By on November 8, 2011

Thought the Flex’s 2013 update would be a subtle tweak? Thought Ford might even tone down its freakiest minivan alternative? Think again, fool. Beaten down by jive turkey crossovers with less personality than a dealer finance rep, the Ford Flex has been hitting the funkmaster hard in hopes of working up a little sales mojo. But will a new, more design-appropriate front-end do the trick? Will this update put the Flex back on shopping lists? Or is the big box CUV still just too freaked-out for the familial mainstream?

 

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69 Comments on “What’s Wrong With This Picture: 2013 Flex Hits The Funkmaster Edition...”


  • avatar
    mike978

    I don`t see the restyle harming sales! It will appeal to a small section of the crossover buying public, but that is all it needs to do when Ford has the Explorer, Edge and Escape to satisfy those wanting a more conventional design.

    • 0 avatar
      VanillaDude

      The Flex was aimed at me, a minivan owner/hater with a large family. But try as I do, (I just stopped by last week to look at one), I am a little put off by it’s size and style. It is too big and it looks like a bathtub/refrigerator.

      I am now pricing Lincoln MKTs, which appear to me to be a baleen whale, but with no one buying them, priced unbelievably low and an unbelievable value.

      I am leaning MKT over Flex right now.

  • avatar

    I foresee no significant change in the Flex fan base. People who liked the original will like the revision, while those who haven’t liked the Flex won’t change their minds.

    BUT the revisions should make current Flex owners more inclined to trade theirs in for a new one. So sales will benefit.

    • 0 avatar
      mistermau

      I hope so. More current owners trading in means a better chance of finding a well-priced used example for me.

      • 0 avatar
        Felis Concolor

        After test sitting and driving a few of them, I knew regardless of how well the market takes to them now, the Flex is destined to become a used car classic. I once just curled up in the 3rd row w/a good book for an hour to test its rear seat comfort and was astonished at how well it can hold a 5’11″ adult. The skylight only makes things better, as it adds a good 2″+ above the rear seats over the closed roof versions. Expect glass-roofed models, as they appear on the market, to command a significant premium over their rail-roofed brethren.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    I already own an xB1. I don’t need the oversized and overpriced Ford version of it.

    • 0 avatar
      tresmonos

      I already own an xB1. I don’t need the oversized and overpriced Ford version of it. I’ll buy the larger and more powerful Flex when I need more seating than my funkmaster Echo.

  • avatar
    Ion

    It needs sliding doors. The current crop of people carriers are either hideous (sienna, odyssey) or bland and boxy (caravan, quest). The flex falls to capture sales because it lacks sliding doors and it has a space taking center console.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      +1. I was going to make the same comment, and you beat me to it.

      I’m dad enough and man enough to drive a minivan wherever I go, but my wife doesn’t want to drive something that looks like her mother’s minivan. We also like unusual looking vehicles. The Flex is clearly going for people like us, but there’s a problem. My almost 2-year-old son is in a carseat, and the middle-row of seats in the Flex fold forward. This means that backseats are tricky to access, whole holding a squirmy 2-year-old, so I’m not putting him back there. I’m also not putting him in a seat that I might fold forward with the flick of a lever, the way you do with the seats in the Flex. The Flex would be great if they’d make the back seats more accessible (with sliding or gullwing doors), or if all of my kids were old enough to strap themselves in (my son will be old enough to strap himself in soon, but he will probably have some younger brothers or sisters). Add that to the price premium that the Flex commands, and it’s off of my list.

      Also, it’s just hard to take vehicles with 3 rows and swinging doors seriously because of the crop of large SUVs that use the configuration. I’m not an SUV guy (I can barely stand crossovers), so just put the sliding doors on it and admit it’s a minivan already. :-)

    • 0 avatar
      NN

      yes me too on the sliding door bandwagon. Would make the minivan cool again.

      • 0 avatar
        Type57SC

        Gullwings or slide up and over gull wings would suit this car to a T. It would really peg the funkmaster scale then

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        I’d totally dig the gullwing doors or slide-up doors. Just one giant gullwing door for the each side of the vehicle would be AWESOME.

        With that kind of giant barn-door, I could get the nearly-2-year-old into any seat, or remove/fold the seats and haul a truckload worth of stuff. A 2-door minivan would be very cool, if the doors are sufficiently large. :-)

        Make sure it has the usual minivan tow-rating, and add in some sort of high-efficiency turbocharged engine (ecoboost or euro-spec turbodiesel), and you’ve got the ultimate man-van.

