For the record, and forgive me if you’re heard me go on about this before, I sure do love functional vehicles, regardless of shape, or lack thereof.
My first car was a 1987 Volvo “I dare you to find curves on it” 240 DL station wagon. It had so much cargo space I was the moving day hero for all my friends growing up. I was also the driver of gear for all the gigs I had in my numerous rock bands, since everyone’s equipment fit in that mighty Volvo.
The 2016 Ford Flex reminds me of my first car, primarily because of its unique boxy stance. It’s a minivan/crossover/SUV all rolled into one type of vehicle. The Kia Soul is really the only “utilizes many near 90 degree angles” vehicle out there that doesn’t rely on sleek styling.
While not overly popular on Canadian roads, they’re definitely distinguishable from kilometres away.
And while it has not achieved cult-like status like the Mazda Miata/MX-5 quite yet, there are those who love it. For example, Modern Mississauga’s art director’s sister just picked one up this year and loves it oh so much.
Heck, I’d be happy in one if my 30-something lifestyle included dependents and all the joys that accompany them.
For 2016, the Flex approaches its 10th birthday and this year’s body style remains recognizable. The five available wheel choices are a nice touch, and available for only $900 comes the “Appearance Package” which sees a shadow black painted roof and exterior mirror caps, 20” wheels, and seat, door and instrument flairs added.
It measures a whopping 5,125mm in length, or very close to 17 feet. I could lay down almost three times over!
The front end looks aggressive and while there’s not a helluva a lot you can do with a big rectangle, the Ford folks have done a good job in still keeping some attractiveness to this vehicle, especially with the chrome grill.
So how do you propel a multipurpose vehicle of this size? With two choices.
First up is a 3.5L V6 churning out 287 horsepower and 254 lb-ft. of torque in either front or available all-wheel drive.
Fuel figures are high on this one at 14.7 city/10.2 hwy/12.7 combined for L/100km front wheel drive.
The all-wheel drive rates at 14.7 city/10.7 hwy/12.9 combined for L/100km.
Good, not great.
However, upgrade to the 3.5L V6 Eco-Boost engine and your power ratings spike to 365 horsepower and 350 lb-ft. of torque. Available only in all-wheel drive, fuel ratings are 15.7 city/11.2 hwy/13.7 combined.
So if you want faster motion, it’ll cost you a couple of bucks at the pump.
And if you’re constantly hauling this, that and nearly anything else, it makes sense to tick the EcoBoost box on the option sheet.
My top of the line Limited tester (SE base and SEL mid are the others) drove smoothly and quietly and would be well suited for long road trips, perhaps starting where the Flex is manufactured, in neighbouring Oakville, ON.
Even though it’s got the aerodynamics of a brick, the Flex’s fuel economy isn’t awful given its size, weight and high chances that it’ll rarely be empty.
Let’s get to the star of the show, the interior. I’ll start with some impressive figures because, well, just read the next three lines:
- Cargo space with the rear two rows of seats upright: 566 litres
- Cargo space with the third row of seating folded: 1,223 litres
- Cargo space with rear two rows of seats folded: 2,356 litres
You could probably sub in for an Ikea delivery van a few days a week with space like that!
Keeping with the rear of the vehicle, the third row has power collapsible seats and while there’s space for two people, it’s best to only put one adult back there. Or you can use it as separation for fighting siblings/friends.
Here’s a video that illustrates how Ford’s smart and useful available version of “Stow N’ Go” operates, which they’ve badged as “PowerFold Third Row Seat”:
The second row will fit three mostly comfortably, well, as long as one of those three is not me. At least not until I lose a few pounds and inches from my mid-section.
Pop in a driver and front passenger and voila, you’ve got seating for seven folks of various sizes.
Ford’s available (equipped in my tester) SYNC3 makes a big difference in how you interact with the car’s phone and audio system and for safety, a backup camera is standard (smart move, Ford).
Voice activated navigation is available for $800 and a multi panel Vista roof system (four different sun/moon roofs, which I highly recommend) is a $1,750 option.
The big upgrade for nearly $7,000 sees safety upgrades including adaptive cruise control, BLIS (Blind Spot Information System), collision warning, active park assist, heated and cooled seats, along with a bunch of other goodies.
You can even adjust how far the pedals are from your feet on the Limited model, along with dual climate controls.
The cool factor is the power lift gate that has the option of being operated by kicking air…err, making a kicking motion beneath the trunk.
Everything is run off one stalk to the left of the steering wheel (turn indicator and wipers) as there’s no right stalk. It takes a bit of getting used to but I can see why Ford wanted to combine them to increase space up front, albeit with only a smidgen of space saved.
The seats are comfortable, visibility with all those windows is high and the seating position isn’t as low as “car” but not quite at SUV heights - it rests nicely in between.
The short version? There’s so much versatile space inside with the second row of seats split 60/40, plenty of comfort up front along with plenty of available safety and tech options.
And that, friends, is how utilitarianism is executed properly.
The appearance of the Flex won’t appeal to everyone - I get that, and I’m sure Ford gets that.
I suppose you could say it doesn’t have enough “flex appeal.”
However, if you can get past its quirky exterior, there’s so much it does right. With SUV/Crossover sales constantly growing, this true “crossover” offers versatility, more than enough cargo space, smart available technology and a strong overall offering to drivers who don’t want a minivan or an SUV.
With the base SE trim starting in the mid-$30K’s and the mid-range SEL starting in the low-$40K’s, you’re on par with a similar sized vehicle.
The range topping Limited trim starts in the mid $40K range and between the $6,800 worth of safety/climate/appearance options, the appearance package at $900, the Vista roof for $1,750, and navigation at $800, you’re practically at the $60K mark.
And yes, some may balk at that for a non SUV/minivan. Remember, though, this is the fully jammed “I don’t think there are any options remaining” version of the 2016 Ford Flex.
Far from the ugly step-sister, there are still some good looking exterior elements, but it’s the interior that steals the show. So if you’re in the market for a true people/stuff mover and are one of those “it’s what’s on the inside that counts” kinda person, at least test drive the Flex.
Enjoy the full gallery below!