2016 Ford Flex Review: Minivan for cool dads
– Detroit, Michigan
Toyota basically ruined my life in 2010 when it debuted the “Swagger Wagon” commercial for its Sienna minivan. Six years later, people still use that stupid phrase to refer to the SE-trim Sienna, which I’d like to point out (1) doesn’t swagger and (2) isn’t a wagon. If any vehicle in this world is worthy of such a descriptor, it’s the Ford Flex. More wagon than crossover, and with a biturbocharged heart, it’s way cooler than any minivan out there.
The sad news is, the Flex is entering its twilight years. It’s eight years old now, and its D4 platform traces its roots back to the days when Ford owned Volvo. Old as it may be, and with its death in sight, it’s time to take the ol’ girl out for one more spin. This wagon indeed has some swagger left in it.
- The Flex is very polarizing – everyone I know either loves it or hates it; there’s no in-between. I’m in the former camp. The Flex looks rad, way better than any minivan, and with more visual interest than most frumpy mainstream crossovers. It’s retro-modern, and one of the only cars out there that can really pull off the two-tone paint job seen here (part of the sport appearance package). It’s different without sacrificing functionality, and I find that very refreshing.
- Stomp the gas pedal from a stoplight and I guarantee you’ll laugh. This thing weighs almost 5,000 pounds, but many outlets have recorded hitting 60 miles per hour in just over six seconds. That’s super quick, considering its size and shape. The EcoBoost 3.5-liter V6 underhood produces 365 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque. While that’s not crazy in the realm of performance crossovers these days, for something like a Ford Flex, it makes for a hilarious driving experience.
- This is one of the most comfortable six-/seven-passenger vehicles on the road today. I hate sitting inside the Ford Explorer, but I love being inside the Flex. I feel like I have a million inches of shoulder- and hiproom, and there’s plenty of space in all three rows. I took a road trip with four other people in a Flex about six years ago, and it still remains one of the best long-haul vehicles out there today.
- The cool exterior styling and sport appearance pack might be enough to keep the exterior fresh, but inside, the Flex’s age is clear. I’m glad Ford updated the infotainment system to the latest Sync 3 technology, but in terms of design, as well as material fit and finish, this clearly comes from a different time in Ford’s life. The steering wheel controls are hard and unpleasant to use. The seats – though comfy – look totally worn down, even though this car has just 8,000 miles on the odometer. Even the weird wavy trim in place of woodgrain just looks shoddy.
- The EcoBoost V6 is stupid fun, but it’ll cost you at the pump. With all-wheel drive (standard with the EcoBoost engine), get used to only seeing combined fuel economy numbers in the mid-teens. Yikes.
- This Flex is almost $51,000, or $20,000 more than the base version. Granted, that’s not as much as a Ford Explorer Platinum ($53,235), but as tested, it’s more expensive than an Explorer Sport, which uses the same engine and offers similar seating and hauling capabilities. That’s been the trouble with the Flex all along – in the crossover class, the conventional cars are what sell. I think the Flex is super cool, but I can’t fault Ford for finally pulling the plug on this redundant, yet charmingly quirky conveyance.
- Chevy Traverse
- Dodge Durango
- Ford Explorer
- GMC Acadia
- Kia Sorento
- Honda Pilot
- Hyundai Santa Fe
- Mazda CX-9
- Nissan Pathfinder
- Toyota Highlander
Photos: Steven Ewing / Motor1.com