Ford is one company that has moved away from both SUV and minivan production, culminating in the termination of their Freestar minivan and the repositioning of their flagship SUV, the Explorer.
They have been filling the gap in their product line with a series of crossovers that started with the entry-level Ford Edge. The newest addition is the 2009 Ford Flex.
The Ford Flex definitely doesn’t resemble a minivan, with it’s long, chopped top styling evoking the Suburban and panel wagons of the 50’s and 60’s. The somewhat retro appearance gives the Flex a ‘day at the beach’ sort of feel, as though it wouldn’t look out of place with a couple of surf boards strapped to the roof.
Inside, the Flex provides seating for up to 7 passengers, with all seats except the driver’s folding flat to reveal an impressive amount of cargo space.
Other interior appointments include voice-activated navigation, a huge glass panel set into the roof over rear passengers in addition to a standard sunroof, and the Sync system that was co-developed with Microsoft in order to make management of in-car entertainment and communications easier. For those interested in more unusual options, an integrated refrigerator is also available.
Power is provided by Ford’s 3.5 liter corporate V6, which sends 260 horsepower to the front wheels through a 6 speed automatic transmission. Ford expects to eventually supplement this with their Ecoboost motor, which uses twin turbos and direct inject to make 340 horsepower, a sizeable upgrade.
According to Ford, this motor offers the same level of performance as their standard 4.6 liter V8, but with 20% better fuel economy and greatly reduced emissions. Either of these two engines are more than enough to haul the soccer team around town or camping gear on your summer vacation.
Ford is taking a risk by eliminating minivans from their lineup. While none of their offerings in that segment were selling well, the fact is that the Flex represents the forefront of a new type of crossover, one which instead of straddling the line between truck and minivan instead harkens back to that esteemed people-mover of yesteryear, the station wagon.
This is packaged with the modularity and cargo capacity of a modern minivan, and that is the market against which most drivers will cross-shop the Flex. Ford is counting on business coming from buyers who are tired of the pedestrian look of most minivans, and who are looking for the extended wheelbase of an SUV without the truck-like ride and handling.