By on October 3, 2008

With the full-size SUV market all but dead, General Motors and Ford are counting on large crossovers (and a few pennies from Washington) to keep them afloat. Sure, small cars are all the rage, but some people need space for six-plus people and their luggage— and will not buy anything with uncool sliding doors. Also, while large crossovers aren’t as profitable as large SUVs were in the 1990s, they are far more profitable than a Cobalt or Focus. The Chevrolet Traverse and Ford Flex recently arrived at dealers. Which is more likely to save its maker’s bacon?

The 4500-pound, 202-inch-long Flex is Ford’s second attempt at a large crossover. The brilliantly packaged Freestyle flopped; its styling rendered it invisible to most, and overly wagonish to others. A new powertrain, additional exterior chrome and a new name (Taurus X, no relation to Malcolm) haven’t helped. So Ford has given the Flex— based on the same Volvo-derived D3 platform— an exterior that people can’t fail to notice. With a radically boxy shape, grooved sides and the option of a contrasting roof color, Ford has sought to transfer the attention-getting, cult-inspiring, contra-flow coolness of the Scion xB and MINI Cooper to a far larger package. Props to Ford for taking a risk and not just giving us more of the same. But this “bold move”™ doesn’t seem to be working: most people simply see a Family Truckster.

GM has taken no such risks with the exterior of the 4,800-pound, 205-inch-long Traverse, the fourth variant of the corporation’s Lambda platform (next up: Cadillac). So far we’ve seen organic curves (Buick Enclave), mildly square and SUVish (Acadia) and mildly square and VWish (Outlook). To this mix the new Chevrolet adds something more chiseled than the Enclave but more sporty and car-like than the other two, with more rake to the hood, an upswept rear side window and a grille lifted off the Malibu sedan. Like the other Lambdas, the Traverse is conventionally attractive, with better proportions and a stronger stance than the Flex.

Given its financial sickliness, no one would have blamed Ford for borrowing freely from the Freestyle when crafting the Flex’s interior. But they didn’t. Nor have they ventured far outside the box for the inside of this box. Instead, the Flex’s cabin has an understated upscale ambiance that’s part VW, part Land Rover. Well, at least in the upper level trims it does. The SE trim, bereft of convincing planks of plasti-wood on the doors and cursed with oddly puckered cloth on the seats, is base in all senses of the word.

The Traverse’s interior isn’t as inviting. Chevy attempted to transfer the theme from the Malibu, with silver plastic trim forming a wave across the instrument panel and thick, oddly-shaped rings of faux chrome around the instruments. But the Malibu’s retro flavor and nifty piping didn’t survive the transfer. Worse: as in the Acadia and Enclave, too many elements, surfaces and hues are in play, and they don’t play well together. Also as in other Lambdas, the padded vinyl on the doors does a unusually poor job of passing for leather (especially in the lighter shades) and the seats look insubstantial and insufficiently contoured, especially in cloth.

With the Freestyle, Ford sought to lure people out of SUVs with a seating position about six inches higher than a car’s. The seats are about as far above the pavement in the Flex, but they’re surrounded by much taller, more rectilinear bodywork. So the driver seat feels low and the view over the hood is more Crown Vic than crossover. No problem— there’s more headroom than in some cathedrals. So unless you play center in the NBA, go ahead and crank up the power seat. And a supremely comfortable seat it is: broad and cushy but contoured to provide support in all the right places for long stretches of Interstate. The similarly superb second-row seats are mounted high off the floor. So kids can easily see out (making them less likely to spew) and adults will appreciate the thigh support. The third row seat is mounted even farther from the ground but, as in all direct competitors, it is nevertheless uncomfortably low to the floor.

The driving position in the Traverse is higher, close to that of a traditional SUV, and there’s more glass in its greenhouse. So the view forward is more open and you’re obviously piloting a large crossover. But the Chevrolet’s front seats, while passable, cannot hold a candle to the thrones in the Flex. The second row (captains or bench, as in the Flex) lags even farther behind. Although the Traverse’s exterior is a few inches longer, taller and broader, it inexplicably has 7.5 fewer inches of legroom in a second row mounted too low to the floor for adult comfort. In the third row, which is easily accessible in either vehicle, the Traverse scores a win, with enough additional shoulder room (seven inches) to fit a third passenger and better support than in the second row (go figure).

With all seats in their full upright positions, either vehicle can carry more than the typical three-row crossover (but less than the typical minivan— the price of fashion). Fold the second and third rows, and the Chevy’s bigger body can swallow over 30 additional cubes of cargo (for a total of 116). But the front passenger seat folds only in the Flex, so if you want to carry your favorite nine-foot-long object with the tailgate closed, it’s the one. The Chevrolet has the advantage of sheer size, but Ford has successfully countered with clever packaging.

