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FLEX TIME FOR FORD

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Jun 22, 2008

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

FLEX TIME By John Grafman

Downsizing is the name of the game. Everyone knows it. Ford is well aware of this too. A few years back, the effort was made towards crossovers and away from SUVs. The Flex is the result of that direction. The Flex is the right idea. Now this is less massive than say an Excursion, but it's still a people mover. This two-box is able to swallow six and even some gear. While on paper this sounds like nothing new, in reality this signifies the most radical change in the industry in years, if not decades.

While gas prices have very recently exploded, this was in the works long before that. This is finally a product that spells the end of the SUV. The Flex is car-like in its ride height, how it handles, and also in the reduction of interior cabin noise. Even the mileage is the best in class. However, as efficient as this is, it's no Prius. In fact, city mileage is still in the high teens around town. One of the other remarkable changes with this Ford is the attention to the interior. While the Mustang and Edge have interiors that appear to be hard plastic from recycled LPs, the Flex has soft material that rivals or trumps the competitors. The material and styling is a plus. And even though the seats have a pleasing pattern that is a tad reminiscent of the late Yves Saint Laurent, the flat seats still look related to a utility vehicle. In Ford's defense, these do fold and flop out of the way in order to increase the space as needed and allow easy access to the relatively roomy third row.

Ford vanquishes the SUV by providing a pleasing car-like ride in handling as well as feel. The steering requires a modest amount of effort on the driver's part, which is far better than the ultra-numbness felt in some over-boosted products. Confidence is also provided via suspension control that more than likely can be attributed to both a lower ride height and some recalibration. As car-like as this is, it can tow a hefty 4,500 pounds with the 262 horsepower, 3.5-liter V6. This crossover is loaded to the gills with gadgets and goodies. Some of the favorites are the Sync system that integrates your cell phone info along with voice activation, and the Sirius Travel Link next-generation satellite navigation with info on traffic, weather, fuel prices, sports scores and movies. Coupled on the center console screen is a handy back-up camera display. The B-pillar mounted Securicode keyless entry keypad is a fast and easy means to lock and unlock the doors, plus disarm the alarm and more. There's even an available refrigerated console for the second row. The three trim levels have a bevy of choices.

Also included with the Flex are some convenient touches. The button on the inside rear pillar folds the second seat quickly out of the way. This was created to facilitate ingress and egress, but no doubt this will be the tool for many a sibling rivalries. Perhaps this isn't as trick as the Rolls-Royce button that closes the door, but for $300,000 less, it's pretty nice. The capless fuel filler is also handy. The door itself seals the fuel filler neck, so it makes the cap unnecessary. People in snow country will love not having to take their gloves off to pump a few over-priced gallons. The limousine-like rear is proof that the five-inch stretch in the Taurus X platform was worth the engineering effort. Using the chassis as a starting point allows the Flex to maintain quad five-star safety rating. The only damage I see in the future is in the impact the Flex makes in SUV sales. And that's no accident.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT A solid new product representing the changing times at Ford See also: Back Seat Driving - Ford Flex More Confident Than Its Creators More information can be found at www.ford.com

SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2009 Ford Flex Price: Base $28,295, as tested $32,705 Engine type: 3.5-liter V-6, 60 degree V-6, Aluminum block and heads, 4 valves per cylinder, intake variable camshaft timing EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway: 17/24 Horsepower: 262 @ 6,250 rpm (projected) Torque: 248 @ 4,500 rpm lb-ft (projected) Drive configuration: Front engine / front-wheel drive, and all-wheel drive Transmission type: 6-speed automatic overdrive Suspension: Front: Gas pressurized Macpherson strut rear-facing L-shaped lower control arm with hydro-bushings with isolated subframe and 32 mm stabilizer bar Rear: Multi-Link, fully independent suspension with upper and lower control arms and an isolated stabilizer bar, fully isolated subframe, 22 mm stabilizer bar Wheels and tires: Front: Standard: 8-in. painted aluminum (SEL - machined aluminum) P235/60R18 BSW tires, Limited -19-in. polished aluminum. P235/55R19 BSW tires, optional - 20-in bright painted aluminum wheel P255/45R20 all season BSW tires Rear: 8-in. painted aluminum (SEL - machined aluminum) P235/60R18 BSW tires, Limited -19-in. polished aluminum. P235/55R19 BSW tires, optional - 20-in bright painted aluminum wheel P255/45R20 all season BSW tires Brakes: Front: Ventilated Disc Rear: Ventilated Disc 4-wheel ABS (4 channel); AdvanceTrac® with RSC® (Roll Stability Control) (Standard) Overall length: 201.8" Overall width: 88.8" (w/mirrors) Overall height: 68.0" Curb weight: 4468 lb. (FWD), 4640 lb. (AWD)

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