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Review of: 2016 Ford Flex 4dr Limited AWD w/EcoBoost
2016 Ford Flex: Boost your muscles with a Flex turbo
By G. R. Whale
Aug. 29, 2016
First minivans took wagons from favor, then sport-utes and finally crossovers. So Ford styled a crossover to appease wagon-eers, and let you power it like an old 429-V8 Country Squire. A segment stretcher, it’s the only Ford crossover/SUV whose name doesn’t begin with E.
Pros & Cons
- + Attention-getting styling
- + Smooth, strong engine
- + Comfortable front seats
- - Turning circle
- - Small front footwells
- - Space efficiency
Apart from the Star Trek-engineer visage Flex appears what might happen were a Mini Clubman or Scion xB watered and fertilized for two years. Horizontal layers from door strakes to roof and a long, flat hood hide its formidable size, within centimetres of the exterior dimensions of a minivan or eight-seat crossover.
I like cars with more than just a bumper aft, generous windows that fully retract, and the black-out trim works here: With those bad-ass gloss 20s you’ll be the meanest parent in the bus zone. I’m less enthused about a black top with three quasi-shaded moonroofs during the summer. Officially Too Good to be True Blue, I dubbed black and blue the Bruiser.
A squarish canopy provides great headroom, visibility and shade, the view better than most people-movers since substantial pillars are far away, and this is a perfect three-generation family hauler: Parents in loungers up front, grandparents in the roomiest, easiest-to-enter second row and rugrats in back.
The tablet-like control panel is the function and style centerpoint, the rest typical finishes and materials, although I could make kids dizzy or seasick staring at the psychedelic dash trim without moving the car. Seats are broad and better for cruising than cornering—especially the no-armrest middle row, and apart from wind noise creeping in from 105 km/h, it’s quiet.
Corporate controls keep things simple, with good options in the gauge panel, but a lot of secondary things require touchscreen poking. Most switches are easy to see/reach, though the steering wheel’s lower row was an awkward thumb bend.
Individual back seats power fold forward, butterfly to a flat floor or tilt rearward for tailgating, though I couldn’t figure out what to do with the headrests.
The penalty for wagon styling is space efficiency. Where most boxes offer seven or eight seats, Flex is one less. And cargo space of 2,355/1,224/426 litres behind the first/second/third rows respectively are about 50 per cent less than a 50-mm (about two inches) longer Chevy Traverse and a Sienna has as much cargo volume with three rows up as a Flex with two.
My grumbles: Very limited footwell space with nowhere to rest my left leg, even crossed beneath the right, limited steering wheel telescoping (the pedals move more) and the only way to snuff (bug-attracting) cabin lights seems to be pulling fuse 12.
EcoBoost includes self-parking plus adaptive cruise control with collision warning; “brake support” is not automatic emergency braking, rather it ensures maximum retarding when you touch the brake pedal. Every time I reversed from the garage I was warned of an oncoming car—the one parked in the neighbour’s drive.
Sync 3 is a fine replacement for MyFord Touch—fast response, good voice recognition, consistent simple operation, estimated times automatically on programmed destinations and an easy-to-view eight-inch touchscreen with 3D map rendering. AppLink is competitive with GM’s My/Intelli Link and CarPlay/Android Auto are coming soon.
You’d need a Hemi Durango for more power with three rows at this price. The turbo 3.5 gets through gears quickly and smoothly, and handles mountain passes—and passing—with ease, but it’s the brakes and transmission I find a greater improvement over the non-turbo 3.5. Being able to be pick my own gear does wonders on icy or steep descents and the brakes proved far more resistant to fade.
Flex is all comfortable cruising and benign handling; 20-inch wheels shout aesthetics, not performance. Body roll is controlled, not absent, despite all that roof glass, and the understeer is predominant, the best scenario for a 2,275-kg, 5-plus metre box. Steering effort is appropriate with only minor torque tug at full throttle, but Flex needs a metre more room than like-size Sienna AWD, and even more than a Ram Crew Cab short bed, for a U-turn.
It’s better than a 429 V8, but heft and horsepower equal fuel consumption estimates of 15.7/11.2 l/100km. I managed 16.7/10.2, and averaged 13.5 on premium.
The turbo 3.5 is offered only on Limited trim, so you’ll start in the $40s; this one, not completely optioned up, is $56,600. Less-stylish, slower, more space and fuel-efficient wheels include the AWD Sienna XLE ($51,500 with rear entertainment), front-drive Chrysler Pacifica ($50-56K), AWD Traverse LTZ ($53,500), and full safety suite Pilot Touring ($51,000).
Flex ‘Boost should satisfy your need for speed and style with a modicum of practicality. Others may be better if you prioritize volumetric efficiency and utmost safety equipment and don’t really care how potent or pretty it is.