2013 Ford Flex

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Key Specs

of the 2013 Ford Flex. Base trim shown.

Our Take

From the Cars.com Vehicle Test Team

The Good

  • Roomy, comfortable seating
  • Ride quality
  • Choice of two engines
  • Power and mileage increased
  • Automated parking option
  • New instrument panel

The Bad

  • Jury is out on updated MyFord Touch
  • Wide turning circle
  • Mushy braking feel
  • Short cargo area

Notable Features of the 2013 Ford Flex

  • Mildly updated for 2013
  • Front styling upgrade
  • Interior seat and trim changes
  • Seats six or seven in three rows
  • Front- or all-wheel drive
  • Inflatable seat belts (second row)

2013 Ford Flex Road Test

Kristin Varela

There are few cars these days that fulfill my complex family needs without making me feel like a frumpy shadow of my pre-mom self (you know, the woman who used to shower every single day, no questions asked). But some still pull it off.

Despite some dysfunction in the 2013 Ford Flex's second-row bench seat, it can haul my entire family, and then some, and make me feel like a hip urbanite while doing it.

The 2013 Flex comes in four trim levels — the SE, SEL, Limited and Limited with EcoBoost — with a choice of front- or all-wheel drive, depending on the trim level (see them side by side here). The Flex has been updated slightly from 2012, including an improved, sleeker-looking front end. See the two model years compared side by side.

The Flex comes in both a six- and a seven-seat version. My all-wheel-drive SEL test car was the seven-seat version, which I'll try to sway you away from (see the details in a recent post). If the Flex's bold styling just isn't for your family, you may also want to consider the slightly more conventional-looking Chevy Traverse and Mazda CX-9.

EXTERIOR
The Flex alternately looks like a retro woodless woodie and something I could imagine bouncing down the strip on hydraulics to a thumping beat that you feel more than hear. While I love the Flex's unmistakably boxy exterior, I just can't decide if its looks echo my own personality. Maybe I just need to layer on some more bling and crank the bass a little louder...

There are few cars these days that fulfill my complex family needs without making me feel like a frumpy shadow of my pre-mom self (you know, the woman who used to shower every single day, no questions asked). But some still pull it off.

Despite some dysfunction in the 2013 Ford Flex's second-row bench seat, it can haul my entire family, and then some, and make me feel like a hip urbanite while doing it.

The 2013 Flex comes in four trim levels — the SE, SEL, Limited and Limited with EcoBoost — with a choice of front- or all-wheel drive, depending on the trim level (see them side by side here). The Flex has been updated slightly from 2012, including an improved, sleeker-looking front end. See the two model years compared side by side.

The Flex comes in both a six- and a seven-seat version. My all-wheel-drive SEL test car was the seven-seat version, which I'll try to sway you away from (see the details in a recent post). If the Flex's bold styling just isn't for your family, you may also want to consider the slightly more conventional-looking Chevy Traverse and Mazda CX-9.

EXTERIOR
The Flex alternately looks like a retro woodless woodie and something I could imagine bouncing down the strip on hydraulics to a thumping beat that you feel more than hear. While I love the Flex's unmistakably boxy exterior, I just can't decide if its looks echo my own personality. Maybe I just need to layer on some more bling and crank the bass a little louder.

The Flex's low stance accomplishes more than just an aggressive, low-rider look. It creates an exceptionally functional low step-in height. The height is perfect for me to slide right into the driver's seat without having to crouch down to avoid the roofline or climb up into, like most SUVs. All three of my children (ages 7, 9 and 12) could easily get in and out without snagging their ballet tights. The Flex's friendly step-in height would also function incredibly well for families in the sandwich generation who care not only for their young children, but also aging parents with decreasing mobility.

Our Flex SEL's power liftgate was a $1,000 option (it's not available on the SE but comes standard on the Limited trim level). While it's a great feature for families, I don't love the button's location when the gate is raised — low on the pillar in the cargo area. The push, duck and run maneuver that my kids did to close the gate without getting bumped was a little nerve-racking. I'd rather have the button up high on the cargo door, as it is in many vehicles, so the kids aren't tempted to try on their own. Of course, the power liftgate comes with pinch protection and raises back up if something or someone is in its way.

