By on February 26, 2010

A few years ago Ford decided that its survival depended on making bold moves. They decided to stop simply doing what they’d always done. Well, at least some of the time. One bold move: replace their minivan with the world’s largest Scion xB. Another: instead of offering a V8, twin-turbocharge and direct inject a V6. Then combine the two to offer a 355-horsepower family hauler that really hauls. Intriguing. But does the Ford Flex EcoBoost make sense?

The EcoBoost looks much like a regular Flex, only with 20-inch alloys and dual exhaust. This isn’t intrinsically a wheel-centric design, so the larger alloys don’t greatly enhance the Flex’s exterior appearance. It’s a look that some people—usually men and including this author—really like, and most others—especially women and including this author’s wife—really dislike. Neither group will mistake it for any other crossover. Perhaps it should have been a Volvo? The Swedes once did an excellent job peddling bricks to housewives.

The interior is unchanged from the un-boosted Flex, except for shift paddles added to the steering wheel. Just as well, since this is perhaps the best interior in any Ford. It’s in harmony with the exterior and the vehicle’s mission. Materials, if not quite luxurious, are good enough to not come across as cheap. There’s plenty of room in the high-mounted first two rows for four adults (five with the bench version). The amount of headroom borders on ridiculous. The big cushy seats provide long-distance comfort, though four-way adjustable lumbar support would be a welcome addition. The outer inch of the seating surfaces in the Flex SEL appears to be vinyl—wear shorts in hot weather and your skin sticks to this inch but not the rest of the surface. In the more expensive Flex Limited, the entire seating surface seems to be genuine cow hide. Unlike in the related Lincoln MKT, there’s also enough room for a pair of adults in the third row—but they’ll have to sit knees up. The “way back’s” main shortcoming: it only seats two, not three as in minivans and GM’s large crossovers. Each outboard seat gets its own reading light—popular with the kids.

The Flex also excels at hauling cargo. Every seat except the driver’s quickly and easily folds to form a flat surface. Even with the third row up we had enough space behind it for all our luggage last summer—the deep well otherwise used for stowing the third-row seat gives the Flex an advantage over most competitors.

Not once during 1,500 miles with my family in a rented Flex last summer did I catch myself thinking, “What this thing really needs is more power.” Instead, I found that 262 horsepower hitched to a 6-speed automatic is sufficient to motivate 5,000 pounds of vehicle, people, and luggage. After all, the Flex is a minivan substitute, not a sports anything. So what’s the point of another 93 horses?

A week with the EcoBoost left me still searching for much of a point. The stopwatch will report zero-to-sixty in about six seconds. But subjectively, 355 horses have rarely felt slower owing to the Flex’s size, shape, quietness, and mass. The sound the engine makes at full tilt doesn’t encourage aggressive throttle applications. Even if the engine had a “come hither” voice, hooning a Flex just doesn’t feel right. At part throttle in the midrange, the Ford EcoBoost V6 sounds downright pedestrian, even a tad cobby. On the plus side of the ledger, nothing about the feel of the engine provides even a hint that it’s turbocharged.

Responses aren’t exactly snappy, but this is due to the transmission more than anything else. One thing I did wish for in the regular Flex was a way to hold the transmission in a specified gear—with six-speed automatics Ford gave up on the old 5-4-3-2-1 gear selector. With the EcoBoost, you get not only the ability to manually shift the transmission, but paddles with which to do it. While I don’t see using these often for aggressive driving, the paddle shifters could come in handy in hilly terrain.

Ah, yes; hilly terrain. There’s none to be explored near where I live. If there had been…or if I’d driven the Flex EcoBoost well above sea level…or if I’d had a trailer hitched to the back, then the EcoBoost no doubt would have earned its keep.

What about the “Eco” part? In the front-wheel-drive Flex I averaged 23 miles per gallon with a mix of 10 percent city, 90 percent highway. Ford claims no penalty for the EcoBoost engine. The trip computer reported 17 MPG in suburban driving and 22 in highway driving, quite good for a 355-horsepower 5,000 pound brick. Based on the EPA ratings, the EcoBoost’s mandatory all-wheel-drive and not the engine itself is responsible this drop.

Still surprisingly good for such a powerful, heavy vehicle.

