Ford creates the world's first cool family hauler
What's New For 2009? The 2009 Ford Flex is an all-new vehicle for Ford, but it takes the place of the company's unloved Freestar minivan. Based on a stretched and pulled Taurus platform, the 2009 Ford Flex offers seating for up to seven passengers, lots of available interior amenities -- such as a refrigerator -- and clever use of space. It also looks like nothing else on the road.
Should I Buy This Car? Yes. The 2009 Ford Flex is the first time you could look at a vehicle designed for hauling kids to soccer practice and actually call it cool without getting strange looks from your friends.
Haven't I seen this vehicle before? Yes, as the Ford Fairlane Concept that debuted at the 2005 Detroit Auto Show. Although the Flex lost some of the more concept-driven styling elements – such as the backwards opening rear doors and high-minded headlights – the overall shape of this and the final vehicle are virtually identical. Kudos to Ford for staying true to the concept.
What else should I consider? Two primary vehicles compete against the 2009 Ford Flex. The first is an obvious pick: The 2009 Chevrolet Traverse. With a powerful V-6 engine, available all-wheel drive, and a very roomy interior, the Traverse is a good call for family-minded buyers. The other is the Honda Odyssey. The fact that a crossover suv like the Ford Flex can be considered alongside a minivan speaks volumes about the Ford's utility.
Quick Look: 2009 Ford Flex
The 2009 Ford Flex is a three-row crossover utility vehicle capable of carrying up to seven passengers. It's available in three different trim levels, two of which can be ordered with all-wheel drive. The base Ford Flex SE model costs $28,995 – including $700 destination –comes with the same 262-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission available in all Ford Flex models. All-wheel drive is only available on the more expensive Ford Flex SEL ($32,770) and Limited ($35,405) models for an additional $1,850.
The 2009 Ford Flex SE is nicely equipped, considering it's the base model. Standard features include a reverse sensing system, six-way power driver's seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel with cruise and audio controls, and rear-seat air conditioning. The Flex SEL adds standard heated leather seats with 10-way power adjustment for the driver, dual-zone automatic climate control, an upgraded audio system, and fake wood trim. The Limited adds to that with standard driver's seat memory, standard Sync (Ford's voice-activated in-car mobile phone and audio system), ambient lighting, wood inlay on the steering wheel and laminated front glass for a quieter ride. Options include a trailer towing package for $570; Flex SEL models offer a $985 Convenience package that bundles a power liftgate, power pedals with memory; SEL and Limited models can be equipped with the multi-panel Vista Roof for $1,495, a refrigerator between the rear seats for $760, and a navigation system for $2,375.
Overall we're quite fond of the 2009 Ford Flex. It offers up unique styling in the segment, but without sacrificing the utility one expects from a vehicle of this sort. The Ford Flex is roomy, comfortable and looks good. It has lots of different options to keep shoppers satisfied by customizing their Flex to their individual tastes. We wish the fuel economy were better, and are guessing that if you skip the all-wheel drive (we don't think it's necessary in this vehicle) and go easy on the throttle, gas mileage would probably improve. In the test car we drove, we also found a few fit and finish issues, and wished some of the interior plastics were better. Regardless, this is one big crossover SUV that's definitely worth a close look.
By Keith Buglewicz
Photo credit: Ron Perry