FAMILY-FRIENDLY FEATURES
The standard second-row bench seat in my test car proved to be more of a hindrance than anything else. With my two youngest kids still in Britax high-back booster seats, the most natural place for them is in the outboard seating positions. Because access to the third row is typically granted by folding and flipping the smaller portion of the 60/40-split bench seat forward, a booster seat in this position effectively blocks access to the third row. My 12-year-old daughter wasn't a fan of trying to hurdle the bench seat to get to the third row, so she often settled for squeezing herself between the two booster seats, with one cheek on top of the seat belt buckle.

Second-row captain's chairs with room for someone to pass between them is a much better option. Also, the bench seat is stationary, whereas the optional captain's chairs slide back and forth to create additional legroom in either the second or third row, depending on where it's needed. Despite that, there was plentiful legroom in the second row for all of my girls, even behind my husband's front seat, which he pushes all the way back to make space for his long legs. Captain's chairs aren't available on the base Flex. They're a $650 option on the SEL, and they run $750 on the Limited.

The rest of the Flex interior is quite well-thought-out and designed for big families. Countless nooks and crannies throughout the Flex help you stay organized. Up front, a large center console includes two cupholders for the front occupants, and additional cupholders extend backward for second-row passengers. A discreet pass-through storage compartment at the base of the main control stack was a great place to stash a bunch of extra napkins and wet wipes for the inevitable family mess. Other organizer's delights include a deep storage bin lined in grippy material in front of the gearshift and a little lined storage bin just to the right of the driver's knee.

For second-row passengers, bottle/cupholders are up high in the doors themselves, making it very easy for little ones strapped in child-safety seats or booster seats to reach their drinks or sippy cups. Additional storage in the bottom portion of all four doors and pockets on the front seatbacks keep books and such nearby.

With air vents in all three rows and the ability to control the climate in the back of the vehicle independently from the front, everyone stayed cool and content even on 100-plus-degree days. I could either operate the rear A/C myself from up front or let the kids monkey with it via controls on the back of the center console.

There's plenty of cargo space behind the raised third-row seat thanks to the recessed floor. However, the deep well extends underneath the seats. If a can of chickpeas rolls out of your grocery bag, you may be flat out of luck for that hummus you were planning on making. (Or, like me, you could get your littlest child to climb in there and try to reach her arm under the seat to hunt for it.)

The third-row seat splits 50/50 and folds flat manually via an overly complicated system of pull-straps. Pull strap 1 to release and fold the head restraint, then pull strap 1 again and press the seatback forward. Next, pull strap 2 to release the seat cushion while simultaneously pulling the last strap to tumble the seat into the deep well. Next, load your stuff into the cargo area while simultaneously juggling fiery bowling pins. And if you want that seat to tumble backward to become a tailgating seat, don't even try.

Or, you can opt for power-folding seats, which are available on Limited trims.

IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample

SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Excellent
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Good Times

BEHIND THE WHEEL
Driving the all-wheel-drive Flex SEL with its 285-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine and estimated 17/23 mpg city/highway was quite a bit more fun than I expected it to be. It had plenty of power around town and just enough over hills and while getting up to speed on the highway. For those wanting more, the 365-hp Flex Limited with EcoBoost will decidedly up the "oomph" factor. Its EPA rating is 16/23 mpg. The most efficient Flex is the front-drive model with the 3.5-liter V-6, which is rated 18/25 mpg. The Flex has virtually no body roll in corners, like you typically experience in SUVs and minivans. Excessive body roll is a pet peeve of mine because it tends to toss smaller passengers from one side of their seat belt to the other, causing aggravation and motion sickness. The Flex's smooth, solid ride quality was pure pleasure for the entire family on both short and long outings.

While the Flex is a huge vehicle, I noticed its size more once it was parked in my garage than I did while driving it. It felt much smaller to drive than it actually is, and while our other editors have noted a poor turning circle, the Flex's 40.8-foot turning diameter is barely larger than the Chevrolet Traverse's 40.4 feet.

