For a sportier feel, Ford engineers made some adjustments to the suspension tuning and dropped the ride height by 10 mm. The biggest weakness here, though, is with the electric power steering, which does not provide enough feedback to the driver. But with that downside come several new features that may make up for the compromise.
For example, it does provide a feature for those who tow, which should help with one of Ford's big goals with the Flex. Ford wants to take advantage of the fact that buyers are moving away from full-size SUVs to smaller, more efficient vehicles. Ford's goal is to lure those who want better fuel economy than a full-size can offer but who still want power and towing capacity -- as long as they're towing less than 4500 pounds, which is the max tow capacity for the Flex. The electric power steering uses pull-drift compensation that helps offset the effects of a heavy crosswind, which would come in especially handy with a trailer in tow. It works behind the scenes, so all a driver would observe is that the vehicle isn't pushed into another lane in high winds.
For would-be luggers, whether driving a Flex with Duratec or EcoBoost, a Class III trailer tow package is available, and that package comes standard with trailer sway control. We towed 2500 pounds of personal watercraft behind a Flex Limited, and it felt quite confident, with no noticeable sway.
The electric steering also means another new-for-2010 feature comes to the Flex: active park assist. This system uses ultrasonic sensors to determine whether a space is large enough for the Flex to parallel park in, and then does the job for you. You control throttle and brake; it does the rest.
It's fairly intuitive, and gets the Flex close to the curb without hitting it, but it wouldn't be a bad idea for dealers to show their customers how to use the system. (Push the button on the lower left side of the center stack, watching for information below the gauge cluster. Drive forward until you see that the system sees a space that's big enough, put the Flex in Reverse, and take your hands off the wheel. Accelerate and brake as you see fit and put the Flex in Drive and Reverse when the system suggests it so you can finish parking.) Parking is faster than with other systems like this and works quite well.