The powertrains have similar specs, with a 262-horspower 3.5-liter (Ford) or 281-horsepower 3.6-liter (Chevy) DOHC V6 driving the front or (optionally) all four wheels through a jointly developed six-speed slushbox. And similar EPA ratings: 17/24. Subjectively, the Chevy’s powertrain is more pleasing. The front-wheel-drive Traverse’s steering doesn’t get squirrelly like the Flex’s during hard acceleration. Its engine, with snappier throttle responses courtesy of direct injection (new to all Lambdas for 2009). It’s also quieter at idle and sounds marginally better when pushed. Despite full complements of cams and valves, neither engine makes lusty noises or begs to be revved— is this so hard? Still, in typical driving, both accelerate effortlessly around town thanks to the six-speed automatic’s short initial gearing and provide passable passing power on the highway.

The biggest GM powertrain advantage: gear selection. Neither transmission does a good job of picking and holding the best gear when left to its own devices during semi-aggressive driving. But with the Ford, you don’t have much of a choice. You can lock out sixth by pressing a button and downshift (eventually) from D to L via the clunky shifter, and that’s it. Which of the six gears is L? Dealer’s choice, and the dealer is neither a quick chooser nor a judicious one. When selecting L, be prepared for either too little oomph, an embarrassing amount of engine roar or a few seconds of the the former followed by the latter. With the Traverse, on the other hand, a thumb-actuated rocker on the shift knob selects the range of gears the transmission can select among, with the top selectable gear displayed in the instrument cluster. Though no paddle-shifted DSG, it’s still far better than the Flex’s system. Holding third for that upcoming curve is as simple as a few flicks of the thumb.

Taken through that curve at six-tenths (if you want to autocross your people hauler, get a Mazda CX-9), both behave well for such tall, massive vehicles, with modest amounts of lean and far less bobbling about than in an olde school SUV. Push harder, and the low-grip 18-inch tread on the outside front corner yowls into understeer. (The 20s on the Traverse LTZ should hold out for longer.) The Chevrolet, despite its additional height and weight, is the more willing partner, with a chassis that simply feels right through the seat of the pants and nicely weighted, relatively chatty steering. In contrast, the Flex’s uncomfortably numb electric-assist steering wheel feels much the same when turned ninety-degrees as it does when pointed dead ahead. The superceded Freestyle’s conventional system is dearly missed. Combine the Flex’s vintage arcade steering with a chassis that sometimes turns in with unexpected quickness, and confidence is not inspired.

The Chevy’s superior handling has a price: even with the 18-inch wheels it doesn’t ride as smoothly— heads get tossed on patchy pavement— or as quietly as the limo-like Flex. Thank the massive stabilizer bars and need to leave room for Buick.

The Traverse is more enjoyable to drive—but that’s not exactly a priority in this segment. The Ford’s advantages would probably make it the winner for non-enthusiasts who don’t need to seat three in the third— except Ford’s gamble with the Flex’s exterior isn’t paying off. Few people have been bothering to take one for a test drive, so the lovely seats, smooth ride and upscale interior ambiance haven’t been winning many sales.

It’s Pacifica redux. Even with three sibs to split the pie, the Chevrolet will sell in much greater volume. But, given those three sibs, it’s simply redundant. The quadruplets are clearly fraternal, and the Traverse has the sportiest look of the four. But if Chevrolet hadn’t squeezed into the fray, people would simply buy an Acadia, Enclave, or Outlook (in that order) judging from the list of most common comparisons. Plus business for Chevy dealers isn’t necessarily plus business for GM.

So, which vehicle is going to save the day for its maker? Neither.

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75 Comments on “2009 Chevy Traverse vs. 2009 Ford Flex...”


  • avatar
    IGB

    I really like the Flex. It has road presence in a Griswald kind of way. It’s very unique and a great effort by Ford. I really really hope it sells.

    The Traverse is vanilla. Vanilla of course remains the most popular flavor of ice cream. So be it.

    I need the space these cars offer so my wife drives an Odyssey. I drive it with pride to Home Depot and wouldn’t swap it for either of the above.

    If I had Jay Leno’s garage though, I would park a Flex next to the Odyssey.

  • avatar
    P71_CrownVic

    The Flex is a joke. It is goofy looking, completely redundant, and overpriced.

    With Ford as strapped for cash as they are, they should have used the millions spent on (needlessly) developing the Flex on advertising the Taurus X. Why anyone would buy a Flex over the Taurus X is beyond me. They are both seven seat station wagons…with one costing thousands more.

    Ford took a huge gamble with the Flex…and they are losing big time.

  • avatar
    Blunozer

    I simply do not understand the Flex’s dismal sales. I have yet to see one on the road.

    Compared the the Lambdas, the Flex looks like a million bucks. But then again, GM has its lots so choked full of Lambas they’re probably offering huge discounts on them.

  • avatar
    Jonathan I. Locker

    I think that the real problem here is pricing.

    Say you do need the room for 2 adults plus 3-4 kids. So you go and look at a mini-van. The base Honda Odyssey will set you back $21k.

    The base versions of the Flex and Traverse start at $29k. That is paying $8 to not drive a mini-van. You are now leaving the family person-mover sweet spot between $21-27k. If you put $3k down on a car, the Honda will be about $350-450/month (depending on financing terms), and the Flex/Traverse are up to $500-$600/month.