      • 0 avatar
        Felis Concolor

        Gull wings. Definitely gull wings. Give it gull wing rear doors and watch the styling meter sweep the needle deep into the Gerry Anderson zone.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        Gullwings would be murder in a parking log, but otherwise awesome.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        @psarhjinian: What if you made the door hinge at the centerline of the roof? I bet the swing-arc would probably be less than that of a conventional door.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        @Luke42: I’m going to model that later today. I am not sure what it would do to the structure of the car, though.

  • avatar
    ttiguy

    There is nothing wrong with Ford’s approach here. If they toned down the Flex’s design then it’s already small market would be that much smaller. Those considering this vehicle will likely appreciate the changes and the rest aren’t going to consider it anyways with its basic shape. So there is no point trying to appeal to them. Good job Ford….now where’s the 2013 Mustang????

  • avatar
    thornmark

    Coachwork by Frigidaire. I wonder what % are used as hearses.

  • avatar
    lancerfixer

    Agreed with the previous comments. We LOVE our 2010 Flex, and these tweaks make me think that our next family hauler will be another Flex. Yeah, it’s a niche vehicle, but I like not seeing myself at the stoplight four times a day, and the ride, utility, and power (even with the base engine) are about perfect for family hauling duties. Having said that, sliding doors wouldn’t be a bad thing, though we’ve had no problems with the kids and the conventional doors.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    Dear Ford,

    Would it really take too much effort to slap some woodgrain on the side and create a Country Squire edition? If we can have retro Mustangs, then why not a simple tape and name job for the Flex, you guys have been the masters of that for decades.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    While I personally like the Flex, I think that its biggest handicap is its low height. In my experience, most buyers of crossovers got used to the birds-eye view from tall SUVs, and like to sit up high. The Flex sits lower than all of the other crossovers.

    The car has all of the disadvantages of a crossover (bad access to the third seat, mostly) and none of that sit-up-high appeal.

    • 0 avatar
      swilliams41

      Sit up high is for insecure folk and shorties, i am neither. keep it like it is.

    • 0 avatar
      lancerfixer

      Actually, it’s the low height that appealed to us when we looked at them. I’ve got all the interior room of a much higher vehicle, with none if the issues of entry/exit (and none of the center of gravity issues, either.)

      We’ve got the two captain’s chairs in the middle and no console, and access to the rear seat is no problem for our seven year old (he’s back there, and his 10 year old sister and 3 week old brother occupy the second row.) Even if we had the full bench or a console, I don’t think there’d be an issue with thrid row access.

      • 0 avatar
        swilliams41

        My wife is 5’4″ and likes CUV’s, she is however a “driver” and appreciates the lower center of gravity in some cars. We had a Lexus RX and while we appreciated the good qualities of that car, handling was not it’s forte. The Flex isn’t a sports car but we like the more stable feeling of that type of stance.

  • avatar
    swilliams41

    I think I will trade my BMW 5 series for one of these. i have rented them in the past and they are great! I thought they were ugly then I drove one, forget the I want to look like you SUV’s and crossovers, the Flex is the bomb.

    The interior is probably the best in the Ford (in Limited trim) lineup, the space is great, the thing is quiet and the ride and handling balance is wonderful, I bet the eco-boost is even better. With the updates from Ford I bet the 2013 will be killer. Let the more conventional folk buy the not as good Explorer.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    It’s the price of these ugly boxes that scares me the most. They sure are comfortable though with lots of space.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Educator Dan must be salivating after seeing this. I like these almost as much as he does!

    That is one nice update. I’ll be checking one out just because I like them, even though I wouldn’t buy one due to my commute and the fuel economy I need. Currently, my Impala nets me 30.45 mpg as of yesterday’s fill-up.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm… So Ford goes and makes the Flex more bada$$ when I’ve been trying to sell my lady on getting one at some point post nuptuals (hey we want to have quite a few kids). She likes SUVs like the square Suburbans of 1973 to 1991. (Especially those, she even asked me about the difficulty of a resto of one if we found a solid example – not to hard to do in the Desert Southwest.)

      Thumbs up Ford, giant WIN. Though since I already know she likes the old versions styling too you may have just made a CPO one more attractive if this restyle drives down resale value of the orginals.

