By on August 18, 2008

We are the goon squad and we\'re coming to town. Beep beep! (courtesy Wall Street Journal's article on the new Ford Flex starts off as all these things do: a personal anecdote from an enthusiastic buyer, some spin from the marketing folk and… oh dear. Not such a happy picture after all. "The Flex isn't a miser on fuel, getting 17 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. According to, the company has already put $1,315 in incentives on the Flex in July, a potentially worrisome development for a new vehicle. It is also unclear how the Flex will play with Ford's mainstream customers in the middle of the U.S. Many comments on car blogs have praised its design, but some have complained it resembles a hearse." And the hits keep happening. "Ford has said it expects to sell as many as 100,000 Flexes a year, but it will need to up the sales pace to achieve that. In June and July, the first two months it was on sale, 3,413 were sold. The Ford Explorer sport-utility vehicle can also seat seven; Ford sold 12,223 of them in June and July." The WSJ repeats Ford's claim that the "slow rollout has been by design" (why hurry?) and ends on the usual up note, relating CA IT maven Rueben Muinos' freshly-minted Flex appeal. "When he drove it home, he was surprised by how many people starred [sic]. "I thought I was talking on my cell phone illegally," he said, realizing only later that all eyes were on his Flex." We have no, well, little reason to believe Muinos was driving naked. 

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47 Comments on “WSJ Rips The Ford Flex a Fair and Balanced You-Know-What...”

  • avatar

    Yet another car that looked interesting as a concept, but got hit by the ugly stick on the way through production.

  • avatar

    The Flex is going to bomb, big time. Why do we need a rehash of a ’73 Ford LTD wagon? All that is missing is the fake wood on the sides.

  • avatar

    “some have complained it resembles a hearse.”

    And a darn good hearse it could be. If the Flex appeals to too few soccer moms, Ford should start re-thinking the marketing. Livery service (for live or dead people) is one market the Flex could serve very well.

  • avatar

    The Flex has good bones, but it is currently too stylized for my tastes. That can be fixed on the cheap, and probably will be. Eventually.

    If there were a more conservative Mercury version I’d probably dig it.

  • avatar

    Now if they added woodgrain, and built it off of the Panther platform, I’d be all over it.

    Could have named it Country Squire, and revel in it’s unhipness.

  • avatar

    I think every negative comment I’ve read has pertained to its external appearance, but if people drive it or ride in it, the Flex gets raves. Given what it is, I don’t think $28k is high at all, and 24mpg is not low. I think it’s much too early to write it off.

  • avatar

    Wrong car at the wrong time, it may be a very good car, but too large to sell in mass quantities. Many, many people now cannot finance a $30,000.00 vehicle (in California where I live, the sales tax alone will be almost $2,000.00). It should have been made smaller with better fuel economy. Not to mention, the car lots and classified ads are overflowing with late model vehicles for sale, priced at ridiculously low prices compared to their orginal sticker prices. Why would anyone really buy this vehicle, other than (as mentioned above) a mortuary to use for transporting the customers.

  • avatar

    Give me a Traverse. More power, same mileage, better towing, more space, etc.

  • avatar

    24MPG is actually better than what many compact SUV’s get. So the Flex has bold styling, decent driving dynamics, no SUV stigma, AWD for the northern states, decent mileage, and excellent craftsmanship.

    And buyers are lined up none deep.

    But you look at what’s currently selling in the US Marketplace. The Civic is only selling because it gets good MPG and is a Honda. If anyone else sold it, it’d flounder because of its horrible design with the dashboard from hell, lack of power, poor driver ergonomics, and crappy plastic. The Corolla is the same unsafe pile of crap it’s always been. Neither of those vehicles have a usable back seat. The Focus is a sad shadow of itself, and the Camry remains the perfect vehicle for people with no expectations in life. I think paranoia about gas prices is killing a lot of good Vehicles, and as family hauler fodder, the Flex is all of the right ingredients which should make it ideal for the carpool (which we should be doing instead of more people driving smaller cars.)

    I can’t imagine anyone even buying the new Pilot over this, but I know people who did.

  • avatar

    I examined it inside and out at the Dream Cruise, and it drew plenty of attention.

    For all the SUVs and trucks Ford has released this one really doesn’t deserve to die. It’s thoroughly well executed inside and out and it actually has style.