    I think that they are too expensive for what they are trying to. If the either car started at $24k, they would be a hit.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    Flex sales last month: 1,979, YTD 7,552. That’s roughly 25K per year and not much different than the outgoing Taurus X (19K YTD).

    @Blunozer: with the recent employee pricing sale, GMC Acadias were sold at $6-7K off MSRP – I recall seeing a $25k price for a FWD decently equipped.

  • avatar
    cleek

    I would be a Flex owner but there is one glaring oversight in the design that stopped me. The vehicle doesn’t have a power folding mirror option, so it doesn’t readily fit through a one car garage door. I would have ~one quarter of an inch clearance on either side How do you build a vehicle that wide and not offer that convenience option?

  • avatar
    Hank

    I honestly like both these cars for different reasons. It’s kind of hard to think of the Traverse as being up against the Flex, but I guess it is.

    You mentioned the uncool sliding doors. Who decided this? Obviously no one who has an eight month old in a carrier and and a 4 year old to strap into a seat while juggling groceries and making sure not to ding the car in the next spot. Form should follow function, and sliding doors serve such situations far, far better. All these XL rear doors are too large to even open all the way in most NY parking spots and garages.

    Dings and cramped spaces are far more uncool than whether your door swings or slides.

  • avatar
    gamper

    I am a big fan of the Flex’s sheetmetal and am in the market for a people mover in the next 3 months. I think the Flex has a winning combination of ride, packaging, amenities, etc. However, showed it to my wife and she took one look and said no way.

    With love it or hate it looks, the “hate its” are killing sales in a crowded segment. I think as more Flexs get on the road people will become more comfortable with the styling, and hopefully sales improve.

  • avatar
    improvement_needed

    jonathan:

    while i agree that a minivan is a significantly better option (on all fronts except ‘peni$’ envy for some), please get your facts straight.

    the base odessey has an msrp at ~ 26k
    the flex starts at ~ 28k (msrp)
    the traverse at ~ 28k…

    though – with savy negotiating, the base flex and traverse could probably be gotten for less than the base odessey

  • avatar

    Great, great, great comparison! These are really the only 2 competitors in this particular segment (super big-ass secret minivan crossover) and I’m glad you decided to put ‘em up against one another. I was just sitting in a Flex this weekend, marveling at the spaciousness and headroom. I haven’t had time to hang out in a Lambda (besides for 2 minutes at the Auto show) so I can’t say much about them, but…

    I think both of these vehicles are pretty fantastic, and yet another sign of the US automakers charging into the fray with well-built, smartly packaged vehicles. The Flex is a big, handsome (IMO) comfortable vehicle, and the Lambdas are quite nice as well. They would both be selling like gangbusters if gas wasn’t $3.50 a gallon. We’ve come to the point where, at least for a while, people have pulled their heads just far enough out of their asses to realize that a family of 4 has very little need for a 7-passenger behemoth, be it body-on-frame or a crossover, and they’re walking away from the segment as a whole.

    It’s sad to see such a fine effort by both companies fall to the wayside, but they came about a year and a half too late to this party. Easy credit is long gone, and *surprise!* an American population with a median household income of ~$50k (before taxes) simply cannot afford to buy a car that costs $28k on the low end, especially if they actually have to feed, clothe and send to school the 7 people that fit in the car.

    People have been buying WAY out of their affordability range for a while now, and if any good can come of this crisis maybe it will be waking up the millions of spendaholic fools across the country to the fact that maybe, just for a while, we should try living within our means. $30k cars are well outside of the means of the vast, vast majority of American buyers and only a financially unaware fool would claim otherwise.

  • avatar
    lewissalem

    Jonathan,

    Am I missing something? On Honda’s website it says the base (LX) starts at $26,225. At Ford.com, the Flex starts at $28,295.

  • avatar

    Hank,

    I’m not sure who decided that sliding doors are uncool, but someone clearly did, and got nearly everyone to agree with him/her.

    Gamper,

    Were you able to get your wife to visit a dealer? If Ford wants to sell the Flex, it needs to find a way to get people to at least sit in one. The seats are that good.

    In terms of reliability, the Flex is too new to say. The Taurus X and 2008 Lambdas have both been about average so far in TrueDelta’s surveys.

    http://www.truedelta.com/reliability.php

  • avatar
    Bridge2far

    I have seen but one Flex on the road and it was startltngly ugly. Can’t tell you how many lambdas. But they have much more eye appeal.

  • avatar
    derek533

    Here’s a reason to buy a Flex over a Taurus X: Towing capacity. The X is a dismal 2500lbs IIR while the flex is 4500lbs. For those of us who want to tow a small ski boat, the X doesn’t cut it. And yes, there are a large amount of people who actually use the receiver for what it was intended for. Also, factor in the enormous amount of depreciation that is being reported for the X and it’s easy to see why you should avoid it.

    The Traverse is just more of the same. The Flex is cool, different and has an absolutely gorgeous interior. As soon as I see a few of the Flex’ as dealer demos with decent discounts, I’ll be all over it.

