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2013 Ford Flex Limited AWD
By Roy Nakano
When it comes to setting trends, it seems like all roads start from California. The hot rod culture, import tuners, skateboards, freeways, gourmet food trucks, casual fashion culture, and of course, all the innovations that came out of Silicon Valley—including the Cupertino, California-based Apple Inc. Virtually every car company has a design studio based in California. Such is the reputation of the state as a spawning ground for creativity. When the Beetle first came to the States, it was Californians that first fell for the love bug. The same was true for the little imports that first crossed the Pacific Rim.
So it speaks volumes that California accounts for roughly 20 percent of all Ford Flex sales. Maybe Californians know a good thing when they see it—and the Flex is certainly a good thing. It’s unlike any other vehicle out there. Design-wise, one might say it’s reminiscent of both the MINI Cooper and VW Microbus, with its boxy proportions, two-tone paint scheme, and abundant glassware all around (that glassware, by the way, translates to fantastic visibility all around). On the other hand, there’s nothing mini or micro about the Flex. It is a BIG vehicle—able to hold seven people in comfort, and double as a furniture mover with the seats tucked away.
There are other vehicles that can hold seven—minivans and a handful of the larger SUVs. Unlike SUVs, however, the Flex is designed purely for the street. There are no built-in roadability compromises that often accompany off-roadable vehicles. And unlike any minivan, the Flex can haul ass. We tested one with Ford’s 365 horsepower EcoBoost V6 and all-wheel drive, and there is no seven-passenger competition out there with the sporty, fun driving ability of the Flex.
As big as the Flex is, it doesn’t feel like it behind the wheel. With the gasoline turbocharged direct injection EcoBoost engine, it accelerates like a thoroughbred. Depending on the climactic conditions and how you want to conduct the launch, you can expect the EcoBoost-powered Flex to go from zero to 60 mph in anywhere from 5.9 to 6.9 seconds. 30 years ago, that would have been 5.0-liter V8 Mustang GT territory. Today, you can get it in a seven-passenger people hauler.
Around corners, the Flex is as flat as a pancake—none of the sway that one would expect from a large and tall vehicle. The suspension is both firm and comfortable—swallowing potholes in stride. It drives like a good European sedan. The transmission even has a Sport mode, complete with—are you ready for this?—paddle shifters. Around the twisties, we suspect the Flex would run circles around many of the sports cars of yesteryear. And, of course, the Flex gets better gas mileage than any of those vintage models—an EPA-rated 23 miles per gallon on the highway.
For 2013, Ford dialed up the refinement level quite a bit. The new model tricked out the front end for better aerodynamics, added some more refinement to an already refined interior, flashy new wheels, a new generation version of Ford’s pioneering MyFord Touch® system, adaptive cruise control with collision warning and brake support, Ford’s Ford’s Blind Spot Information System (BLIS®), and a number of other safety features. The base Felx now comes with a new 3.5-liter Twin Independent Variable Camshaft Timing® (Ti-VCT) V6 engine that Fords says delivers 25 more horsepower and one mpg better fuel economy.
Soft touch materials abound on the Ford Flex
While Californians are already on board the Flex machine, we suspect the rest of the country will be soon to follow. There are SUVs out there with the people-packing capability of the Flex. A few are as sporty to drive as the Flex. However, none have the 360 degree panoramic visibility offered by this car. When driving in rush hour traffic, it’s both a confidence booster and a stress reducer. If you need the space that this car offers, I can’t think of a better choice.
For more information about Ford products, go to www.ford.com
Name of vehicle:
2013 Ford Flex Limited AWD
$39,230 (Limited AWD)
$43,450 (Limited AWD, as tested)
EPA fuel economy rating (Limited AWD with EcoBoost):
16 mpg city/23 mpg highway
3.5 liter V6 Ti-VCT (standard)
3.5 liter V6 twin-turbocharged, direct-injection EcoBoost (optional)
285 @ 6500 rpm (Ti-VCT)
355 @ 5700 rpm (EcoBoost)
253 @ 4000 rpm (Ti-VCT)
350 @ 1500-5250 rpm (EcoBoost)
Transmission (Ecoboost, as tested):
Six-speed automatic with Select-Shift (sequential manual mode) and paddle shifters
Power-assisted rack and pinion
Steering (EcoBoost, as tested):
Electric power-assisted rack and pinion
Front-wheel drive (standard)
All-wheel drive (optional, as tested)
Front independent struts with isolated subframe and stabilizer bar
Rear independent multi-link with isolated subframe
Four-wheel disc with four-channel ABS, AdvanceTrac and RSC (roll stability control)
Wheels and tires:
17-inch painted aluminum wheels with P235/60R-17 tires (SE)
18-inch machined aluminum wheels with P235/60-R18 tires (SEL)
19-inch polished aluminum wheels with P235/55R-19 tires (Limited option)
20-inch bright painted aluminum wheels with 255/45R-20 tires (Limited option)
20-inch five spoke painted luster nickel aluminum P255/45R-20 tires (Limited option)
Length: 201.8 inches
Width: 88.8 inches
Height: 68.0 inches
4439 pounds (FWD)
4637 pounds (AWD)