One part crossover and another part station wagon, the Ford Flex was an unusual vehicle for its time. Introduced in 2009 and continuing through 2019, the Flex underwent modest changes during its 11-year model run. The Flex shared its underpinnings with several models, including the Ford Explorer utility vehicle. It was also related to the Lincoln MKT, itself perhaps an even more unusual model than the Flex.
Ford Flex History
The front-wheel-drive architecture supporting the Flex rolled out a few years earlier in the Ford Five Hundred and the Mercury Montego. Those models were renamed the Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable in 2008, respectively just ahead of the Flex’s launch. With the Flex, Ford offered available all-wheel drive, matching the layout of the soon new Ford Explorer. The Flex comes with three rows of seating and room for seven or six.
Ford designed the boxy Flex to somewhat act as a bridge between minivan and crossover. The automaker never succeeded in the segment to the degree that Chrysler did with its set of minivans, although it did offer Aerostar, then Windstar models, retiring the latter in 2003. Later, Ford rolled out the Taurus X, a lifted wagon that was like the Chrysler Pacifica crossover of that day. And like the Flex, the Taurus X had pivoting rear doors, eschewing the sliding doors that define minivans.
Upon its launch, the Flex featured the following:
- Boxy layout with upright roof pillars and a square hood
- Standard front-wheel drive; available all-wheel drive
- One engine choice, a naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V6 engine with 262 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque
- Six-speed automatic transmission
- Standard cloth seats with available leather
- Available second-row bucket seats or standard three-place bench
- Full power accessories, air conditioning, and an audio package
- Automatic headlights, traction control, and stability control
- Available power liftgate, Xenon headlights, and SYNC interface
- Offered in SE, SEL, and Limited grades
Ford Flex 2010 to 2019
Instead of replacing the Flex with a new model after six years or so, Ford kept it going for one generation. Even so, regular updates kept this model relevant. We chart the changes as follows.
2010 – A twin-turbocharged version of the 3.5-liter V6 joins the Flex line. This “EcoBoost” branded engine is optional on Select and Limited trims and requires all-wheel drive. The performance output is 355 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque. A telescopic steering wheel is added, and all trims come with a power-folding second-row bench seat.
2011 – No significant changes of note except for a new range-topping Titanium grade.
2012 – Light trim shuffling accompanies this model year’s changes.
2013 – A refreshed exterior, including placing FLEX lettering atop the front fascia near the hood line chart the changes. More features are now standard, including ventilated front seats. On the safety front, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and inflatable second-row seat belts are included. A power tilt-and-telescopic steering column is included. Ford drops the Titanium trim with the associated amenities still available elsewhere.
2014 – The most noteworthy change involves the base engine. It now produces 287 horsepower and 254 pound-feet of torque.
2015 – For 2015, there are no changes of note.
2016 – A rearview camera is now standard across the model line. Ford updates the infotainment interface to SYNC 3, a more reliable system than the previous generation.
2017 – For 2017, there are no significant changes of note.
2018 – Ford drops the optional rear-seat entertainment system.
2019 – For its eleventh and final year, the Ford Flex continued without changes.
As a midsize crossover, the Flex is one of more than a dozen models in the segment. From GM, there is the Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia, and the Buick Enclave to consider. The Saturn Outlook is retired. The Subaru B9 Tribeca and later the Subaru Ascent are two more models to compare. The Toyota Highlander, Kia Sorento, Hyundai Santa Fe XL, Nissan Pathfinder, and Honda Pilot are other competitors. Lastly, the Mazda CX-9 and Volkswagen Atlas are two other models to compare.
Farewell, Ford Flex
The Flex was always an extra model in Ford’s arsenal, although with about 40,000 units sold over 11 years, it hardly affected Ford Explorer sales. For the next-generation Explorer, Ford returned to its rear-wheel-drive layout. That design would have proven to be a better arrangement for the Flex, but it was not to be.
IFCAR, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Jeremy from Sydney, Australia – Ford Flex, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons
Photos copyright Ford Motor Company.