  • avatar
    JJ

    I saw a Flex this week, which is special over here in the Netherlands because it isn’t officially imported to Europe.

    It should also be the kind of vehicle that one takes the trouble for to import themself, however, when I saw it in the flesh, it didn’t look as great as some pr-pictures want me to believe. I didn’t get a good look at the interior, but on pictures it looks about in between most US-Fords and most Euro-Fords in terms of quality/materials.

    Anyway, the Flex has turned out to be a niche car when it wasn’t intended to, despite of its Range Rover style doors. It’s a good effort but not quite well enough executed (too heavy, bad mileage etc).

    The random Chevy on the other hand…GM doing what it does…yawn.

  • avatar
    ronin

    Agreed that the prices of these things are way too high.

    Detroit thinks it can still get pickup and SUV margins like the old days.

    Neither wins indeed. The market isn’t going to pay these prices for these things. Not today.

  • avatar
    Jonathan I. Locker

    I based my prices based upon what carsdirect.com says I could get the cars for. They are an internet buying service, who will give you a no haggle price (but probably not as good as through a buying service).

    The ’08 Honda’s have a lot of cash on the hood right now, and according to carsdirect.com, $21k is where they are at in Chicago.

    The Ford and the Chevy do not have large incentives as of yet.

    This whole game changes when Ford and Chevy start wanting to move metal. Still, they sticker for too much money.

  • avatar
    SAAB95JD

    I have to say that I kind of like the look of the Flex. There are a couple in my neighborhood (used for the school-run no less…) and they are in black and white. The black looks startlingly cool for what it is because they opted NOT to get a contrasting roof, which is a little too Mini Cooper for such a big car. In all black with the satin-chrome details it looks pretty cool…

    Not that I am going to replace the Porsche with one soon, but still…

  • avatar
    jamie1

    Michael,

    Thank you for the review. I must take issue however with one of your comments which is wide of the mark.
    You say the gamble of the exterior styling is not paying off and that people are not shopping for one. Not the case. Quite the opposite in fact. There are a significant number of people shopping for Flex and the design has been a hit across the country. In California (not a good market for Ford traditionally) Flex has 17% of country-wide sales verses the Edge which was a strong performer for Ford at 7%.
    Conquest rates for Flex are at an all-time Ford high, rising from 27% in June through to over 50% in September.
    Nearly half of customers (48%) are buying the top range Limited model verses a normal mix rate of 20%.
    In addition, although sales are not where Ford would like them to be (whose sales are?) the share of segment continues to rise (up from 2.2% in August to 3.5% in September)
    Finally, customer reation to the car has been outstanding from those who have bought it – this data comes from Yahoo and Edmunds consumer reviews.
    So, overall, a good start for Flex notwithstanding the dismal times that the auto industry faces right now.

  • avatar
    TwoTwenty

    If people are afraid of image implications of driving a minivan, why would they want a Traverse, which to me looks like a minivan from the side? The Flex at least looks like something different, even if that look is the product of a strange combination of a Mini and Scion xB.

  • avatar
    davey49

    How does the Dodge Journey fit into this?
    It’s definitely smaller in dimension but is it too small? It’s a lot less expensive.

  • avatar
    Wulv

    I just get a laugh at the term “crossover” these are both behemoths, massive vehicles but are somehow garnered the term “crossover”. Pretty soon locomotives are going to be coined crossovers with huge towing capacity.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    the base odessey has an msrp at ~ 26k
    the flex starts at ~ 28k (msrp)
    the traverse at ~ 28k…

    As the official new car negotiator for my various ‘tribes’, the Odyssey is going for around $5-6k off msrp, a little more expensive than the base Freestyle, and a couple of thousand less than the Flex and Traverse.

    Great review(s) Michael!

  • avatar
    IGB

    Big sign on a new Flex at the local dealer here $7500 Off!

    I don’t think there is anything out there right now without cash on the hood.

  • avatar
    netrun

    Nice review!

    When I saw the Flex car at the Auto Show, I hated on it because it seemed like it stole so much from the xB (which I’m a big fan of).

    Now I see it as a giant wagon with a fantastic interior and really like it. I’ve seen a few around town and they all look great. They are giants, though. 5k lbs? Yeesh. Hope you don’t get caught out on a decreasing radius corner in the rain…

    And the Lambda quadruplets? Four editions of the same car? Yeah, that’s a great idea.

    And what’s with GM using the same front fascia design on everything not a Cadillac? It’s hideous.

    Either way, these vehicles will be great used car values by 2010. Apparently, so will Odyssey’s.

  • avatar
    ctoan

    Why do these large crossovers have such crappy packaging compared to a minivan? Is it the higher floorpan? Larger wheels? Beefier rear differentials? (On AWD models)

  • avatar
    Dragophire

    I wanted a Flex bad and it was my first choice as a people mover, however it is just priced to dear for me at this time. I can afford it I just don’t want to spend that much. I was able to get a CX9 fully loaded in Chicago and I will be driving it home next weekend back to NC. I got it for less than 31k. Like I said I hate that I didn’t get a Flex but I couldn’t pass up the CX9 with that much of a price difference.