    I was not a fan when I saw the concept or the production model in pictures. But in person it works so much better. Also given how many people and all their stuff it can carry it’s fuel consumption is not bad at all, and being a car underneath it also lacks many of the truck drawbacks of traditionally fullsized SUVs.

    I agree with mikeolan’s assessment, I don’t think the masses of TTAC should be cheerleading this vehicle’s demise.

  • avatar

    Outstanding vehicle. I have been recommending it to everyone who needs a minivan type ride. BUT, also mention it would be wise to wait for the fire sale.

    The end of leasing will do some crazy shit to by the numbers. Subsidized leasing for the Detroit Three might be the cheapest form of bailout the Federal government can offer. That and tariff barriers.

  • avatar

    I thought Jeep was bad, with so many overlapping utes that a would-be buyer couldn’t keep them all straight. But Ford is worse. Well let’s see, over here, we have the familiar Explorer, then the slightly bigger Expedition, now available in an extra long version. Also, we have the cute ute Escape, hybrid and non, and a slightly bigger Edge. Don’t forget the Taurus X (oops, you’ve already forgotten!)
    And now this Flex thingy. Confused? I know I am.

  • avatar

    You know, I just don’t get it.

    My wife and I were out today looking at cars and we stopped by the Ford dealer to look at a Taurus.
    She saw the Flex and said: “Ugly!”

    This why I won’t let her vote this November!

    And all I read above is how it gets poor MPG.
    Poor MPG?
    17 and 24 for a damned full size passenger/wagon?
    If this is high, then why do all you so called car geniuses call the German and Japanese cars that get 25 and below outstanding?

    The new Acura RL…16/22
    Audi a5…17/26 (4 passengers)
    Cadilac DTS 15/22
    Dodge Journey…16/23
    Honda Pilot…17/23 UGLGY!
    Hyundai Veracruze…16/23
    Hyundai Tuscon…18/24 SMALL!
    Infinity FX35…16/23 UGLY!
    Lexus RX350…18/23

    Look…the list can go on and on.
    These cars get the same OR WORSE MPG and can’t carry the number of people to boot.
    AND many use premium dinosaur juice!

    So lay off the crap and at least try to be honest.
    So my wife thinks it’s ugly…I like it.
    I won’t buy one, but I won’t buy anything that gets under 27 MPG anymore.
    Especially if it demands premium fuel.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    I’m not in the market for something that big, but the Flex sure looks a lot more fun and usable than a Honda Pilot.

    100,000 units per year seems to be a big stretch though.

  • avatar

    I actually liked the Flex in pictures, but find that it looks too long and wide in person. I am certain that many consumers will automatically assume that the Flex gets bad gas mileage based simply on its sheer size, and as a result, will not even give it a look.

    Its unfortunate that Ford timed this vehicle so badly, but the writing was on the wall a couple of years ago that gas prices were on the up and up. With all of Ford’s product planners and market research teams, I cannot believe that no one considered that the SUV market might crash.

  • avatar

    Horse Houey!!
    The MPG is great for a massive 7 passenger van. It’s the only 7 passenger vehicle that looks like designers styled it and it apparently drives very well.

    Last year I had a 3rd child and bought a 2007 Nissan Quest, the only van with a bit of design to it. I get about 15mpg in dense urban traffic because all these vans are 4000lb lunks and I’m very happy with the drive, space and style of the van. If the Flex would have been around however, done like dinner.

    Suv’s with 7 seats have either horrible rear seats, no rear storage or both. They also drive like tippy pigs. Vans are more spacious, very handy and mine is a better drive.

    But the Flex is something you would buy simply because you like it and the space would be a bonus, like a Mini you could actually live with. Its very good and should sell all over the place.

    Quit bitching people! Would you really prefer to be seen in a goofy Highlander or deeply boring Odyssey?? A roomy 7 pasenger vehicle that turns heads, drives sharp, gets good milage and is made in USA should be getting hi-5’s from a site like this all day long.

  • avatar

    Pity about the gas mileage, as I like the looks of it a lot.

  • avatar

    I saw the concept version, and it seemed GIGANTIC.

  • avatar

    So, we’re comparing two full months of sales of a vehicle that’s been on the market for 18 years and has massive name recognition with six weeks of sales of a brand new vehicle that had limited inventory until about mid-July and very low market recognition? And then, we’re using that as evidence that it is a failure?