  • avatar

    In September of this year we bought a 2011 Flex Limited Ecoboost to replace our 2004 Volvo V70R. A big part of the appeal was the Flex’s unusual styling- it absolutely has a distinctive look, and it isn’t for everybody.

    We were shopping large crossovers because my wife would NOT drive a sliding-door minivan. The Flex absolutely stands out from the rest of the crossover crowd with its styling, plenty of interior room and comfortable ride.

    My only reservations about our 2011 Flex were that it doesn’t have features like blind-spot detection and keyless go, both of which were available in competing crossovers. Despite lacking those features, we chose the Flex anyway becuase it just felt like the best fit for us.

    This 2013 update keps the styling unique but adds those features plus optional cooled seats and adaptive cruise which I’ve really liked in Jaguars and Volvos I’ve driven. This seems like a good update, I just hope the MyFord Touch 2.0 works better than the first-gen I sampled last winter in an MKX.

  • avatar
    mistermau

    I tell you what – I’d LOVE to de-badge this thing, though.

  • avatar
    357

    Is it just me, or are Ford’s exterior styling details starting to look eerily similar to the instrument cluster of a mid-80′s Lincoln Town Car?

  • avatar
    Crosley

    I guess I’m one of the few that actually REALLY likes the Flex (except for the stupid name) I’m amazed it hasn’t sold well, but I think the problem is the high price.

    Here’s the thing, 90% plus of large SUV buyers don’t really need a heavy duty truck, they just want a roomy vehicle that doesn’t scream “soccer mom”. I can appreciate the sentiment.

    The Flex gives you a nearly Suburban sized vehicle that gets better fuel economy and comfort. I also really like the boxy look mixed with a classic wagon.

    I spent about a week with one as a rental, I really liked it. I might try and snag a good used one if the price is right down the road.

    • 0 avatar
      swilliams41

      I understand it has more interior room than a Tahoe and I think it drives infinitely better than any of the large mainstream SUV’s which fall out at the same or slightly higher price. You do see the price reflected in the interior.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      “a roomy vehicle that doesn’t scream ‘soccer mom’.”

      Except that large SUVs on pavement DO scream “soccer mom”.

      But what do I know — I’m under 40 and grew up in a place where vain parents drove SUVs, not-so-vain parents drove minivans, and everyone else drove whatever they could afford.

      • 0 avatar
        Crosley

        But it doesn’t scream “soccer mom” as much as a minivan does.

        I’m one of those people that wants people to buy what makes them happy. If a guy thinks a Suburban is less feminine than a minivan, I understand, even if he truly doesn’t need such a heavy duty vehicle.

        I’ve toyed with the idea of a minivan, but my wife absolutely hates them.

        Some vehicles just have certain stigmas.

  • avatar
    colin42

    Any news on the engine lineup? Considering the Explorer version has an engine (2.0ltr Ecoboost) that supposedly gets 28 mpg highway and this doesn’t is a turn off (and the purchase price is also steep) Other than that I love the style and I think my wife is also starting to not hate them (which is a start)

    • 0 avatar
      Chicago Dude

      I am also curious about power train changes. Also, didn’t Mr Baruth mention the brakes as a weak point in his original review? Ford has apparently upgraded the brakes in the F-150, perhaps the Flex gets the same treatment?

      I have always liked the concept of the Flex but the front end was never quite to my liking. This update is outstanding and if I need to replace my V70 in the next 3 years (not likely) this new Flex will be the vehicle to beat. Good job Ford.

      My opinion is that Ford is taking the right approach here. At this point in time, a station wagon like vehicle is not mainstream and they shouldn’t market it like that. Be bold. If you want a mainstream people hauler, buy an Explorer. If you want a boring station wagon that blends in with traffic, buy a Taurus X. Oops, guess that didn’t work out well, did it?

  • avatar
    V572625694

    Those of us old enough to remember the Rambler American are quite familiar with this redesign.

  • avatar
    86er

    I’m just amazed they’re still making it.

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    Damn, I should have made the call earlier: they Explorified the nose. I figured the immediate success of the Explorer body style would spill over to the Flex, but it’s good to see the rest of its styling cues intact. It’s already past my “shock of change” phase and into the “I’m cool with that” stage. Perhaps Ford can set up an ad series across from BMW’s retro-compact with a line like: “You are the Mini; I am the Maxi.”

