2009 Ford Flex Limited AWD
2009 Ford Flex Limited AWD. Click image to enlarge

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2009 Ford Flex, by Paul Williams
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2009 Ford Flex

Second opinion by Greg Wilson

Ottawa, Ontario – I don’t know anyone who’s ever lusted after a minivan, unless you count the nuts who harbour an unhealthy obsession with Chrysler’s first-generation turbo minis. To my knowledge, these are the only modern minivans to have garnered a cult following, or a following of any kind, for that matter.

It’s precisely that general lack of desirability that has prompted many families to ditch minivans for more stylish crossovers. The problem for many enthusiasts is that, while crossovers may look more appealing than a minivan, the driving experience is rarely an improvement.

2009 Ford Flex Limited AWD
2009 Ford Flex Limited AWD
2009 Ford Flex Limited AWD
2009 Ford Flex Limited AWD
2009 Ford Flex Limited AWD
2009 Ford Flex Limited AWD
2009 Ford Flex Limited AWD. Click image to enlarge

However, a funny thing happened on the day colleague James Bergeron and I picked up our 2009 Ford Flex tester: we discovered it could actually handle – the sporty kind of handling – after taking a highway on-ramp a little quicker than we normally would have in a rig of this size.

Over a week’s worth of driving, that was the biggest surprise the Flex threw my way: aggressive cornering causes far less body roll than you’d expect, and steering feel and response are notably better than in any of this car’s direct competitors. You can get a sportier crossover, yes, but not one with this many seats or this much interior space.

Speaking of interior space, you’ll find lots of it in the Flex, for both you and your passengers. The front seats are very similar to, if not the same as, those in the Taurus and Taurus X. While there is no abundance of lateral support (a little more would make it easier to enjoy the Flex’s unexpected handling prowess), comfort is very high.

There’s plenty of space and comfort to be had in the second row, too, though the third row, typically for this class of vehicle, is best reserved for kids. The second row seats fold and then flip forward to allow access to the third row. It’s not as nifty a solution as GM employs in the Acadia/Outlook/Enclave trio, but it works just fine.

Cargo capacity is where the Flex lags behind its GM-built competitors. With 2,356 litres of space available behind the front seats (with second and third rows folded), the Flex simply can’t carry as much as the GM trio; the GMC Acadia boasts 3,313 litres when rows two and three are stowed. At a glance, it’s easy to blame this on the Flex’s chopped roofline, but the Ford stands just 50 mm lower than the Acadia (1,727 mm for the Ford versus the Acadia’s 1,775 mm). Regardless, there’s isn’t a lot of vertical space in the Flex with the seats down, as I discovered helping some friends move; an extra couple inches of roof height would have made a big difference in terms of what we could fit inside.

If you’re driven any of Ford’s recent crossovers (Edge and Taurus X, specifically), you’ll find a similar layout inside the Flex. Controls for the climate and sound systems are logical, and the audio controls are duplicated through the display that does triple duty with the (optional) navigation system and back-up camera. Nothing here is difficult to figure out, which is all anyone can ask for in a family hauler. A highlight, though, is the navigation display, which is the clearest I have ever used; even the rear-view camera’s images come through with surprising clarity.

My tester included the Ford/Microsoft Sync entertainment and communications system, which gets a thumbs-up from me for ease of use.

When you’re done ogling the camera’s eye view as you back out of your garage, you’ll discover that the Flex benefits from the same capable engine and transmission combo found in its Edge and Taurus X siblings.

2009 Ford Flex Limited AWD
2009 Ford Flex Limited AWD
2009 Ford Flex Limited AWD
2009 Ford Flex Limited AWD. Click image to enlarge

The 3.5-litre V6 is rated for 262 horsepower here, and while it’s enough to move this boxy vehicle with authority, you’ll be glad for the available power when it comes time to pass slow two-lane traffic; all-wheel drive versions weigh in at 4,640 pounds (about 2,100 kg). That’s about 400 pounds/200 kg more than the Taurus X, and while the Flex’s suspension is up to the task, the engine has to work noticeably harder to get, and keep, the Flex moving than it does in the Taurus.

Notable, though, is the Flex’s 4,500 pound (about 2,045 kg) tow rating, achieved with the optional, $500 Class-III trailering package.

Natural Resources Canada’s fuel consumption ratings for the all-wheel Flex are 13.5 L/100 km (city) and 9.2 L/100 km (highway). I averaged about 10.5 L/100 km on a 400 km road trip, and about 14 L/100 over roughly 300 km of city driving.

As is Ford’s wont, the tester they sent us was a very well-equipped Limited AWD model. Trim levels are limited (no pun intended) to SEL and Limited; the lesser SEL’s starting price is about $35,000, with the Limited picking up at $42,999. My tester’s extras included a panoramic roof (cool but pricey, at $1,700); the aforementioned Class-III trailer towing package for $500; a navigation system for $2,500; two-tone roof for $500; rear seat DVD system ($1,200), plus rubber floor mats and an engine block heater for $100 and $80 respectively.

Including $1,300 freight, you could purchase a Flex just like this for $51,079. You don’t need me to tell you that this is a lot of money; given that all Flexes use the same great drivetrain, you could get the same driving experience with far fewer options. But no matter the price, if you must move your family in style, this would be a great way to do it.

Pricing: 2009 Ford Flex Limited AWD

Base price: $42,999
Options: $6,680 (Panoramic roof, $1,700; Class-III trailering package, $500; navigation system, $2,500; two-tone roof, $500; rear-seat DVD entertainment system, $1,200; rubber floor mats, $100; engine block heater, $80)
A/C tax: $100

Freight: $1,300
Price as tested: $51,079
Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives

  • Specifications: 2009 Ford Flex

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