    Ford didn’t even give the go-ahead to sell until the about the last week of June! And they had less than 2,000 Flexes in stock as of July 1.

    This is the stupidest, most irrelevant comparison I have ever seen! I suppose this is the wrong time to bring up that Ford’s actual stated target was originally 75,000 announced at the beginning of the year – Farley’s “stretch” was 100,000 in April. This is not taking into account that the large-CUV and minivan market is down about 10-15% the last two months.

    Next, I want the writers of TTAC to include the mileage of the Flex’s top-selling competitors every time they say it has bad mileage. I dare you. It has bad mileage compared to a Civic, but your Civic can’t hold seven people and tow 4,500 lbs. I suppose you could say the CUV market is in trouble, and that will be trouble for the Flex – but it’s hardly as dead as you make it sound.

    @RF: Put some real context in this write-up, and in December, if Ford is still moving <4k a month, I’ll let you call it a failure without any protest from me.

  • avatar

    I’m with some of the other commentators here in defending the Flex. I think it looks great and if I were in the market for this type of vehicle, my first stop would be a Ford dealer.

    Since when is 17/24 MPG awful for a vehicle this big??? I’d say it’s pretty damned good. Some minivans won’t get that kind of mileage.

    And as someone else pointed out, it’s only been available for a very short time. I’d say wait a year and see what the sales figures say at that time before pronouncing it a flop.

  • avatar

    mikeolan :
    But you look at what’s currently selling in the US Marketplace. The Civic is only selling because it gets good MPG and is a Honda. If anyone else sold it, it’d flounder because of its horrible design with the dashboard from hell, lack of power, poor driver ergonomics, and crappy plastic. The Corolla is the same unsafe pile of crap it’s always been. Neither of those vehicles have a usable back seat.
    …the Camry remains the perfect vehicle for people with no expectations in life. I think paranoia about gas prices is killing a lot of good Vehicles, and as family hauler fodder, the Flex is all of the right ingredients which should make it ideal for the carpool (which we should be doing instead of more people driving smaller cars.)

    mikeolan – wow, that’s quite the rant.

    Where to start … the civic and corolla are capable small cars. The Honda and Toyota brands are well developed and offer products that are perceived to be of higher quality/reliability as compared to other brands in the US.

    The high milage of the civc and corolla-coaster are icing on the cake for most buyers. The latest corolla and civic models score very high in safety testing. The corolla (I cannot speak for the honda civic sedan) has a very comfortable and roomy rear seat. The Camry is selling very well (despite it’s style and general boredom) to many people who do have expectations in life.

    The public, in general, want these vehicles, and that is reflected in their sales numbers. These vehicles might not be our first choice, but that does not mean that the people who buy these cars (my parents, siblings, friends, relatives, me) are lifeless.

    I agree that there is gas price paranoia. Gas in the States is still cheap, especially considering that the fuel prices here in the UK are generally more than double the prices in the US. I also agree that this paranoia is killing good vehicles (the Flex, for example).

    However, market forces have spoken. People are not lining up to buy the vehicle. The Flex is a new model – there should be excitement, not cash on the hood. The Flex is too much vehicle for most people, and therefore people who are in the market are buying small, capable, and efficient whips, and skipping right over the “cross-over” (WTF – they’re wagons!) segment.

    What do you have against small cars?

    RobertSD: I believe that the complaints that you have about this post should be directed at the WSJ article, and, in general, not TTAC.

    I’ll join some of the commenters here: the mileage is good for such a large vehicle. However, having to put $1000+ on the hood during the first 2 months of sales is really a bad indication. The vehicle is too expensive, the looks are too polarizing, and the cross-over segment is too crowded.

  • avatar

    That the Flex is getting 24MPG HWY (the same as a PT Cruiser 2.4l Auto) is an astounding achievement; the fact that the knee-jerk reaction is causing buyers to skip downward past the Flex is actually a shame.
    Damned if you do…

  • avatar

    Yes, there is nothing inherently wrong with the Flex. That interior is very nice. If it weighed in at 3500 pounds or less, then the fuel economy would definitely jump to 19/26 or so, and Ford would have a genuine hit on their hands.