    And offer some 2 and 3 color paint schemes reminiscent of the livery found on today’s EMD locomotives. Those monsters rumble past my house every day and I always see echoes of the big locos in the Flex.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I’d own a Flex if it had either sliding doors. Could’ve forgiven the lack of trunk space with the third row up and the heavy-footedness, but the lack of sliders killed it for me.

    For most other people, that it was expensive and slightly odd-looking did in it’s sales. Launching into the maw of the credit crisis didn’t help.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    Would there be a way to put sliding doors on this, but make them look conventional? I know in my neck of the woods, sliding doors = mini-van = soccor mom = oblivious = car needs to be burninated.

    Also, how has the Ecoboost 2.0 litre held up in the Edge (or Explorer – I don’t remember which it went in since I don’t seek out that type of vehicle)? I would think that would be quite the heffer to try haul around by such a diminutive engine, even given the turbo and all the creative electronics.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    How freaky , a box with a smaller box on top of it….
    And now they have changed both the grille and headlights :O, crazy…
    On a more serious note, it looks better and seems more practical than any of the ‘mini’-vans (I’m guessing this goes in between the Journey and LWB Voyager somewhere, which makes it kinda big) for sale in Europe (we have more or less given them up and started buying CUV’s too. )

  • avatar

    Still too bloody expensive.

  • avatar
    86er

    I’m seeing some Super Duty/Super Chief Concept in that face.

    Plus, I’m a sucker for block letters on the hood.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Now I’m picturing one in a fetching color combo like deep fire-engine red with a silver roof and “Southwest Cheif” script on the rear quarter panel. (But then I do see Amtrac pass through town a few times a week.)

  • avatar
    thegamper

    LOVE IT!! Then again I am a current Flex owner so I am a little biased. Great car. Funny, noticed that someone commented on how the Flex is an xB ripoff (something to that effect) I also recall alot of comments when it came out that it was a mini ripoff due to the colored roof. However, the xB was hardly the first box on wheels, and the mini was most definitely not the first to incorporate a body/roof color contrast. I have always seen the Flex as a rebirth of the great American Sta-wag. A modern Country Squire, or since it is on a Volvo platform, a reborn Volvo 240 wagon (which, incidentally, is the iconic car ripped off by the xB)

  • avatar
    aspade

    The base V6 isn’t enough motor. They won’t sell you the turbo without a loaded Limited wrapped around it and a $43,000 sticker. Upwards of $44,000 with the glass roof.

    Could be a great road trip car, maybe even great enough to spend 40 grand on, but Ford made the classic CUV mistake of bulking up a car by 1200 pounds but keeping the same 18 gallon tank they started with. In a 4800 lb AWD tank that means a pit stop every 4 hours.

    Can’t overlook that no matter how nice the interior and styling are.

  • avatar
    supremebrougham

    I’m not feeling the FLEX on the hood. Has anyone noticed that it appears that they are trying to downplay the Ford part?

    I’ve ridden in a couple of these, and while the styling isn’t exactly my cup of tea, these are by far some of the most solid feeling cars I’ve ever been in, and the interior is amazing.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      I’ve gotten to ride in a couple in “airport suttle service” and they’re so quiet and solid I know a few people who can’t ride in the back of one without going to sleep. That’s impressive considering the poorly maintained streets I been driven over in them.

  • avatar
    Lichtronamo

    I’m surprised by the lack of a blue oval on the front. If anything they should downplay the stupid name they put on this vehicle and highlight F-O-R-D across the leading edge of the hood in a 60′s kind of way.

  • avatar
    another_pleb

    Interesting that nobody has mentioned the wrinkly leather on the seats yet.

    Unlike the Fiat 500 review from a few days ago.

  • avatar
    Ubermensch

    The refresh has made me love this car even more. Loving the brown color but it would be even better if it came in orange. It almost makes me wish I had kids so I could justify such a large vehicle…. almost.

  • avatar
    mjz

    The Flex would look great if it was the size of the Escape. It’s just too big. Ford should just go ahead and make a damn mini-van again already. Ford’s experiments with mini-van like Flex and Lincoln MKT have been sales flops.

  • avatar
    Advo

    Does this new styling make it look less square?

    I say that because to me, it’s mainly a big, square box. The original Scion didn’t appeal to me for the same reason, but I recognized that it had a certain hipness and appeal to it. This is for the family driver who wants to be hip? It looks like they’re adding a polarizing look (of the frontal band) on top of the original polarizing look.


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