Strengths and weaknesses:
- engine power
- stable ride and handling
- entry and exit
- can get pricey
Flex can go either way in terms of people or cargo
"Flex does so many things so well – transporting up to seven people, carrying a university year’s full of stuff, and driving a winding road."
There has probably not been a more aptly named vehicle than the Flex, and the 2013 Ford Flex would put London Olympics decathlete to shame.
Flex does so many things so well – transporting up to seven people, carrying a university year’s full of stuff, and driving a winding road – that it’s hard to key in on one main factor. It really depends on the application at the moment.
And our moment comes when we use it to bring the first-born home from his first year away at college. We moved him there in a smaller vehicle from another company with the whole family along for the teary farewell. We barely get all his stuff stuffed into the Flex for the journey home, with only his younger sibling along to help move stuff. Such is the pace at which we accumulate things we sometimes never use again (most of his college “necessities” are still in boxes after a summer move for the family – which made them easier to pack up, I suppose).
And so it came to be that the 2013 Flex finds itself packed to the rafters with clothes, guitars, crates of kitchen supplies, computers, sound systems, televisions, etc. One of the blessings is that Flex is basically a box (you’ve heard it said here many times that the most efficient cargo container is a box), so there are very few bulging trim obstructions that get in the way of playing Tetris with whatever you’re loading up. Having one of the middle seats taken up probably hurts the end purpose, but it manages reasonably well.
If you find yourself with more passengers and fewer cargo, the centre console between the middle seats features a cooler that works wonder on road trips, such as the five-hour journey between home and place of higher education. It’s not huge, but it’s big enough to hold a couple cans and sandwiches or pieces of fruit.
Power manipulation of the rear seats makes it easy to quickly shift from passenger to cargo mode. Even the middle seats flip and fold forward at the push of a button (which comes in handy when you think you can quickly put the kitchen box in through the side door, only to find it won’t until the seat is moved).
Although our fuel economy home is worse by a few points coming home than getting there (due to the added weight, and likely also the westerly direction of travel), our test vehicle’s EcoBoost engine did an admirable job (9.1 L/100 km on the open highway, combining with 11.5 in city confines), without letting us down on the acceleration side.
The 365 horsepower supplied by the 3.5-litre turbocharged V6 offer up quick power jabs on the highway without a kickdown, while 350 lb.-ft. of torque come in shortly after idle, making for quick getaways and hold on into the high 5000s rpm, guaranteeing the Flex is never hung out in the passing lane for long.
For 2013, Flex gets a futuristic new front end that really draws the attention especially of teens into high-tech gadgetry. It functions pretty much the same way as its predecessor, but the lights look like they should be using some innovatively new way of shedding light on the road ahead. The design is aided by our test Titanium edition’s battleship grey colour scheme.
The wide, low stance of the vehicle also makes it handle pretty darn well, especially on switchback roads where its biggest impediment is all the ballast (whether that be people or stuff). It also makes it easy to load up passengers and/or cargo.
But that in no way changes Flex’s approach to its intended duties – it can move people in comfortable splendour or it can move a good deal of cargo in box-efficient brilliance. Or, it can do a little of both and still look good getting there.
2013 Ford Flex
Trim level: Limited AWD Ecoboost
Price as tested (before taxes): $56,149
Options on test vehicle: EcoBoost equipment Group 303A ($6,800) inc.: active park assist, heated and cooled front seats, adaptive cruise control with collision mitigation, push button seat tumble and fold, power tilt/telescoping steering wheel; multi-panel moonroof ($1,700); Titanium edition ($950) inc. unique exterior paint and trim, unique wheels, identifier floor mats; leather wrapped steering wheel; voice-activated navigation ($700); refrigerated console ($650); rear inflatable seatbelts ($250).
Configuration: front engine/ all-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 3.5L turbo V6/ 6-spd auto. with sequential shift
Power/torque: 365 hp/ 350 lb.-ft.
Fuel (capacity): Premium (70L)
Fuel economy ratings: 13.1 L/100km city; 8.8 L/100km hwy
Observed fuel economy: 10.5 L/100km over 1,587 km, mostly highway
Warranties: 3 years/ 60,000 km (basic); 5 years/ 100,000 km (powertrain)
Competitors: Chevrolet Traverse; GMC Acadia; Hyundai Veracruz; Mazda CX-9; Toyota Highlander