Few vehicles are more identifiable at a glance than the Ford Flex. In an arena of gently contoured crossovers, the utterly rectilinear, defiantly boxy full-size crossover SUV stands apart.
In addition to handsome squared-off styling, the Flex provides outstanding interior space with three rows of seats that seat six in comfort with available capacity for seven. Flex features comfortable ride and handling characteristics that transcend most vehicles of this size. People who own them love them. Safety scores excel.
Introduced as a 2009 model, the Flex was updated for the 2013 model year, with a fresh front end and reworked interior. For 2016, Flex has not changed much: A rearview camera has become standard on 2016 Flex models, and a new blackout appearance package is available. Also, the infotainment system has been substantially upgraded for 2016.
Two powertrains are available. The standard 3.5-liter V6 engine develops 287 horsepower and performs strongly. However, the real performance sensation is the turbocharged, 365-horsepower V6. Capable of 0-60 mph acceleration in fewer than seven seconds, the turbocharged V6 makes the Flex swifter than any crossover in its class.
Electric power steering not only has a quick ratio, it’s locked onto the vehicle’s subframe, providing more precise feel. Drivers can expect a nicely controlled ride, as well as responsive brakes.
Cozy seats in the first and second rows provide limousine-level space all around. Buyers get a choice of a middle-row bench or bucket seats. The long Flex wheelbase ensures that even the third-row seat has legroom for adults, though six-footer head space falls short.
At any level, Flex is equipped well. The top-rung Flex Limited can be fitted with the turbocharged engine, all-wheel drive, leather interior, and glass panoramic sunroof. New this year is an appearance package that blacks out trim on the roof, grille, door handles, and window sills.
A second-row refrigerated console is available, a feature not found in any other vehicle in this class. Other new features include passive entry and start, rain-sensing wipers, and a feature that lets you go up or down by a gear on all models, not just those with paddle shifters. On the XC70 SEL and XC70 Limited, new Sync 3 is installed, with much better performance, simpler operation, and cleaner graphics.
Parking sensors and inflatable second-row seatbelts are available. So are adaptive cruise control with forward-collision alert and a blind-spot warning system. Flex gets a Top Safety Pick rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, with Good scores in most tests, but hasn’t been crash-tested recently by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.