Eulogy Time: As Ford Flex Passes Into History, an Automaker Remembers the Box and the Bucks

For a model that encompassed a single (but very long) generation, the Ford Flex made a big impact on Ford Motor Company’s image, to say nothing of its fortunes.

You probably don’t remember June 3rd, 2008, but that was the day the boxy, funky Flex first rolled off the assembly line at Ford’s Oakville, Ontario plant. You probably do recall the events of Monday, October 28th, 2019, however, and one thing that should stick with you is this: Ford has officially pulled the plug on the Flex. A handful of models will roll out until some point in November, but today marks the big wind-down.

With the imminent loss of the Flex and the recent death of its Lincoln MKT platform mate (which wrapped up production earlier this month), the automaker’s lineup, like that of so many others, stands to become just a little more devoid of originality.

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Bark's Bites: A Moment of Appreciation for the Ford Flex

Seven years ago today, I bought a 2013 Mineral Gray Ford Flex SE. It wasn’t the ideal combination of options, nor was it the most desirable color — I would have preferred something in a Blue or Red, but Flex inventory was pretty limited, and Ford was offering some sort of quarterly promotion on in-stock inventory that was expiring that same day, so Mineral Gray SE it was.

180,000 miles later, it’s still in service as the family hauler. It’s taken thousand-mile-plus trips to places like Orlando, Minnesota, Kansas, and Iowa every summer, loaded to the gills with suitcases and sleeping bags. It’s endured through dozens of fruit punch spills and had hundreds of Cheerios trampled into its carpets. It even took a 40 mph hit to the rear subframe at a dead stop, and the precious occupants inside, my two young children, suffered nothing except a cup of spilled chocolate milk (which the interior also suffered, with a smell that took multiple cleanings to exorcise).

It started making a weird whirring sound in the dash a few years ago, but when the Ford tech said it would cost a few hundred bucks to fix, we simply got used to it. The “Check Fuel Filler Inlet” warning comes on every so often, as it does with all Fords of this era with capless fuel fillers, but I just clean it out and wait for the CEL to clear. It has consumed six sets of tires, but only two sets of brake pads — and it’s on the original shocks. I nearly knocked myself out with the tailgate once, thanks to the lack of a push-button feature, but honestly, I deserved it.

In other words, the Flex, long since paid off, continues to do exactly what I bought it to do all those years ago — transport my family with relative ease and comfort. I confess that I enjoy not having that $500-a-month payment anymore, and I fully expect to drive it another 2-3 years without issue (knock on wood). But if I did want to replace it, I’d have trouble doing so, because Ford won’t be making it after the 2019 model-year run expires. And that’s kind of a shame, because there’s nothing else like it.

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Cuts Coming to Ford Crossover Plant: Union

Ford Motor Company’s Oakville, Ontario assembly plant will soon see a reduction in manpower, according to the union representing Canadian Detroit Three autoworkers. The looming changes represent the latest blow to that country’s fragile car building presence.

For Ford, the cuts outlined by Unifor Local 7070 president Dave Thomas in a web post this week are an inevitable consequence of evolving lineups and consumer tastes. The company can’t build the Ford Flex forever.

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Ace of Base: 2019 Ford Flex SE

Yep, they still sell this thing. Betcha forgot all about it.

Or perhaps not. The “styled with a t-square” profile of the Flex has always appealed to the funkier side of the crossover/SUV customer base and, if my eight years of toiling for this publication has taught me anything, the B&B is nothing if not funky. Let’s see what this coffin-shaped crossover offers in base form.

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Piston Slap: Goodwill Repairs to Hit 'em With That Flex?
Jay writes:

Sajeev,

I’ve been enjoying your work on TTAC for several years and (unfortunately) have run into a situation where I think I need your help.

After reading Mark’s review of the Ford Flex several years ago, I test drove and fell in love with one — a 2012 Titanium Ecoboost model, to be precise. Fast forward to last month, and I am driving down I-395 when the car starts to lurch; $1,900 later, I have a new fuel injector and a picture of a leaky turbo (rrg). In hopes that Ford would have some type of pity on a 5.5-year-old car with only 53K miles on it, I took it to the dealership. $167 later, we’ve added a transmission seal issue to the running list and they’re asking more than $5,000 to square everything away.

I’m hoping you have a magic bullet for this one or, barring that, something snappy to say that will make me laugh.

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Ace of Base – 2018 Ford Flex SE

The Ford Flex muscled its way into dealerships for the 2009 model year, standing apart from other three-row offerings with its still-in-the-cargo-box styling cues. It’s shape actually goes back further, to the ’05 Detroit Auto Show, when Ford rolled out a Fairlane concept billed as a “minivan with desire.” Fortunately, Ford dropped that trope but also dropped the concept’s suicide doors. As Mick and Keith said, you can’t always get what you want.

But you can get what you need, and most of it is often found in a base model car. Let’s see what Ford’s seven-passenger rectangle has to offer frugal shoppers.

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An Unknown Recall Can Lead to a Coast Guard Rescue

It’s getting harder to ignore automotive safety recalls, but it’s easy for one to go unnoticed if it’s handed down after the owner buys a vehicle used.

While the circumstances surrounding the purchase of a vehicle involved in last weekend’s incident in Lake St. Clair aren’t clear, one thing is: the owner had no knowledge of a nearly two-year-old power steering recall. On the surface (so to speak), this seems to be the culprit behind the saga of the USS Ford Flex.

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2017 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost Review - It's Been Almost A Decade

My sister hates the Ford Flex.

She’s never driven a Ford Flex, mind you. She just hates the way it looks.

I, on the other hand, am a huge fan of the Ford Flex’s exterior design, particularly in Blue Jeans paint, particularly without these black wheels.

