2009 Ford Flex SEL AWD
2009 Ford Flex SEL AWD. Click image to enlarge
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Ford Motor Company of Canada

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2009 Ford Flex SEL AWD

Test Drive by Chris Chase

North Vancouver, British Columbia – My Flex test vehicle was the six-passenger version with the individual second-row seats separated by a console with a padded raised armrest, two cupholders and an open storage container. Underneath the centre armrest is a storage box or optional refrigeration box ($650) which can be set to “Cool” or “Freeze” with the press of a button. While the cooler is a good idea in principle, its irregular shape which gets narrower at the bottom makes it fairly small – there’s only enough room for a couple of cans of pop and some ice-cream bars; as well, it doesn’t work with the ignition off, so if you leave the Flex parked anywhere for a while, your ice-cream bars may be a little messy and your pop a little lukewarm.

2009 Ford Flex SEL AWD
2009 Ford Flex SEL AWD
2009 Ford Flex SEL AWD

2009 Ford Flex SEL AWD. Click images to enlarge

My Flex also had the second-row fan and temperature controls (standard) which second-row passengers can really appreciate on a hot or cold day. In addition, second-row passengers can treat themselves to a movie on the optional overhead DVD player with eight-inch screen, wireless remote and headphones ($1,200), or plug in their laptop to the rear 110-volt outlet (part of Convenience Package), or connect their portable video game player into the A/V outlets or the rear 12-volt outlet. To keep things bright at the rear, both second and third-row passengers have skylights with sliding sunshades while front occupants have a tilt and slide sunroof ($1,700 “Vista Roof”).

Front passengers also have a lot of entertainment options: standard six-speaker stereo with CD/MP3 changer and Sirius satellite radio (with a prepaid six-month subscription) and SYNC hands-free audio and telephone operation, or optional Sony audio system with 10 speakers including a subwoofer; as well as jacks for auxiliary input, USB and 12-volt accessories in the centre storage bin.

The Flex is a very roomy vehicle, but as Chris pointed out, not quite as roomy as some of the taller crossovers and certainly not as roomy as most minivans. First and second row passengers have plenty of headroom and legroom and those seats are very comfortable (both front seats are power adjustable), but third row passengers will find the floor a bit high and the seatbacks a bit firm. Sufficient legroom in the third row can be found by sliding the second row seats forward.

Storage versatility in the Flex is excellent. The 50/50 third row seats fold flat into the floor, the 50/50 second row seatbacks fold flat, and so does the right front passenger seat. Maximum cargo floor length is about 300 cm or close to 10 feet and cargo width is four feet over the third row armrests.

2009 Ford Flex SEL AWD
2009 Ford Flex SEL AWD
2009 Ford Flex SEL AWD

2009 Ford Flex SEL AWD. Click images to enlarge

With its tall “greenhouse” the Flex offers excellent visibility for the driver, and the relatively flat hood makes it easier to judge parking distances. But it’s a very long and wide vehicle that requires a long parking space. I found the audible rear parking sensors very useful in getting as close as possible to a wall or post without actually hitting it.

The Flex makes a great highway cruiser – its 3.5-litre V6 and six-speed automatic transmission are quiet and smooth, with the engine turning over a relaxed 1,750 r.p.m. at a steady 100 km/h in sixth gear. It’s easy to drive too, and as Chris Chase pointed out, handles surprisingly well with its big 235/60R-18-inch radials and fully independent suspension. On dry roads, the AWD system which can apportion torque 100% to the front or rear when necessary is basically invisible to the driver. The Flex also comes standard with Roll Stability Control, a form of stability control that uses two gyroscopic sensors to monitor yaw and roll motions in order to prevent spinouts and rollovers.

But as a large, heavy vehicle with AWD, fuel economy suffers. I averaged almost 16 L/100 km (18 mpg Imperial) in a week of mostly city driving while my on-board fuel economy readout read a 19 L/100 km – probably incorrect. Official fuel consumption figures are 13.5/9.2 city/hwy.

For those buyers who want six or seven seats but don’t want a boring minivan, the Flex offers bold styling that really stands out from the crowd. Unfortunately, the Flex has entered the marketplace at a time when many buyers are considering downsizing. Still, you can’t fit seven people in a Focus, so for some buyers the utility, comfort, roominess, safety, styling, and flexibility of this big wagon will hold an undeniable appeal.

Pricing: 2009 Ford Flex SEL AWD

Base price: $36,999

Options: $6,630 (White roof $500; Convenience Package: power pedals, power liftgate, 110V outlet, memory driver’s seat and mirrors $1,300; Sync $500; Vista Roof $1,700; Rear DVD entertainment system $1,200; 2nd row console $100; rear cooler $650; Class 3 towing package $500; engine block heater $80; rubber floor mats $100)
A/C tax: $100
Freight: $1,300
Price as tested: $45,029
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