  • avatar

    jamie1:

    Your facts all dance around the key fact, which is that the Flex isn’t selling well.

    Most of the people that bought an Aztek also really liked it. The problem was that too few people bothered to even take one for a test drive, much less buy it.

    Vehicles with polarizing styling tend to have more satisfied owners, because they have to work harder to get people to the dealership–something about them is usually really good in order to overcome popular opinion.

    No one I’ve asked for an opinion of the Flex’s styling has liked it. Most have actively disliked it.

    I personally thought it would be a hit, and posted such a forecast. I was wrong as well.

  • avatar

    ctoan: all of the above, except for the differential.

    It’s amazing how much packaging efficiency has been sacrificed in recent years for the sake of larger and larger wheels.

  • avatar
    peteinsonj

    I think the Flex is absolutely a ridiculously styled vehicle — maybe an interesting styling exercise, but just not something most people would put in their driveway.

    Saw my first Flex “in the wild” (other than the auto show) last weekend when I was out shopping, and parked next to it. I still thought it was awful.

    But it was telling to me — this one — the first one I’ve seen after months on sale — had Michigan manufacturer’s plates.

    /p

  • avatar
    BobJava

    As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve yet to see a single Flex on the road here in the Sacramento and Bay Areas.

    I think the styling is great. In fact, it’d be perfect on something say … 7/10ths the size. Maybe about the size of, oh I don’t know, an xB.

    People looking for a large SUV-ish people mover don’t want awesome edgy styling like Mini and (original) xB buyers wanted awesome edgy styling.

    Oh, also when people ran out of credit, they realized they don’t need 7 passenger cars. No wonder sales are in the dumps.

    As for the sliding doors remarks, I don’t know who decided it was uncool, but it’s completely ridiculous to have standard doors on these types of vehicles. But again, in large part, these are minivans for the insecure.

    Maybe they should put sliding doors on “trendier” smaller cars to reintroduce it to the public (like a Fit- or xB-type vehicle). It’d be like hipsters wearing really ugly librarian glasses. “Hey, this is so lame, it’s cool!” Except in this case it’d make perfect sense.

  • avatar
    unregular

    so when does the Flex go on sale?

  • avatar
    motownr

    Vans/crossovers are my typical daily drivers, and I liked the Ford’s design and seats enough to get one at auction. But…the d*mn parking brake digs into your leg, and ruins what is otherwise a very nice driving environment.

    Agree that the prices are too high for both vehicles.

  • avatar
    romanjetfighter

    Make a short wheel-base version of the Flex?

    It’s a brilliantly styled vehicle, bold and interesting.

    But it’s HUUUUUUUUGEEEE. :x

  • avatar
    JoeEgo

    We have 2 kids with one using a rear-facing convertible seat. My wife doesn’t want a minivan. She’s starting to look at large SUVs because she wants a 6 passenger (minimum) vehicle to carry grandparents along on trips.

    A couple months ago she mentioned the Flex on display @ the local mall was ugly. She is impressed by the looks of any of the first 3 Lambdas. She is also impressed by a friend’s Yukon.

    Used Lambdas are hitting the market at reasonable, get-this-gas-guzzling-”SUV”-away-from-me prices but are mostly base trims. Cheaper Yukahoe’s are available by sacrificing age and/or mileage.

    Is a new Edge, only 2 rows, really so good as to have a 28k to 36k MSRP?

    At the end of the day my dream car remains the Holden Sportwagon. Some day the sliding door style nazis will be defeated and we will see cool wagons with rear sliding doors. Well “we” probably won’t see them, being long in the ground and all that. But our great-grandchildren sure will enjoy the functionality for their own families.

  • avatar
    JoeEgo

    Screw it. I’ll put my foot down and we’ll get a G8. My parents can drive their own car to dinner.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    How about the Land Rover Sport it looks like the Ford Flex

    Speaking of Land Rover I think it is the best SUV in the world.

    Don’t believe me? please watch Top Gear.
    Tank Versus Land Rover Sport.

  • avatar
    amac

    I saw a Flex parked on the street the other day, the first one I’ve seen in person. Even my friend – who takes no notice of cars – commented on how bizarre it was. I applaud Ford for trying something new, but I don’t think the types people who need vehicles like this (ie. families) are interested in standing out or making a statement. And no sliding doors? Even if they’re “uncool”, it’s still a feature that makes having a this type of car worthwhile.

  • avatar

    @BobJava

    See the Peugeot 1007.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    I generally like Mike Karesh’s reviews, he seems to stick to the facts and has good solid information.

    On this one though, I didn’t see any mention of the trim levels.

    I was in a LTZ-level Traverse recently, and was very impressed with the level of the materials and assembly. I was just curious to know which one was used for this test.

    I also have been amazed at the increase in wheel size in all autos. I remember (not too long ago) when 16″ wheels were a performance upgrade, my wife’s Malibu Maxx has 16″ wheels standard.