    That 17 mpg figure is too close to numbers that folks remember from their old SUVs. Yes, the competition isn’t any better, but then again this vehicle was supposed to be one of Ford’s saviors. A brand new vehicle, designed for today’s gas prices, should do better.

  • avatar

    I think the model on the right is hot.

    I like the looks of the Flex. It’s a minivan without looking like a shoebox. I think its styling is a bold statement and will be loved or hated but not be ignored. I hope Ford have the guts to keep the styling bold and not water it down to be more mainstream in the future, like Toyota and the xb. There are way too many boring mainstream vehicles out there. I also think it is too big and though it can carry lots of people and stuff, if needed, it will mostly spend its time hauling one or two suburban asses. Ford could use an xb size vehicle with bold styling not that yawn inducing Escape, an example of the lump design family. I hope the Flex sells so there is something on the road besides mediocre similarity.

  • avatar

    BTW all, why rip in to Ford for offering customers something bizarre called “choice”? I have seen several poorly-directed and thought-through comments that people can’t understand why Ford would offer the Flex, Taurus X, Edge, Escape, Explorer and Expedition. Why Not?
    That is exactly what Toyota (4-Runner, FJ Cruiser, Highlander, Land Cruiser, Sequoia, RAV4 and Sienna) and Honda (CRV, Element, Odyssey, and Pilot) do. If Ford did not have product, we would rip in to them for having no vision. Now they do have product (and BTW, drive the Flex before you write it off – it is a damm fine vehicle actually) we are having a go at them for it – seems a little two-faced to me.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    @barberoux: The Flex is like a minivan, but without the convenient remote power sliding doors, the extra space the van layout provides, and the hefty rebates – transaction prices of a well-equipped minivan are below $25k this summer.

    @jamie1: Ford can’t afford to give consumers choices if the vehicles aren’t selling. Toyota, on the other hand, just might not earn $10 billion this fiscal year, so they can afford to screw up.

    By all accounts the Flex is a pleasant enough vehicle, but buyers are cross-shopping apples and oranges, like Frank Williams pitting the GMC Acadia vs. Toyota RAV4. Consumers are finding that a FWD 5 passenger small or mid-sized car is sufficient, resulting in strong car sales this summer. Civic can’t tow 2 tons? No big deal, most buyers don’t have a trailer or boat to begin with.

    KickingTires had a 4 way comparison, vehicles driven on a road trip and packed with a family with 3 kids. The Flex won, followed closely by larger (interior) Honda Pilot, Mazda CX-9, with the Dodge Journey bringing up the rear.

  • avatar

    I think the Flex is a nice alternative to a minivan and an SUV. If someone does not want the weight penalty of a truck-like SUV nor want the blandness associated with a minivan the Flex is a good choice. I also believe that a smaller vehicle is a smarter, more logical choice but whoever said buyers were logical or smart, e.g. SUVs.

  • avatar

    I like how they always use the “everyone was staring” as a good thing. A few years ago when I worked for a funeral home and would drive the hearse people would stare, too. It wasn’t because that 12 year old Lincoln Town Car hearse was so good looking.

  • avatar

    As I’ve stated in previously, I do quite like the Flex. A bit large for my purposes, but for someone with a need to move lots of whatever… I have to wonder if the main problem isn’t that Ford offers too many choices. I mean look at how many non-car people movers Ford offers: Escape, Edge, Taurus X, Explorer, Expedition, and Flex. Throw in the MKX and the Navigator from Lincoln, and from one dealer you have eight choices from Ford alone! The competition between Ford models is, in itself, intense.

  • avatar

    The wife and I have been discussing new cars. She’s very much pro-SUV and anti-Minivan. So I showed her a Flex on the local Ford lot and, well, she no like. She likened its looks to a lowered 15-passenger van. And, in white paint, I agree with her.

    She’s now fond of the Acadia and is looking to score an ’09 at Carmax as soon as they start hitting the used car lots.

  • avatar

    The Flex that Ford is showing to the world and getting folks all excited about is NOT a $28,000 vehicle but in actuality is a $35,000 to $40,000.
    Once you remove the big wheels, the two-tone paint, big sunroof, and the rest of the high-priced goodies what you are left with is nothing special. Once your good ole Ford fans enter the dealership and find out this simply liitle fact it is a no brainer to go for the heavily discounted Explorer that they can load up on with the options and still come away with a great bargin. Considering the so-so gas mileage of the Flex the Explorer is such a go deal today that it can’t be passed up if you are in the market for a 7 passnager, 20mpg family hauler.

