Saturday, October 16, 2010

2010 Ford Flex SEL - Not the Minivan Type? Try The Flex.

I'm the first to admit that I've never wanted to own a minivan. I like the creature comforts and space of a minivan, but I don't want something that screams "Mom Car" just like I don't want someone pointing at me and yelling, "Mom Jeans!" Yes, I know it's silly and sounds snobby, but I'm a car nut and my car desires are not always practical.

I know plenty of hip, stylish-jean-wearing Mom's who drive minivans and I certainly don't hold it against them. I admire their practicality and confidence when they say, "Sure, I can pick up your kid -- I have plenty of room in the van." They always have room to haul my kids around (in addition to their own kids and dogs) when I can only fit one more in my backseat. 

To respond to Moms with my van issues, Ford brought out the Flex in 2008. It now has seating for 8, 4 sunroofs, entertainment systems, and a turbo-charged EcoBoost engine with paddle shifters on the steering wheel. This is my kind of minivan alternative.

3rd Row Access
  • EcoBoost Engine turns a V6 into a V8 with better MPG
  • Hip styling both inside & out
  • Seating for up to 8 (with 4 LATCH equipped seats)
  • Enviable legroom for 2nd row (both knee space & depth)
  • Easy fold 2nd & 3rd row seats
  • No climbing over 2nd row to get to 3rd
  • Front passenger seat folds flat so trips to Home Depot are more exciting
  • Cool Mom Factor: 9 (especially at night with mood lighting)
    1=Pacer; 10=Audi R8 Spyder from Ironman II

The Boxy Type
When the Flex was launched in 2008 (model year 2009), I wasn't inspired with the exterior design. Most other car companies were going with curvaceous lines that appeared very aerodynamic and sexy. The Flex reminded me of the 1980's era VW Vanagon my brother and I drove in college: a shoebox on tiny wheels that was as aerodynamic as a hippo. I cringe thinking about the Minnesota winds that almost blew me and the Vanagon off the road as I chugged along I-35 between Northfield and Minneapolis. The Vanagon was either freezing cold (I lost feeling in my feet more than once) or boiling hot. And in it's later years the accelerator would stick so you'd have to shift into Neutral, coast to a stop, turn off the engine, open the rear engine compartment and tweak the cable. Not a very family-friendly image.

Driving the Flex
I didn't take a serious look at the Flex until this year when I started to see more and more families zipping around town looking comfy and warm. My husband has a colleague who drives to Lake Tahoe almost every weekend like we do and he raves about their 2010 Flex. They drove it up all winter last year and said it was great in the snow. After hearing that, I realized that I needed to let go of my "shoebox on wheels" grudge and give the Flex a try. I was impressed with the comfort, technology, stylish interior, and cargo/kid capacity. And it really isn't as boxy as I initially thought. It's more like a lowered, elongated Explorer that got an expensive makeover. Driving it I felt way more hip than my jeans and New Balance sneakers would suggest.

I took a 2010 Flex SEL for a drive that included a little bit of highway and a short road with some good curves. The Flex drove like a much smaller vehicle.  It doesn't have a high profile, so I didn't think I would feel any wind effects, and I didn't, but it is long, so I thought there would be more sway in the curves. Nope, nothing to report other than it handled like a car and I was surprised when I looked in the rear view mirror and saw how far back the 3rd row was. Maybe that means the driver won't hear the kids fighting way back there. Now that would be a nice feature... I haven't put it through my parking lot test yet, but was able to slide it right up to the curb at the dealer without cutting it too close.

Great Features
This Flex doesn't have the MyFord Touch that I loved so much in the 2011 Ford Edge, but it does have the voice-activated Sync system for your phone and iPod. You can get the MyKey system that limits speed and stereo volume for new drivers. Then there are the 4 sunroofs over 3 rows (a.k.a Vista Roof(TM)) so no more fighting over who gets the row with a sunroof. And my kids' favorite feature: the refrigerated console for the second row. Which means when you order your new Flex, you'll have to decide between one seat or a fridge. Sounds excessive to me, but I know we'd use it on those weekly drives to the mountains or for cold water after soccer practice.

The available EcoBoost engine uses direct injection so you get V8 power with a V6 engine and therefore, V6 fuel efficiency. (The estimated MPG on the 2010 Flex SEL I drove is 16 city/22 highway.) The Flex is a heavy car, so the EcoBoost isn't improving your MPG as much as it does on the Edge, but something's better than nothing.

2011 Flex
2nd & 3rd Row Sunroofs
Today I went back to the local Ford dealer to get a glimpse of the 2011 Flex. They pulled around a shiny new Flex Limited that had gotten off the transporter this week. Wow. I guess I'm as distracted by shiny, sparkly objects as the next girl. The paint was dark metallic gray and sparkled in the sun like diamond dust. The interior was black leather with cool contrast stitching. There were buttons to fold and flip seats this way and that -- no need to put down your child or your bags to get the seats to move. I was ready to send Santa a text right then and there with a picture of what I want for Christmas, but then I gathered my wits and paid attention to what Marketing Manager Tom was saying about taking a tour of the '11 Flex with a product specialist. I'll go back in a few weeks for my tour and to drive that beauty.

The Bottom Line
Fold-flat 3rd Row
If you don't want a minivan but want the space, check out the Flex. It will grow with your family, whether that means you're adding kids, or those you have are getting taller. 

Thanks to Novato Ford for their time, hospitality, and for letting me crawl around inside the Flex.   Photos by Erika Fish.

(c) Copyright 2010-2016. Erika JN Fish. Car Mama. All Rights Reserved.


  1. We love love love our 2010 limited ecoboost Ford Flex! This should be the real swagger wagon not the Toyota minivan LOL! Love passing other hip moms driving a flex as we give each other the, "your a hip mama smile!" Wish Ford did more advertising for the flex and had fun commericals like toyota does for their minivan. I've never owned a car that made me smile like this car. Every time I sit in my Ford Flex I get the giddy feeling as if it were the first drive home from the dealership!

  2. So awesome! Thanks for sharing your comments. Ford should really spend some more time & money on ads for the Flex -- it is such a great vehicle for families. So great that you found the right car that makes you feel good! Happy Driving!