Second Drive: 2010 Ford Flex SEL EcoBoost
Swift and Stylish: The Crossover for Moving People in a Hurry
Amidst a virtual sea of conservative crossovers, the Ford Flex EcoBoost stands out for its unmistakable design and an engine producing enough power to actually make this people-mover fun.
Drive the Ford up a freeway onramp and you’ll understand: This EcoBoosted Flex is fast. Should you decide to pass a slower crossover (most in this price range are), the Flex will respond – after a moment’s hesitation – with 355 horsepower that will put a smile on your face until passengers start wondering why they’re in such a hurry.
Of course, Ford’s now familiar EcoBoost engine gets full credit for the much-improved acceleration. The engine, which also appears in the Ford Taurus SHO and Flex-based Lincoln MKT, is a direct-injection V-6 with twin turbos. Over the regular AWD Flex, the EcoBoost engine adds 93 horsepower but matches the fuel economy: 16/22 mpg city/highway.
Well, on paper, it’s the same rating. Although our mix of city and highway driving yielded about 17 mpg from a possibly optimistic trip computer, lead feet attracted to the EcoBoost model should expect fuel economy on the lower end of the range.
If you’re worried about fuel economy, there’s always the front-drive, non-EcoBoost Flex, with a 17/24-mpg city/highway rating, in line with the competition. Go that route and you’ll save quite a bit of money too. The least expensive Flex EcoBoost is $39,995, not exactly a screaming deal but significantly less than the Lincoln MKT EcoBoost, which starts at $49,995. Topline Limited Flexes add HID headlights, LED taillights, a navigation system with eight-inch screen, and what Ford calls a “satin-aluminum liftgate applique.”
All Flex owners should consider whether they truly appreciate the bold styling since the next-generation Explorer isn’t too far off. The new Explorer will likely have improved fuel economy, a third-row option, and an EcoBoost engine wrapped in more traditional SUV styling. The Flex, with its $395 white- or silver-colored roof, recalls the Mini Cooper more than a basic two-box SUV.
Of course, successful crossovers do more than just go fast and look good. For the most part, the Flex is family-friendly. The ride is comfortable, yet there’s enough room for improvement here so the Lincoln MKT can distinguish itself from the Flex. Handling is predictable for a vehicle this size: Take it easy around corners, and the Flex will respond positively. Its low-effort steering is acceptable for this class, though we would appreciate more brake feel. The brake pedal has too much travel before anything actually happens.
The Flex can function as a potential replacement vehicle for those who want to step down from a tall SUV or up from a car. The second row can seat two passengers in captain’s chairs or three across if seven-passenger capability is desired. Be careful with the one-touch folding and manually adjustable second-row seats, though, as the ones on our tester were far too quick to fold forward.
Access to the third-row seats is easy enough, and once you’re back there, Flexes without the Vista Roof (sunroof up front, two small skylights in the second row, and one large skylight for third row passengers) have adequate headroom. The Flex is about as tall as a Toyota Highlander but 2.4 inches shorter than a Chevrolet Traverse and 3 inches shorter than a Honda Pilot. With the Flex about 2.5 inches narrower than the Pilot and the Traverse, the Ford isn’t more difficult than you’d expect to park. We’d like to see Ford use body-color sensors in the Reverse Sensing System which is standard equipment on every Flex.
We might not use the word “premium” to describe the interior, but quality is still high. Once you’re accustomed to the controls, they’re intuitive. In six-passenger models like our $41,850 Flex EcoBoost SEL, second-row armrests should be standard equipment even without the second-row floor-console option selected. A second-row refrigerated compartment is also available: It’ll cool drinks down to 23 degrees.
The Flex EcoBoost is a thoroughly competent carpool-ready vehicle with enough power to make you temporarily forget how large the Ford really is. Crossover shoppers who want to blend in should look elsewhere.
|2010 Ford Flex with EcoBoost|
|Vehicle layout||Front engine, AWD, 6- or 7-passenger SUV|
|Engine||3.5-liter/355-hp/350-lb-ft DOHC twin-turbo V-6|
|Curb weight (dist f/r)||4850 lb (mfr)|
|Length x width x height||201.8 x 75.9 x 68.0 in|
|0-60 mph||6.3 (MT est)|
|EPA city/hwy fuel econ||16/22 mpg|
|CO2 emissions||1.06 lb/mile|
|On sale in U.S.||Now|