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Ammo Cat. Think about that for a second. If you’re like us, your mind is reeling from some fairly gnarly visuals, with strapped and angry felines running rampant through otherwise tranquil neighborhoods. But, fear not, for Ammo Cat is actually a brand of cat litter. We had a similar response to Deep 6 Flying Insect Killer, the name of an insecticide that led us to imagine what could be the newest Quentin Tarantino flick.
Taken out of context, product names can be misleading. This holds true for EcoBoost, a term that could easily be tied to an energy drink fortified with wheatgrass, or perhaps a concoction sold by Miracle-Gro. In fact, it’s one of Ford’s answers to improving fuel economy, technology designed to deliver big power by using smaller-displacement engines boosted with turbochargers.
EcoBoost is at the heart of this review of the 2010 Ford Flex, a model that is essentially the corporate twin of the Lincoln MKT we recently tested. Both experiences left us with positive impressions of the vehicles and, in particular, their efficient engines. Current owners seem to agree.
Photos courtesy of Ford.
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#10. An EcoBoosted 2010 Ford Flex will run you over $36K.
Ford starts the bidding for its 2010 Flex at just under $30,000, but that’ll get you a front-wheel-drive SE model. Some would call that a bargain, with standard amenities including a reverse-sensing system, a slew of power features, aluminum wheels, and a 262-horsepower V6. Not too shabby, though we tested the Flex’s newly available EcoBoost engine, a 3.5-liter six-cylinder that’s fitted with a direct-injection system and twin turbochargers.
Accessing the EcoBoost’s muscle requires a jump up to the SEL variant with optional all-wheel drive. With that, the base price climbs to $36,595, not including a $775 destination charge. But it does up the standard ante with bits like a power liftgate, power-adjustable pedals, a handy 110-volt inverter, Sony audio, Ford’s SYNC in-car communications system, and more.
EcoBoost is also available with all-wheel-drive versions of the 2010 Ford Flex Limited, with prices starting at about $42,000.
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#9. Try finding a minivan with 355 horsepower.
What distinguishes the 2010 Ford Flex SEL EcoBoost from other models, including the majority of crossovers and all modern minivans, is its twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6. Boasting 355 horses and 350 lb.-ft. of torque, the EcoBoost engine is designed to deliver eight-cylinder power on a six-cylinder appetite.
We’d already experienced this technology when testing the Lincoln MKT, and were pleased to find EcoBoost performance equally impressive when dressed in Flex garb. Power is plentiful and, thanks to the absence of turbo lag, available without a bit of delay. Truth is, you’ll likely soon forget that there’s something other than a normally aspirated engine under the hood.
Torque-steer is barely evident under full throttle from a dead stop, hinting at the all-wheel-drive system’s front-drive bias. Muscle is directed to the drivetrain through a six-speed automatic transmission, a unit characterized by smooth and appropriately timed shifts.
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#8. We recorded impressive fuel economy with the Flex’s EcoBoost engine.
According to the EPA, your run-of-the-mill, front-drive 2010 Ford Flex is estimated to return 17 mpg around town, 24 mpg out on the open road, and 20 mpg overall. Doll yours up with all-wheel drive and those figures slide to 16 mpg, 22 mpg and 18 mpg, respectively.
This is where Ford comes in with its EcoBoost sales pitch, and rightfully so. The EcoBoost engine, available only with all-wheel-drive Flex variants, delivers the exact same fuel economy as its non-boosted counterparts. What makes that noteworthy is the fact that you get comparable mileage even with an extra 93 horses and 102 lb.-ft. of torque at your disposal, all of which operates just fine on regular gasoline (higher-octane fuel is recommended for best performance, but not required).
During our extended test drive, we averaged 20.9 mpg in an even split of city and interstate cruising, with liberal use of the twin turbos tossed in for good measure.
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#7. Unlike the MKT, the 2010 Ford Flex offers decent visibility.
Drive any number of crossovers, and you’ll soon discover that outward visibility isn’t always a strong point. Blame styling, intrusive third-row head restraints, or the availability of rearview cameras that serve to compensate for any such deficiencies.
The Lincoln MKT, with its tiny and angled rear window, is a prime example. The Ford Flex, on the other hand, benefits from generous use of glass panels, relatively narrow pillars and large mirrors, all working together to create a crossover that’s actually easy to see out of. But, for safety’s sake, Ford has made rear sensors standard and a rearview camera optional.
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#6. Ford makes one helluva comfortable box.
At first glance, Ford’s box-on-wheels doesn’t exactly give the impression of outstanding comfort. But, as is the case with many things in life, looks can be deceiving.
Our Flex SEL tester proved to be an excellent choice for long drives, from a jaunt down the highway to see the family for the weekend to a back road run up to central Maine for a relaxing day hike. Front buckets are large and comfortable, overall room is plentiful, and features such as a manual tilt and telescoping steering wheel and power-adjustable pedals help the driver secure a custom fit. While piloting the 2010 Ford Flex SEL, we also enjoyed a wide and padded center armrest as well as a welcome lumbar adjustment.
As we discovered during our test of the Flex’s twin, the 2010 Lincoln MKT, second-row accommodations leave little to be desired. Again, there’s generous head and leg room, the seats are spacious and supportive, and the head restraints – while thinner than those up front – offer sufficient padding and adjustment. Unfortunately, these mid-row chairs lack center armrests.