With all-wheel-drive the Flex chugs through deep snow as if it’s not even there. A few times I drove with one set of tires on the plowed road and the other two on the unplowed shoulder—just because I could. Goodyear Eagle RS-As aren’t known as a spectacular snow tire, but when carrying 5,000 pounds they grip well. Couldn’t feel a thing through the wheel or the seat of my pants. Problem is, you never feel much through the steering wheel on any road surface. Communicative Ford’s EPS system is not. Weighting is pretty good, though; for what the Flex is, it’ll do.

The regular Flex feels a touch floaty. For the EcoBoost the suspension has been lowered 0.4” and firmed up as much as the chassis engineers felt they could get away with. Consequently, the float is gone, body motions feel much more tightly controlled, lean in turns is minimal, and grip is decent until the outside front tire overloads and the vehicle lapses into oh-so-safe understeer. Still not an invitation to hoon—even with a tighter suspension the Flex feels huge and far from agile. Credit not only its size but the distant upright windshield. Think that the Scion xB and Nissan cube feel surprisingly roomy? Well, apply the same configuration to the truly large vehicle, and you’ll feel like you’re navigating more than driving. On top of these factors, I’ve yet to drive a car on Ford’s D3 platform that didn’t feel ponderous. I suspect it’s the suspension geometry. The Mazda CX-9 and even the largest-and-heaviest-in-class GM Lambdas feel more tossable (though this is most certainly relative). For the sake of evaluation I pushed the Flex hard enough around a curvy circuit to sink fuel economy below ten. But would I ever drive a Flex this way otherwise? Probably not; there’s not much fun to be had here. The primary benefit of the tighter suspension is in driver confidence and safety on challenging roads, not in driver enjoyment. The chassis is certainly competent, but not entertaining.

There is a cost to the EcoBoost’s additional body control. The ride never becomes downright harsh, but the EcoBoost feels more jittery over the small stuff and reacts more abruptly to larger bumps. Pairing the stiffer suspension with 19-inch wheels might yield a better compromise, but with the EcoBoost only 20s are offered. In any Flex and in the related Lincoln MKT impacts often reverberate through the less-than-rigid body structure.

I’m a fan of the Flex. The styling keeps growing on me, and the room, comfort, and interior flexibility are indisputable strengths. But does it make sense to spend another $3,800 to EcoBoost it? In the end, this decision becomes a surprisingly practical one. I’m aware that some people are entranced by the combination of a massive vehicle with a powerful engine—a friend had Lingenfelter supercharge his Hummer H2. For me, a pair of turbos and stiffer suspension bits do not transform Ford’s supersized brick into a driving machine. Driven the way such vehicles are typically driven, where they’re typically driven, the extra power simply won’t come into play. And I didn’t much enjoy pushing the Flex EcoBoost harder. But if you need more power and control for mountains, high altitudes, or towing, then the Flex EcoBoost makes more sense than a normally-aspirated V8 would have.

Ford provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gas for this review.

Michael aresh owns and operates TrueDelta, an online provider of auto pricing and reliability data.

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73 Comments on “Review: Ford Flex Ecoboost Take Two...”


  • avatar
    cardeveloper

    Flex is an awesome utility vehicle. For a family traveling machine, it gets the job done, very well. Exterior styling doesn’t get it for me, but that interior is incredibly functional and well put together.

    Ecoboost is a waste… Engine suddenly becomes very complex, and increases the risk and cost of system failure. It’s mileage is not any better then a well tuned V8 (see Chrysler’s MDS 5.7L Hemi), and doesn’t have the same torque available as a V8. Paddle shifters on the flex crack me up. What, one driver out of 50,000 will even know what they are for? Maybe one in 250,000 drivers will use them more then once? that was a stupid stupid decision!

    I would love to see a direct injection system with variable tuned valves, like the MDS and how much mileage could be achieved and still generate some real power.

    • 0 avatar
      rehposolihp

      “It’s mileage is not any better then a well tuned V8 (see Chrysler’s MDS 5.7L Hemi), and doesn’t have the same torque available as a V8″

      Don’t kid yourself about those torque numbers.

      That twin turbo v6 puts out a none too laughable 350 torques whereas the 5.7′s put down between 390 and 405ish. Yeah, they put down marginally more, but its not like going from a wenkel to a oil burner.

      Also, the fuel economy of a Jeep Commander 5.7L Hemi (which is just a brand name…not a real engine design) is 14/20 vs 16/22 for the roughly same weight, awd Flex.