    I’m sure that just about every automaker has a host of interesting designs that would amount to some fine vehicles. But the key question will always be; Who will buy it? Toyota can make some damn fine sports-cars but they know that the market for a $45,000 to $50,000 Supra is so limited that it just is not worth the effort or resources. The irony is that after years of Ford and Ford SUV fans knocking crossovers for NOT being real trucks now Ford wants to jump on that bandwagon big time, yet they wonder why the folks that WILL shop Ford will be more attracted to a Explorer than a Flex.

  • avatar

    From our experience with 2 Flexes here at including the one from the family vacation mentioned above, the reaction to its looks was overwhelmingly positive with people stopping us to ask about it ALL THE TIME. It was close in reaction to the Challenger SRT8 we had. Seriously.

    It drives quite well for something that big that has a very low step in height.

    The problem with the WSJ and other pubs is that it doesn’t deal with consumers. We do and we routinely hear one complaint from people who need a minivan to haul their family: THEY DON’T WANT TO DRIVE MINIVANS.

    I think Ford has a very smart minivan alternative that should be compared to other minivans in sales, not full size SUVs. It’s already blowing away the Hyundai Entourage which is a Top Safety Pick and I think close to the Sedona and Quest in sales and we’ll see if it catches Odyssey. T&C has fleet mixed in for mega sales.

  • avatar

    Also the Flex beat the others in our comparo on gas mileage avg 21 mpg which is darn good. An Explorer will not get that mileage in the real world.

  • avatar

    the reaction to its looks was overwhelmingly positive with people stopping us to ask about it ALL THE TIME. It was close in reaction to the Challenger SRT8 we had. Seriously.

    In all honesty the Challenger SRT8 is an “irrational” vehicle (in a good sense) and the Flex needs to appear to the “rational” side of the costumers mind. So if folks are getting excited over the Flex in the way they do an SRT-8 it is NOT a good thing. 99% of the people who do have a postive reaction to a Challenger SRT-8 will NOT purchase one EVEN if they have the means. It is a nice “cool” car but that is where it ends for most folks. They would like to drive it, yes. To own it and look at it everyday in the driveway, NO!

    As mentioned before Folks fall in love with the “top of the line” Flex just as they do with the top of the line Challenger SRT-8. Once you start to remove all of the nice goodies that desirability factor starts to drop like stone. How many of the folks that are in love with an SRT-8 actually would go gaga over tiny wheeled under-powered v6 model?

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    July 2008

    Odyssey 13,123
    Flex 2,204

  • avatar

    Up until I saw a news piece on TTAC a couple weeks ago I didn’t realize the Flex was even for sale yet.

    Save for the Olympics I haven’t watched any TV this summer, and Ford is not a sponsor of any of the Olympic broadcasts I have access to, so the ability to get the message out to anyone like me is poor at this time of year. Let’s see how sales do in September and October when they start pitching the Flex in earnest.

  • avatar

    I think this thing looks bad-ass. The only thing it needs is a retractable machine gun turret on the top. I haven’t sat in it but I hear it’s just lovely inside. But I don’t need a vehicle this big. I have a minivan and I consider it too much car for a family of four. My T&C is returning 21.8 mpg recently, so this would be a slight upgrade at best. I’d buy this if I needed it, the mpg is just decent enough. But I’d have to buy it this model year, when they’re blowing them out, and before they de-content it and kill it in two years. And as David above hinted, this will get good crash ratings all around, once it’s tested.

    My wife would be the primary driver of this one, and she hates boxy vehicles, wants a sporty wagon instead. I could show her the sunroofs, and that would be a plus, but ultimately it would be no sale. Partially because it’s a Ford.

    BTW good to see posting here. You four guys do good work on reviews.

  • avatar

    The only real issue I can see with the Ford Flex is the pricing range. It has to be cheaper to steal more minivan buyers.

    To me, it actually looks like a slammed and stretched Land Rover (compare pics of the Range Rover with the Flex) with a Ford badge, which really shouldn’t be such a turn-off due to Ford’s recent improvements in quality.

    A smaller Escape-sized version of this would be AWESOME. I’d buy it.