SAFETY
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has categorized the Flex a Top Safety Pick, reflecting the highest rating of Good in frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests, as well as seat and head restraint protection against neck injuries in rear crashes. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration awarded the Flex four out of five stars for rollover resistance, which is typical for this class. NHTSA has not performed crash tests on the 2013 Flex.

As is required of all new vehicles starting with the 2012 model year, the 2013 Flex has standard antilock brakes, an electronic stability system and traction control. The Flex comes with standard front airbags and front-seat-mounted side impact airbags, along with side curtain airbags for all three rows.

My test vehicle also came equipped with optional outboard inflatable seat belts in the second row. In the event of a crash, these inflate to spread the force of the impact across a wider surface area on the passenger, lessening potential torso injuries and abrasions. While I absolutely love these in theory, the reality is that they still need some refining in order to be more family-friendly. The thick, double-ply seat belt webbing was stiff and difficult for all three of my kids to maneuver. This, combined with the stationary chunky seat belt buckle, resulted in a struggle for my kids to buckle in independently.

For families installing child-safety seats, there are two sets of Latch lower anchors in the second row's outboard positions. For Latches on flexible nylon webbing, which are usually more accessible, these ones are a bit of a struggle, as they're buried in the seat bight. There is a third set of lower Latch anchors on the curb side of the third row. These are open, visible and easy to use.

See all the standard safety features listed here.

Send Kristin an email  



2013 Flex Video

From the 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show, Cars.com's Patrick Olsen takes a look at the 2013 Ford Flex.

Latest 2013 Flex Stories

Consumer Reviews

Exterior Styling
(4.6)
Performance
(4.5)
Interior Design
(4.8)
Comfort
(4.9)
Reliability
(4.4)
Value For The Money
(4.5)

What Drivers Are Saying

(5.0)

I love everything about this car!

by Motown_Kim from Detroit, MI on June 17, 2018

I had this car for two-and-a-half years and honestly I don't have anything to bad to say about it. I love how roomy it is and how smooth it drives. The amount of room and comfort in the second row is ... Read full review

(5.0)

Best car ive ever owned

by Lissa271 from San Tan Valley, Az on May 4, 2018

This car is comfortable. Its roomy and stylish and has all the features i could ever ask for in a car. I couldn't be more happy with this car. Read full review

Safety & Recalls

Recalls

The 2013 Ford Flex currently has 5 recalls

IIHS Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

Based on 2013 Ford Flex SE

IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal, or poor.

Head Restraints and Seats

Dynamic Rating
good
Overall Rear
good
Seat Head/Restraint Geometry
good

Moderate overlap front

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Left Leg/Foot
good
Overall Front
good
Restraints
good
Right Leg/Foot
acceptable
Structure/safety cage
good

Other

Roof Strength
good

Side

Driver Head Protection
good
Driver Head and Neck
good
Driver Pelvis/Leg
good
Driver Torso
good
Overall Side
good
Rear Passenger Head Protection
good
Rear Passenger Head and Neck
good
Rear Passenger Pelvis/Leg
good
Rear Passenger Torso
good
Structure/safety cage
good
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a nonprofit research and communications organization funded by auto insurers.

Manufacturer Warranty

  • Bumper-to-Bumper

    36 months / 36,000 miles

  • Powertrain

    60 months / 60,000 miles

  • Roadside Assistance

    60 months / 60,000 miles

CPO Program & Warranty

Certified Pre-Owned by Ford

Program Benefits

24-hour roadside assistance, rental car reimbursement up to $30 per day, full tank of gas, vehicle history report, new wiper blades and fresh oil and filter

  • Limited Warranty

    7 years / 100,000 miles

    7 years from original new vehicle warranty start date or 100,000 miles. Powertrain Limited Warranty from original in-service date. 12- month/12,000-mile comprehensive limited warranty. See dealer for details. $100 deductible per visit.
  • Eligibility

    Under 6 years / 80,000 miles

    Vehicles receive a 172 point inspection and reconditioning.

    See inspection details.

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Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The Flex received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

What is included in Roadside Assistance?

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker