how you see it, the Flex is one of the most functional vehicles on the road.
It's also one of the older vehicles on the road, having been around largely unchanged since 2009. That's the main reason why the interior feels dated, there's more road noise than you'd expect and the ride isn't as refined as the current crop of three-row crossovers.
What Is It?
The 2015 Ford Flex is a three-row crossover with seating for up to seven. It's available in either front- or all-wheel drive with a choice of two engines: a base 3.5-liter V6 with 287 horsepower and a turbocharged version of the same engine with 365 hp. The only available transmission is a six-speed automatic.
There are three trim levels: SE, SEL and Limited. The base SE has 17-inch wheels, manual-folding second- and third-row seats and Bluetooth connectivity among other features. Midgrade SEL versions get 18-inch wheels, an eight-way power driver seat, and an 8-inch touchscreen interface with MyFord Touch. A rearview camera and power liftgate are optional.
Topping out the range is the Limited tested here. Keyless entry and ignition, a power liftgate, rearview camera, 12-speaker stereo, 19-inch wheels and more are standard. Collision warning, automatic parallel parking, adaptive cruise and power-fold-and-tumble third-row seats are optional.
How Does It Drive?
The 365-hp EcoBoost V6 is the power plant the Flex should have had since Day One. It gives this big crossover the ability to accelerate effortlessly in nearly any situation. The EcoBoost V6 has the passing, merging and hill-climbing prowess that the non-turbocharged motor simply doesn't. This is no small task considering that the Flex tipped our scales at 4,967 pounds.
We measured a 0-60 time of 6.2 seconds. That's pretty quick for a vehicle of its size. For comparison, that's on par with the V6-powered Honda Accord sedan.
As powerful as the turbocharged V6 feels, the engine lacks refinement. Even at part throttle there's an unpleasant coarseness that only gets worse as speeds increase. This is something we didn't notice in the newer Ford Explorer that uses the same engine.
Fuel economy is also an issue compared to some other vehicles in the class. The EPA rates this powertrain at 18 mpg in combined driving (16 city/23 highway). We averaged 15.3 mpg, with a best tank of 20.3 mpg. The EPA estimates are within the realm of possibility, but you need to drive with a very light foot to achieve them.
On the plus side, the Flex drives smaller than it is. The seating position is lower than that of more mainstream crossovers and the center of gravity doesn't feel as high. This means that the Flex drives more like a large car than a large car on stilts. There's not a lot of body roll, and thanks to all-wheel drive, all of its power gets to the ground without any drama. Few vehicles of this size are as much fun.
What's the Interior Like?
As you might expect from a vehicle of this vintage, everything feels a little dated. The materials are a little coarse, the sunroof a little squeaky and the cabin's a little light on cup/small item storage. There's also more wind noise than we remember.
It's also saddled with the nearly buttonless haptic-touch center console that's frustrating to use. There's a reason Ford has changed this setup on some of its newer models like the Explorer and the Edge.
Though the front seats lack some lateral arm space, the seat cushions are generous and comfortable. Second-row passengers have leg-, head- and hiproom to spare. And unlike the "only-on-rare-occasions-and-only-with-someone-else's-kid" third rows in some other crossovers, the back-backseat in the Flex is usable by adults.
What About Cargo?
The second and third rows fold flat, and the liftover height is low enough that loading even heavy stuff is a breeze. Maximum cargo capacity is listed at 83.2 cubic feet, which is just a tick more than the Explorer. And thanks to the squared-off shape of the Flex, all of that space is very usable.
With all seats in their locked and upright position, there are a full 20 cubic feet of space behind the third row. This thing will swallow bikes, surfboards, an entire home's worth of Ikea stuff and, if you equip it right, tow 4,500 pounds, too.
What Features Does It Have?
If you want plenty of features, the Flex Limited has them. It comes standard with leather seats, rain-sensing wipers, HID headlamps, dual-zone climate control, Ford's Sync with navigation, a rearview camera, parking sensors and blind-spot monitoring.
Optional equipment on our tester included active park assist, adaptive cruise, 20-inch wheels, a multipanel vista roof, a white two-tone roof and inflatable seatbelts in the rear.
How Much Does It Cost?
The 2015 Ford Flex starts at $29,995 for a base FWD SE model. The Limited starts at $38,595 and climbs to $43,295 with the EcoBoost V6 and all-wheel drive. With options, our tester had a sticker price of $49,945.
What Competing Models Should You Also Consider?
Chevrolet Traverse: Like the Flex, the Traverse has been around awhile, but it's still a great three-row crossover thanks to its spacious cabin, abundant features and solid performance.
Ford Explorer: Though visibility isn't as good as it is from the Flex, the new Explorer is a solid crossover that's quiet, comfortable and equally as capable.
Honda Pilot: Honda's latest three-row crossover is a triumph of packaging with tons of usable space and a long list of available features.
Why Should You Consider This Car?
Because you audibly groaned each time you thought about owning one of the cars listed above. The Flex is cool! Sure, it's got some issues, but it's got power and it doesn't look like everything else at soccer practice. Third-row access and room are also very good.
Also, it's available with green paint and a white roof. How cool is that?
Why Should You Think Twice About This Car?
Unless you absolutely love the look of the Flex or plan to shove adults in the third row frequently, the 2016 Ford Explorer is simply a better, more modern package.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.