Long Term Test Introduction: 2011 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost
By Kevin Miller
Autosavant’s Editor Chris Haak is a big proponent of minivans. If you need proof, just read any of his reviews of three-row crossover vehicles; nearly all of them state that a crossover is a compromised choice when compared to a minivan. That being said, the Miller household recently made the determination that our 2004 Volvo V70R was not cut-out for soccer carpooling duties (thanks to car seat requirements), so it was time to shop for something with a few more seatbelts. Mrs. Miller is “minivan averse,” which led us to a shopping list full of three-row crossovers.
My first order of business was to make a list of crossover vehicles, and to read Chris’ reviews of them. After getting over his minivan bias, I found plenty of useful information, and put together a test drive list that included the Mazda 5 and CX-9, Ford Flex and Explorer, Acura MDX, Audi Q7, and Volvo XC90. I wanted to include the Mercedes-Benz R-Class, but my wife just couldn’t see herself driving a vehicle with the three-pointed star on the front. Having previously reviewed the LR3 and disliking its dynamics, it was not on our list.
We started our test-driving with the Mazdas; the Mazda5 didn’t have enough legroom for my leggy 6’4” frame to squeeze behind the wheel, and our drive of the CX-9 resulted in comments like “not nearly as bad as we had expected.” Our next stop was the Ford dealer, where we drove both standard and EcoBoost versions of the Flex Limited. My wife was impressed by the space and features, I was impressed by the power of the 355 HP twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6 and the relatively flat cornering exhibited by the big wagon. After driving the MDX (cramped second- and third-rows), Q7 (not special enough to justify its premium price) and XC90 (difficult-to-erect third-row seats, vintage-2003 technnology, way too common), we decided that the Flex Limited EcoBoost was the car for us.
Among the deciding factors were the ease of use of the third-row seats (both stowing and accessing), amazing second-row legroom, and the fact that, at least in the Seattle area where we live, the Flex is a very rare vehicle. We ended up searching dealer inventory over Labor Day weekend and finding one in Portland, Oregon, that included our desired features (Flex Limited with Active Park Assist, Multi-Panel Vista Roof, and PowerFold third-row seats) and a good color scheme. In order to take advantage of Labor Day weekend incentives offered in our region, we flew to Portland on Labor Day to pick up our new Flex, and drove it home in holiday traffic.
The Flex is the first domestic car I’ve ever purchased, having owned three black Saabs and the aforementioned V70R. It is also the first car I’ve ever owned that doesn’t have a manual transmission. Style and relative rarity are both traits of my Swedish cars I have enjoyed, and the Flex, while perhaps not as distinctive as the Swedes, is every bit as rare, especially in its Kona Blue with Ingot Silver roof color scheme. It joins our owned-since-new 2001 Saab 9-5 sedan in the garage, which has become my car after 10 years of being driven by Mrs. Miller, who now drives the Flex to tote our six- and two-and-a-half year old daughters and their friends to school, daycare, soccer practice, swim lessons, etc.
That being said, Autosavant’s second long-term test vehicle is, surprisingly, another 2011 Ford with EcoBoost V6. Our goal will be to provide a good perspective of living daily with the Flex, fuel economy, reliability, and maintenance stats for the EcoBoost engine, and to answer your burning questions about the big boxy crossover.