It is no secret that the Ford Flex is a popular vehicle around the Autotropolis water cooler with it being named our Truck of the Year last year. For 2010, the boxy full-size crossover gets even better thanks to some noteworthy powertrain and technology upgrades. Last year, I had the chance to check out the all-new twin-turbocharged EcoBoost in the horsepower-robbing thin atmosphere of Boulder, Colo., but now I get the chance to check out the practicality and the enjoyment of everyday driving in the EcoBoost-powered 2010 Flex for a week.
Competing directly against other crossovers such as the Chevrolet Traverse and Honda Pilot as well as bigger SUVs like the Chevrolet Tahoe and Toyota Sequoia, the 2010 Ford Flex is available in three trim levels (SE, SEL and Limited). Although the 2010 Flex has a base MSRP of $28,550, only the upper two trim levels are able to be equipped with the EcoBoost engine which starts at $36,195. This particular model was a Flex Limited which comes practically fully loaded with very few option choices and a starting price of $42,065. After a week behind the wheel of the new Ford Flex Limited with EcoBoost, it's easy to see that there are no limits to this big crossover with its spacious, luxurious cabin and powerful new engine.
2010 Ford Flex with EcoBoost Exterior
These days it seems that automakers try to boast performance models with a sticker or badge on just about every body panel, but it is hard to tell the Duratec Flex apart from the EcoBoost Flex aside from the small 'EcoBoost' liftgate badge and the dual exhaust outlets. There are a couple new colors added for 2010 to accent the Flex's hard-edged lines, but the most attractive paint option on the Flex is the availability of a two-tone roof in either silver or white (depending on the body color). Our test model came in Ford's elegant Tuxedo Black which is a unique Black Metallic color with purple, gold, blue and green flakes embedded in the paint. After a fresh wash the paint sparkles magnificently in the sunlight. The Flex Limited stands apart from other Flex models with the silver decklid trim and the standard LED taillights. As the only exterior options on this Flex, the two-tone roof and 10-spoke, 20-inch painted aluminum wheels finished off the Flex's attractive styling.
2010 Ford Flex with EcoBoost Interior
Even to a lesser extent than the exterior, changes to the interior of the 2010 Flex are minimal. To the trained eye, the only giveaways on the EcoBoost-powered models are shift paddles mounted on the steering wheel and the L on the shift indicator replaced with an M for manual mode. One feature that is an option not equipped on the test vehicle is the Active Park Assist system that can automatically parallel park the Flex with only shifting and brake pedal inputs from the driver.
As for the styling, the Flex Limited model is easily distinguishable from the lesser trim levels by the wood grain on the steering wheel and the door panels. Aside from the added faux wood trim, the Flex still offers a spacious and attractive cabin that seats up to eight passengers. The top-of-the-line model comes standard with perforated leather seats, touch-screen navigation and Ford's SYNC system, but it's the passenger space inside that is the most impressive. Headroom and legroom should be sufficient for just about any passengers in the front seats and middle row seats, and even the third-row seat provided plenty of headroom and just enough legroom for me (and I'm 6'1') with a headrest that is tall enough to actually be useful.
With the rear two rows and the passenger front seat all folded flat, the Ford Flex allows for an impressive amount of interior cargo volume with a maximum of 83.2 cubic feet and just over 40 inches in width between the wheel wells. Of course with all of the seats in place, the Flex offers a deep storage well behind the third-row that can hold up to 20 cubic feet.
2010 Ford Flex with EcoBoost Performance & Handling
New for 2010, the Ford Flex added the highly anticipated 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 as an upgradeable option for the Duratec V-6. While these two engines both feature a 3.5-liter displacement, the direct injection and twin turbochargers improve engine output to 355 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque (an increase of 93 hp and 102 lb-ft compared to the Duratec engine). With the radio off, you can even catch a faint whistle of the turbos under heavy acceleration. One of the key selling points of the new EcoBoost engine is that it delivers power similar to a V-8 with the fuel economy of a V-6, and the Flex's EcoBoost doesn't disappoint with EPA fuel economy estimates of 16 miles per gallon in the city and 22 mpg on the highway - which is an exact match with the all-wheel drive, Duratec V-6-powered Flex. All 2010 Flex EcoBoost models come standard with all-wheel drive and a six-speed SelectShift automatic transmission that has the added convenience of a full manual shift mode and a downhill assist mode.
Between the turbocharged engine and the manual shifting abilities of the transmission, the Ford Flex with EcoBoost actually feels pretty sporty considering its 4,839-pound curb weight. Ford chose to launch the Flex with EcoBoost in Colorado last summer as a testament to the engine's strength. Normally, the thin air at that elevation causes a drop in horsepower which means that performance and towing abilities are negatively affected. This wasn't the case with the EcoBoost engine which felt more than capable of towing a loaded trailer up mountain inclines. In Florida's flatter roads and sea level atmosphere, the Flex with EcoBoost felt just as good, and I would have no problem taking testing out the Flex's 4,500 pound towing capacity.
Another benefit of the EcoBoost engine is the use of Ford's Electric Power Assist Steering (EPAS) system which helps make the Flex easier to steer and allows it to add some new technology as well. While the park assist system is for convenience, the standard Pull-Drift Compensation system makes driving the tall, boxy Flex in windy conditions a breeze. After driving the boxy Flex over a tall bridge on a windy day, the Pull-Drift Compensation kept the vehicle from swerving all over the road, and all of this goes on unnoticed by the driver.
2010 Ford Flex with EcoBoost Safety
Like the Ford Taurus with which it shares its underpinnings, the 2010 Ford Flex received stellar safety rating from both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The NHTSA gave the 2010 Flex five-star ratings for front- and side-impact protection, but like most crossovers only a four-star rating for rollover avoidance. As for the IIHS, it gave the Flex a full complement of Good ratings for front-, side- and rear-impact protection, but hasn't tested it yet for roof strength. In addition to the aforementioned Pull-Drift Compensation, standard safety features on the 2010 Ford Flex with EcoBoost include Ford's MyKey system, six airbags, four-wheel anti-lock brake system, AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control, tire pressure monitoring system and SOS post crash alert system.
More than just an engine swap, Ford completely changed the driving dynamics and cargo-hauling abilities for the 2010 Ford Flex with EcoBoost making the boxy crossover even more fun to drive. Packed with plenty of attitude and luxury, the Ford Flex is already a stylish alternative to minivans or conventional SUVs, but with the added performance of the EcoBoost V-6 engine, it is a downright sleeper. On top of all this, the Flex Limited provides an abundance of luxury and cabin technology to add yet another dimension to this full-size crossover.