Ford Flex

Debut: 2008
Maker: Ford
Predecessor: no


European has MAV for long, now American has their own version of MAV...

The theory behind Ford Flex is very simple. Forget those silly descriptions like “Flex is a crossover between car and crossover” or “it represents a new type of vehicles on the market” etc. Think in this way: European has family hatch-based multi-activity vehicles. American demand things much larger, so their version of MAV is built on a full-size sedan platform (Ford Taurus / Lincoln MKS), has its wheelbase stretched for 130 mm and bodyshell squared up to accommodate 6 people in 3 rows.

This concept is nothing special. In fact, Chrysler has been using it (unsuccessfully) in its Pacifica since 2003. The key difference here is design. The long and square profile of Flex could have given us an impression of a funeral car or a household refrigerator, but through elegant detailing and fine surface treatment, Ford’s designers miraculously turned it into a tasteful and fashionable design. This is even more successful than Toyota bB Mk1, the ancestor of refrigerator school.
  

A funeral car, Mini Clubman XXL or Range Rover ? Its looks like all.

On the road, Ford Flex looks like a premium MPV. There is strong flavors of Range Rover in its front end design, the way its bonnet clamps onto the grille and its blackened window pillars. On the other hand, the general body profile and white roof make it look like a Mini Clubman XXL, if that car ever exist. Not many other Fords worth comparison with those design icons.

The cabin of Flex is also tastefully styled. But the best news to us is the vast improvement of material quality, which compares well with the best European and Japanese luxury minivans. You can have a lot of comfort and entertainment features, such as refrigerator, DVD video system, Sync audio / phone connection etc., but they will cost you a lot of extra money. What comes standard is a flexible seating arrangement, after which the “Flex” is named. You can fold all passenger seats independently to place luggage. Like Chrysler Pacifica, Ford opts for a 2+2+2 theatre-style seating to please the second row passengers. Benefited from an extra wide and tall bodyshell, each of the passenger enjoy vast of head, leg and shoulder room. Even the third row is decent for average size adults, something most other minivans failed to achieve. Admittedly, this is a must for a car measuring over 5.1 meters long and weighing in excess of 2 tons.
 


A flexible cabin is where "Flex" named after

As we have mentioned, Flex is built on the Taurus / Taurus X platform. Front-wheel drive is its inherent design, while part-time 4WD system is optional. Suspensions are MacPherson struts up front and multi-link setup at the rear. However, the rear suspensions have reworked geometry (different locations of springs and dampers) and a thicker anti-roll bar to deliver more refined ride. This is necessary because Flex employs pretty firm springs to counter body roll.

On the road, it handles better than its 1.7-meter height suggested. Body roll is well suppressed. Ride is firm but well controlled. Steering is more eager than most minivans. However, don’t ever try to drive it like a Ford S-Max. No cars at this size and weight could completely deceive the laws of physics.

Even on the straight you will beg for more power. The only engine available at launch is the familiar 3.5-liter DOHC V6, which pumps out 263 horsepower and mates with a GM-Ford 6-speed automatic gearbox without any manual facility. It takes around 9 seconds to go from zero to sixty yet drinks a lot of fuel. Blame to that heavyweight body, even the mildest enthusiastic drive will need to thrash the engine to upper rev, where the Ford V6 is not renowned for refinement.
 

Body roll is less than its 1.7-meter height suggested...

In these days, developing a jumbo-size car is not too wise. However, we cannot deny that Ford is very brave this time. Can the Flex overcome the rising fuel price and raw material costs and make money for Ford ? I am not sure. But compare with conventional minivans it is undoubtedly more fun and more desirable. It could be a nice replacement to minivans.
The above report was last updated on 20 Jun 2008. All Rights Reserved.
 





Specifications




General remarks

Flex 3.5 AWD
Flex 3.5 Ecoboost AWD
Layout
Front-engined, 4WD
Front-engined, 4WD
Chassis
Steel monocoque
Steel monocoque
Body
Mainly steel
Mainly steel
Length / width / height 5138 / 2029 / 1717 mm 5138 / 2029 / 1717 mm
Wheelbase 2995 mm 2995 mm

Engine
V6, 60-degree
V6, 60-degree
Capacity
3496 cc
3496 cc

Valve gears
DOHC 24 valves, VVT
DOHC 24 valves, VVT
Induction
-
Twin-turbo

Other engine features
-
DI

Max power
262 hp
355 hp

Max torque
248 lbft
350 lbft

Transmission
6-speed automatic
6-speed automatic
Suspension layout
F: strut
R: multi-link
F: strut
R: multi-link

Suspension features
-
-

Tyres front/rear
235/55R19
235/55R19
Kerb weight
2106 kg
2175 kg

Top speed
111 mph (limited)
123 mph (limited)
0-60 mph (sec)
8.4*
6.0*

0-100 mph (sec)
23.6*
15.9*

Performance tested by: *C&D






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