There are only two sides to this argument. There is no middle ground on which you stand and declare, “Meh, it’s alright.” Since 2008, consumers have fallen on either one side of the fence or the other. You either love the Ford Flex, or you hate the Ford Flex.

Based on the Flex’s lack of marketplace success, there are apparently too many haters. Some nine years after the Flex was launched, inspired in 2008 by the 2005’s Ford Fairlane Concept, Ford’s alternative crossover is increasingly forced into an ever-narrowing niche. The style quotient remains high — at least in the eyes of those who’ve always loved it — but the Flex now manifests too many signs of old age in a market full of remarkably competent and more popular challengers.

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Ford is Going to Kill the Flex, but What About the Lincoln MKT?

For the second time in a month, a union official’s loose lips has spilled information on a looming change in Ford’s lineup, only this time the product news isn’t an addition — it’s a funeral.

Yes, if the report is true — and Ford isn’t confirming it — the mighty Ford Flex will bow out of existence in 2020, leaving fans of the polished brick heartbroken. Still, there’s a mystery as to the fate of its leviathan-like platform mate, the Lincoln MKT.

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Bark's Bites: I Buy the Cars Everybody Else Says They Love

I own a Ford Flex. It’s true. Well, technically, Ford Credit owns it, but I’m only 12 months or so away from getting the real title in my hands. I’m constantly being told by people — hell, even by commenters on this website — that the Flex is a great car, but that people just don’t seem to like it. Of course, since I bought one, I completely disagree.

The Flex is just one example of a car that people who fill up comment sections of automotive websites seem to love but never buy for themselves. The list of such automobiles is quite long: The Pontiac G8. The Mazda RX-8. The Fiesta ST — wait a second, what the hell is going on here, I’ve owned all of these!

Just what is it that makes a car popular with enthusiasts but unpopular with the general public?

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In Defence Of: The Lincoln MKT

It seems so recent that the degree to which I detested the Lincoln MKT was off the charts. Few vehicles more sorely offended me.

The Lincoln MKT’s styling, it seemed to me, suggested that its designers wanted the MKT to appear as though it had a head cold; that its swollen sinuses were infected. The MKT’s taillamps were warnings to keep you away from its contagious front end. You, too, may end up with a runny nose if you come into close contact. “Dual exhausts are simply more orifices through which germs can flow,” I said in 2010. I joked that the MKT was perfect for people with small noses who wanted to make up for their nasally challenged status.

But I’m a changed man. I now look at the MKT’s styling, which I still consider to be hilariously awful, as a selling point. Wrapped around this spectacular package is bodywork so outlandish that it makes the Ford Flex seem downright normal. Also, the MKT is Canadian-built, like me. Then there are MKT sales. Always abysmal, MKT volume now barely appears on radar, meaning you can drive a luxurious, powerful, family hauler and never see yourself coming the other way.

This is the anti-Grand Caravan. This is perfect. What was I thinking?

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Ask Bark: Is It Time To Settle, Or Time To Flex?

John writes:

Bark,

We (me M52, F39, M15, F10) really need to step up our fleet (2006 Honda Pilot 240K mi, 2005 Honda Element 170K mi). We need to replace the Pilot as family car, and probably (for now) keep both Hondas rolling for my use and, soon, my son’s use too.

In the fullness of time I’d like to get us a plugin C-Max, especially given the uneventuality of the TTAC Long-Term Test C-Max. But, the rear legroom is less than our Pilot and our 15-yo boy is not getting any smaller. This would not be a good solution for weekend family expeditions of any length.

For now I’d like to start the fleet upgrade with a used Flex, post 2013 for the design refresh, has to be AWD because we have snow and a very steep, twisty drive home, really want the 6-pass version to keep the kids out of each others’ hair (2nd-row bench seat has proven contentious in the Pilot), really want Ecoboost and Limited/Titanium because why buy used if you can’t get it loaded?

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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.

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Ask Bark: A Craigslist Escort (Replacement)?

Jon writes:

Hello Bark,

It will soon be time to replace my wife’s car: a ’94 Ford Escort wagon. We’re considering spending somewhere between $4,000 and $10,000 on its replacement. We have no kids and, thanks to a little snip-snip, we will continue to have no kids.

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Ask The Best And Brightest: 2009 Future Classics?
The Friends of the National Automotive History Collection have voted the Ford Flex as their “Collectible Car of the Future” of 2009. According to…
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  • ToolGuy I AM PLACING [sic] NICELY. There is NO NEED TO BAN ME. Personally I do lots of things which DON'T MAKE SENSE, sometimes to myself, often to others. WHO ELON MUSK ENDORSES is really kind of NONE OF MY BUSINESS. It is a FREE COUNTRY, in some ways, still. I wish I knew how to FORMAT MY COMMENT better. I USED TO KNOW HOW, maybe I am losing it slowly (lot of that going around, JUST SAYING).
  • Aja8888 I can't read those whole thread without throwing up....
  • ToolGuy Maybe I will GIVE IT A LISTEN. Probably when I'm MOWING THE LAWN. Probably with a BATTERY OPERATED MOWER. (There are also batteries IN MY HEADPHONES. And IN MY PHONE.) Does anyone remember how to make a NEW PARAGRAPH?
  • ToolGuy I am NOT SURE WHAT TO SAY. In fact I'M NOT EVEN SURE WHAT I JUST READ. I paid a premium for my last cordless drill/driver because it has a hydraulic front end which PRODUCES LESS NOISE AND VIBRATION.
  • ToolGuy Tim, THANK YOU FOR THE ALL CAPS. I think it ADDS A LOT to the discussion. I might USE it MYSELF in the future. Have a GREAT WEEKEND.