  • avatar
    the_gamper

    I own a 2009 FWD Limited, black with silver roof. I have two kids, numer three on the way. The Flex is a great family hauler, a modern day Country Squire. I agree that the Flex simply doesnt beg to be driven hard, in any conditions, so the need for more power just isnt really a factor. It is incredibly comfortable though and that is probably what most people are looking for in a family hauler rather than performance. I typically get low 20′s for mpg in mixed diriving, very good for such a large vehicle.

    One area I will disagree with though is the 3rd row seat leg room. I am 6 feet tall and I have sat in the 3rd row in comfort on a few occasions. I dont find it to be cramped at all. Not to mention that the second row seats slide forward if you really need more leg room in the 3rd row. At least they doe when equipped with captain chairs rather than a bench.

    I will be the first to admit that the Flex’s styling is not for everyone, but I love it, and love that it is distinctive. I think a lot of folks who are turned off by the styling may very well change their mind if they tried it out. It is simply a great all around vehicle for a family, offering comfort, great interior, excellent utility and good fuel economy (relatively speaking).

  • avatar
    jaje

    Ford has done their homework on the Flex offering something unique in the marketplace. This is a revelation from a company that give us the Aerostar, Windstar and Freestar (3 very poor and cheap attempts to compete in the minivan market). The Flex gives people a choice who do not want a minivan and have the gall to not buy an SUV like every other soccer mom.

    Another vehicle I really like is the Element. It gets even better mileage and is much lighter than the Flex – though it is only a 4 seater (unless they finally made the rear row take 3 seats).

    Though both of these boxy family / utility haulers have unique looks – both are well executed. And most of the gripes against these vehicles are really superficial (most complain about their looks).

    • 0 avatar

      Aerostar, Freestar, last generation of the Windstar, I’ll give you those, but the first generation of the Windstar was a good minivan.

      Now that I think of it I’m surprised they didn’t call the Flex the Flexstar ;)

    • 0 avatar
      James2

      I’m have some experience with the Aerostar as a cargo van. It was great. Even with the antiquated Vulcan V6 it could drive with some surprising gusto. It was significantly more agile (more car-like, one could say) than the full-size Chevy van the business also owned, while being able to carry just a little less of a load.

      But then the AOD transmission froze while backing into a parking space. Oh well. Other than that, it was fine. I guess the Transit Connect is the spiritual successor as a ‘just right’ cargo van.

  • avatar

    Actually, the EcoBoost does benefit fuel economy compared to a V8. The EPA rated the Magnum AWD 15/22, while the Flex EB manages 16/22. Seems close, but the the Flex has more frontal area and weighs about 800 lbs. more. I’d guess that the improvement is 10-15%, so two or three MPG.

    I’m also not sure what you mean about not having the same torque available. There’s 350 lb-ft from 1,500 rpm on up.

    The paddle shifters are useful for the reason noted in the review–they provide a way to select a specific gear, which could be useful in hills and mountains.

    TrueDelta doesn’t have data on the EcoBoost yet. The 2009 Flex has required an average number of repairs so far.

    About our Car Reliability Survey:

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

  • avatar
    crash sled

    MK, don’t swat Ford for finally investing a little cash in Powertrain. They’ve been putting lipstick on those same engine/transmission pigs for a 1/2 century, it seems.

    And developing this engine slowly, and incrementally spreading it out as they seem to be doing, is a good idea. You get to charge for it, “full” price, in the Flex, for those who want it. And, you don’t pay massively to tool up at the front end, until you know directionally what your strategy will be, and the market will tell you that. Like Mullaly says, “The data will set you free.”

    Ford was way late with a next gen 6. Waaaaaay late. But they appear to have recognized their sins, and are taking action. And if they take action profitably, and within a solid business model, more power to ‘em.

    Let them play with their 6′s, and see where it takes them. See what the truckers say, eventually. I see this as responsible product development, not anything to be disparaged. Powertrain is the backbone, and Ford ignored this throughout the SUV craze. Digging out of that hole is the challenge now.

  • avatar
    dswilly

    This is probably the only American car I would consider buying since I have a growing family and need to consider this size vehicle soon. I see these driving around and always catch myself thinking they look pretty smart, like a giant Mini clubman.

  • avatar
    NN

    Those that are really into cars tend to really like the Flex, as I do. But sadly, the public does not…sales are dismal. I hope to pick one of these up 2nd hand for the wife and kids in a few years.

