A minivan for real men
Though I would assume that my 2013 Ford Flex Limited tester’s hearse-like styling would deter potential Grand Caravan cross-shoppers, I suppose innovation can never be a bad thing.
The first sight the public got of the Ford Flex was the Ford Fairlane Concept; shown at the 2007 North American International Auto Show in New York. The concept hinted at the replacement for two of Ford’s aging vehicles; the Taurus X (formerly known as the Freestyle) as well as their signature minivan, the Freestar. Though I would assume that my 2013 Ford Flex Limited tester’s hearse-like styling would deter potential Grand Caravan cross-shoppers, I suppose innovation can never be a bad thing.
When the Flex first debuted, it was powered by Ford’s 3.5L Duratec V6. For 2010, Ford decided that it was time to give the Flex an optional motor with a little bit more ‘oomph’, and that’s how the 3.5L EcoBoost came to be. The twin-turbo V6 with 365 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque is mated to a 6-speed SelectShift automatic. Despite weighing as much as a church, the Flex has no issues attaining any reasonable amount of speed. Dare I say, the big dog actually feels reasonably quick.
Essentially being the minivan-replacement for the brand (not that Ford will ever admit this), the ride is an essential part of the Flex’s package. The smooth suspension on my Limited model created an extremely supple and comfortable ride. The team decided to spend a “guys’ night out” in Niagara Falls and used the Ford Flex as our choice vehicle. Other than some complaints from the rear about the seats lacking some support, the miles passed by quickly with the latest episode of “The Big Bang Theory” on the headrest screens.
Despite my initial analysis about the Ford Flex’s slab-sided design resembling a hearse, it truly started to grow on me over the course of my test week. I think it might have been the chrome 20” wheels that won me over. I personally have a huge soft spot for wheels of a certain design, and these have certainly found their ideal match on the Flex Limited. It’s almost as if the wheels alone complement the “face only a mother can love” and make the whole package stand out.
The 2013 Flex Limited is pretty much packed to the brim with features. Toys such as the forward collision warning system, park assist, adaptive cruise control, and voice-activated navigation definitely bring an upscale feel to the Ford. It may still be a minivan without the sliding rear doors, but it’s come a long way from the Ford vans of yesteryear (does anyone remember the Aerostar?).
I’ve never personally been a fan of Ford’s MyFordTouch interface, but I feel as though after what seems like 9 trillion software updates over the past few years it has actually improved. Bluetooth audio streaming was easy to use, and the speakers in the Flex actually sound awesome. There was always the right balance of bass, treble, and midrange, which is essential for a vehicle used for long highway hauls.
The Flex is actually a great machine on paper. It’s a perfect family minivan without the stigma of actually being a minivan. The problem is; there are a few numbers that minivan buyers look for. Things like gas mileage, price, and number of seats may not matter to enthusiasts, but to a family they’re what make or break the deal.
An as-tested price of $59,000 is more than $10,000 more expensive than both the Honda Odyssey Touring and the Toyota Sienna XLE AWD. Each of those has at least 7 usable seats with the option to get an eighth. The Flex, with its six seats, also got an average of 13L/100km and drinks premium fuel. While the other minivans get marginally better fuel mileage, they also lack the 365 horsepower of the Ford.
If an extra $10,000 is worth about 90 more horsepower and not having to say you drive a minivan, the Flex is a great soccer practice vehicle. It’s infinitely manlier-looking than your neighbour’s Chevrolet Uplander and definitely cooler than your kid’s teacher’s Honda Crosstour. If it’s value that you’re looking for though, the 2013 Ford Flex Limited is probably not your match. I’d be willing to bet that the majority of young families who absolutely need a minivan will be looking to buy a Grand Caravan; a solid choice in the segment. My personal pick would be a compromise between versatility, fun, and bang-for-buck; the Hyundai Santa Fe XL. Check one out.
2013 Ford Flex Limited Gallery