A couple of months back, MT's Detroit editor, Todd Lassa, said in an item introducing the Ford Flex Titanium that you could option it into the 50K range -- right smack in the Lincoln MKT's wheelhouse.

The MKT, in case you aren't up on MK nomenclature (and really, who is), is Lincoln's version of the Flex, and it's supposedly more luxurious and otherwise gloriously differentiated from its Ford sibling. But tack on the Flex Titanium package with the EcoBoost engine option, and suddenly, there's not so much differentiation going on here short of the sheetmetal.

For a vehicle that starts right around 30 grand, the Flex is generally meant for the people-moving masses, a hipper (depending on what you consider hip) alternative to the minivan set, with lots of room for multiple humans and their stuff. But when you want it all, and you don't want it from the Lincoln dealer, you can now turn to the 2011 Ford Flex Titanium.

We recently had the chance to roll in a Titanium-clad Flex for a couple hundred miles around metro Detroit. The white platinum metallic tri-coat sprayed ($495 option) tester with a black top hat and the 3.5-liter EcoBoost option started at $45,195. Add on the paint, active park assist ($550), the second row 40/40 auto fold seats ($750), panoramic vista roof ($1495), second floor console ($100) with the refrigeration option ($795), and a $775 delivery charge and voila: This particular model checked in at $50,145. And that's without other options such as the entertainment package, which would push it even further past that magical 50 grand mark...

When the Titanium rolled up with its polished 20-inch aluminum rims shining and white tri-coat gleaming, there were plenty of snickers at the sticker. Okay, so this Flex is far from a value proposition, but it does have enough flash and dash to justify its price tag -- to a point.

Let's start with the flash part. Step inside this Flex, and you'll immediately notice the black leather seats with slick-looking white Alcantara inserts. This particular model also featured lots of slick black trim pieces, most definitely a step up from the garden variety Flex. In addition to the optional features, the Titanium comes with a raft of standard equipment, including a navigation system with real-time traffic updates, Ford's Sync, Sony audio system, Sirius satellite radio, backup camera, and power adjustable pedals.

A couple of small callouts: Given this vehicle's mission and all the standard features on board, we were a little surprised to learn the rear seat entertainment was optional. And while it's a niggling thing, what's with not having an auto up/down passenger window button? C'mon now, Ford. The power liftgate also takes longer to open and close than your local drawbridge, but it is a pretty massive piece.

In the dash department, the EcoBoosted Flex moves out with crazy authority. We recently tested an MKT with Ford's outstanding 3.5-liter twin-turbo mill, and it moved the Lincoln luxo barge to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds. We had zero reason to doubt that number every time we stomped the Flex Titanium's adjustable pedal. For a 4800-odd-pound boxy hulk, this Flex flat out flies in a straight line. If you desire, you can push the paddle shifters with your thumbs in order to get a little more control over the six-speed automatic's shifts.

The Titanium's all-wheel drive is a welcome option in Great White North states like Michigan, and with the 20-inch rubber affixed, this Flex feels like it has a little less flex in the suspension. A vehicle like this is never going to be a world-class handler, nor should it be, given its people-hauling mission. But it handles its business surprisingly well given its dimensions, due in large part to its fully independent suspension setup with MacPherson struts up front, optimized shock positions, and thick anti-roll bars front and rear.

So, about that sticker again...When you start ticking off the competitors in this price range, including premium offerings such as the Mercedes R-Class, Acura MDX, Audi Q7 -- not to mention the MKT -- and the 50 thousand dollar question becomes harder to answer. But the Flex Titanium's unique style, mission, and luxury trimmings at least put it in the conversation, especially if a domestic-produced people mover is high on your priority list.


2011 Ford Flex Titanium with EcoBoost
Base Price $45,960
Price as tested $50,145
Vehicle layout Front engine, AWD, 6- or 7-passenger SUV
Engine 3.5-liter/355-hp/350-lb-ft DOHC twin-turbo V-6
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Curb weight 4850 lb (mfr)
Wheelbase 117.9 in
Length x width x height 201.8 x 79.9 x 68.0 in
0-60 mph 6.1 (MT est)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 16/21 mpg
CO2 emissions 1.06 lb/mile
On sale in U.S. Currently
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