EXPERT REVIEW

KansasCity.com's view


Ford’s goal for the development of its EcoBoost family of engines was to get the power of a larger engine with the fuel economy of a smaller one. Who wouldn’t like that?

The result, which I sampled in the 2010 Ford Flex, is a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 that delivers 355 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque. That’s more power and torque than the 4.6-liter V-8 in the Explorer.

The EcoBoost V-6 is rated 16 miles per gallon in the city and 22 mpg on the highway compared to 13 city and 19 highway for the Explorer.

The EcoBoost engine is available on the SEL and Limited models, and it will be packaged with the most popular options, such as all-wheel drive, a sport-tuned suspension, 20-inch wheels, Sync voice control for mobile phones and MP3 players, and a Sony audio system. The automatic transmission has paddle shifters on the steering wheel. The Limited adds a voice-activated navigation system and rearview camera.

The Flex is exactly the kind of vehicle that profits from the installation of this new powerplant because it is intended for trailer towing and hauling lots of cargo or up to six people. The EcoBoost Flex can tow up to 4,500 pounds.

The Flex has electronic power steering. It can be equipped with Active Park Assist, which parallel parks the vehicle at the touch of a button. The tow package includes trailer sway control as part of the vehicle stability control system.

Ford calls the Flex a crossover vehicle, but I think of it as the contemporary version of a station wagon. The wheelbase is 117.9 inches long, and overall length is 201.8 inches. Those dimensions are similar to the Dodge Grand Caravan or Honda Odyssey minivan. The one difference is that the Flex doesn’t have a high roof.

The Flex is intentionally boxy. The roof is flat and long, and comes only in silver or white. The trim around the windows is black on all models. Grooves in the side of the body recall stations wagons of old and disguise the height of the side panels.

Prices for the Flex EcoBoost begin at $36,170 for the SEL and $42,065 for the Limited.

The Flex interior has seating for seven, an optional refrigerator in the console between the second-row bucket seats, and third-row seats that fold flat into the cargo floor.

The Flex feels large and a bit bulky in everyday driving with one or two persons aboard.

The front seats are quite comfortable, and the optional adjustable pedals make it easy for drivers of all sizes to find just the right position.

Bluetooth technology allows communication with up to six phones, and a USB port in the console connects directly to an MP3 player. Songs can be stored on the vehicle’s hard disc.

The optional Sirius satellite radio offers real-time traffic and weather updates as well as price information for more than 120,000 gas stations.

The second-row seats have gigantic legroom when pushed all the way back, but that impinges on third-seat legroom. Second-row legroom is adequate even when the seat is moved forward enough to enable adults to ride in the third seat.

The cup holders and foot wells have lights that can be displayed in one of seven colors.

Price

The base price of the test vehicle was $36,170. Options included the power-folding 40/40 second-row seats and the Class III trailer-towing package. The sticker price was $38,165.

Warranty

Three years or 36,000 miles with a five-year, 60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

2010 Ford Flex SEL EcoBoost

Engine: 3.5-liter, 355-hp V-6

Transmission: Automatic

All-wheel drive

Wheelbase: 117.9 inches

Curb weight: 4,640 lbs.

Base price: $36,170

As driven: $38,165

MPG rating: 16 city, 22 hwy

Tom Strongman’s e-mail address is tom@tomstrongman.com.

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