There are a few things that people either really like or really dislike: black licorice, "Teletubbies," the president ... oh, never mind that, but the Ford Flex seems to fit into this category as well.
I had so many people ask me about the car during my test drive. Most of the time it was either someone with a scrunched-up face asking, "What the heck kind of car is that?" or someone with a look of total glee saying, "I'm really excited to see this car in person!" I'd put myself in the second camp. I was completely intrigued by the boxy, retro look of this car, but I wasn't completely committed to liking it until I saw it in person. Now you can put my name in the like-it column.
I generally prefer to stand out just a bit; I don't want to be like everyone else. I want to express my unique nature in whatever way I can get away with. The Flex distinguishes itself from the pack of three-row crossover cars with its unique box-like shape, its optional two-tone paint job, and creases in the doors and liftgate (for me, these made it look like a "woody" station wagon, which I liked). The unique design elements didn't end at the Flex's exterior. The interior mimics the boxy exterior with rectangle air vents and somewhat angular dash lines. My favorite interior design element is the nifty diamond pattern on the leather seats; it's so simple, but it has such a big impact.
The interior of the Flex is exactly that - flexible. It's similar to the Taurus X's interior; the Flex is easy to convert from two to three rows, and it has cargo room in both configurations. Is there an extra kid at carpool? No problem. How about a cool project table you found at a garage sale? Again, it's not a problem with the Flex. Its interior is roomy enough to handle just about anything your family can throw at it.
I was able to take the Flex on a little road trip during my test drive. I got an unexpected call from my sister-in-law asking if I wanted to bring the kids up to a swanky hotel for an evening. I'm not one to turn down a night at a luxury hotel, so the kids and I threw a change of clothes in a bag and headed out of town. My fan-girl feelings for the Flex were confirmed just moments into the drive when I realized I didn't have a car charger for my new iPhone. I thought I'd have to stop and buy a charger, but I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the Flex's center console and found a USB port. For non-techies, this means that with a quick little plug-in I could charge my iPhone and listen to the iPod part of the phone through the sound system. Awesome.
My kids were happy looking out of individual sunroofs and lounging in the cavernous second row during our two-hour drive. Besides enjoying full control of my tunes and phone through the Flex's Sync system, I was also really happy with the cruise control. Cruise control? Did she just say she was happy with the cruise control? Yep, I swear that it was one of the best I have experienced. Driving up to the mountains is usually not an entirely cruise-controllable kind of drive; most of the time the cruise can't keep up with the inclines and declines and I end up taking over. The Flex's cruise kept steady, even while it was going over a mountain pass, and it decelerated beautifully on the way down the mountain. I was impressed, but then again I kinda get geeky about that kind of stuff.
When we arrived at the hotel, my daughter jumped out of the car to beat the valet to the power tailgate; unfortunately, that's when we discovered a rather serious flaw in the Flex. The dual exhaust pipes stick out from the bumper by about half an inch. It's just enough exposed pipe that if you're leaning into the car to get a bag out, you can easily touch your leg to the hot metal tip. This is, of course, what she did. The big ol' burn on her knee warranted an ice pack from the concerned valet while the bartender poured me a complimentary mojito.
Overall, I really enjoyed the Flex, including its design, technology, comfort and flexibility - that's a pretty good package. So, if you like black licorice, you'll delight in the Ford Flex. If you only like red licorice, though, you might want to steer clear.
*For more information on the 2009 Ford Flex and its safety features, visit Cars.com. With questions or comments regarding this review, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
2009 Ford Flex Limited AWD
Base price: $28,295
Price as tested: $36,555
Engine: 262-hp, 3.5-liter V-6
Fuel: 16/22 mpg
Ground Clearance: 6"
Turning Radius: 20.35'
Cargo space: 20-83.2 cu. ft.
NHTSA Crash-Test Ratings
Driver's side: 5 stars
Passenger's side: 5 stars
Front occupant: 5 stars
Rear occupant: 5 stars
Rollover resistance: 4 stars