By on July 22, 2009

The Ford Flex rides like a luxury car. It possesses a decent interior, with Ford’s surprise-and-delight SYNC 2.0 system. The Flex is also socially unimpeachable, tracing its roots back to the wagons synonymous with East Coast gentry for nearly half a century (Ralph Lauren has one). Six months ago, I purchased a new 2009 Flex Limited AWD, complete with the amusing second-row refrigerator. So far, I have been pleased as punch. It does everything from cradling my infant son to towing my race car with perfect aplomb. Not everybody likes the way the Flex looks. And? And it’s a little slow.

The Flex isn’t slow in the way that a Porsche 997 Carrera 3.6 is a little slow. I mean eighty-three-miles-per-hour-in-the-quarter-mile slow. Out on the mean suburban streets, the boxy Ford is easy pickings for everything from Honda Odysseys to automatic-transmission Cobalts. Under a full load of passengers, cargo, towing a trailer, the Flex makes continental drift seem like a sprint to the supermarket. A nice V-8 would liven up the party a bit, but transverse-mount V8s which make usefully more power than Ford’s 3.5 Duratec are thin on the ground (Volvo’s XC90 Yamaha V8 aside). The answer: EcoBoost.

The EcoBoost powerplant installed in the Flex isn’t like the engine used in the 2010 Taurus SHO. It’s the same thing, down to the part numbers, which means this EcoBoost’s a twin-turbo V-6 that turns out 355 horsepower and matches the existing naturally-aspirated 3.5 for fuel economy. Quarter-mile trap speeds improve by more than fifteen mph, making the Flex about as quick as a V-6 Camaro or Hyundai Genesis Coupe. If the standard Flex is “Walking With A Panther,” the turbo variant is “Mama Said Knock You Out.”

The advantages of a turbocharged engine are more pronounced at higher altitudes. Hence Ford’s decision to debut the 2010 Flex EcoBoost in Boulder, Colorado. Here, thirty miles from the Mile High City, the V-8 competition from Chevrolet and Toyota feels particularly flaccid, lumbering up hills that the Flex EcoBoost attacks with elan. It’s possible to achieve unreasonable pace in quite reasonable fashion—which isn’t really a surprise given the fact that this two-and-a-half-ton wagon is barely slower than an E39 BMW M5, albeit in a straight line.

Problem: the EcoBoosted Flex’s brakes are no better than those fitted to the Taurus SHO. In both cases, the lack of fade-free, confidence-inspiring retardation is a major chink in the vehicles’ dynamic armory. If a car’s only as good as its brakes, well, them’s the breaks. Of course, realistically, in this case, Flex owners are hardly likely to drive their so-not-a-minivan with any more determination than they would a . . .  minivan. Bonus! The EcoBoosted Flex’s suspension is actually an improvement over what you’ll find in the fastest Ford sedan.

Down long, sweeping turns, the Flex adopts a surprisingly neutral stance, adjusting its attitude at turn-in with just a little left-foot brush of the brakes. If things get too out of hand, the electronics intervene immediately and the “Trailer Sway” warning fills the two-line LCD display between speedometer and tach. It’s rather surprising just how high the intervention level for the RSC is set; I failed to activate it with a triple-digits late-braking slide into a turn marked at forty. You really have to get out of line before the Flex takes matters into its own hands.

Which leads us to the Electric Power Assist Steering (EPAS) and Park Assist. I don’t know how long it will take me to get used to the sticktion-free turn-in response of electric power steering. It feels to me like the tires have very tall tread blocks, an illusion brought on by the faster response of an electric system. But I could get used to Park Assist almost immediately. Cruise down a side street, press the Park Assist button, and the Flex will take it from there, operating the steering for you and providing direction in flawless fashion. It’s hassle-free and beats the Lexus system hands-down. So to speak.

For many drivers, the same will be true of the Flex. This forty-five-thousand-dollar wagon is fast, luxurious, quiet, feature-filled, and it even handles a bit. Ford paints the competition as the Chevrolet Traverse and Toyota Sequoia, but the truth is that the Flex exists in a little world of its own. No other car on the market offers its particular not to say peculiar combination of virtues. If you want a spacious, well-trimmed turbo wagon that parks itself and lets you talk to your iPod, the Flex is your only choice. At least, that is, until the EcoBoosted Lincoln MKT arrives.

My advice? Don’t wait. This isn’t just one of the best domestic vehicles money can buy. It’s one of the most complete cars for sale anywhere.

[Ford provided the vehicle reviewed, gas, insurance, transportation, meals and accommodation.]

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111 Comments on “Review: 2010 Ford Flex EcoBoost...”


  • avatar
    rpiotr01

    And the Ford love-in continues…

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    If gas prices go back through the roof, there might be a Ford Flex Ecoboost I4 2.0.

  • avatar

    Jack tends to love Fords, but it seems with reason. He didn’t love the brakes on the SHO–so his love is not unconditional.

    Jack–can you provide a bit more detail about how the steering and handling compare to those of the base Flex?

    I recently rented a base Flex for 2,500 miles. On flattish roads with six people in the car and no trailer, I didn’t feel that the regular V6 was slow. But then my driving style was not Baruthian. I averaged about 24 MPG in the thing. With a trailer and/or in the mountains I can see the need for EcoBoost.

    On the reliability front, the Flex got off to a decent start in TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey–about average. We’ll have updated results in August.

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

  • avatar
    trlstanc

    Lots of nice things to say about the Flex, but I think “turbo wagon” was enough to get me interested.

    I’ll have to go look up what the towing capacities are.

  • avatar
    Edward Niedermeyer

    rpiotr1: Love-in? Perhaps you’ve been missing the data diving.

  • avatar
    findude

    First time I saw a Flex was when I came out of a store and saw it parked next to my MINI Cooper. Nice two-tone scheme, there.

    Nice car, but too big for my needs. There isn’t a good mid-size wagon in the Ford line-up (and, no, I don’t count crossovers as wagons). Something with this styling, minus the 3rd row on the Fusion chassis would be interesting . . . .

    You really should include a photo of the interior, it is nicely executed as well.

  • avatar
    chaparral

    When did 16@83 become slow? That’s about as fast as my Miata and that moves along pretty well. I thought 21@60 was slow.

  • avatar

    Hi Michael,

    I will confess to being bullish on Ford’s current lineup. The last new vehicle they brought that I did not like was the current Explorer. And while Sajeev Mehta will fight me to the death on this, I think the D3 platform has spawned some excellent vehicles.

    Seriously… when you compare the lineups of the domestics, who has the advantage on Ford anywhere? The V-8 in the F-150 is pretty dismal compared to the competition, and the Lincoln MKS is a significantly less driver-focused vehicle than the Cadillac CTS, but what else are you going to say?

    Don’t forget that, alone of the domestic producers, Ford has:

    * A 2010 subcompact (Fiesta)
    * A competitive hybrid (Fusion)
    * Full-sized and mid-sized SUVs with IRS (Expedition/Explorer)
    * A ponycar that isn’t a quality nightmare or a two-ton scale-tipper

    Compared to the base Flex, the EcoBoost has the electric steering. This is one of those features that is difficult to explain to our readers, but the best way I can think of is to explain it as “inertia-free”. With conventional steering, when you start turning the wheel, you are picking up a certain amount of slack in the machinery and letting the hydraulics bring pressure to bear on your behalf. The EPAS mostly eliminates that, so the feeling is disconcerting. To me, it feels like there’s squish in the tires, because that’s normally the cause of low initial steering resistance.

    As far as the handling goes… it’s almost night and day. Louis Jamail, Ford’s chassis engineer on this job, took advantage of the long wheelbase to significantly stiffen spring rate and rebound control, with the latter increasing more than the former. The result is a Flex that is 10mm lower and much more “tied-down”, with virtually no ride penalty.

    I was really hoping that there would be some kind of drawback/trade-off for the EcoBoost variant, but the fact is that it’s simply better than my Flex, period, point blank.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    A: Sliding Doors.

    Q: What is the reason I own a Toyota Sienna and not a Ford Flex?

  • avatar
    rpiotr01

    Ed Niedermeyer: Didn’t see that actually. Just saw the earlier article about TTAC praising Ford for I guess giving TTAC cars to test drive, then a 5 star review for the Flex, which I just don’t get.

    Here’s my thing with Ford: I really REALLY want to like anything they offer right now (besides a Mustang convertible) but I just don’t. They seem to be doing OK and I like that they haven’t been bailed out and I want to buy American. But for the life of me I think they have the least appealing overall line-up of any major car company. I don’t want a sedan or a compact; all their SUVs look the same, and those models don’t look much different from a decade ago – and I mean that in a bad way. The Flex is an interesting design but I think it looks like a hearse. And the Edge belongs in the third layer of CUV hell (plus it’s pimped relentlessly by Derek Jeter around these parts… shudder…)

    I dunno, I guess it’s resentment that I think most of their products are unappealing but I WANT them to be good.

  • avatar
    holydonut

    I don’t think it’s a recent “love-in.” Rather the Flex really is a good ride. Read the original review of the ’09 on TTAC… 4 stars (but no complaints of slow-ness)

    Really, the biggest flaw of the Flex remains its price, looks, and general notion that it is not cross-shopped by minivan buyers no matter how much Ford wishes. Of course a $45K car usually isn’t targeted by full families on a budget.

    I think Baruth gives the Flex a 5 because he’s actually using the car. Justin’s original review gave the Flex a 4 out of sheer execution alone. Justin didn’t perform a single planned family event in the car and was still able to marvel at the execution of the car. Any customer who has to live with the car on a day to day basis is going to see even more merit in the little things that Ford did correctly in designing the vehicle.

    I’ve been recommending the Flex to anyone who is looking for utility but doesn’t want a minivan. Yes, the GM clones are good too, but I think the Flex is better. Countless Gen-Whatevers now-a-days loathe to picture themselves in a minivan. They usually opt for Pilots, MDXs, etc – but always complain about something major (utility, lack of legroom, high load decks, etc).

    Pity they aren’t considering Ford since they question domestic automotive prowess. The Flex ultimately meets and exceeds all their expectations. It has more room inside, gets similar mpg, has a well executed interior, is easy to load items into (especially for shorter women) and isn’t a minivan. But they can’t bring themselves to look stupid in front of their peers driving a car labeled as a domestic. That’s a shame.

    I am the only person in my entire company of 100 that drives a domestic (built in Canada no less). I think Ford has a long way yet to go in order to win back customers, but cars like the Flex are necessary to make it happen. Even if the Flex ultimately fails in the marketplace – it cannot be blamed that the car (as it exists in market positioning) was executed poorly. Ford needs to keep up the strong execution in all of its market segments. Eventually (or hopefully), customers will begin to realize their cars are as good (and often better) than comparables from the Import brands.

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    Enjoyed the review, Jack, but this comment had me thinking….

    this two-and-a-half-ton wagon is barely slower than an E39 BMW M5, albeit in a straight line.

    Barely slower than a car that runs 13 flat at 108 mph without an aggressive launch or powershifting, and 180+ delimited? Not sure what your definition of “barely” is, but 1.5 to 2 sec in the quarter mile and 10+ mph slower isn’t close. Now after an ECU tune….

    Maybe 540i drivers should be threatened, though….an amazing feat for a 2.5 ton AWD V6 crossover!

  • avatar
    jamie1

    A: Sliding Doors.

    Q: What is the reason I own a Toyota Sienna and not a Ford Flex?

    The same reason people quote for flooding out of the minivan segment. One man’s fish is another man’s poison!

  • avatar

    psarhjinian: Ford originally planned sliding doors but ditched them to use the costs associated on other items (higher quality interior, etc.)

    http://www.autoblog.com/2007/04/10/why-fords-flex-dropped-the-sliding-doors/

    Also, I’m not sure if the sliding doors would have given the Flex a minivan stigma. I’ve got nothing against Minivans, but many people do not want a Minivan just because it is a Minivan.

    I agree that sliding doors are a huge benefit when it comes to getting the kids in and out, and not having to worry about them swinging doors into vehicles.

  • avatar

    I’m pretty interested in a Flex, and it’s likely I’ll pick one up when they start coming off-lease in a couple of years. I’ll be interested in seeing how the EcoBoost motors hold up over time.

    The $48k Limited I just priced out is a little more than I’d like to pay, but it looks in line with MSRP for the competition.

    Glad to read that the turbo version is so nice. It gives me something to look forward to!

  • avatar
    Airhen

    I’m also surprised over the five-star rating as the review sounds like a four-star, not to mention that you reviewed a vehicle that you own? If I reviewed a vehicle I owned I’d probably be nicer as I don’t want to think I might have made a mistake. (lol)

    Plus, the Flex may be cool to some, but in five years will you still think that look is cool? The typical reaction I hear to the Flex is that it’s ugly. It’s not as bad as an Aztek, but it’s close.

  • avatar

    Jack Baruth : I will confess to being bullish on Ford’s current lineup. The last new vehicle they brought that I did not like was the current Explorer. And while Sajeev Mehta will fight me to the death on this, I think the D3 platform has spawned some excellent vehicles.

    Now Jack, we aren’t in disagreement there. You haven’t gone deeper into the discussion. My problem is with who makes it and why the hell they still do.

    The market is pretty clear: we’re not buying enough to keep you (D3 chassis) afloat. Worst of all, this sales turd sits on a unique platform instead of modifying the stellar Fusion CD3 chassis.

    This company’s strategic moves and underlying branding message is almost as terrible as GM, since almost everyone I speak to says the same thing: I’ll never buy a $35,000+ Ford, except for a truck, Shelby or a Ford GT. You know, the Ford’s that aren’t import wannabes.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    $40k – or a lot less – can buy a pretty nice minivan with more room and utility than the Flex.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    When I drove the Flex, I felt that it was the best car Ford made — the most “finished.” Well done interior, decent to drive, well thought out, great gadgets. Just a properly made car.

    Except that it’s a giant wagon. I have no use for this, and the Flex’s relatively slow sales underscore what I thought when I first drove it — people didn’t buy the Pacifica either, until the stripped out models arrived.

    I really don’t like the MKS or outgoing Taurus. My real question was, what if Ford had a regular car that had this level of effort and execution?

    I am eager to try the 2010 Taurus because I think it might be the answer to my question. Or not.

  • avatar
    holydonut

    psarhjinian: I think young, active kids should probably warrant a sliding door minivan… but it really depends on how many kids you have and their age.

    Most reviews of the Flex sort of label it as the car that families “step into” as the family gets older. I’m not saying the Odyssey is a worse/better car for you since I don’t know your purchasing needs. But most reviews basically point out Ford’s product positioning flaw. Basically the Flex wants to be a minivan but it can’t grab minivan buyers. And then the Taurus X stole the other type of customers right out from under them since the X was cheaper and offered similar utility.

    Read this review from Edmunds; it probably does the best job at explaining the differences between the Lambda Clones, a true minivan, and the Flex.

  • avatar
    NickR

    I have to confess, I secretly covet one of these, especially in the red & white two-tone picture here. This vehicle almost makes me want to have children, so I can take them camping. Eventually, I will prevail (on the vehicle) but it’s going to be a tough battle with my better half who thinks it looks like a hearse. The fact that a co-worker also used the word ‘hearse’ without prompting made matters worse. To me it looks purposeful and refreshingly free of affectation (compared to current SUVs and CUVs who, with each iteration, set new standards for hideous).

  • avatar
    rnc

    I am sorry, the Flex is nothing like or comparible to the aztec. Ford retroed a catagory (the old woody wagons) while making it modern, kindof like the mustang. It’s a love/hate car, I have no need for one personally but I am seeing more and more of them and they are moving in this economy and almost always the high trim models, I believe that is a good sign for the long term.

    And yes you can buy a minivan for less, blah, blah, blah. Give Ford some credit for taking a risk, could have built a RWD performance sedan (that G8 worked out well, and before the love fest on that one, just let us know if you own one) or to try and capture sales from a dying catagory by redefining what a family mover can be.

  • avatar
    nikita

    “$40k – or a lot less – can buy a pretty nice minivan with more room and utility than the Flex.”

    A 335hp AWD minivan? If room and “utility” is the only requirement, might I suggest a $30k Econoline Club Wagon.

    I see the Flex as a modern Country Squire, minus the faux wood, rather than a minivan replacement.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    @jamie1: and some manufacturers have fled the minivan segment as well. It’s almost as competitive as the mid-size car market and probably equally as profitable, which is to say barely.

    FWIW, both vehicles I drive have sliding doors.

  • avatar
    miked

    So Jack, were you at that big press junket at the St. Julian last week? I know I should have stopped by on my way home when I say all of that stuff out on the patio.

  • avatar
    gm0ney

    rpiotr01: The least appealing lineup? It’s all a matter of taste, I suppose – but you rank Ford below Chrysler? Good lord! Go sit in a Caliber for a few minutes (or worse, drive one around with the AC on through mildly rolling terrain). I used to be a big Chrysler fan, but their current lineup is a tragic embarrassment.

  • avatar
    toxicroach

    In 5 years, people will have gotten used to the Flex and will probably see it as slightly misbegotten at worse.

    The legendarily ugly Aztek actually looks pretty unremarkable these days. I know I was revolted when it came out— now, I wonder what the big deal was. It ain’t a pretty car, but it isn’t half as bad as people make it out to be. The shock of an unusual design repulses people at first, but eventually they come around to at least acceptance. And the Flex is really a handsome vehicle. It’s unusual, not ugly. I think cars will be taking cues from it in 5 years.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    The same reason people quote for flooding out of the minivan segment. One man’s fish is another man’s poison!

    This is true, but they’re not flooding to the Flex, either. Minivan sales may not set the world on fire, but they’re at least solid and consistent, and they’re a vital step on the path to keeping customers within a brand. Those people you sold a minivan to? The one that never, ever broke on them and got them through ten-plus years of hard family life? It’s going to earn it’s keep when the kids leave for college and those buyers are able to afford something discretionary.

    And let’s be honest, the Flex, even with sliding doors, does not look like a minivan. It looks like a station wagon, which from the perspective of Marketing is even worse.

    Ford originally planned sliding doors but ditched them to use the costs associated on other items (higher quality interior, etc.)

    I remember that. I find it a little hard to swallow since the Flex comes in more expensive than most minivans anyway and isn’t appreciably nicer than an equivalent Oddy/Sienna of the same price level.

    Either Ford has a cost problem, or they sacrificed sliding doors for things like a small, built-in fridge, or they’re just spinning PR for what really was a “we wanted to make more margin” decision.

    I think young, active kids should probably warrant a sliding door minivan… but it really depends on how many kids you have and their age.

    Sliding doors really are a wonderful thing regardless of your kids age, and especially in wider vehicles. When they’re young, it makes it easy to get them in/out of car seats in tight spots. When they’re older, it makes it easier to both keep them from dinging the cars next to you. For any age, it allows much easier access to the rear seat.

    There’s a practical limit on how long a door can be, especially on a wide car. Sliders remove that obstacle of design. I wish my Fit had them.

    I really liked the Flex when I had one for a day. I only had four real gripes:
    * It feels big, partly because of those massive wheels, partly because of the big nose, and mostly it’s seemed to be more truckish in it’s ride tuning. An Oddy or Sienna feels much lighter on it’s feet.
    * The dash ergonomics aren’t great, especially at night. There’s too many buttons and they’re all too similar in size and too close together (note: the Oddy has the same problem). The Sienna may look Playskool by comparison, but the controls are much easier to operate.
    * The big rear doors are a real problem.
    * It is expensive, and it’s expensive to keep. Pricing out snow or replacement tires was a stomach-churning proposition: they were more than four times as expensive as the Sienna’s 16-inchers.

    I could have gotten used to the first two because it really is very comfortable and quite attractive (to me), but the sliders and the tire cost killed it for me.

  • avatar
    gamper

    I own a Flex Limited, black with silver roof. I have nothing but good things to say about it. I have averaged over 22 mpg in mixed driving, the up to 25 mpg on the highway. Its smooth, quiet, SYNC is great, spacious interior expecially second row leg room, love the headroom as well. This is my first domestically branded vehicle that I have ever owned. My wife is the primary driver, and she loves it as well. Perfect for my family of 4. The NA V6 is plenty of power for my purposes.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    I’ll take one ticket to the Flex Love-in, please. I have liked the look ever since it came out, but I happen to be a big wagon fan.

    Nikita – the Club Wagon was a well-appointed vehicle through the mid 90s, but Ford stripped lots of the features out of it by the late 90s. I have yet to see one as nicely done as my old 94 Chateau. And since the sticker on my loaded 94 was 29K without leather, I would be surprised if you could find a well appointed one that stickers for less than $40K. If Ford would put the kind of thought into the E series wagon that it put into the Flex, it would be a heckuva family cruiser.

  • avatar
    educatordan

    Countless Gen-Whatevers now-a-days loathe to picture themselves in a minivan. They usually opt for Pilots, MDXs, etc – but always complain about something major (utility, lack of legroom, high load decks, etc).

    +1

    My girlfriend is 25 (I’m 32) and she HATES minivans and station wagons. (If you really want to piss her off tell her what a cute little wagon her Pontiac Vibe is. Although in my book it sure as hell ain’t a CUV like she thinks it is.) I’m pretty sure I could get her to test drive a Flex. (She professes a desire to have four children someday, currently has 0.)

  • avatar
    rpiotr01

    gm0ney: Depends on what you mean by Chrysler. I include Dodge and Jeep since they’re part of Chrysler, and in that case yes, I still think they have more appealing products than Ford. If it were JUST Chrysler then, yes, you win.

    Like I said, I know Ford quality is better. That’s not the issue. Just looking at their products inside and out, none of them do anything for me.

    The Fusion and Sebring might as well be the same. I wouldn’t want to own either of them before even getting to the quality issue.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    The Fusion and Sebring might as well be the same. I wouldn’t want to own either of them before even getting to the quality issue.

    Read Consumer Reports; the Fusion is actually scoring very well. And not “well, for a domestic car” but “in the top of it’s class”.

    The Malibu is a mixed bag. The Sebring, well, it’s testament to “if they cut costs where you can see it, they probably cut costs where you can’t”.

  • avatar
    shaker

    I’m sorry, but the “Wagon Queen Family Truckster” has spawned.

    The popularity of the vehicle surely hinges on its styling, but I think the problem is that the styling leans towards making the statement: “I’m big, I’m brash, get out of my way”.

    This will limit sales as much as the lack of sliding doors.

    The Funkmaster had a good run, eh?

  • avatar

    I don’t think you mentioned the lack of a telescoping steering wheel. That is the main reason I’d never consider this car.

  • avatar
    rnc

    They added the telescoping steering wheel this model year, see the review of the Flex Ecoboost on AutoBlog:

    “there was one change made on those two and the base SE Flex: the addition of a tilt and telescoping steering wheel.”

  • avatar
    rpiotr01

    Read Consumer Reports; the Fusion is actually scoring very well. And not “well, for a domestic car” but “in the top of it’s class”.

    The Malibu is a mixed bag. The Sebring, well, it’s testament to “if they cut costs where you can see it, they probably cut costs where you can’t”.

    I believe it. Not to keep repeating the point, but my only point is that if a person isn’t interested in sedans, compacts or CUVs, then the Ford line-up isn’t appealing. I don’t care if they’re the most reliable vehicles ever built, I just don’t like them. But I DO like the company and appreciate their efforts, so I wish they built more products I liked. That’s all I’m saying.

  • avatar
    rnc

    “I believe it. Not to keep repeating the point, but my only point is that if a person isn’t interested in sedans, compacts or CUVs, then the Ford line-up isn’t appealing.”

    This leaves SUV’s, small trucks and full size trucks who exactly is more appealing? The market kind of speaks for itself on this one, the Escape is kicking and F series trucks speak for themselves, while the larger SUV market was dealt a death blow last year that I don’t know if it will even recover from, there is however that hot minivan market they are missing out on.

  • avatar
    ronin

    Problem is I can buy a brand new Honda Pilot EX-L duded up with leather and AWD, for 30K. With the extra 15k I save from the Flex I can also get a brand new Hyundai Sonata. Both vehicles arguably with a better track record, by model and by company, than Ford’s.

    So, yeah, their price is nuts.

  • avatar
    Seth L

    Where’s the Transit Connect comparison?

    Heck where’s the Transit Connect?

  • avatar
    th009

    I personally think TTAC should have staffers review cars that they do not own. People buy cars because they fit their personal needs well — having those people review the same cars will tend to produce some bias, even if not intended.

    And, yes, even with the recent data deep dive, it’s starting to feel like Ford love-in around here.

  • avatar
    dcdriver

    To my eye, the Lambda quadruplets look more SUV-ish than the Flex, and I think more people prefer the Lambda look. (a remnant of our SUV love affair) I wouldn’t mind having a Flex, but if I’m going to spend that kind of money on a big people-mover, I’d choose an Expedition over the Flex. We currently have an 07 Odyssey EX-L, leather, cylinder deactivation, DVD, extended btb warranty which we got new for just under 30k so no need for a people mover for a while.

  • avatar
    th009

    carguy622: Ford originally planned sliding doors but ditched them to use the costs associated on other items

    Like maybe the 20 square feet of fake chrome?

  • avatar
    qfrog

    Ford does the turbo brick thing; well it seems.

  • avatar
    Axel

    “My advice? Don’t wait.”

    Advice duly noted, but I’ll get my hands on a used one for $20k, thanks.

    This is assuming we have four kids by then (currently zero).

    ronin : I can buy a brand new Honda Pilot EX-L duded up with leather and AWD, for 30K. With the extra 15k I save from the Flex I can also get a brand new Hyundai Sonata.

    If I pay you $500, will you haggle for my next vehicle? I’ll buy you dinner, too. :)

  • avatar
    ajla

    I think the Flex is Ford’s version of the G8: a well-liked vehicle with lagging sales. Ford might stick with it long enough to fix that though.

    However, the Flex Ecoboost is the equivalent of a G8 ST GXP. The market for people that want to buy a $45K giant wagon, with no European brand cachet, that runs a 14.4 quarter mile is very small. It’s mega-niche like a Town and Country 5.7L HEMI would be, or a 455-powered Vista Cruiser was back in the day.

    Making a vehicle like the Flex Ecoboost is the kind of stuff I’d expect from a company that employs Bob Lutz, not the one that supposedly has its head on straight.

  • avatar
    greenb1ood

    I like the Flex for what it is…but I hate it for what it isn’t.

    It isn’t Ford’s triumphant return to the minivan market. They were right to kill the current as they simply could ever catch up to the competition. The Windstar was a good effort but the Freestar was a complete piece of junk.

    If the bailouts had not occurred, I was looking forward to Ford paying top dollar for the Chrysler mini-van franchise in bankruptcy court. It would have finally brought the story of the minivan full circle and gave Ford a 25k-35k option for growing families.

    Maybe the Italians will run out of financing in a couple years.

  • avatar
    Axel

    “I believe it. Not to keep repeating the point, but my only point is that if a person isn’t interested in sedans, compacts or CUVs, then the Ford line-up isn’t appealing.”

    This leaves SUV’s, small trucks and full size trucks

    Um… hatchbacks and station wagons?

    See, once upon a time, auto makers took their existing sedans, and gave them a fifth door in back instead of a trunk, so you could load a bulky item that wouldn’t fit in the trunk opening or through the rear doors. OR, and this is the really wild thing, they extended the rear box of the sedan into a full-height, full-length cargo area, so you could actually carry more than a suitcase or three bags of groceries.

    Then Americans decided that sensible, practical body designs were “boring,” and they’d rather sit 15 feet above the road on a tippy perch and burn 25% more gas for the same utility.

    Focus wagon? Dead.
    Focus hatch? Dead.
    Malibu Maxx? Dead.
    Dodge Magnum? Dead.
    Taurus wagon? Long dead.
    Civic hatch? Dead and still mourned.
    Camricord wagon? Died in the Clinton years.
    Legacy wagon? Dead (in US)
    Outback? Suspended due to steroid abuse.

    What’s left? The Mazda3, Impreza, Elantra Touring, and a few subcompacts. And European models I’d go nowhere near. Pfffft.

  • avatar
    Areitu

    jpcavanaugh :
    July 22nd, 2009 at 11:59 am

    I’ll take one ticket to the Flex Love-in, please. I have liked the look ever since it came out, but I happen to be a big wagon fan.

    Me too

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Making a vehicle like the Flex Ecoboost is the kind of stuff I’d expect from a company that employs Bob Lutz, not the one that supposedly has its head on straight.

    Actually, that raises an interesting possibility: instead of an Ecoboosted six, how about a four, boosted or not, and equipped with a hybrid powertrain?

    There’s a big, honking gap in the hybrid market; a lack of sensible, three-row passenger haulers. Other than the Highlander (which is much more cramped) and the GMT900s (which are stupid), there’s nothing in-between. Surely there must be a market of Prius intenders who need to carry more than a few people?

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Then Americans decided that sensible, practical body designs were “boring,” and they’d rather sit 15 feet above the road on a tippy perch and burn 25% more gas for the same utility.

    Minivans more or less killed the large station wagon, and SUVs arrived slightly later to assuage the egos of people who have families, but can’t stand people thinking that they have families.

    Similarly, small, urban crossovers killed the hatchback. Both minivans and small crossovers are for most people than the traditional wagon because they, quite simply, hold more stuff despite weighing about the same and getting similar fuel economy.

    Think Mazda5, Kia Rondo, Nissan Cube. High roof, low floor, lots of utility.

    What’s left? The Mazda3, Impreza, Elantra Touring, and a few subcompacts. And European models I’d go nowhere near. Pfffft.

    Toyota Matrix, Kia Rondo, Mazda5, Chevy HHR, Chrysler PT Cruiser (for a while, at least). I don’t know if Kia intends a Spectra5 replacement or not, and the Honda Fit as more useful space than any Accord wagon ever did.

    I think we have to accept that, for good or ill, the low-roofer trend that started in the 1950s has finally (and thankfully, IMO) come to an end, and we’re finally back to cars of the style that existed immdiately post-war; the kind of car you don’t have to crouch down into, and the kind of car you can wear a hat in.

    Wagons are the obvious casualty of this, but they’re not the only one. Sedans have been losing the ass-on-the-pavement seating position, and crossovers (the Flex is one) are finally starting to lower their floor heights. Even Europeans are abandoning traditional wagons in favour of “space wagons” or “versos”.

  • avatar
    ravenchris

    45,000 dollars is ridiculous.

  • avatar
    Bob12

    Sporty 3-row AWD crossovers (I’m ignoring the minivan option just for the sake of argument):

    (Prices below are approximate MSRP)

    1) Mazda CX-9 AWD Grand Touring: $39,000
    2) Acura MDX with Sport Package (which includes Technology Package): $47,000
    3) Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost: $43,500

    (Did I miss any?)

    I don’t have time at the moment to do a feature-by-feature comparison, but all of the above 3 are pretty loaded.

    Looks like the bang-for-the-buck crowd would go for the CX-9, and the lux-brand crowd (and perceived-reliability crowd) would go for the MDX. I don’t see how Ford will be able to command this sort of pricing.

    P.S. I know that “nobody pays MSRP for a domestic” but you can get dealers to haggle on all of the above 3 vehicles.

  • avatar
    Vorenus

    If the brakes are that bad, this should be a four-star review, not five – EVEN IF the rest of the car is awesome, which it may very well be.

    By the way, I sat in a Flex at the NY auto show, and the seats were so comfortable, I made my friend try ‘em out. There’s probably no more comfortable way to endure a long highway trip than the Flex. Even if you’re not into these things, just sit in one.

  • avatar
    konaforever

    th009 :
    July 22nd, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    I personally think TTAC should have staffers review cars that they do not own. People buy cars because they fit their personal needs well — having those people review the same cars will tend to produce some bias, even if not intended.

    Wait until you see his upcoming review of a lime green Audi S5.

  • avatar
    rnc

    1) Mazda CX-9 AWD Grand Touring: $39,000
    2) Acura MDX with Sport Package (which includes Technology Package): $47,000
    3) Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost: $43,500

    1) 13k
    2) 13k
    3) 21k

    YTD sales for all models not just the top of the line ones, but would say that Flex is holding it own.

  • avatar

    @Vorenus: I did not “ding” the Flex a star for the brakes because they are as good as, or better than, what’s provided on anything else in the class. Compared to the Toyota Sienna that keeps coming up in the comments, the Flex has an inch and a quarter more front disc, which is a major difference. Yes, I can smoke them out, but I cannot imagine that anybody else on earth drives their Flex as quickly as I do, particularly when towing.

    @th009: The reason I did this test was because the 2010 Flex is not an all-new car. There’s nobody better-suited to determine the effect of incremental changes on a car than a current owner.

    Something I should mention, because it was edited out of the piece as presented: The vehicle that the Flex replaced in my household was an $81,700 Volkswagen Phaeton. There’s no minivan or middlin’ SUV that offers the feature set of the Flex, to say nothing of the second-row comfort. Replacing a Phaeton with a Flex may be an eclectic choice, but replacing a Phaeton with a Pilot or Odyssey is probably listed in psychological manuals as an actual pre-suicide “cry for help”. Comparing a Flex to an Odyssey misses the point to some degree. Nobody in the world wants to own an Odyssey. They are purchased by people who need space and are afraid of repair bills. The Flex is meant to be desirable on its own merits. Some TTACers find that concept offensive, whether it’s expressed in a station wagon or a 599 Fiorano. Sorry about that.

  • avatar

    I’m just not seeing the hearse thing. I mean yeah its boxy but is it any more hearse-like than any other wagon ever made? I’m far too young to be able to know, but was looking like a hearse ever mentioned in the glory days of the station wagon? Or are people just looking for reasons to hate?

  • avatar
    rnc

    I think some people on here (who are very knowledgable about cars) mistake themselves for the general population. If Ford provides a desirable/quality car it will sell regardless of origin of manufacturer, i.e. the first taurus, the explorer. You forget that b4 the Nasser disaster ford had the best selling vehicle in 6 out 10 catagories. They realized what they were doing wrong (basically copying GM)years ago and began to correct (you can burn a house down in an hour, but it takes alot longer to rebuild it), but alot of people have memories of a taurus and explorer in every driveway, the other 2 don’t have that starting point.

  • avatar
    DR

    “Don’t call it a comeback, i’ve been here for years!” Lady’s Love Cool J…thanks for bringing me back old school. That guy still rocks.

  • avatar
    Bob12

    rnc, sorry if my post was unclear. When I said, “I don’t see how Ford will be able to command this sort of pricing,” I was referring only to the EcoBoost-equipped Flexes. As EcoBoost is very new to the Flex lineup, previous sales figures can’t reflect its impact. Also, as you mentioned, the figures you listed are for full lineup only. A breakdown is important, since I am only referring to a portion of those sales.

  • avatar
    rocketrodeo

    I just came home from a day of flogging an Ecoboosted Flex around southern Michigan to find this review. Nice to see some validation. I keep doubting my empirical impressions of this vehicle because of Ford’s past history of disappointing me at the last minute with initially promising cars, but in this case it’s true: it really IS a great car. I’m even getting used to the floppy paddle shifters. If you don’t like the styling, the same car will be available in swoopier bodywork with a Lincoln badge in a few weeks.

    You really have to experience the second-row seats to understand what reviewers mean about the roominess and comfort. Ford provides carpeted wedge-shaped ramps to angle your feet comfortably, because the floor extends WAY out there. Even tall folks have to slouch to get their feet under the front seats. The seat comfort lacks little from the front seats–and the MKT’s seats none. I can easily see these becoming livery cars.

  • avatar
    Vorenus

    Fair enough, Mr. Baruth. I just interpreted you incorrectly.

  • avatar
    rnc

    If anything the same way that Acura and Mazda can’t, if those two have only sold 13k each through half of the year, what percentage do you think are top of the line.

    I see alot of Flex’s in my area (within one large city and a couple of smaller ones) and they are almost always the top of the line ones, glass roofs, etc.

    Your saying who would buy one of these over those two and I am saying alot of people are.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Nobody in the world wants to own an Odyssey

    Oh, I don’t about that. There’s a certain enjoyment in owning a good minivan.

    It’s not visceral, to be sure, but it’s still there. You have to appreciate the thing for what it is and how well executed it is for it’s intended purpose. There’s lots of people who want to own a vehicle that, in so many ways, makes their life very, very easy.

    The Flex does this, too. It’s effectively a minivan minus the sliding doors and with the addition of a butch nose. So is the Traverse, which is more obviously a minivan (park a Traverse next to an Uplander and it’s obvious). If you were honest with yourself, you’d say that the Flex is where your ego and your need for utilitarianism intersect; for others, they’re a little more down the utilitarianism curve and lust for a Sienna XLE AWD while others aren’t so self-assure and instead look to the Tahoe et al for validation.

    A telling car in this market is the Mercedes R-Class. In every way it’s better than the GL-Class with which is shares so much, and the R63 AMG is absolutely badass. But it doesn’t sell, and it’s purely because of the shape.

    Actually, I take it back. You’re right, I don’t want an Odyssey or Sienna. I want an R-Class with sliding doors.

  • avatar
    JMII

    What are TQ and MPG numbers of this package?
    Does it run on regular (87) gas?

    Refresh the Ranger (duh), put this engine in it and I’m SOLD! Are you listening Ford?

    I’ve owned two boosted cars: an Eclipse and Passat… and I’m sold turbo technology. Plenty of power and torque when you need it, but mild mannered with good mileage numbers under normal driving conditions. It’s a hard combination to beat, V8 power with V6 economy, its an win-win situation.

  • avatar
    Porsche986

    I have to say it… I like the design. It looks best in black on black… classy, long, interesting… Where I think it falls down is on price… it is quite expensive in it’s premium editions..

  • avatar
    ajla

    @JMII:
    What are TQ and MPG numbers of this package? Does it run on regular (87) gas?

    It’s 350lb-ft @ 1500RPM.

    EPA says 16 city, 22 highway, and 18 combined.

    IIRC, regular 87 octane gas is the recommended fuel for all the Ecoboost 3.5L applications, except for the SHO, which Ford says takes premium for maximum performance (although regular doesn’t hurt the motor).

  • avatar
    ohsnapback

    These and Volkswagen products of similar qualities are the most expensive ‘blue collar’ brand vehicles ever, in history, period.

    It’s insane what the MSRP is on them, and the real transaction price, even with heavy discounting, is ridiculous.

  • avatar
    th009

    Jack Baruth: The reason I did this test was because the 2010 Flex is not an all-new car. There’s nobody better-suited to determine the effect of incremental changes on a car than a current owner.

    I fully accept that you are well-suited to judge the effect of the changes.

    However, I still believe that to reach TTAC’s stated goal of “no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners automotive reviews” it would be best to have the primary reviewer be someone who doesn’t own or love that particular model or marque. But then I’m just a reader …

    Recent reviews of current models:
    - Ford Flex *****
    - Dodge Ram 1500 **
    - Subaru Outback **
    - Chevrolet Aveo *
    - Nissan Frontier ***
    - Ford Taurus SHO ***
    - Audi A3 ****
    - Toyota Prius *****
    - Ford Taurus ****
    - Porsche Cayman ****
    - Infiniti FX35 ****
    - Mercedes E-class ****
    - VW Jetta TDI ****
    - Opel Insignia ****

    The only cars worthy of five stars? Flex and Prius. Better than the A3, Cayman, E-class, FX35 and Insignia. And even the worst Ford reviewed merited three stars … are they really that much better than everyone else?

  • avatar
    meefer

    I just hope this engine can sound badass in the 2011 Mustang. If it can motivate a giant wagon like this…..Ford, you may be able to pry some money from me yet.

    Flex is a great car by all accounts, it’s just way too big for my needs.

  • avatar
    cjdumm

    I’m delighted to see Detroit selling a car that the likes of Jack Baruth can actually love, but I’ll never own one since our family maxed out at two kids.

    So I’ll sidestep the actual Flex debate in favor of something totally trivial:

    Were these photos taken from south Cherryvale Road, or farther west off of Baseline? As a former comrade in the People’s Republic of Boulder, I should be able to tell instantly but I can’t. (I even tried to Google Earth it, but I can’t get the skyline to look quite right.)

  • avatar
    P71_CrownVic

    The same reason people quote for flooding out of the minivan segment. One man’s fish is another man’s poison!

    Yeah…but it is kinda of stupid for Ford to call the Flex their minivan replacement and then carelessly omit sliding doors.

    The Flex, like all of the other (10) D3 vehicles that have been made in the past 4 years, is selling horribly.

    Ford’s big goof Jimbo Farley said that the Flex would sell 100K units a year. In it’s first year of sales, the Flex sold almost exactly the same amount as the Taurus X in it’s first year.

    And, so far this year, The Flex is on track to sell 40K units.

    By all accounts, the Flex (like all other D3 vehicles) have been HUGE failures. Heck, the Grand marquis…a major money maker for Ford, outsold the Montego and the decontented Sable. Ford has lost so much money on the D3 platform…because the vehicles are so boring (and way too expensive). The public has spoken, the D3 is a platform that should be taken out back and shot.

  • avatar
    P71_CrownVic

    IIRC, regular 87 octane gas is the recommended fuel for all the Ecoboost 3.5L applications, except for the SHO, which Ford says takes premium for maximum performance (although regular doesn’t hurt the motor).

    WRONG!

    Ford recommends PREMIUM in the egoboost engines.

  • avatar
    ajla

    @P71:

    You are correct. Ford recommends premium for the 3.5L Ecoboost. My mistake there.

    Although it seems like they can run okay on regular gas, albeit at a diminished power level.

    Interestingly, the EPA has the Ecoboost Taurus and Flex listed as taking “regular gasoline”. So unless the website is mis-labeled, I take that to mean they did not use high octane fuel when performing the mileage tests.

    So the mileage numbers come from regular gas, but the engine output numbers come from premium gas? That seems odd to me.
    ______

    @Jack Baruth:

    When you tested the SHO and Flex Ecoboost, did Ford happen to tell you what octane was used, or if it was E10 or straight gas?

  • avatar
    th009

    P71_CrownVic: The Flex, like all of the other (10) D3 vehicles that have been made in the past 4 years, is selling horribly.

    Thanks to the deep dive, we have data! First twelve months’ (after model introduction) sales for D3-based cars …

    Five Hundred: 98,256
    Freestyle: 68,157
    Taurus X: 41,018
    Flex: 29,734
    MKS: 20,078

    And the latest 12 months:
    Taurus: 38,132
    Flex: 33,139
    MKS: 21,058
    Sable: 13,745
    Taurus X: 13,627
    XC90: 12,278
    S60: 6,210

    That’s a grand total 138,189 cars for the seven different models built on the D3 platform in a one-year period. Or less than the number of C-class Mercedes built in one year …

  • avatar
    hp12c

    So I guess this is the car Ford wants me to buy when our ’07 Freestyle wears out, which has been a very good vehicle for our current needs despite lukewarm reviews and apparently tepid sales. Of course after they fixed the biggest drawback to the Freestyle (lethargic engine/tranny combo) during the Taurus X refresh, they kill it after two model years (amid zero advertising support) because maybe it’s just a little too competitive with the Flex. Will I pony up $40K for this this thing? No way.

  • avatar

    @hp12c: Item for item, the Flex is about $2K more expensive than a similarly equipped Taurus X. A base Flex can be had for $28K.

  • avatar
    LastResort

    My question, can I get an EcoBoost Flex without all the SEL and Limited accoutrement?

    I don’t need Voice-Activated Navigation System, a Sony® Audio System, 10-way power heated perforated leather-trim bucket seats, or a Leather-wrapped steering wheel. I wouldn’t know what to do with Ambient lighting, LED taillamps, or HID headlamps. And I certainly don’t want to maintain Chrome skull caps on mirrors, Satin-Aluminum appliqué on liftgate or the 20-inch Wheels.

    Hell, even the SE has way more than I want. I don’t want power seats.

    Even better, can I get it in manual? DSG?

  • avatar
    holydonut

    What the heck is going on with the crazy pricing comparisons in the comments? I mean it sounds like you guys are taking unequal content weighted cars and comparing them trying to draw a conclusion.

    The Ecoboost AWD is the highest of the high end Ford Flex trim levels. You can’t even get an engine remotely that powerful in a Pilot. So the logic is “I don’t need an engine that powerful, so I can get a Pilot instead because the Pilot is cheaper.” That is the weirdest, most convoluted logic ever.

    Why don’t you compare a non-ecoboost Flex to a Pilot? The price gap will not be so huge as to allow you to purchase 2 cars for the price of 1. Here are some MSRP values with Destination and with bland paint schemes. I’ll let you guys figure out how your negotiation skills will allow you to arrive at a net-of-all-discounts price.

    – ————

    Base FWD Pilot starts at $28.6K.

    Base FWD Flex starts at $29.3K.

    – ————

    “Touring” (Highest Trim) AWD Pilot is $39.3K without options (but really, it’s already pretty loaded)

    “Limited” (non Ecoboost) AWD Flex (with Vista Roof option since the Pilot Touring has a moonroof while the Limited Flex has no hole in the roof) is $41.3K

    – ————

    Balancing options is tough, so it’s really hard to judge what would be the equivalent price since the option bundles vary.

    But option bundles are beside the point. My point is that comparing the Fully Loaded Ecoboost versus a mid-line competitor option is like comparing house prices in Houston versus Venice Italy. I understand that to get Baruth’s 5 stars that you need to get Ecoboost. But the Flex is still a 4-star car with the regular V6. The new Pilot is mediocre (really, sit in one and decide if the interior is better inside than a Flex)… it got 3 stars from TTAC.

    Or, if you want sliding doors… then strike the Flex off your list for failing to have sliding doors.

    Last Resort: You must get a Limited in order to get Ecoboost. (Or get that Lincoln clone and pay even more)

  • avatar
    rudiger

    If Ford built a Crown Victoria station wagon with a Mustang V8, wouldn’t it be essentially the same thing (except for a whole lot less money)?

    Just sayin’…

  • avatar
    BDB

    Flame away, but I like how this car looks and think the Lincoln MKT looks even better. Yeah, I said it.

  • avatar
    akear

    It seems everyone else hates this vehicle.

    Strange…….

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Hey guys,

    I just had to add this: I sat next to Jack on his test drive. My camera guy and Ford Chassis engineer Louis Jamail were in the back, and my camera guy had about 150 pounds of gear behind us. Jack is a big guy (I’m guessing in the 200 pound club), I’m a slobbish 235 and Louis (who’s built like a boxer) said he weighs in at 250 pounds. My camera guy weighs about… 113 pounds. Wet.

    So, we’re talking about 1,000 pounds of stuff on board.

    We’re scooting along at about 90 mph (though it felt like 55 mph) when we see a yellow 25 mph recommended sign in front of a long, sweeping right hand turn. I couldn’t see Jack’s face, but I know I was grinning. We entered the curve at about 70 mph and Jack held that line and that speed and actually got the tail to drift a bit.

    My point? Louis the chassis engineer said that Jack was the first journalist to ever impress him as a driver. Ever.

  • avatar

    Actually, Jonny, Louis said I was the first journalist to ever impress him as a douchebag. It’s just that I made a coughing noise and said “driver” at the same time, to confuse the issue.

    I’d also like to thank Louis for showing me the benefits of Prairie organic vodka. That’s solid, hangover-free stuff.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Oh yeah, douchebag… right

  • avatar
    KnightRT

    We’re scooting along at about 90 mph (though it felt like 55 mph) when we see a yellow 25 mph recommended sign in front of a long, sweeping right hand turn. I couldn’t see Jack’s face, but I know I was grinning.

    I hope you guys don’t die. I enjoy your writing, but I’m having premonitions of “test drivers wrap themselves around pole” on the internet dailies. I wonder if base-jumping wouldn’t be a safer way to pass the time.

  • avatar
    rocketrodeo

    FYI: You can get an ecoboost Flex without the Limited package. No refrigerator, no airconditioned seats, no nav, no HIDs, no brushed aluminum applique. You still get the same suspension. It’s several grand less, and with the usual Ford discounts available it’s conceivable you could get it for well south of $40K.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    Well, if Jack does wrap a vehicle around a tree during a review drive, a Flex, Taurus, or other D3 chassis vehicle would be a good choice. While the platform gets some negative press for its weight, what gets lost is that it is probably the best platform out there currently from a safety standpoint.

    The D3 vehicles all get top marks in NHSTA and IIHS crash tests, and come airbags front side and head curtain, stability control, and more crash, roll, and yaw sensors than you can shake a stick at standard.

  • avatar
    hp12c

    Jack Baruth :
    July 22nd, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    @hp12c: Item for item, the Flex is about $2K more expensive than a similarly equipped Taurus X. A base Flex can be had for $28K.

    Good point – $28K is much more palatable. I guess my sticker shock stems from the fact that I bought our year-old Freestyle as a Ford CPO for less than 60% the original MSRP. If the Flex suffers from similar depreciation then it would be make for a good used buy.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    “The public has spoken, the D3 is a platform that should be taken out back and shot.”

    And replaced with…what? Rear wheel drive performance sedans? Ask Pontiac how well that worked.

    Stone-age body-on-frame sedans? Last I checked, the ones Ford’s selling now ain’t exactly lighting up the sales charts.

    You’re right about why the Taurus and Sable didn’t sell – the first problem being boring styling – but there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with these cars mechanically. They’re not exciting to drive, but neither is a Camry, and that’s the best selling car in the country.

    And let’s not forget that there’s a new Taurus coming out that is big, good-looking, comfortable and roomy, with a V-6. The most popular model will probably sticker out for $28,000 or so. At the same price point, its competitors (Accord and Camry, primarily) offer four-bangers and less room. That sounds like a competitive product to me.

    People don’t buy platforms. They buy a car. No reason why people won’t buy this car just because of the platform.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    And replaced with…what?

    This is well-said.

    People harp, I feel, unfairly on the D platform because it doesn’t sell, and because the Panther is cheaper to make, forgetting that the reason the D didn’t sell is largely due to incompetent marketing and that Ford wasn’t making money on the Panthers at retail, and that they are bad cars for most people, and pulled them for that reason.

    Saying that they should have improved the Panther with the money spent on the D is kind of disingenuous as well; to make the Panther into a car that people would like to drive would require excising a lot of the virtues that make it appealing to fleets and would result in something very expensive that looked a lot like the D3 anyways.**

    Zero-sum game, I’d suspect. And Panther fans would still bemoan the loss of the “real” Panthers.

    ** Ford already had a big, premium rear-drive platform (DEW98) and it cost them a dime and sold even more poorly because their buyers just didn’t care.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I’d also like to thank Louis for showing me the benefits of Prairie organic vodka.

    And in a pinch you can run your E85-capable car with it.

  • avatar

    FreedMike : People don’t buy platforms. They buy a car. No reason why people won’t buy this car just because of the platform.

    Platforms make cars, in this case they make expensive, gigantic and mostly undesirable cars.

    To answer your question, if Ford can’t make a car that’s profitable in this niche, abandon it. Gone. Focus (pun intended) on the value aspect of the Ford brand, from Fiesta to Fusion.

    This isn’t Ford’s time to be pissing away money on this niche.

  • avatar
    kahuna

    Just test drove the non-Ecoboost Flex today. Strange vehicle. THE DRIVING POSITION IS ALL WRONG! You sit low, the greenhouse is small, with a low roof but high beltline, but then the windshield is flat and far away. The A-pillers actually compete with the outside for your visual focus. Not good.

    The steering wheel was rental car plastic cheap, you could feel the mold lines.

    There was no connection whatsoever to the car or to the road.

    The rolling living room aspect was cool, but five stars? This is really not an enthusiast’s car.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Sajeev Mehta :
    July 24th, 2009 at 1:06 am

    Platforms make cars, in this case they make expensive, gigantic and mostly undesirable cars.

    To answer your question, if Ford can’t make a car that’s profitable in this niche, abandon it. Gone. Focus (pun intended) on the value aspect of the Ford brand, from Fiesta to Fusion.

    This isn’t Ford’s time to be pissing away money on this niche.

    Let’s look at why some of these cars were “undesirable.” The old-gen Taurus’ biggest problem was its looks. The new one is a looker, so I’d guess it’ll sell SUBSTANTIALLY better than the old model.

    The MKS’ biggest problem was lack of power, and the new turbo engine should cure that issue.

    As far as the Flex goes, my suspicion is that this vehicle isn’t really meant to compete with people movers like the Odyssey – it’s a “step-down” vehicle for people used to driving gargantuan SUVs with big, badass power. The new engine will help in that respect.

    In terms of size, you forget that in the volume midsize sedan market, the heavy hitters here, the Accord and Camry, aren’t a whole lot smaller than the new Taurus. In fact, that market has been marked by one distinct trend: upsizing. EVERY player in this market is introducing bigger cars so that the buyers who are trading down from huge, roomy SUVs feel comfortable in a sedan.

    Both Camry and Accord are only a few inches shorter than the Taurus, and both are classified as “large cars” by the EPA. And considering that the Camry, the top-selling car in the U.S., is by no means a driver’s car, I don’t think the Taurus needs to carve apexes like a 3-series BMW to compete.

    That leaves some discussion about the Fusion, which is a nice piece, but size-wise, it shares the same problem that held back the old Mazda 6 it is based on – it’s not competitive size-wise with the Camry or Accord. The midsize sedan market is moving up size-wise, and the Fusion isn’t. That leaves the Fusion for people who aren’t necessarily into big cars, and the Taurus for people who are.

    Makes sense to me. Give ‘em a chance.

  • avatar
    johnthacker

    Stone-age body-on-frame sedans? Last I checked, the ones Ford’s selling now ain’t exactly lighting up the sales charts.

    Not lighting up the sales charts, but I’m pretty sure that the Town Car and the Crown Vic are profitable for Ford, not least because of limo and police sales due to their stone-age body-on-frame nature.

  • avatar
    NickR

    And, uh, yes please Ford install this engine in the Mustang very, very soon.

    Just curious…does any know what the value in today’s dollars would be of a fully loaded wagon from the back in the day, e.g., a fully optioned 69 Kingswood Estate? I’d be interested to see that for comparison.

    $45g does seem like a LOT of money.

  • avatar

    FreedMike : The new one is a looker, so I’d guess it’ll sell SUBSTANTIALLY better than the old model.

    Agreed on the looks, not on the sales. The platform is still bigger outside and smaller inside than its competition. And expensive.

    And no amount of greenwashing is gonna make Ecoboost look better. Its mean, but I’ll say it: you can’t polish a turd. Even Ford knows the drill, they are already saying the 2010 Taurus will come with incentives.

    And for you people saying this motor should be in the Mustang/F150/Ranger…just you wait until the Coyote 5.0L V8 hits the streets in about a year. It’s big-displacement Ecoboost with the Eco, not the boost.

  • avatar
    James2

    I got to see a Flex up close. I like it. Despite the intentional boxiness it doesn’t seem gimmicky like, for example, any of the Bangled Bimmers. Even my mom, who cares nothing about cars, remarked positively about the styling. It caught her eye, unlike anything else on the road. I suspect it’s catching a lot of retinas, but Ford’s got to work on the marketing, the pricing… and the weight (Autoblog says it weighs 4839 pounds).

    As for the minivan comparisons… name one that Baruth would want to take into a corner at 2.5 times the posted number. The OdySie would be howling in pain just at the thought while the Kia Sedona we rented would just politely decline to participate.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    Kahuna – Just wondering – how tall are you? I ask because having driven many-a-flex, the position is one of the most natural I have ever felt. Myself, I am a hair over 6′ and admittedly, most of that is torso, so that might somewhat amplify my heigh in the seat.

    I am in love with the seats on the Flex, I wish Ford would install such wide and comfy thrones on every vehicle in which they fit in the range.

    If you felt low, and if you were in any model but the base SE, it is worth mentioning that by simply pushing up on the middle of the ‘back and forth’ button of the electric seat adjustment, that the seat would have raised at least a good six inches, giving you a higher driving position.

    Selling Flexes, I have encountered a number of objections, such as ‘it looks like a hearse’, ‘it looks like an overgrown Scion’, ‘It’s as ugly as sin’, etc, but none have been about the driving position or the actual driving dynamics. In fact, most people do a complete 180 regarding their feelings about the vehicle after they actually drive one.

  • avatar
    agenthex

    As for the minivan comparisons… name one that Baruth would want to take into a corner at 2.5 times the posted number. The OdySie would be howling in pain just at the thought while the Kia Sedona we rented would just politely decline to participate.

    It has nothing to do with Baruth. Most people are simply unaware of how fast modern cars can be driven (which is also why wannabes boasting car a is faster than car b is especially hilarious). The honda van, like all honda cars, has fairly good tuning for reasonably quick driving and could’ve taken the corner at comparable speed if not more.

  • avatar
    blautens

    Comfy seats? I’m with P.J. O’Rourke on this one – if you’re tall (I’m 6’4″ or so), it feels like the top of the seatback curves around and makes you hunch.

    Couple that with being slow, no telescoping wheel, 18 MPG in my routine driving, and the $40k price tag (for the one I had for 2 weeks), and it’s unlikely to get me excited. It was REALLY uncomfortable for me.

    It’s not a bad car. It got a lot of things right. The interior is very nice looking. The leather seats with contrasted stitching look nice (but again, uncomfy for tall people). But it’s really boring.

    The same money gets me a new Lexus RX, and a much better dealer experience, with vastly better resale. It’s boring too. But the steering wheel has power tilt/telescope with memory – and it gets out of the way automatically when I drag my gangly legs under it to get out.

    Much less rear space behind the second row, but I’m only interested in seating 4 very comfortably (numb).

    A swing and a miss…

  • avatar
    PaulieWalnut

    @blautens:

    A new, telescoping steering wheel and, i believe, new headrests have been introduced for 2010. They’ve also dropped the ride height by 10mm and fiddled with the suspension but i don’t know if that’s only for the ecoboost version or not.

    Perhaps you should take a second look?

  • avatar
    pacificpom2

    If you want to see the next iteration of this technology, check out the 2010 Ford Falcon (Oz). This car will have a Twin Turbo Ecoboost 4 cylinder 2 litre engine slotted in where a 6 cylinder 4.0 litre engine used to live. So it will be the sole RWD Ford running the ecoboost engine before the Mustang gets it. The Falcon slots in size wise between the Fusion and the Taurus. It will be intersting to see what the marketing and advertising gurus will come up with to shift the driving population from large cars with 6, 6 turbo and 8 cylinders to a large car with a twin turbo 4 and 8 cylinder engine.

  • avatar
    urS4red

    Just curious…does any know what the value in today’s dollars would be of a fully loaded wagon from the back in the day, e.g., a fully optioned 69 Kingswood Estate? I’d be interested to see that for comparison.

    http://www.gmphotostore.com/1969-Chevrolet-Kingswood-Estate-Wagon/productinfo/53217348/

    http://www.1969chevy.com/wagons.htm

    http://www.adclassix.com/a3/69chevroletkingswoodstationwagon.html

    The CPI was about 40 in 1969 and is 215 today. $1 was worth a little more than 5 times its value today. I believe that the most expensive Kingswood was about $4000. In today’s dollars, the Kingswood would be about 21,000. It seems that the Flex is grossly overpriced by comparison. (I understand the safety, environmental and efficiency improvements.) In addition, the white Flex’s look like major appliances. The Kingswood is beautiful IMHO.

    Full disclosure: I learned to drive on a Kingswood Estate Wagon. It had the “basic” 427. There was actually a choice of 2 (and some say 3) 427′s, in addition to the 327, 350 and 396. (It did have the hideaway headlights.)

  • avatar
    Mike Askins

    CPI? Cars lasted 75K – 100K miles before they were considered total clunkers (if they didn’t rust out first). Typically multiple expensive repairs plagued cars of the 69 era. Thank GOD cars cost more (initially) and have improved reliability for long term lower cost of ownership. I remember my Dad’s 66 ford Esquire Station Wagon. Nice to look at, but the 289cu in Carborated V8 was constantly stalling, took forever to warm up and seemed like it spent a lot of time in the shop getting fixed. When you add the real cost of ownership of a 66 Ford Wagon to the price of a new FLEX you MIGHT think you have a better deal with the 66 Wagon, but in reality you’re not. In fact if Ford ran its company on 1969 efficiency they would have been bankrupt long ago. In this fast paced world, cars have to WORK! Additionally common items like AC were non existant in 1969. In fact you got 1 speaker AM radio, no auto door locks, ABS, Air Bags and on and on and on. Heck not even radial tires were included.

    The Flex is proof that Ford is “getting it.” I can buy any car I want, and why would I spend 20+K or more for a German or Japanese name, when I can get the comfort, quiet, reliability and flash of a Flex?

    Time to buy American! Can’t wait for the Eco-Boost to show up in Texas.

  • avatar
    RogerB34

    What did the engine drive like and mpg?
    Direct injection should be a significant improvement in engine performance eliminating pumping loss due to the butterfly plate.
    Proper place for the engine technology is in the Fusion/Milan or similar. Few Felx will be sold.

  • avatar
    mrmojo

    So I just picked up a fully loaded 2009 limited (dark ink blue) – rails instead of moonroof. I got it with a $14000 discount (employee pricing and it was a demo with 13km (8100 miles). it took me while to convince my wife to take it seriously…she was not enamoured with the looks -she thought it looked like a (you guessed it) a hearse! But it grew on her and the test drive convinced her.

    I don’t know if I would pay MSRP – mmm – probably not but for the price we paid, it was hands down the nicest 7 seater – I was considering the CX9 but with the same options it was priced into high 40′s.

    I love the SYNC. I am also tall, 6’3″ and find it more comfortable and more roomy than any other SUV I’ve sat in. I sat in the Veracruz and the Pilot and I felt confined, ughhh. The Asian carmakers just can’t make cars for tall people!

    Its roomy – its comfortable, it drives well and for its size its fuel effeciency is OK. I can’t wait to go on a long trip!

  • avatar
    pookie

    Could someone expand on the ride and steering differences between the Ecoboost and non-Ecoboost equipped variants?  Specifically, which one has easier, lighter steering?  And does the “suspension retuning” that comes along with Ecoboost make the ride noticeably rougher or bumpier?  No one including the dealer can explain this to me and it’s real important as I decide whether or not to get Ecoboost in my imminent purchase.


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