  • avatar

    whatdoiknow1 :The Flex that Ford is showing to the world and getting folks all excited about is NOT a $28,000 vehicle but in actuality is a $35,000 to $40,000.

    I disagree, there is no stripper version of the Flex hence the 28K MSRP. You can option it out to 40K but you don’t have to. Thanks to for the real world mileage which was pretty impressive for a fully loaded AWD. With 3 kids, one in those new humongo carseats we need a vehicle like this and no we will not drive a minivan. I do question all carmakers who price the DVD player at $1500 when you can get something adequate at Target for $150.

  • avatar

    For all the SUVs and trucks Ford has released this one really doesn’t deserve to die. It’s thoroughly well executed inside and out and it actually has style.

    Maybe true, but when Ford priced it, they effectively gave it a death sentence.

  • avatar

    I’ve seen a few now. I never really had an issue with the way it looks–I still don’t, it looks like a nice wagon–but I do wonder exactly what Ford is trying to do, because they’ve got a heckuva hole in their line-up.

    If you discount the discounted Explorer, they (well, GM as well) have now low-cost 6/7-person mover. People scraping the bottom of the barrel have the 5, Rondo and Caravan; people who will spend a little more can get into a Sienna or Sedona for under $30K CAD.

    More than the mileage, this is going to hurt sales. People no longer in the mood to be upsold into a vehicle they can’t really afford, and the people who can just say “the heck with money!” aren’t likely to be Ford showroom people, at least not in the number Ford hopes.

    So, no killer feature and a too-high price point. Isn’t that what killed the Freestyle/Taurus X?

  • avatar

    whatdoiknow1 :
    Geeze, do you take things out of context. The people asking about it were potential Flex buyers, families with kids etc, not Challenger/muscle car fans who just like cool looking cars.

    Does that help explain it?

    DC: Those numbers are telling. The odyssey definitely has the market. But I think once the Flex production is ramped up with advertising it’ll pick up sales. Remember it has AWD when only the Sienna minivan offers it. That’s a big feature among our readers.

    Also, we track how many days it takes to sell new cars. We call it the Movers and Losers list. The Flex sold at a rate of 12 days on the lot. The avg for the industry is 67. The fastest selling was the Prius at 5 days. Odyssey took 62 days.

  • avatar

    David Thomas:

    Also, we track how many days it takes to sell new cars. We call it the Movers and Losers list. The Flex sold at a rate of 12 days on the lot. The avg for the industry is 67. The fastest selling was the Prius at 5 days. Odyssey took 62 days.

    Shameless plug(s) aside, if Ford is limiting availability of new Flexes, aren’t you misconstruing a short turn around as popularity? Surely, the bottom line is the bottom line here: sales and (when the cars hit the lots in any number) inventory.

  • avatar


    From a similar perspective, I would also say that some are misconstruing the effects of inventory ramp up, low incentive spend relative to the class, and low product recognition due to a slow ramp up in regional/national advertising as sales failure.

    Why don’t we address the Flex, as I suggest above, at the end of the year once Ford has had the opportunity to stock its dealers and create some market buzz about the vehicle? All indications suggest that potential segment shoppers are really interested in it once they realize it exists. Ford hasn’t gotten the vehicle to that level of recognition yet, though.

  • avatar

    This horse may have been beaten to death around here, but I am hearing a lot of points that follow the old tunes the 2.8 keep hearing. The reputation of the domestics is still haunting them pretty badly. People will often find things they don’t like about them, and if nothing else works, they will tag the price as too high.

    I bet you could put a domestic label on a pre release product from a German or Japanese company you would get much worse reviews from consumers who would then place the value much lower than if it had the other maker’s mark.

    I think it all goes back to the damage done to the brands by years of bad moves. Bankruptcy may allow them to lower costs, but that may still not be enough to overcome the bad reputations, silly depreciation, and poor corporate behavior.

  • avatar

    I only mentioned it for context. The days it takes to sell (not days on the lot mind you) isn’t a bad indicator because it means there is an effort to keep production sensible to meet demand. Hmmm…who else does that?

    Anyway, this is a totally new model, new name (have to educate buyers) they haven’t gotten production to 100% yet and it is outselling a lot of other models in a market that has been REALLY hard on family vehicles. And it is wrong for anyone to use June numbers since that wasn’t its first full month of sales. July was.

