Every once in a while, an automaker comes out with a vehicle that strays from the norm.
This can be either to try to penetrate a new segment, or experiment with platforms to see what buyers latch on to. The 2019 Ford Flex Limited is one of the longest running experiments that is sadly coming to an end after a decade. Built in Oakville, Ontario alongside the Edge (reviewed here), the Flex is a vehicle close to our hearts, and one that comes along with a lot of Canadian pride.
The Ford Flex finds itself somewhere between the midsize crossover and the traditional station wagon. Low slung and long hooded like a wagon, the Flex has three rows of seating for six or seven passengers and has the more upright seating position of a crossover. This translates right through to the driver seat, as it took a while to find the appropriate seating position to pilot the beast.
The Flex’s boxy styling certainly catches the eye, and attracts several comments from passer-by about it looking like a hearse. The unique exterior appearance of the Flex is actually what makes it an appealing and interesting vehicle; it stands out, makes you question what it’s like inside and whether or not you should swap out your bland, white, looks-like-every-other-crossover for one.
Opening the doors to the Flex you can’t help but wonder what other cool nifty surprises await you in this curiosity of a vehicle. The answer is nothing. Ford missed a huge opportunity with the Flex to create a niche vehicle with charisma all of its own. Perhaps the Flex was a standout when it launched in 2009, but there hasn’t been any creative energy sent in its direction for years and that’s probably why 2019 is the final year of production.
The door handles, locks and switches are the same ones found in vehicles built in 2006. The center console houses the same uninspiring, sparse and annoying to use Sony touchscreen interface found in the previous Ford Edge. Thankfully SYNC3 is on-board with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, which really modernizes the Flex save for the annoying HVAC touch buttons.
The second row can be had with either captain’s chairs or a bench seat, and two more seats are available in the third row that can fold flat into the trunk floor. The Multi-Panel Vista Roof is an oddity not seen anywhere else these days. It has personal skylights with manual shades for each of the outboard second row seats, and a third, larger one for the third row. Considering that these three skylights all share a single pane of glass, this is another indicator that the Flex hasn’t seen any love from the engineering department in years.
Despite some of these odd design choices, the Flex does have some very appealing traits that need to be highlighted. The seats, while appearing to be very flat upon first glance, conform magically to your body weight and become extremely comfortable and well bolstered. The steering column and pedals are all power adjustable, making an unlimited combination of seating positions available, which can be saved into memory.
And then there’s the space — the Flex is cavernous inside, with a very large and deep cargo area even when the third row is upright, capable of holding 426-liters. Flip those seats into the floor and cargo capacity almost triples, to 1,224-liters. Dropping the second row to the floor almost doubles the cargo capacity yet again to 2,355L, which is nearly as much as the Chevrolet Tahoe (reviewed here) can hold. The Flex has a much lower load floor to make getting things in and out much easier.
Available in SE, SEL and Limited trims, our test vehicle was an optioned up Limited with a starting MSRP of $46,449. The Limited trim takes the reasonably well optioned SEL and adds a 12-speaker Sony audio system, Blind Spot and Cross-Traffic alert safety systems, AWD, and 19-inch wheels. The Appearance Package, a $900 option, along with the Ruby Red paint job ($450) give the Flex its menacing two-tone look with the wheels, roof and trim pieces painted black. A Class III tow hitch ($500), and the previously mentioned vista roof ($1,750) round out the list for an as-tested price of $50,049.
There are two engines available in the Ford Flex, with the 3.5L EcoBoost engine carrying an almost $6,000 premium as it’s only available with the 303A package. Staying on the side of reasonable, our test vehicle had the perfectly suitable naturally aspirated 3.5-liter Ti-VCT V6 engine. This V6 felt right at home, with 287 horsepower at 6,500RPM and 254 lb-ft. of torque at 4,000RPM, providing plenty of grunt to pilot the Flex around town.
Keeping in theme with its aging platform and heritage, both engine options are strapped to a six-speed automatic transmission that shows no real need to be replaced, but makes a dent in the fuel economy. Around the city on regular unleaded fuel, the naturally aspirated Flex with all-wheel-drive is rated at 14.7L/100km, with on highway and combined cycle numbers being 10.7L/100km and 13.9L/100km respectively. With the Ecoboost engine, expect these numbers to be about six percent higher.
While certainly an oddity in the current automotive scene, the 2019 Ford Flex Limited is really a great vehicle for those who like to be different. We are sorry to see the Flex off into the sunset without much fanfare. The concept and form factor has great potential to be something special. If it were updated to todays design standards, with modern powertrains and had technology at the center of its design philosophy, the Flex could remain an iconic road warrior.