2016 Ford Flex AWD Limited Review - It's What's Inside That Counts

Jeff Voth
by Jeff Voth
Fast Facts

2016 Ford Flex AWD Limited

3.5-liter EcoBoost V6, twin-turbocharged (365 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm, 350 lbs-ft of torque @ 3,500 rpm)
Six-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
16 city / 22 highway / 18 combined (EPA Rating, mpg)
18 mpg (Observed)
Base Price (SE FWD)
: $30,495 (U.S.)/$33,689 (Canada)
As Tested
: $50,020 (U.S.)/$58,489 (Canada)
All prices include $895 destination charge (U.S.) or $1,790 freight fee and A/C tax (Canada).
2016 ford flex awd limited review it s what s inside that counts

“Get that thing off my driveway!” was how Ford’s former executive director of design Peter Horbury described his wife’s reaction the first time she saw the newest people-mover from Ford back in 2008. It was a radical shift for a company that recently exited the minivan market (goodbye Freestar) in favor of something more in tune with the times.

At least that was the plan.

Keeping with the “free” theme, the Freestyle debuted in 2005, lasting until 2007 when it was rebadged the Ford Taurus X as part of the new Taurus family of cars in 2008. This was also back in the day of the infamous Ford Five Hundred, Mercury Montego and Ford’s ongoing relationship with Swedish automaker now-Chinese-owned Volvo. And you thought family holidays were challenging.

Ford decided to squash the Freestyle/Taurus X and replace it with the hearse-like Ford Flex built exclusively at the Oakville Assembly Plant in Ontario, Canada. Sitting in the car with me on that memorable spring day, I could tell by his honesty Mr. Horbury knew the Flex was a huge risk.

Building it outside of the U.S. was a smart move. If it wasn’t successful, they could easily blame Ford’s oversized highway canoe on those crazy Canucks of the north. Seriously, what rational country has a beaver as its national animal?


Not all is hostile on the outside of the Ford Flex, with significant changes taking place in model year 2013. But first impressions sure make it difficult to see past what’s essentially a big box. Ford tries really hard to add some flash to the outer shell with character body-side groves, a big FLEX logo on the front hood, dual chrome tailpipes and brushed metal strips on the grille.

The all-wheel-drive Limited model I am testing this week adds the Appearance Package for extra punch. It features 20-inch gloss-black machined aluminum wheels, a black-painted roof and color-keyed front and rear bumpers. HID headlights and LED taillamps also help the look, while providing excellent lighting at night. During the day, they are one of the few bright spots on an otherwise monochromatic exterior.


Inside, Flex offers seating for seven and a long list of standard and optional features. Front seats in the Limited impress with 10-way power plus heating and cooling. But there is a definite lack of legroom up front and getting in and out provides the opportunity to smash my knee against the dash on several occasions, even though the low door sill is designed for easy entry. Headroom is never an issue; neither is visibility with large windows and wide open sightlines. The optional multi-pane glass roof allows natural light to flood the interior during the day, or serious star-gazing at night.

Second row seats come in a 60/40 split arrangement and offer an available center armrest cooler to keep things on ice. Our test vehicle is equipped with optional inflatable rear safety belts for added protection. The 50/50 third row is power activated on our test vehicle, with a useful feature that allows for rearward facing seats at the push of a button. Outdoor sports fans take note.

A power liftgate makes putting all your stuff in the back or taking it out a hassle-free experience. Storage is never an issue with the Ford Flex and this is one of the main reasons why you may want to consider it instead of a minivan.

Packed to the roof with suitcases and seven people, it proved this fact to me several years ago on a drive from Los Angeles to Phoenix, Arizona. Complaints from the second- and third-row seats were minimal at best and had nothing to do with the Flex, but rather how fast we could get to a spring training baseball game.


Active park assist allows me to occupy tight spaces normally reserved for smaller vehicles. A fun feature when parking the Ford Focus or Escape, any stress related to parallel parking the big Flex is quickly removed with the push of a button.

