First Drive: 2009 Ford Flex

Over the past week, Grinding Gears editor David Goodspeed has been privileged to drive a pair of all-new vehicles from Ford and Lincoln, both of which will arrive in dealerships this summer.

The first stop was Washington, D.C., for the 2009 Lincoln MKS.
That was the trip whose highlights included a visit to a winery, a sneak peek at a future Lincoln, outrunning tornados, a dead turtle and not quite making it back to our starting point.
All-in-all a very memorable trip. And a great new Lincoln.

Next stop: LA – Santa Monica to be precise – for the launch of the all-new 2009 Ford Flex.

If you are an automaker launching an all-new vehicle that gets less than 40 mpg you are going to face some tough challenges today. Ford is going to face some tough challenges.

As the all-new Ford Flex prepares to go on sale this summer, marketing teams are going to have perhaps one of the most monumental tasks of their careers in “selling” another three-row multi-purpose vehicle in one of the toughest economic periods of recent memory.

Here is my suggestion: Put the new Ford Flex out there and let the vehicle speak for itself. Let buyers drive it and they will be sold.

The 2009 Flex is the production version of the Ford Fairlane concept that made auto show circuits a couple of years back. It features very upright styling in a “box-on-a-box” design execution, one that we feel is going to be accepted much in the way the Scion xB has been – you will either love it or hate it.

And we love it.

Ford is trying its best to keep away from any “retro” references with this new multi-passenger, multi-purpose crossover utility vehicle, a task that may prove in the end fruitless. This car screams retro-forward, and screams for some wood side panels or, better yet, brushed aluminum. And it screams “aftermarket.”

We spent some time with the new Flex out on the west coast recently and have to say that this was a nicer surprise to drive than the new Lincoln that led this article. They both share some common architecture as well as basic powertrain components, but the Flex just left us with a more unexpected pleasant driving experience. The Lincoln was “Yeah, this is what we expect of Lincoln,” but the Flex was more “Wow.”

And that is what Ford is going to have to bring to the consumers right now – more wow to win them over. Many will undoubtedly be attracted to the unique styling but to hold their interest Ford will have to toss them a set of keys to clinch the deal. Just a spin around the block will make most believers.

By the numbers, Flex is powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 Duratec engine banging out 262 hp backed by a slick six-speed automatic gearbox (a powertrain up to the task of slicing through the canyon roads outside of LA) in front- or all-wheel-drive and riding on choice of 18-, 19- or 20-inch wheels and tires.

Seating is in three rows with plenty of head and legroom for most. And each row can get a sunroof panel overhead a la the new multi-panel Vista Roof.

All Flex greenhouses (window glass space) are blacked out and all roof panels come in either silver or white paint, a design element with a side benefit of keeping the passenger compartments a bit cooler by reflecting heat courtesy the lighter colors.

And speaking of cooler(s), the new Ford Flex offers an optional compressor-driven refrigerator in the console between the second row of seats.

And those second- and third-row seats fold flat should one need the cargo space.

To go along with cutting-edge styling, Flex offers state-of-the-art technology and safety including SYNC, voice-activated navigation, reverse camera system, Sony audio system, SIRIUS Travel Link (offering real-time radar, traffic info, gas prices and more) and the new EasyFuel capless refueling system found on the MKS as well.

Hammering our way through Topango Canyon we saw fuel economy figures of anywhere from 15-19 mpg due to serious gas and brake application. EPA figures are 17/24 mpg in FWD with AWD units seeing 16/22 mpg. Base MSRP is set for $28,995 with a Limited AWD model starting at $37,255.

The 2009 Ford Flex is shipping out to dealerships now with full availability this summer.

And those body side grooves? Groovy.

Categories: Autos, Reviews

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5 replies

  1. Almost looks like a big mini cooper.

    I am really interested in Flex Fuel in my next car as the E85 is plentiful here in Ohio and it’s also 30-40 cents cheaper per gallon.

  2. In general, the Ford Flex, despite the name, really wasn’t desiged as an E85 vehicle and E85 isn’t part of the general relase of the product (although you can order an E85 version). Other than GM, E85 isn’t really exciting a whole lot of people and as a fuel it isn’t conveniently available much outside the midwest (and a few other places). General industry attitude seems to be that hydrogren cells or bio-diesel have more promise than E85. Even the “promise” of hybrid is starting to turn out to be less productive than people originally hoped.

    I like the Flex, but I’m concerned, in this economy, that the lower mileage is going to be a hard sell and that this vehicle really ought to be priced about $5K less than what it is being listed at. Of course that would put it into the range currently being asked for the Edge, which I also think is over-priced, but is selling well despite that. So I guess time will tell if people hook onto this vehicle! People I know at Ford (in engineering) seem really geeked about the Flex. When I replace my small SUV next year I’ll definitely be looking at this and the Edge.

  3. I don’t know. This was obviously designed and greenlighted back in the days of $2 something gas.

    Now, I could see this and similar vehicles begging for an owner. The wealthy will always buy their escalades/Navigators, but the Joe 6 Pack buyers are going to really think twice.

    They gotta either license Bluetek diesel or come up with a re-usable hybrid platform fast or toyota is going to enjoy great sales and these will sit around


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