Tooling around in the best looking station wagon Ford has ever built
Stand out from the crowd styling
Plenty of interior room with limo-like room in the middle
EcoBoost V6 offers up plenty of power
Long wheelbase smoothes out road harshness nicely
Suspension on Limited model can be a bit stiff on rough roads
At 4471 lbs., even the FWD Flex is heavy for a crossover, while the AWD Limited at 4839 lbs. is downright corpulent for a family hauler
Average, at best, fuel economy with the AWD option
Ford station wagons
I have always had a soft spot for Ford station wagons. There, I admitted it. Growing up in a small town just north of Detroit in the 1950’s and 1960’s, my family owned a hardware store. Since our family car also did double duty as a delivery vehicle the vehicle of choice was, for better or for worse (and it got worse the closer I got to driving age) always a station wagon – and not just any station wagon, mind you, but a Ford station wagon.
In addition to the fact that local Ford dealer Larry Jerome was a good friend of my grandfather’s, Ford station wagons were known to be especially durable as well as offering a good value for the money. Beginning with a 1954 Ford Ranch Wagon, we owned no less than four Ford wagons – the biggest and grandest of which was a two-tone red and white 1959 Ford Country sedan – the model between the 2-door Station Wagon and the high-zoot Di-Noc wood-grained Country Squire.
Ford calls it a crossover
The reason for the trip down memory lane is simple: I was quite prepared not to like the Ford Flex for one reason only – its size – which is hardly fair when you consider the tasks it’s expected to do. So to avoid any bias, I needed to find something to compare it to – something that, in the past, I had accepted as a regular mode of transportation.
This is where the 1959 Country Sedan fits in. In 1959, the Ford Country Sedan had four doors, plus a tailgate, the same as the 2010 Flex. It had an overall length of 208 inches and a wheelbase of 118 inches. It was powered by a 4.8-liter (292 cubic inch) overhead valve V-8 engine that was rated at 200 hp and it had a curb weight of 3,859 pounds.
In comparison, the Flex has a wheelbase of 117.9 inches and an overall length of 201.8 inches. The Limited model that Ford supplied is powered by their new 3.5-liter all-aluminum twin-turbocharged EcoBoost engine that is rated at 355 horses, and has a curb weight, because it is the all-wheel drive version, of 4,839 pounds.
So other than curb weight and horsepower, both the 1959 Country Sedan and the 2010 Flex are surprisingly similar both in size and in their mission in life. The other reason that the ‘59 Country Sedan comparison fits in is that though Ford may call the Flex a crossover, if you squint hard enough you can almost see a station wagon parked in your driveway. Even the horizontal creases along the sides of the body evoke the “Di-Noc” wood-grain paneling of the classic Ford Country Squire.
One week in the 2010 Ford Flex
The Ford Flex was all-new for 2009. Built in Oakville, Ontario, it shares its D4 architecture with the Lincoln MKT. Flex is available in four trim levels – the entry-level (but hardly base) SE, mid-level SEL, luxury Limited, and the just-announced Titanium.
All Flex models feature three-row seating with two buckets in front, a 50/50 split third-row bench, and the choice of either a 60/40 second row or, as an option, a pair of buckets split by a center console ($650). On the Limited, a console that features a refrigerator for keeping drinks cool is part of a $3,600 option package available only on non-EcoBoost models which also includes the Vista Roof, 2nd row captain’s chairs and bright painted 20” wheels (breaking out to a $459 option). New for 2010 is the aforementioned 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged, direct-injection EcoBoost engine.
What can I say about the exterior of the Flex? That’s easy. Like many designs that march to a different drummer than many of their contemporaries, you either love it or you hate it. An informal poll taken here at LotPro.com showed a 2 to 1 margin in favor of it. I happen to think it looks great – combining the classic lines of a traditional station wagon with those of a larger-than-life MINI – especially with the two tone roof paint option.
Here is where the Ford Flex really shines. Front and middle-seat passenger room is more than ample – we’re talking about enough room for 4 NBA players to stretch out in comfort with room to spare. Front seat cushions felt a bit flat, but there was plenty of thigh support and the adjustability was excellent. Instrumentation was laid out in a logical manner and the SYNC navigation system was easy to read with intuitive controls.
The only niggle I had was with the size of the storage area. Due to the fact that the standard rear seats fold into the floor, for such a large vehicle there really isn’t much vertical storage space behind the middle seats. In order to carry my road bicycle without removing the front wheel, I had to fold down one of the rear seats in order to transport it and even then, it could not lay flat.
All Flexes (Flexi?) come very well equipped. Since our top of the line Limited came with the EcoBoost engine, AWD was standard along with leather, premium Sony audio system, SYNC with voice-activated navigation, HID headlamps, power adjustable pedals, ambient lighting, and dual zone climate control.
Interstate cruising with the Flex was smooth and effortless. Its long wheelbase smoothed out all but the harshest bumps, although the firmer suspension of the AWD model over a series of bumps felt a bit choppy at times. At nearly two and a half tons, you’re certainly aware of the Flex’s size, although visibility and sight lines are good and very little wind and road noise make its way into the cabin. Observed fuel economy was near the lower end of its EPA-rated 16 city/22 highway.
The Bottom line
All in all, the Ford Flex accomplishes exactly what it’s intended to do – transport 4 or five adults and either their accoutrements or an additional 2 children in comfort and safety. If you’re looking for a crossover vehicle that offers a sense of style and doesn’t blend in with the background, then the Ford Flex should be at or near the top of your list. It’s certainly a worthy successor to and a modern interpretation of the venerable Ford Country Sedan.
2010 Ford Flex
Base price (SE) - $32,525
Price as tested: $46,020