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

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Ford Motor Company of Canada

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2009 Ford Flex

Regular visitors to my banter at CD have probably noticed my affinity to all things with woodgrain appliqués. I dig old-school station wagons, especially my ’76 Caprice Estate Wagon, may she rest in rusty pieces. Station wagons were the trucks of my youthful budgetary constraints, and the Clark Inner Circle has plenty of stories involving these semi-safe behemoths, loaded to the point of coil spring compression with whatever was free, or poorly guarded. The Caprice, Laurentian, and even the Pinto are gone, but their promise of utility has been carried forth by legions of crossover vehicles.

Even the Oh-Nine Ford Flex calls itself a crossover, though retro touches like white roof panels and gleaming chrome proclaim this chariot as the King of Country Squires.

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

(I would have proved it, but Rona was out of walnut MacTac.) This week, Inside Story determines if the new Flex lives up to the 2009 AJAC $35,000-$60,000 Crossover award, with the top-shelf Limited AWD version priced at an MSRP of $50,749. (Prices shown do not include freight, taxes, or regional incentives.)

The Cockpit/Centre Stack

The corporate four-spoke wheel is about the only obvious giveaway as to what brand you’re in, with definite improvements in build quality and materials. Steering wheel tabs include cruise control functions and audio tweaks, with a voice prompt key to adjust everything from climate control to personal calling via Bluetooth wireless connectivity. This is the sweetest SYNC experience to date, with ample direction for the user via voice prompts and the primary display screen. The column uses a manual tilt, with power-adjustable pedals picking up the slack of a telescoping adjustment.

Headlamps receive an Auto setting. Wiper controls continue to follow the Ford doctrine of turn-signal-stalk placement for front and rear swipe.

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

The driver information display is easily accessed by eye level-mount switches, above the centre stack screen, which is also the location for the traction control cancel. While the Fusion-inspired gauge pod has reached the point of ad nauseum, the Blue Oval designers have at least started to adjust the numeric fonts.

The six-speed automatic floor shift dismisses the use of a manu-gate, as should most CUV slushboxes. The parking brake is actuated via a floor-mount pedal, with no snag concerns. The automatic climate control system can override the rear console-mount controls, if required. The system is a definite treat for cool or heat, with second- and third-row HVAC venting in the headliner, as well as a floor-level venting system on the left-hand side of the third-row wall. The driver’s window is fitted with an Auto descent/ascent, while the power heated exterior mirror toggle is located at the proper access height, aft of the A-pillar. Note the HVAC ducting for side window defrost. The exterior mirrors are of the breakaway style, with approach lighting on their respective underbellies.

Cubbies!

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

Let’s get the weakest of the cubbies out of the way first, with the expected Ford frontal glovebox, in a state of literature overwhelm. That oversight is more than compensated for, with the second-row location of the Flex coolbox. The reverse-flip console lid reveals a secondary cover for the cooler cavity, which can also be switched to a deep freeze mode for the “I Scream You Scream We All Scream For Ice Cream set. Cup and bottle holders are in genuine abundance; both front and rear doors provide bottle cavities, in addition to storage wells. The front console sports a dual cupholder with pressure-fit cinch, backlit with a derivative of the MyColour system, which can be altered by a switch within the front console. The lighting colour palette is duplicated in the footwells.

The interior of the front console allows plug-in points for an auxiliary audio source, USB feed, and a 12-volt DC powerpoint. A second powerpoint is found on the passenger side of the centre stack wall. Still need more power? A third 12-volt dock is found on the rear of the front console for second row service, with an adjacent AC inverter. The inverter port has a unique safety twist feature for plug insertion. The final power boost is a DC portal, in the rear cargo bay. If you think that front console has been completely eradicated of its usefulness, think again. The lower rear portion slides out, revealing two cupholders, and a rear compartment sensibly sized for gaming controllers. Front seatbacks add ample storage pockets. The third row gets high-mount cupholders, with flip-top upper storage compartments.

The overhead

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

Sliding visors for the expanse of glass that is the cockpit of the Flex are somewhat mandatory, and thankfully included, with dual backlit vanity mirrors. The primary rear-view mirror is self-dimming. The sunglasses holder is oversized, and a Homelink system can sync with your arrival at the homestead. The Vista Roof option provides a power front slider with wind deflector, and fixed portals for the second and third rows, which are equipped with retractable sunshades. Topside, a singular flush-mount dark tint glass panel covers the three rear seating portals, with rear-exiting rain gutters. The optional rear DVD system easily allows for gaming system plug-in, with wireless headphones to keep the conquest of the Universe down to a dull roar.

Seat treat

There’s minimal stress for ingress/egress, something practically unheard of for third row occupancy. Simply press the power tumble switches on the C-pillar, and you’ll find yourself in an aft cabin that made even the Comfort Dummy more animated than usual. Second and third rows returned no headroom complaints, though much of that applause was earned by the fact that the space between headliner and noggin was greatly improved by the Vista Roof indentation. Legroom can be optimized without denting of the knees, with sliding second row seats.

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

While the steerage section is a cold and unfeeling vinyl hide, the leather front and second row seats receive two-step heat. Front seats are power, with 10 ways for the driver, and six ways for the passenger. The driver position adds two memory keys. Speaking of keys allowing access to the seats, Ford’s SecuriCode touch pad access system is cleverly hidden on the exterior driver door panel, illuminating by touch, or vigorous use of the rinse wand at the car wash.

Cargo embargo

The power rear tailgate reveals serious opportunities for lengthy cargo, thanks to a front passenger seat fold feature. The gate can be operated from the instrument panel, and closed with a panel-mount switch at the rear, with an audible move-your-head-genius warning chime. The third row can fold into the floor, with the second row seats allowing for flattened seatbacks, or forward flip. Cargo hooks and netting provisions are provided, though a cargo area cover appears to be unavailable.

Spare care

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

It’s not too often that a temporary spare tire tries to be cool, but that’s the case with the Flex unit. There’s actually more than one spare tire, if you count the magic sealing goo/air compressor combo pack. In either event of tire air vent, Ford will provide Roadside Assistance for the first five years or 100,000 kilometres of ownership.

The mill

Wow; an engine that has actually been allowed to look like an engine. The 3.5-litre 262-horsepower Duratec V6 removes the expected plastic topper, providing good service access to major components. Fluid fill points are well marked for easy top-up, while the hood is held aloft by dual gas struts.

The Verdict

Speaking of verdicts, all eyes are currently upon the drama that is the cash infusion talks on both sides of the border, for the group formerly known as the Big Three. While there has been plenty of needless branding and model duplication throughout the likes of Ford, GM, and Chrysler, there appears to be a genuine renaissance in regards to what every vehicle should be: practical. Some potential Flex-ors may get a little tight in the half-Windsor territory, with a starting MSRP of $34,999. Before you pass judgment, take a close look at the list of standard equipment. The Flex arrives well equipped, instead of the usual doctrine of low-ball MSRP-stripped. The station wagon is back, and not a moment too soon; five stars.

Next week: 2009 Porsche 911 Carrera S PDK

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