Driving down the road in the new Flex Titanium you would think you are driving a regular large luxury car. The ride quality is excellent, with the suspension soaking up the bumps and potholes with ease. Steering is reasonably quick and light, and the cornering is rather flat and doesn’t require mid turn steering corrections. Acceleration is crisp and the power comes on smoothly through the 6-speed automatic transmission. The ABS brakes have excellent feel and provide great stopping power. It is only when you glance in the mirror and see the rear window sitting waaaay back behind you that you realize you’re driving a stretched box on wheels that’s technically classified as a crossover.
1. Based on the high-end Limited trim, the Titanium gains 20-inch wheels, plenty of black exterior accents and a special interior with illuminated kick-plates, a painted alloy center stack and suede seat inserts.
2. Power comes from the standard 3.5-liter V6 making 262-hp.
3. Pricing starts at $40,340 for front-drive models and $42,190 for AWD. The EcoBoost model tops the range at $45,185.
STANDARD V6 OR ECOBOOST, YOUR CHOICE
Our test of the big slab-sided machined began as a winter storm closed in on Chicago. A few hours and 3-inches of snow later we jumped in the vehicle to run a few errands. Big and heavy (4,700 lbs), this front-driver at first had us fooled. It handled the snow packed roads so well that at first we just assumed all the wheels were working to provide traction.
Driving cautiously due to the conditions, the standard V6 engine surprised as well, delivering plenty of power from the 3.5-liter V6. Sure the 355-hp EcoBoost twin-turbo V6 will deliver far more thrills on a warm summer day than this 262-hp mill, but with a solid 248 lb-ft of torque its not lacking.
As-tested, fuel economy even met the manufacturer’s numbers, posting right in the middle of the 17-mpg city and 24-mpg highway range – not great, but not terrible for a vehicle of this size.
TITANIUM TRIM ADDS INDIVIDUALITY
New for 2011 is the Titanium model and it is separated from the Flex Limited by the addition of interior styling features like metallic accents on the steering wheel, door bezels and the center stack, not to mention illuminated scuff plates. The comfortable and roomy seats are charcoal black leather and trimmed with perforated Alcantara suede seating surfaces, with perforated leather used for the steering wheel. The seats are not very well bolstered, but those suede inserts will keep the driver in place even when driving aggressively. And they heat up in seconds, which is a great feature in the cold Chicago winter.
The Titanium model also fits 225/45 all-season tires on handsome 20-inch polished aluminum rims, and a unique black chrome finish grille with a ‘Flex’ badge on the leading edge of the hood. There are matching black fog lamp bezels, plus the headlamps and tail lamps get the blackout treatment as well. Completing the look is a black chrome liftgate appliqué, body colored door handles, black beltline moldings and side mirrors as well as a black painted roof, which all worked together to offset the Ingot Silver Metallic body color on our tester. The Titanium can also be ordered in Red Candy Metallic, White Platinum Metallic Tri-Coat, or Tuxedo Black Metallic. The cost difference for the above listed items on the Titanium and Limited models is $2,495.
The cabin is a roomy, quiet and a comfortable place to spend hours behind the wheel. The driver’s dash has two large round dials for the tach and speedo with an info screen between them. The center armrest is large and has a 12-Volt charger port and USB jack, and covered in soft leather for comfort.
A large Nav screen with back-up camera and sonar warning dominates the center stack, and while the Nav screen can control most of the electronics, the Ford SYNC System means that you’ll seldom have to touch the screen, because you can work the navigation system, Bluetooth phone, HVAC, and sound system just by voice commands.
WELL-EQUIPPED AND SPACIOUS INTERIOR
There’s lots of storage around the cabin with the large glove box, door pockets, a cubby at the base of the center stack and two large illuminated cup holders on the console. And all the power luxury amenities are there, including dual zone climate controls for front and second row seats, an auto dimming rearview mirror, heated outside mirrors, memory seats, an electric liftgate switch on the dash with redundant control on the key fob, as well at one conveniently located at the rear hatch interior.
Another great feature that Ford puts on many of its vehicles is the electrically adjustable gas and brake pedals. Couple that with the tilt and telescope steering wheel, it means that short legged drivers do not have to push the electric seat all the way forward to comfortably operate the controls.
The boxy shape of the exterior benefits the interior with outstanding headroom from the front seats to the third row seats. Our test car had the six-passenger configuration, meaning the second row seats were separate, and both of those seats move fore and aft on tracks. The second row seatbacks fold flat and then the whole seat folds forward to offer a large opening to reach the rear, plus the step in height is extremely low, so it is easy to get into or out of any seat in the Flex. And there is still plenty of headroom and legroom for adults back there when the second row seats are moved a bit forward.
Naturally, the purpose of any crossover is to provide the owner with the flexibility (hence the name Flex) to either transport people or cargo, or a combination of the two. And with an overall length of nearly 202-inches and a width of nearly 89-inches, the Flex has plenty of room. With all the seats in use for 6 or 7 passengers, there is still 20 cubic feet of cargo space behind the 3rd row. It is easy to fold those seats flat into the cargo floor, and you’ve got a spacious volume of 43.2 cu-ft, or drop the second row too and expand it for a total of 83.2 cubic feet.
Easy to get into and out of, it rides and drives like a large sedan, has all the luxury amenities you could want and provides comfortable seating for six or seven passengers. Then when you need to haul some cargo for camping or weekend trips to Home Depot, you can fill it up like a small pick-up truck.
Priced at $40,340 it’s roughly $2,500 more than the high-level Limited trim. Is there room for such a model in the market? Apparently, yes. With vehicles like the GMC Acadian Denali and Toyota Sienna SE, Ford looked at sales of the Flex and realized the high take-rate on the more expensive trims. And so with Flex customers not flinching at the price, Ford decided to give them more of what they want.
A reasonably versatile alternative to the traditional minivan or crossover, in Titanium trim the Flex not only fits smartly on the soccer field or when pulling a 4,500 lb trailer, but it even looks the part if your night out includes a trip to the opera.