    To say it is a failure at this point is a bit premature.

  • avatar

    OK… our family of four just finished a week-long shopping marathon for a comfortable family hauler. The criteria were 6+ seats, better HWY mileage than my 97 Explorer (20 on the HWY), not a minivan, and had to fit in our 1942 garage (20×20 with 94 inch door openings). I’m the decision-maker (49), but my 14 year-old son had heavy input and then lesser input from wife and 11 year old daughter. I will be the primary driver. Price, as long as it was sub $50K, was something we were flexible on provided the price/value worked. So the Yukon/Tahoo hybrid was out, and the Sequoya couldn’t make the mileage or price. We live in a toney part of inside-the-loop Atlanta, and so it wasn’t hard to rule out the big GM SUV’s… every housewife in sight drives one.

    The short list very quickly got down to the Flex, the GM quad (Acadia, prissy Enclave, Outlook, and boring Traverse), and the Pilot. And the winner in the end… going away… was the Flex in the 6 passenger config. We really really thought we would want the Enclave/Acadia, but in the end it died because it was just not as nice a ride as the Flex. Let me be specific. Even the 2009 GM, with 288 HP, really has to be kicked to get it to downshift when needed… (Atlanta is a very hilly place)… my wife called it a beast. The Flex needed occasional encouragement also, but was much more willing to take direction… didn’t have to think about it like the GM. The GM just seemed to have no torque until 4000+ RPM.

    But the real killer were the middle seats. GM gives you a flat floor, but the space comes out of the seat height. So my son, at 5’10”, sat there with his knees in his face. The seats do recline in 3 notches, which helped, but the second row captains seats in the flex, with a nice foot well that extends under the front seats, was like a limo… not even the same experience. So then we got to the back row, and the distance between the back row seat backs and the driver seat backs. Flex has 6″ more than the GM, and 9″ more than the Pilot, which translates into much more leg room for both second and third row seats. And since the Flex has you sitting with the bottom of your thighs actually on the seat cushion, it’s just a very different feeling. Yes, the GM has a middle seat in the third row, and we thought long and hard about that, but decided that since 99% of the miles would be with four people or fewer, the seventh seat wasn’t worth giving up all that comfort. Finally, the second row in the Flex tumbles forward, while the GM has four huge tracks that the middle seats slide forward in to allow entry into the back row. My wife HATED those tracks… pointing out that anything that hit the floor (ear ring, french fry, pocket change) would go straight into the tracks. I suggested they could be easily vacuumed, until I stuck my finger in and realized they are well-lubricated with grease in the bottom. What is that going to look like after a couple years of use?

    So the Pilot died first because the third row really isn’t suitable for anything but pre-teens. The GMs had electro-folding mirrors, which I really like and need. The Flex mirrors are 88″ across, and I’ve got a 94″ door opening, but I decided it was worth slowing down in/out of the garage. The GM probably has a lot more electronic bells and whistles, but the Ford NAV system doesn’t make you give up your radio control buttons on put them on the dang screen like the GM, and the DVD systems were equivalent. I’m sure Sync will be fun (we are getting the Lmtd version, so it’s included), but it wasn’t really a consideration.

    So when all that was evaluated, then we looked at price. At dealer cost less hold-backs, for comparably equipped units(meaning more or less fully tricked out), the Flex was $2k more than the Pilot and $4K less than the Acadia. Case closed. I could have reduced the Acadia by ditching its radio-stealing nav system, since the ’09 does let you display the back-up camera in the rear view mirror, but in the end the kids said there was no comparison in middle and back seat comfort. If we had to have seven seats, we still might have wound up with the Flex with the 60/40 instead of captains seats in the second row. If we had to have eight, then the Flex of course would have been out. We decided on those rare occasions we need more than six, we will split up and bring along the TL.

    PS. One footnote on right-side visibility/blind spot. Nothing will ever be as easy to see out of as my ’97 Explorer (unless someone still has their Pacer), but the Enclave was horrible, and the Pilot and Acadia only slightly better. I’m very sensitive to this one… all our intown driving once out of the neighborhood is on 6 lane interstates with everyone driving 80. The Flex wasn’t great, but it was OK. With a quick glance I could pick up anything to the right, even with a passenger in the right-middle seat.

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