Adaptive cruise control allows me to keep pace with the traffic and improve fuel economy. Set the desired distance and let the Flex do the driving. Advanced collision warning with brake support is ready to take over if things turn ugly in rush hour traffic. Personally, I still prefer the old style cruise control as constant slowing down and speeding up is not my favorite way to spend time behind the wheel.


Power comes in the form of a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 twin-turbocharged gasoline engine. It delivers impressive performance with 365 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 350 lbs-ft of torque at 3,500 rpm. Matched to a six-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive, the Flex is no demon off the line, but holds speed with ease on the highway.


Here is where it gets tricky and why the Flex is such a conundrum for me.

While it may be truly garish on the outside, driving it is gratifying and completely stress-free once behind the wheel. Independent suspension handles the daily bumps and bangs of city driving. Take to the highway and it feels like you are cruising in a luxo-liner. Only when the road starts to turn corners and four-lane highways narrow down to two does it let you know the Flex is more minivan than sedan.

Inside the cockpit, I notice a few too many rattles and squeaks for my liking. Wind noise is obvious, but it’s no surprise given the generous proportions of glass both on the side and the roof. Engine noise is controlled and not overly obtrusive. The stereo, navigation system and HVAC controls are logical and much better than in the past. With every new version of Ford Sync comes a little more thought and common sense.


Base price for the 2016 Ford Flex AWD Limited starts at $38,895. Our fully loaded test vehicle is equipped with features such as all-wheel drive, the equipment group, a multipanel Vista roof and more, bringing the total to $45,350.

Current rumors indicate this may be the last year for the Ford Flex — but I don’t believe it. The Flex faithful appreciate its practical side and seem content to look past the exterior shell. So far, Ford remains quiet on the topic.

Whatever the long term plan, it’s clear both Mr. and Mrs. Horbury were correct in their assessment of this polarizing people-mover. The outside may not be its best attribute, but close the doors and what you get is exceptional space for seven and a drivetrain that, for the most part, keeps you moving down the road without complaint.

And then there is that one key point why you may want to consider the Ford Flex for your family: at least it’s not a minivan.

Disclosure: Ford Canada provided the vehicle and insurance for this review.

[Images: © 2016 Jeff Voth/The Truth About Cars]

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2 of 173 comments
  • WildcatMatt WildcatMatt on Apr 20, 2016

    I'm not sold on how the car looks aft of the C pillar. The wraparound/blackout rear glass/D pillar combo looks unfinished and makes the vehicle look stretched out like the Enterprise-D going into warp. We need to start looking for a replacement for the wife's Elantra Touring. Rented a Caravan last fall and she absolutely hated it. She says she wants a wagon but she took one look at the Flex and declared it "too big". I wonder, do the people who hate the "lines" on the doors also hate the Cerberus-era Chrysler hoods?

  • Greytraveler Greytraveler on Jul 26, 2016

    Man, there are a LOT of posts and opinions. Gave up reading them not even half way through. We have owned many Fords with no problems and many miles. The Flex appeals to my wife so we must be the odd couple. I like the idea of plenty of room for dogs and stuff. The AWD is a must where we live, winter can be a trial getting to the house the last half mile of unplowed road. My choice would be the SEL with very few options. Forget the large (oversized) wheels. Will be buying the end of the year. Something AWD and Flex is on the short list.

  • Art Vandelay It is a shame, this is the perfect sort of vehicle for EBFlex and Tassos to puff each other's peters in but as it is electric, EBFlex will miss out. Sad
  • Art Vandelay Coming to a rental lot near you. And when it does know there is a good chance EBFlex and Tassos have puffed each other's peters in it!
  • Art Vandelay I doubt there is even room for EBFlex and Tassos to puff each other's peters in that POS
  • Art Vandelay The lack of side windows is a boon for EBFlex and Tassos as nobody can see them puffing each other's peters back there!
  • Art Vandelay They all have sunroofs which is good for EBFlex and Tassos...one can stand and hang out the roof while the other puffs his peter