    Now you can order 20′s for some vehicles as a factory option. I can’t help wonder if we’ll see a point of diminishing returns with these things.

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    I’m surprised how huge the Flex looks in person. The size alone might scare off some customers.

    I enjoyed this comparison review. So much better than the Old Media’s typical “Shoot-Out”.

  • avatar
    Johnster

    Is the Traverse now available for sale? I haven’t seen any advertising and I haven’t seen any on the road. Of course, I haven’t seen any Flexes on the road either, but they are advertised in our local newspapers as being in stock at our Ford dealers.

  • avatar
    blindfaith

    Well we have a $30,000 car/truck that will be payments of about $700 a month with $600 in gas and maintenance monies at minimum. I do not expect in the real world that these folks will get 15 miles to the gallon. The tires will wear out real quick with a 4500 lb car. Front breaks will go fast as well. This is $1300 a month.

    When everybody was complaining that the auto workers were making about $50,000 a year for doing boring tedious mind numbing work, they wanted that reduced because a Chinese laboror would do the same for Fish Heads and rice with a small cot for a house. Well they have their wish. How do you like the new world.

    With the new middle class wage of about $3000 dollar a month net if your lucky. your going to spend better than 1/3 your salary:

    ON THIS WASTE. GM does not know who their clients are. They should remind themselves of the US new labor cost schedules.

  • avatar
    DearS

    I wish they were more of enthusiasts vehicle. I was very enthusiastic when I first saw both CUVs. Still I like them, but I need to be realistic. A proper sporty/luxury vehicle is something I will not let go for these everyday. Still I appreciate the effort put into these non-vans.

  • avatar
    jamie1

    No one I’ve asked for an opinion of the Flex’s styling has liked it. Most have actively disliked it.

    Michael,

    You should read the comments on this site as well as many others – there are a great many people who like the styling of the Flex. The fact that there are a number who do not is fine. After all, last thing you want is vanilla styling that appeals to and offends no one. At least Ford is being talked about for styling which is a good thing.
    As to your point about sales – well that is an easy win – no one is selling anything, not even the mighty Porsche or Toyota, so levelling that accusation at a car that has only been on the market since July seems somewhat harsh.
    All Flex can do is increase its share in the segment and it is doing that – give the car, and the market some time – both will do well eventually.

  • avatar
    unleashed

    Michael Karesh: Most of the people that bought an Aztek also really liked it. The problem was that too few people bothered to even take one for a test drive, much less buy it.

    Very true.

  • avatar
    unleashed

    jamie: You should read the comments on this site as well as many others – there are a great many people who like the styling of the Flex.

    And just as many people if not more judging by the comments, who passionately disliked the Flex’s looks. So, what’s the point?

  • avatar
    John Horner

    If I were in the market for such a beast, the Flex would be first on my shopping list based on looks and the great interior. But, alas, I’m not even remotely close to being a buyer of any new car anytime soon … and I’m not alone.

  • avatar
    davey49

    Some people here say the Flex looks huge. I think it looks too small, or maybe just too low to the ground. The Lambdas have more of that step up into feel that an SUV has.

  • avatar
    davey49

    blindfaith- $600 per month in gas and maintenance seems a bit much. How do you split that up?
    geozinger- blame computers for the giant wheels. Big wheels used to be prohibitively expensive to produce. Now anyone with a computer CNC machine can do it. It’s kind of like now anyone can be a music producer or published author.

  • avatar
    Ashy Larry

    A couple of comments here.

    1. The fact that the Flex has not garnered much market attention convinces me that there is no God. I guess funky styling doesn’t work on big cars, while the exact same type of styling causes xB’s and Mini’s to sell like hotcakes. Go figure. My wife and I were looking for a family hauler and where I was immediately besotted with the Flex, she said “no” based solely on the looks. I convinced her to get in one and test drive, but she wasn’t having it. Ford rolled the dice here and sadly, miserably, much to my chagrin they are losing. Too bad. I guess the soccer moms don’t like boxy.

    2. The CX9 is the best bet here for those who actually care about driving. It’s no sports car but it’s composure puts these cars to shame (I cross shopped the Flex, Taurus X, GM Lambda cars and MDX against the CX9). Even buying thee cars at full price the CX9 felt like the better quality car than all but the MDX (which it undercuts by many thousands). With the deals on CX9′s now (we got a $41k CX9 for $31.7k), it’s really hard to see spending any money for these other cars.

    3. I think Ford should offer a Flex with sliding doors. As an option for those who still appreciate the incredible utility in ever-shrinking parking lots of those contraptions. We would have purchased one in about 3.4 seconds, my wife’s opinion on styling be damned.

    4. I wish Ford better luck with this car in the future. It really is deserving of praise and Ford is deserving of praise for trying something unique and interesting that isn’t a design mess like GM’s last gamble (the Asstek).

  • avatar
    changsta

    I really like the Flex in pictures, but in person, it looks too low to the ground and long. However, all of the Flex’s I’ve seen have been fully loaded Limited versions, which is good for Ford.

    I remember reading somewhere that the wheels pictured in the article are not yet in production. That’s a shame, because I think the Flex’s design really needs a big bold wheel to make it work. Get those wheels out Ford, what are you waiting for?? DO NOT launch a car when all of the options are not ready for sale.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    @Ashy Larry : here’s Autoweek’s article about Ford running low on development funds and axing the Flex’s planned sliding doors. On the flip side, GM ran low on funds and cancelled the Lambda minivan that the Chevy Traverse was supposed to be.

    I’m reminded of the Chrysler Pacifica’s launch: an upmarket crossover priced high with disappointing sales. After decontenting and price cuts, sales got into the 70K-80K range prior to getting the axe almost a year ago.

  • avatar
    cheezeweggie

    With the current state of the economy, I cant see these models moving very well. Fooled and BM should be concentrating on wagon-ish versions of their smaller platforms. A smoothlined HHR variant would probably sell well these days.

  • avatar
    zenith

    I like ’50s Ford wagons.

    The Flex looks a lot like a ’52-’56 Ford wagon in profile, but it’s way heavier and just not as cool as the original.

    The Lambdas all leave me cold. Way too big and thirsty. I just don’t see much more usable space in these than in my 20” shorter, 1/2 ton lighter
    Aztek.

    17/24 mpg? Pathetic!

    I average 21 in town, 26 highway. My absolute best is 29.8 ,light traffic, cruise @ 65, flat terrain. My town mpg rarely goes below 20 if the temperature stays above 20. My worst mileage yet works out to .8 above EPA City for a Lambda or a Flex.

    These pigs cost 3x what I paid for a 2002 Aztek in 2004 and 7.5x what I could likely get for that vehicle today.

  • avatar
    50merc

    zenith, I appreciate the references to 50′s Ford wagons (the ’56 being the classiest) and Aztek. Lambdas and the Flex are just too big and costly. This morning I parked next to a later-model Aztek (after they got rid of the stupid cladding), and in all black it looked fine to me; certainly not deserving of all the invective hurled at it. Aztek’s rear end makes it sort of an American cousin to the Prius.

    Locker makes a good point, too: “$30k cars are well outside of the means of the vast, vast majority of American buyers.” Big 3 executives and the UAW seem to have gotten the impression everybody else is as well off. An industry that can’t make a profit on a $20K car won’t long survive.

  • avatar
    don1967

    I prefer the look of the Chevy, except for the Tribeca tail light treatment. We considered the new Outlook for a recent purchase, but for the money the Santa Fe was irresistible. GM could have had a winner by making the Outlook/Traverse 10% smaller and pricing them closer to the Vue/Equinox.

    I have stated on other forums the opinion that the oil bubble is bursting and gas prices are likely to drop further. Even if I’m right, however, I am still glad to see the age of the dinosaur – large, truck-based SUVs – coming to an end. The new breed of “midsize” CUV is more than enough for the average family.

  • avatar

    geozinger: When I drove the Traverse, dealers only had LT1s on the lots. I intend to drop back by to look at an LTZ–they might have arrived in the last week.

    jamie1, others: I’m seeing a pattern here, in which some men really like the styling but their wives won’t even take one for a test drive. It’s like this in my own family. Since this sort of vehicle is usually driven by the wife…

    “Since July” is plenty of time for a new model to take off–or not. This is obvious to anyone who has tried to buy a hot new car. Are there any Flexes out there with a “market adjustment?” Exactly.

    Comparing sales is fair, because I’m comparing them to other crossovers in the same time period. The Flex barely managed to outsell the “dead vehicle rolling” Taurus X in August. We’ll see soon how it did in September.

  • avatar
    zenith

    Actually, GM never removed the cladding from the Aztek. They just painted it body color from the 2002 model on. I recently saw a 2001 the same shade of blue as my 2002 and, at a distance, the 2001′s upper areas looked grayer and duller than mine though close-up they were just as shiny.

    The dull-finish black cladding of the 2001s tends to make the vehicle look like one of those home-built 4x4s made of old station wagons propped up on old Jeep frames. Also, the dull black tends to unevenly fade to chalky dull grey.

    That said, I still don’t understand how the early Ford Escape wasn’t criticized for using just as much black cladding as the 2001 Aztek.

  • avatar
    capdeblu

    Well I’m not at all a GM or Chevy fan but the Traverse is beautiful in a subtle way.

    This would be really nice to have as a weekend car. For traveling or going to Home Depot.

  • avatar
    Orangutan

    Ha! Edmunds just did the same comparison! Check this out:

    http://www.edmunds.com/insideline/do/Drives/Comparos/articleId=132786?tid=edmunds.il.home.photopanel..1.*

  • avatar
    ajla

    Edmunds: Inside Line just posted a comparo of these two on Oct 5th. That’s the second time in a few weeks (other being the Jetta TDI) that TTAC beat Edmunds to the review punch. Nice job.

