The Want Not Review: Ford Flex

By Mir
May 7, 2009
Category Product Talk

I am not in the market for a car. Anyone who knows me (or, more to the point, my husband) knows that we have, um, plenty of cars here at my place. (Side note: Yes, I did promise to love, honor, cherish, and bite my tongue about the “working” on cars where “working” equals parking said busted cars for year months on end….) I would, however, love to have a new car. Someday.

And then I was given the opportunity to try out the new Ford Flex, which is what they call a “crossover vehicle.” Near as I can tell, that means it looks like a big car on the outside, appears at first glance to be a minivan on the inside (seating for 7!), and rides and handles like a much smaller car. In other words, it was very different than anything else I’ve ever driven, and really, really fun.

Want to learn more? I’m going to put some of the nitty gritty below the fold, including a video we made… so you might want to click through just for that, even if you’re not particularly interested in the car.

I really wanted to get some great action footage of the car, but it rained almost the entire time I had it, which made filming kind of difficult. But here’s our little movie, anyway:

Ford Flex Test Drive from Want Not on Vimeo.

Here’s the main thing about the Flex: It really is the best of all worlds. I’ve driven small cars, medium cars, and even a minivan before. I like the feel of a small car, but you can’t tote very much stuff or many people in one. And I loved the capacity I had with my minivan, but the handling wasn’t great. The car I drive now is a mid-size, and I can carry a lot of stuff (though not a lot of people), but it’s not particularly fun to drive. The Flex, though, is—dare I say this about such a square, manly vehicle?—downright peppy. You step on the gas and it goes. It really does handle like a much smaller car. And the traction control meant that even in the rain I never felt the slightest hint of slippage.

The Flex starts at around $28,000, which is reasonable for a 7-passenger vehicle, I suppose. The model they brought me was a top-of-the-line, all-the-bells-and-whistles one, which means that it had everything I could ever want, but also means that it retails for over $40,000. I’m not the sort of person who’s going to pay that kind of money for a vehicle, but it sure was nice while it lasted.

The good: Feels like a smaller car. Huge capacity for both people and stuff. Seats are easy to move around. GPS has turn-by-turn directions, and because it’s integrated you can use it while you listen to the radio and it’ll adjust the volume so that you don’t miss a direction. Two sets of seat/mirror presets so that you can restore “your” settings with the touch of a button. Vista roof configuration means everyone has a sunroof! Lots of cup holders (good) and lots of power outlets (better). Has a back-up camera and proximity warning system, so you can not only see behind you as you reverse, it beeps to let you know how close you are to hitting something. If I still lived in a snowy climate I would be thrilled to have AWD again. Automatic rear gate is very nice when your hands are full. I averaged 21 mpg just tooling around town for the weekend.

The bad: Looks like a giant toaster. The couple of times I took a wrong turn the GPS didn’t say or do anything, which was weird. (My aftermarket GPS unit will immediately tell me it’s recalculating and tell me what to do next. With this, I found my way back to the route by looking at the map display, but it didn’t help me. I’m not sure why.) The choice of seven different colors for the ambient lighting strikes me as sort of silly, especially because the kids wanted us to cycle through them over and over and I had to be the mean mom saying, “The car is not a toy! You will have blue lighting and you will like it.” While I like the idea of voice commands, there are sooooo many steps needed (you say one thing, it asks you to confirm, you confirm, it moves on to the next step, etc.) it’s always faster to enter commands by hand. And you can’t give it voice commands while backing up, because it automatically switches to the backup camera and stops listening to you.

All in all, my “bad” things are pretty minor quibbles.

I would not purchase a Ford Flex instead of a mid-size car, but I would definitely purchase it over a minivan—it’s got all of the perks (space, seating, reconfiguration possibilities) with none of the drawbacks (being a “minivan mom,” compromising handling for size). That said, I would have to spend some time on the Ford site to figure out what comes with the base model and what’s extra, because I would need to win the lottery to feel comfortable buying the souped-up model I got to test.

Bottom line, I’d check it out if you think you’re in the market for a minivan. You may just like this better.

Big big thanks to Ford and Ogilvy for letting me pretend to be fancy for a few days. Thanks also to the nice coordinator who didn’t laugh at me (not out loud, anyway) when I told her I’d left my garage door opener in the car. It just goes to show that you can dress me up and put me in a fancy car, but at the end of the day I’m still pretty much a dork.


  1. Thanks Mir. Not in the market for a “new” car just yet, but as a mother or 4 this looks like it might be a nice option. We own 2 minivan’s now, and it would be nice to own something else. We will check it out this summer. Thanks again.

  2. Yes, yes–pick me! Comment 2! I want to win!

    Oh. You mean you’re not giving one away? 🙂

  3. Nice, Sharkey! That one made me laugh out loud.

  4. I have to say we did just go for the mini-van purchase… and I love all the features. I actually find it has pep and handling so maybe they’ve come aways from when you had it. The Flex sounds nice, but the look on the outside is hard for me to take in…

  5. Ooh, good one Sharkey!

  6. I have a Freestyle, which is Fords “old” crossover, before the Flex. The nearest I can tell, they are very similar. Mine is the top of the line (bought used) but with no backup cam (has the back up beeps~LOVE IT), and the GPS is not voice activated. My GPS does recalculate if I make a wrong turn. So I guess my point is~if you like the Flex, look at a used Freestyle, and you might come out a whole lot better on price! The one thing I didn’t want on the car (DVD player) I discovered on a 6 hour trip to Hilton Head with a 1 year old, that Elmo for 6 hours can be wonderful! Well, not as bad as the alternative!

  7. Hey Mir! My hubby did the IP integration and the front console on the Flex! He hopes you like it! 🙂

    Personally, I agree – it looks like a giant toaster (that’s the BEST description I’ve heard yet!) … but the inside is SWEET and VERY comfy. Wish I could afford one 😉

    Glad you had fun with it! It really is a great vehicle for those in the market!

  8. I’ve never owned a new car in my life, and probably won’t. (I’m 57.) But I kind of like to read about new ones, because in 7-8 years I may just get a second-hand one of these. 🙂

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