Move to the third row, easily accessed courtesy of a power-tumbling second-row seat, and you’ll find the greatest difference between the Flex and the MKT. Thanks to its squared roof line, the Flex offers more than five inches of additional head room. Leg, hip and shoulder room are also more abundant, though our five-foot-eight-inch tall editor felt cramped despite the second-row being moved forward as far as possible.
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#5. SYNC is a big plus, but iPod integration could be simpler.
While our 2010 Ford Flex SEL test vehicle did arrive with EcoBoost power, it didn’t flush out its bottom line with countless options. As a result, we didn’t have a navigation unit to evaluate, so we spent a bit more time with the basics, like the audio and climate control systems.
The stereo presented no major challenges, thanks to large and clearly labeled buttons and dials. Steering wheel-mounted controls were a handy addition, but their placement on the right side of the wheel (with buttons for cruise control on the left) is opposite the norm. The heating and air conditioning system was equally uncomplicated, and included a separate grouping of buttons for the rear unit. Secondary controls could be a bit tricky to find, like the power liftgate button located behind the steering wheel.
The only other major component to discuss is Ford’s SYNC in-car communications system. Bluetooth connectivity was a cinch, but iPod integration wasn’t seamless. Typically, a USB port allows for quick plug-in and recognition of an iPod, but our Flex’s SYNC system required scrolling through a menu to select the USB port before our iPod could be used. This is admittedly a minor gripe, but one worth mentioning since we know others offer a simpler process.
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#4. If it’s shaped like a box, chances are it works like a box.
Nothing transports cargo like a box, a point proven by the 2010 Ford Flex. Our EcoBoosted multi-purpose hauler was quickly and easily transformed from people-mover to dry mobile storage due to its versatile interior.
Starting from the back, there’s a power liftgate that, once raised, unveils a wide, square opening which helps the Flex swallow large items. When the third-row seat is in use, a rear storage well provides ample space for a no-holds-barred Costco run. Of course, if you’d rather make use of all the cubic footage available inside the Flex, the second- and third-row seats can be lowered, which along with a fold-flat front passenger seat, creates lots of room for a variety of items. Dropping the rear-most set of seats involves reaching and pulling on a few straps, something made easier in the 2011 Ford Flex with its one-touch PowerFold option.
For smaller items, the 2010 Flex accommodates with a lined center armrest console that includes a power outlet as well as auxiliary audio jacks. Keep looking and you’ll also find useful door cubbies, several cupholders, seatback pockets, and rubber-lined slots offering storage opportunities aplenty.
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#3. Better materials come with the pricier Lincoln MKT.
As Lexus is to Toyota, Lincoln is to Ford. Simply put, luxury and refinement come at a price, which means buyers who opt for the more affordable Ford Flex rather than the relatively expensive Lincoln MKT will enjoy less posh environs.
No, the Flex doesn’t offer quite the abundance of soft-touch surfaces or upscale materials as the MKT, but it’s not exactly a slouch in the quality department, either. Our tester was what we’d call well-used – a positive take on a press-fleet vehicle with nearly 19,000 miles – so the leather upholstery was long past its break-in stage. As a result, the front seats were notably soft and inviting, allowing our driver to feel like he was piloting his favorite couch to work.
Elsewhere we found welcome touches like mesh fabric used on the headliner and visors, a padded dash cap, and leather on the shift knob and steering wheel.
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#2. As it turns out, not everyone is attracted to rectangular vehicles.
Since the Flex has been out for awhile (albeit without the EcoBoost option), we didn’t expect too many people to be unfamiliar with Ford’s boxy hauler. So, it was with a bit of surprise that more than one casual observer asked us if the Flex was some kind of new hybrid (that seems to be the default when people are introduced to an unknown vehicle). Others recognized our tester as the genuine Ford Flex, and they left little doubt about their styling impressions. We talked to a few mothers, with kids ranging in age from toddlers to high-schoolers, and heard some disparaging remarks related to the Flex’s less-than-curvaceous lines. Some went so far as to call it ugly.
Styling is highly subjective, and vehicle designers would go crazy trying to satisfy the tastes of all potential buyers. From our perspective, the Flex pays a bit too much attention to the 90-degree angle, but there’s no denying the utility that lies within, and visual touches like the chrome grille, door grooves and contrasting-colored roof dial up the appeal factor. And, good or bad, the distinctive shape prevents the Flex from blending into the expanding sea of crossovers.
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#1. EcoBoost is the real deal.
When mothers and/or fathers ask us about the best vehicle to buy for their families, our first response is almost always some sort of minivan. Granted, it’s not a styling marvel, it doesn’t perform like a hot rod and it can’t clear rocks like some crossovers and SUVs, but the minivan’s blending of versatility, utility, comfort, and efficiency is certainly hard to match.
The 2010 Ford Flex EcoBoost comes very close.
Already a model recognized for relatively decent three-row accommodations, expansive cargo space and a pleasant driving character, the EcoBoosted Flex now ups its game with efficient power delivery of V8 proportions.
We’ll continue to stand by our recommendation of a minivan for shoppers who have young or growing families, but for those who refuse to live life with sliding rear doors, the Ford Flex EcoBoost is one to test drive…especially if you don’t consider “family car” and “performance” to be mutually exclusive.
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