  • avatar
    wickedwindsor

    The Flex will be another failure. It’s ugly, large, overpriced and over weight. A mini van is far more useful, but apparently not “cool”. As if you think you can be “cool” with either a Flex or minivan. At least with a van I can go shopping at home depot, or easily load the kiddies and gear. The visiblity out of the Flex is horrible execpt the very front. Ford would have done better putting thier resources into Taurus X improvements, seeing as it serves the same purpose. Sales will not eclipse 45k units yearly at best.

  • avatar
    ktm

    I seem to recall an editorial by Robert quite a while ago that discussed design philosphies. Play it safe or polarize were the two options. Robert’s position was that polarizing designs create memorable vehicles and attract (and repel) customers.

    Following are just a few polarizing designs that I could come up with in 10 seconds:

    Nissan 350z
    Infiniti FX35
    Honda Element
    Pontiac Aztec
    Bangled BMWs

    You either love them or hate them. The Flex is such a design.

    I love the design but feel it is, as one commentator noted, a big too large. A 3/4 scale would be perfect, something to go after the Honda Element (talk about a useless rear seat – only seats two).

  • avatar
    kericf

    The Traverse is the ugliest of the 4 lambdas. The Saturn and GMC variant are much better looking. But seriously, why do we need 4 of the same thing?

  • avatar

    The Flex is a station wagon

    Could TTAC please avoid the marketing speak where it is totally inappropriate??? Please???

    Even the Traverse, although it has “crossover” cues, could probably be classified as a wagon.

  • avatar
    Orangutan

    All SUVs and crossovers are station wagons, David Holzman.

  • avatar
    wickedwindsor

    The Flex will make a great Hearse.

  • avatar

    I didn’t know the Flex was *that* big. Wow. Most vehicles boast you can fit the skis in their boot, but with this you could fit the whole team and equipment.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    This one is a toss up for me. The Chevy has a superior drivetrain and handling but rides a bit harsher. The Ford has clever interior packaging but looks like a box. The Chevy tows more while the Ford has slightly better seats and interior ambiance. Both are typically overpriced but so are many SUV/CUV type vehicles today. If forced to choose: a Traverse in higher spec LTZ trim with leather and a nice rebate on the hood.

  • avatar
    Mr. Gray

    Oh my God. The Flex has got to be the ugliest car I’ve ever seen. The Big 3 should have seen their troubles coming a mile away. How could they have expected to outsell Japanese auto makers when they just kept cranking out one soulless dud after another.

  • avatar
    ErRoc

    Both are priced too high. DCX wins from this competition though, the Dodge Journey is the best selling Crossover in Canada. While these 30k+ beasts have a small niche, the 20k+ Journey is doing well across the board. It’s not a minivan, but it’s roomy and cheap and looks great.

    These two are too highly priced and have a hate-it-or-love-it design that apparently is missing the mark. I saw this as a mistake from day one. Although both are wonderful vehicles and I personally don’t mind either, I didn’t see them doing that well, and they aren’t.

  • avatar
    treeski

    The Ford Flex looks like a coffin with wheels.

  • avatar
    LouisJamesNYC

    I’ve test driven both an Acadia and a Traverse. Came damn close to buying a Traverse. I don’t have a family, but I do have a business, and I need to move people and video gear around. I’d prefer to do so economically and not feel like I am driving a 10′ U-haul rental. Hence my look at the GM CUVs. Truth be told, a Honda Odyssey will probably fix me up fine. But then I’d have to deal with snickering from the sound guy, and perhaps give up some all-weather performance. Still not sure why the automakers have not succeeded in making a minivan with a bit more balls and bite. Seems like a very easy task rather than invent a whole new vehicle segment.

    Anyway, the Traverse rode quite well for such a large vehicle. Very car-like. Not sports-car-like, average base model car-like: the ones with the fat tires and steel rims. This is praise to the Traverse as it could have very well drove like a Suburban or a box truck. I figure the Traverse is not quite a Lambda for the slaughter, but I do think they should be cheaper. But can they really be with all that extra sheet metal? I mean these things are BIG, as every glance in the rear-view reminds you. If you need more cargo room, you’re gonna have to get something “Apportioned”. And take a whole new road test.

    I think the Traverse and its fellow Lambda’s will sell well. Not enough to save GM — too late, right? — but maybe enough to eventually dig it out of bankruptcy one day.

    The Flex is just too weird looking for your average family guy/gal to get behind. And somehow it doesn’t even suggest it can hold a lot of people and stuff. Or is that just me? Frankly I look at a Flex and see a maxi Mini Clubman, or an xB limo. Neither image says “SUV/van alternative”. Mini-van and wagons are not what these CUVs are supposed to be, but Ford sure has designed something that looks damn close to one. Strange.

    With prices at around $35K for an average Traverse (and $40K for the LTZ), GM sure has taken the utility out of the CUV recipe. If I’m gonna spend $40K on a vehicle, I’m getting a 335i, cargo needs be damned!

  • avatar
    tea rex

    Just ordered our 2010 Ford Flex Limited with EcoBoost (not included in this review) Design is exciting, technology is perfect and ride is incredibly comfortable.

    Very pleased.


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