The biggest difference between the Flex I drove cross-country in 2008 and the one in 2010 is the optional EcoBoost engine. While I didn’t find the Flex to be a laggard in ’08, the added power from the EcoBoost engine was a welcome addition on this lengthy haul. While in 2008 the trip was largely flat, with little in the way of topography, this time around we scaled the Rockies, both up and down, and the Flex handled those daunting tasks admirably.
Hitting steep uphill slopes, the EcoBoost kicked when needed, although there is one thing drivers should be aware of: When trying to pass, if you step hard on the accelerator, there will definitely be some torque steer as the Flex explodes in response. It’s not overwhelming, but you definitely have to be ready for it.
The greatest success for the Flex is its extremely smooth ride, over any surface. Despite having big wheels, with limited amounts of rubber, the ride is not stiff, and you don’t pay for potholes or poor pavement. The seats are extremely supportive, and because of the spacious cockpit, I was able to raise the seat higher than I can in most cars without hitting my head on the ceiling. This let me get a better view out the front of the car.
This Flex also came with Ford’s Sync system, which seemed to have some subtle improvements. Gone were the days when I’d have to say “USB,” and then, “Play artist XYZ.” Now, whenever my son’s iPod Touch was plugged in (my 160-gigabyte iPod remains too large for the Sync system to handle), Sync knew already we wanted to access the USB port and skipped that part, which had annoyed us two years ago.
As far as the rest of the car, we filled it with stuff from my dad’s house in Los Angeles. The Flex devoured it easily, although a minivan or crossover with fold-into-the-floor seating would have made packing easier. Because of how much stuff we had, the rear camera was essential for backing up, which was very easy, especially given the wide-angle lens. The parking-assist sensors saved me a couple of times, too, especially in gas stations. I visited those a lot because even though the Flex’s turbo engine has the same mileage ratings as the base V-6, it’s still a big car with a big appetite. More on that next time.