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Flex proves to be muscular ride

Time:2018-02-13 10:10Turbochargers information Click:

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The Ford Flex is one of those vehicles that defy comparison. The unique design is one of those that draw comments – both positive and negative. Ford calls it a true crossover “with the ride, handling and fuel economy of a car and the towing, storage and seating of an SUV.”

 

2013 Ford Flex AWD Limited


 

Flex proves to be muscular ride

Price: $44,399 base, $58,349 as tested including freight  
 

Flex proves to be muscular ride

Engine: Turbocharged 3.5-litre V6 with direct injection: 355 horsepower, 350 lb. ft. of torque, premium or regular fuel
Transmission: Six speed automatic
 
 

Flex proves to be muscular ride

Transport Canada says (litres/ 100 city/highway): 11.5 / 7.3  
 

Flex proves to be muscular ride

Length: 5126 mm
Width: 2256 mm
Wheelbase: 2994 mm
Weight: 2173 kilos
 

It is hard to argue with most of those claims, but there is no getting past the looks. One pundit summed it up by asking if I worked for a funeral home. The Flex looks like no other vehicle on the road with its slab sides and squared-off shape. The designers worked at minimizing the effect with strakes along the sides, two-tone paint treatment and other little touches, but it is still a very big box on wheels.

The upside of that shape, a very significant bonus, is the amount of interior space, an astounding 2335 litres of it behind the front seat. Even with all three rows in position there is 566 cubic feet aft of the third row. The tall squared off roof and vertical sides allow big, square doors for ease of entry and exit. There is plenty of headroom for NBA players and the amount of legroom in the second row would do a limo proud. The configuration of the test vehicle as two – two and three with buckets up front, captain’s chairs in the second row and another two adults in the third row

The Flex first appeared in 2009 and has received a number of upgrades since. For 2013 it is treated to a nose-job with a more rounded look, a wide band across the width and restyled headlights. Big F L E X letters dominate both front a rear ends, lest you think it is something else. Another upgrade for 2012 is additional sound deadening under the hood, behind the dash and over the rear wheels.

This is such a big box nobody is likely to tackle the turns with any amount of speed, but if you chance upon one by surprise the hulking box will react with more alacrity than the shape would have you expect. The ride is supple and the Flex perfectly suited to gobbling long distances with ease.

Built in Oakville, Ontario, the Flex is available in SE, SEL and Limited trim levels. Our tester was the Limited edition which meant it had the full array of features and functions. It was also loaded with options: a $960 titanium appearance package which included chrome clad 20-in wheels, a $100 set of rubber floor mats (!), a slick second row of seats that folded at the touch of a button for $650, a gigantic $1750  “panoramic”  sun roof, $1750, a $650 refrigerated second row center console, and a  $700 voice-activated navigation system. Inflatable rear seat belts added $250 and the Class III trailer tow package another $500.

A couple of the options deserve further discussion. The Flex SE comes with 17-in wheels and the SEL has 18-in rolling stock. The optional 20-in wheels help take away from the boxy look by drawing your eyes down and to the ends. The refrigerated console positioned between the second row captain’s chairs is actually a small compressor-driven refrigerator with space for seven cans of pop, four half-litre bottles. It can take the contents from room temperature to five degree C in a little more than two and one-half hours, faster than a standard home fridge. For a vehicle that is ideally suited to long-haul family trips, this feature would be useful. But then it would create the need for more frequent restroom breaks!  

Ford has been boasting about its EcoBoost system of giving small engines big numbers. These engines have been impressive in everything I’ve tried from small to big (F-Series) but nowhere more so than here. The “standard” 3.5-litre V6 offered in the Flex delivers a respectable 262 horsepower and 248 lb. ft. of torque. But in EcoBoost form these numbers leap to 355-horsepower and 350 lb. ft. of torque. That latter number is a considerable 43 per cent greater and peaks 1,000 rpm lower. The result is V-8-like performance with loads of low-end power available at the touch of the pedal. Not only does this make for effortless driving whether loaded or empty, climbing hills or passing, it allows the fuel economy of a six under cruising conditions. I was never able to approach the numbers Transport Canada gives the car, averaging 11.1. But perhaps that is because it is so much fun playing with that responsive throttle! 

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