    • 0 avatar

      What does your wife think of the Flex?

      The pattern I’ve been seeing is that men often like the Flex, but women don’t, and since she’s the one who’ll be driving it…

      I rented one last summer and had this one for a week. Wife remains thoroughly uninterested. She loved the Lincoln MKS I had the following week, though.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      Michael –

      I will quip in from the sales-floor perspective. Your suspicions are correct, generally men gravitate towards the design while women are turned off by it. I’m not 100% sure why, as plenty of women were happy to drive around in rather boxy and masculine looking H2s, Suburbans, and Expeditions just a few years ago. I’d think the station-wagoniness of the Flex would make it somewhat more accessible to most women, while still giving them that boxy SUV edge, but who knows.

      As far as the Ecoboost goes, the big benefits are bragging rights and highway passing power. The regular 3.5 V6 is by no means slow, but if you do a lot of highway driving, especially in states where the average speed on the highways is north of 75mph, the extra oomph makes for a lot more confidence in overtaking someone.

    • 0 avatar
      educatordan

      My soon to be wife has an irrational hatred of wagons, I have no idea why. The Flex and the old Taurus X are just SUV/CUVish enough for her to be alright with it. Now I can see myself getting one when my brood swells to at least 3 or more but it would likely be dads ride, she really likes the styling of the Lambda triplets from GM and wants a large family. She and I both come from families that buy vehicles and then keep them till they’re used up.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Michael, I think you’re right about the Flex appealing to men. I really like the looks of this car, and showed it to my kids, who loved it too.

      Then I brought my wife, whose tastes run towards funky, modern designs, to see it. I figured it was a slam dunk. WRONG!!!

      But she loved the Lincoln MKT. Go figure. At least she has great taste in men.

  • avatar
    Kamaka

    I hugely applaud Ford for making an Ecoboost version available. Gotta love fast boxes. I really like the look of the Flex and I especially love the white roofs!

    I do think the Flex is a great spiritual successor to the Taurus/Sable Station Wagons. A great wagon for five people, seven in a pinch, long as a yacht with a huge view out.

    One quibble, is that the automatic tailgate rod in the 4th and 5th pics, left of the rear opening? It looks terrible, like the stick you keep in an old wagon when your gas struts give way and you don’t feel like fixing them again.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Wonder how well Ford’s twin turbo setup will age. Hard working, hot running, expensive turbos are failure prone, usually just after the manufacturer’s warranty matures.

    The added pressure one turbo imposes on engine internals can be damaging. It is unlikely two turbos will improve engine longevity.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      Gardiner -

      The turbo setup in the Ecoboost engines is hardly hot-running or hard-working. The turbos are water-cooled, and are being utilized so far beneath their maximum threshold that the Ecoboost engines don’t require any extra maintenance compared to the NA version of that same engine.

    • 0 avatar
      educatordan

      I would trust Ford’s longevity with this setup until proven otherwise. I remember back in the late 90s Mustang fanboys were complaining that Ford was leaving dozens of horses on the table with the GT cause they didn’t want to overstress the engine so it would live longer. Personally that was a very comforting thought for me. If a company was willing to leave HP on the table in the interest of trying to make an engine live a few hundred thousand miles instead of just making it to 100,000, that’s a company whose products I want to buy.

    • 0 avatar
      OM617

      if the engine is designed with a turbo in mind there is no reason why a turbo-charged engine can’t last for a long time. The turbo in my car has been running for 25 years and hasn’t needed any maintenance after close to 400,000kms. The fact it is a diesel helps of course.

    • 0 avatar

      These turbos aren’t working hard. I don’t think they’ve limited output to maximize the durability of the engine, though. I think they’ve limited output to save the transaxle. I’m surprised they were able to get the transmission rated for 350 lb-ft, and don’t think it’s a coincidence that the engine is rated for such a nice round number. No doubt this was the target the transmission engineers were given, then the engine was programmed to hold at this limit.

      It would be interesting to see what they could tune this engine for in a RWD configuration. 400 horsepower / 400 lb-ft, where it would overlap with the new 5.0, should be easy. The V8 should be cheaper to produce and sound much better, though.

    • 0 avatar
      srogers

      I used to have an ’88 Saab turbo, and knew several other people with similar Saabs, and none of us had replaced turbos yet at 220,000 to 300,000 km. (~140,000 – 190,000 miles).

      If Saab could do this in the late 80s, the technology should be reliable today. Hopefully.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Totally red herring.

      Provided the engine was designed for turbos, no reason to fear there. This isn’t the 80′s, and these turbos are not producing that much boost. Hopefully Ford is specing synthetic oil.

      I have owned about a dozen turbo cars over the years, from an ’82 Volvo to my current ’08 Saab, both gas and diesel. I have never had to touch a turbo in any way. And that includes several non-water cooled old-style turbos. And some of these cars had 200K miles or more on them. Sure, there are some cars that tend to have early turbo failures (lpt Saab 9-5s, for example), but that is due to underspec’d parts and service, not anything intrinsic to the design.

      It’s like fuel injection was in the 70′s – cars with it seemed exotic, and got a reputation as expensive to fix. Now it is the norm. Small-displacement turbo engines will be the norm in another 10 years or so – they are as close to a free lunch as you can get in engine design. Power when you need it, without killing fuel economy with a honking big engine when you don’t.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      Is there headroom in the injectors for chiptuning some extra boost?

      (in MB Diesel speak, the equivalent would be getting bigger injectors and tweaking the ALDA for higher fuel delivery, assume that would all be done in ECU now)

      (Is this powertrain common with other cars in the lineup, enough to take advantage of their aftermarket upgrades? Like how the Mark VIII can take some if not all of the modular Mustang stuff?)

  • avatar
    FleetofWheel

    The Flex rightly has function dominate the design, hence the logical space-maximizing rectangular shape.

    Let’s hope no wacked out stylists at Ford decide that what the Flex needs is a low coupe roof with the resulting space and visibility killing curves.

  • avatar

    Love the looks of the Flex myself. As you noted, the women I query about it don’t like the styling. Give them an Explorer they say. Boo.

    The one thing that always surprises me about the Flex is how large it is. Every time I see one it’s like I forget how big they really are.

    • 0 avatar

      Yep, the proportions are deceptive. It’s very tall, with an insane amount of headroom inside. The large wheels further throw off the human eye.

      Back in the old days someone would have chopped one of these by now–you could lower the roof at least 4″ and still have plenty of headroom for 90% of all people.

      Getting into this one for the first time, my wife referred to it as a Kenworth.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I found the Freestyle to be a lot lighter on it’s feet, and indeed lighter than the Edge, Flex and CX-9. I think that it’s because of the feet in question: the Freestyle wore 17″ tires; the others were 19″+

    I found the same with the Sienna and Venza. The Sienna, on 16″ wheels, just seemed lighter and more nimble than the Venza on 20″. Maybe I’m imagining it, but those big rims and big tires have to have an effect.

    There’s a lot of nice touches:
    * You’re right about the seats. Even the base, fabric ones are very good.
    * The doors are large and the step-in is low. The Lambdas feel much more cramped and the step-in is higher.
    * The doors extend right to the ground. No dirty pant-legs in this car

    The other quibbles I had with the car:
    * Cargo space isn’t great, not next to a minivan. You can carry four people and a lot of stuff, or six people and very little stuff.
    * The side doors are big. In tight parking lots, this is a problem. Pity the Fairlane’s sliders didn’t make it.
    * The ergonomics aren’t great: the buttons are small, labelled with small type, and identically-sized.

  • avatar
    dswilly

    My wife hates it.

  • avatar
    JMII

    I want this engine in a Ranger sized truck complete with paddle shifts! Then what kind of mileage would we be looking at? 18/24 or maybe even higher? If Ford did that I’d be first in line at the dealership to trade in my Dakota V8 (12/18 mpg). Note I said “Ranger-sized” an F-150 is too big for my needs.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    The Flex is shockingly expensive, IMO.

    And I’ve seen less than a dozen of them on the road since it was introduced; they can’t be selling well.

    I don’t need the world’s largest xB; I have the original.

    • 0 avatar

      They sold only 2,452 in January. In comparison, GM sold 4,075 Buick Enclaves, 5,460 GMC Acadias, and 5,724 Chevrolet Traverses. Honda and Toyota each sell about 4,500 of the Pilot and Highlander, respectively.

      In other words, GM currently owns this segment.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      You’re right about the price.

      The Flex is a costly vehicle even in base trim and it’s playing in a market (family transport) that tends to be price-sensitive. The old Freestar had a lower point of entry, as do just about all the minivans and several of the Flex’s competitors.

      Within Ford, I suspect the Flex loses a lot of sales, especially among young, less-wealthy families to the Escape within Ford simply because the Escape does 90% of same work and costs a hell of a lot less. A few more get lost to the Edge, which does the empty-nest couple thing better.

      Pity, because it’s a nice vehicle. I think it’d sell more if Ford decontented it (smaller wheels, less brightwork, less features) to the point where it could undercut at least a Sienna CE.

    • 0 avatar
      educatordan

      Yes the Flex is pretty stinking expensive and I think that’s sort of Ford’s barrier right now. However, if the long term quality pans out, if the keep up the quality of the interior materials, figure out how to profit on the low production numbers, then Ford will be around another 100 years.

    • 0 avatar

      The Escape is a far smaller vehicle. You could as easily argue that Nissan loses a lot of Armada sales to the Rogue.

  • avatar

    My Escalade ESV returns over 20mpg on the highway with a V8, 8 passenger seating, huge cargo capacity and real ability to tow. I’m not seeing the “Eco” in the Ecoboost, as I anticipated, turbos aren’t really fuel savers or V8 replacemnts and shouldn’t be peddeled as such. Although I like the daring look of this vehicle I too cannot really see a point in it when Ford has a bunch of other people movers available. It looks like the sale numbers pan that out.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      The ‘Slade also gets a rollickin’ 13 mpg around town, and costs around $20,000 more than a Flex. If someone’s really into towing, then yeah, a truck-based SUV is a better choice, but these new CUVs can do all the people and cargo-hauling duties, plus it’ll get better mileage, handle far better, and be easier to get into and out of.

    • 0 avatar

      I used to agree with those points until I bought one. I’ve never been sold on the fuel consumption of crossovers based on long-term tests I’ve read versus real SUVs.

      You’re right about traffic fuel economy, it is around 13mpg and I drive in a large city during rush hours, but then again nothing aside from light little four cylinder cars and hybrids returns high fuel economy numbers while sitting and idling in traffic. I really doubt a twin-turbo V6 Flex will return a much higher number doing the same thing on the way to work. I find the normal ride and handling to be quite good too. The more you drive these vehicles the more they “shrink”. Many crossovers I have tried are just as wallowy as truck-based SUVs, only without the capability. The Flex could be different, again for similar fuel consumption as a truck-based SUV I think you’re giving up a bit in durability and capability.

      Anything I said about my vehicle can be said of the Tahoe which is definitely in the same range as the Flex pricewise.

  • avatar
    pb35

    I would consider one of these but my wife is not a fan either. So, we keep the V8 XC90.

  • avatar
    ajla

    What we need is a Tahoe Hybrid 4WD versus Flex Limited Ecoboost comparison test.

    • 0 avatar

      The Tahoe is ungainly compared to the Flex, and it’s third row is much more cramped.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      @MK:

      Don’t forget that the hybrid SUV brakes feel weird, even compared to the usual Ford braking technology.

      Still, I think it would be an entertaining comparo to read.
      _________
      The Tahoe could land a few punches. Hooked up to a trailer, I’d bet the Tahoe is more comfortable than the Ford. The Tahoe also sounds decent. It might win the MPG battle too.

      And, you get all those cool “Hybrid” stickers

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      How about a Tahoe hybrid versus a standard Tahoe?

      Personally, I think the real comparison here would be Flex Ecoboost / Buick Enclave / Toyota Highlander / Mazda CX-9 / Hyundai Veracruz.

      I haven’t driven the Flex, but I have driven the MKT Ecoboost, and if it drives anything like the Lincoln, it would really shine when it comes to performance, particularly in this group.

  • avatar

    A used Taurus X gets you nearly the same thing at half the price without the polarizing styling.

  • avatar
    educatordan

    I actually rode in one of these on a trip to Chicago in October, 4 adults and our luggage was picked up at the hotel by a Flex Limited non-ecoboost model. Black with white roof (VERY nice looked like it was wearing a tux) black interior, rather somber but high quality materials (which is what I really care about anyway). The ride was quiet and the Flex handled itself well in the 45 min ride to the airport over not exactly smooth pavement. You seem to get your money’s worth on the Flex and if the souls bemoaning the demise of the Panther platform could get over it, they would find a nice quiet luxurious ride in the D3 vehicles. I don’t know how they would work as cop cars but for everybody else, I think it would be a slam dunk, if they would only give them a try.

  • avatar
    missmySE-R

    Michael (or anyone else with a Flex) – Did you happen to notice the way the bottom of door panels curve and fit into the body when closed? Saw this at the Chicago auto show last weekend and can’t remember seeing another car with a similar configuration. Seems like it might collect water/snow and potentially be a hazard to the little ones that would be using these doors most frequently. I’m guessing the net benefit of this is that it limits road noise, but it seems unusual to me. Thoughts?

    • 0 avatar

      It’s very different, and I took a couple of photos in case I decided to go into this detail. What I find interesting is the huge flat body surface you then see when the door is open–looks very sturdy, even if the frame doesn’t always feel perfectly rigid when driving.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Hey, Mr. Karesh –

    Did your wife like the flowers?

  • avatar
    the_gamper

    The door frames are designed to protect your pant legs. The sill stays clean as it is protected by the wrap over from the door. Road salt, mud, etc will all be carried away with the door when you open it to keep you pants nice and clean. It works.

    To comment on the women vs. men discussion. My wife absolutely hated the Flex at first due to the styling, didnt even want to test drive it. I convinced her to drive it and not long after than, one ended up in my driveway. The utility, comfort and upscale interior of the Flex make it easy to overlook the quirky styling, at least for those who give it a chance.

  • avatar
    NickR

    My wife hates it too. Anyway, I don’t really need something this large (no kids) but I like the sound of all that headroom.

    “What, one driver out of 50,000 will even know what they are for? ”

    Given some of the Congressional testimony we’ve heard, I can see them causing great distress for some people. tap, tap, tap “Oh my God, the car starting slowing down for NO REASON and the engine was RACING.”

  • avatar
    Z71_Silvy

    *If* this vehicle is as good as some say it is (I wasn’t impressed in the least by it…it’s a very bland vehicle), why is it missing it’s sales targets by ~60K units a year?

    Is it because it’s overpriced? Not that practical? A very poor choice for a ‘minivan replacement’? The poor exterior and interior design?

    I mean…the old, ancient Explorer is out selling it…again.

    • 0 avatar

      Read the comments. It’s because women tend to dislike the exterior design. People generally do like the interior design and find the Flex practical.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt51

      This vehicle bombed because Ford management is clueless. Anything less than 50,000 units a year, is a loss, and production will not be continued very long.
      Some say they like it, but not enough to buy it. Twin turbo complexity vs V8 simplicity. I am not buying this overpriced Edsel.

  • avatar
    KitaIkki

    Wish Ford has kept the concept’s “Fairlane” name.

    Doesn’t look like there is room for a spare tire.

  • avatar
    joe_thousandaire

    Maybe the reason for Americans well-known dislike toward wagons actually comes from women. I wanted an AWD Magnum, my wife insisted on a Charger instead. I like the Flex, every woman I’ve ever talked to about it says its hideous. From the comments here it looks like a major trend. Remember that women were a huge part of the SUV craze too. Just ask any H2 owner why he bought the thing, they’ll pretty much all tell you “cause the chicks dig it”.

  • avatar
    crash sled

    I remember when Flex was in development, and all the eccentric designers were swooning over it. The marketers were all geeked up, as they were certain it was one of those much sought after “game changers”. When you get all the geeks, of any variety, all on board and revved up, WATCH OUT.

    How these guys could have missed that women don’t like this vehicle is stunning. Then again, it’s not stunning, as Ford in that era was clueless. They let those square-glasses Design guys run product development, and they let the Marketing guys set the cycle plan. Flex is their peas-day-resistance.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Good write up. I remember reading somewhere that the Ecoboost turbos had a shelf life of 120K miles and are not hard to swap out. Of course this could be listed under extreme use but not sure on that. A good rule of thumb on any turbo engine new or old is to run synthetic oil and to let the engine idle about a minute after getting on it before killing the ignition. This prevents coking in the turbos oil shaft bearings which eventually leads to starvation and failure. Water cooling the turbo helps in this regard. I wonder what Ford recommends for fuel requirements for this engine. Detonation is also lethal to turbo engines but I would bet these can run on 87 gas without harm.

  • avatar
    tkb01029

    So I’m picking up my 2010 Flex SEL / EcoBoost tomorrow afternoon… Blue with silver roof, black (sort-of) leather, fancy roof and trailer package.

    Three years with my 2007 Acadia was OK but closest dealer is more than 50 miles away – even after GM reinstated some of their stores. And actually, the dealer services I was receiving kinda sucked anyway.

    I am really a Ford Guy, so the purchase decision was not too difficult. I hope the Flex proves a bullet proof as my Fusion SEL V6 which has only required oil change maintenance for 70K miles.

  • avatar
    donm168

    What I want to know but haven’t found out yet is whether or not a Flex Eco with trailer package is safely capable of towing a travel trailer that exceeds the nominal limits. I have a trailer I tow on occasion and would be willing to accept modest performance while towing if I knew the box it is fastened to won’t let it go while I am not looking. I currently use a Yukon which handles the trailer well but I spend most of the year wishing it weren’t an suv.

    • 0 avatar
      tkb01029

      I have a 2010 Flex EcoBoost and factory trailer package. 4500 pounds is the limit. You exceed that at your own risk. And you also have to pay attention to the GCVW – what you tow and what all else you have with you in the vehicle. Brakes, chassis and engine cooling system become over taxed. I tow, infrequently, a boat and trailer right at that limit and it seems fine – the trailer has surge brakes – so even the braking does not seem quite so compromised. A travel trailer is another situation all together – unless it is an Air Stream – you are towing a brick so you are really going to cook the engine and transmission at highway towing speed if you exceed recommendations. Even if you don’t fry the drive train you will at the very least shorten it’s useful life.

  • avatar
    donm168

    Thank you for taking the time to answer me. The 4500 pound limit is not going to work for me, I guess. The trailer is, in fact, an Airstream but even with its own brakes, weight distribution hitch and unique profile, the weight limit will exceed the 4500 pounds by a considerable amount. Really disappointing, because I thought the Flex would be otherwise exactly right for us.

  • avatar
    tkb01029

    wait a couple of months and get a new Ford Explorer

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      5000 lbs max on the new Explorer, not much different.

      Me, I’ve never owned a vehicle with a trailer hitch, though, so what do I know …

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      If you need to regularly tow something over 5,000 lbs you should really get a BOF type SUV or a pickup truck. Yes, the gas mileage and road manners won’t be as nice, but that is what those vehicles were built to do.

      Look at the radiators and cooling system on a F-150 or Expedition vs any CUV. The fullsize SUVs and Trucks are designed to deal with heavy loads over extended periods of time and to do so without causing damage or excess wear on the driveline. The fully boxed frames underneath are designed to hold up to the stresses of big loads over time without flexing the vehicle body, and the rear suspensions are designed to take a lot of abuse without bottoming out or becoming damaged. A Flex or 2011 Explorer could likely handle over 5,000 pretty easily for occasional use or short trips, but if you need big towing power, buy something that was designed for it.

  • avatar

    “…Ford claims no penalty for the EcoBoost engine..”

    BS, PURE BS.

    Ford marketing doublespeak.

    Absent the turbocharging a DFI engine can have a ~12:1 compression ratio. With a proper DFI CR this engine could have improved hwy FE in the range of 20-30%

    As it is today this engine will run in detuned/derated mode 99% 0f the time, sacrificing off-boost STELLAR FE for rarely needed(***) WOT HP/torque.

    *** Except for those with a “boy-racer” mentality and deep enough pockets (and a bit stupid!)to pay the $4,000 to $7,000 preminum to get an Ecoboost equipped Ford.

  • avatar

    “…With all-wheel-drive the Flex chugs through deep snow as if it wasn’t even there…”

    This particular type of F/awd does not engage the rear drive capability except during low speed acceleration or during low speed turns. This is a pre-emptive measure since those are the PRIME times wheren FWD vehicles otherwise are the most HAZARDOUS to drive in wintertime adverse, slippery roadbed, conditions.

    You will soon discover that the F/awd system is virtually useless for the times of real need since the TC system is so highly tuned to take INSTANT measures, dethrottling and braking, to restore traction on the front wheels.

    Loss of traction on the front wheels is such a DIRE threat to live and limb it MUST be abated ASAP.

    I would suggest to anyone owning a vehicle with this type of F/awd system that a switch be added to disable the system, thereby extending FE. Only enabling the system, DIRECTLY engaging the system, bypassing the automatic mode entirely, when road conditions warrant All-Wheel-Drive functionality.


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