Ford Flex 2009 - Sometimes You Just Need the Room
These days people aren't talking much about large vehicles; the buzz is all about the Honda Fit-type cars and just about anything else that gets better than 30 mpg. But let's face it, dog people often travel with more dogs than will fit in a Fit. Sometimes you just have to have more room to get you and your pack from point A to point B.
Enter the Ford Flex. The Flex doesn't look like any other car out there. It's somewhat reminiscent of an oversize station wagon, and certainly doesn't look like an SUV or a mini-van. Could it be there's a vehicle out there that doesn't have the social stigma of a minivan, but with a better carbon footprint (relatively speaking) than an Expedition or Navigator?
Since the Flex will be directly compared with both the SUVs and minivans, we wanted to give you two viewpoints. Kim is more of an SUV-type and wouldn't be caught dead in a mini-van. I'm a mini-van kind of gal. I'm a practical person, and I've never worried too much about "image" when it comes to choosing my ride. So will the desires and needs of both sides of the fence culminate in the Ford Flex?
Cindy: I had to laugh when I read Dan Neil's rave review of the Ford Flex. When talking about the 83 cubic feet of cargo space he said "it's a pity children aren't cube-shaped." Our dogs may not be cube-shaped, the the crates we carry them in certainly are, so I figured that boded well for the dog-worthiness of the Flex. Still I can fit two 400 crates behind the second row seats of our Toyota Sienna. How does the Flex compare?
First stop is the width between the wheel wells, typically the narrowest part of the cargo space in any vehicle. The Flex measures 40.5". Say what??? There won't be any 400 crates sitting side by side in that space. Heck, the smallest minivan on the market, the Mazda5, measures the exact same between the wheel wells. What's that about? So I'll call it closer to an SUV than a minivan in terms of usable space, since it won't accommodate two side by side crates wider than 20".
Kim: I know a minivan probably has more cargo space than an SUV, but there is just something so un-sexy about that "Soccer Mom" image. SUV's have a "cool" persona in my mind, and bring out that bit of rebel in all of us with the thought that one could go off-roading if one really wanted to. (Ok, it'll never happen, but it's the idea that counts!)
Now the Flex is definitely sexy. There are so many cool options and features available with a Flex that one feels a sense of luxury in a utility vehicle. And the cube-shape? Way cool. Still, the 40.5" dimension between the wheel wells is a bit of a bummer. Even the special SUV crates are 21" wide so two won't fit side-by-side. There is ample height to add a riser and fortunately the seats fold flat, but one would need to srategically plan the space. In my mind, if there is a will there is a way and if I were interested in purchasing the Flex, I'd do what I could to fully utilize that cargo space and not let it be a deal-breaker.
Cindy: My next concern would be safety. SUV's might be sexy, but they also can struggle to stay upright. However, in this area, the Ford Flex seems more mini-van-like Not only did the Ford Flex earn five-star frontal- and side-impact crashworthiness ratings, the highest possible scores, in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tests, it also scored four-star rollover ratings for both the front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive versions.
So, let's compare and contrast. The Toyota Sienna gets a 4-star rollover rating with a 15-16% chance of rollover in a single vehicle crash, and the Ford Flex also gets a 4-star rating with a 16% chance of rollover. A Ford Explorer, on the other hand has a 23% chance of rollover in a single vehicle crash, and a 3 star rating. Where it really counts, it looks like the Flex is closer to a mini-van than an SUV.
Kim: I agree that a minivan is probably safer than an SUV, especially the smaller utes like my Mariner. I'm very careful about not overloading the roof rack and making it even more top-heavy. It is good to know that the Flex has good safety ratings. The standard Reverse Sensing System is also helpful if windows are blocked by crates or gear. I've appreciated having it in my vehicle. The mileage of the Flex is pretty good for a medium-sized SUV (17/24) but I'm spoiled with a hybrid, so it's all relative.
Cindy: I wish there were a few more ventilation options.
We were quite excited about the "Vista Roof" option, which consists of four
skylights covering all three rows of passenger seating. It's not that
we think the dogs want the sun shining on them...but rather, we thought the
skylights give us one more way to increase airflow in a closed car. Unfortunately,
only the moonroof over the first row opens. At least they all come with
sun shades! There's no rear opening window in the hatch, which is a darn
shame, and similar to many mini-vans, only the windows at the front and second
row seats open.
Kim: I know!! The flip-up window in the rear of several other Ford SUV's is such a helpful feature, I'm surprised the Flex doesn't offer it. Or at the very least, have the whole Vista Roof open. It's almost a deal-breaker for me, since I end up doing so much crating in the car. Heck, even the Honda Element has a rear moonroof that opens, even if it is only offered as a manual operation. At least the Flex has tinted privacy glass towards the back of the vehicle, which would help a bit with hotter temperatures. There are also several outlet points so one could plug in fans for more ventilation.
I don't know why car manufacturers don't just ask US what we want in a vehicle!? Don't they know that the dog-owning public offers a huge marketing opportunity? True, for most of us, vehicle purchases are few and far between, but all the more reason to give us what we desire and woo us from the competition.
Cindy: The car manufacturers must assume that since a vehicle is well air conditioned, there's no need for ventilation when it's standing still. But for those of us with dogs, it's a BIG deal if we can't keep the car cool when we need to leave our dogs inside.
As Kim has already mentioned, tricked out, the Ford Flex can seem downright luxurious. Among the available options is the refrigerated console. (Forget the cold drinks. Since our dogs eat a raw diet, I'm imagining filling it with chicken.) The many storage spaces could definitely com in handy, too. Then there's the navigation system, the audio system and the DVD entertainment system. Okay, so those items aren't dog-related, but the people need to enjoy the ride as well!
Kim: I was able to test drive the Flex and I liked it very much. I think it is a good possibility as a dog car and as an everyday vehicle for those who really need the room. But I'm still left feeling that a few key features are just a tad lacking to say it's a true dog car. Give me the flip up window in the rear hatch, more width between the wheel wells and a Vista Roof that fully opens. Oh, and let's not forget the keypad entry. That little feature is one of my absolute favorites and has saved me many times with dogs in and out of the vehicle!
Cindy: So there you have it. We both really liked the Flex. But if I was in the market for a new car, I'd probably stick with a minivan, though I can't say I wouldn't be tempted! But judging from Kim's reaction, if you're an SUV-lover who wants a bit better gas mileage, the Flex might be the car for you.
Base MSRP : From $28,295
Mileage estimates: 17/24 (City/Highway/Combined) Automatic
Ford Flex - From Ford web site.|
Wikipedia - Ford Flex
|Depth from back door to front seats (2nd/3rd row folded) = maximum depth range (D1)||78"-86.5"|
|Depth from back door to second row seats (D2)||42.75"|
|Dept from back door to third row seats (D3)||13"|
|Height from cargo floor to ceiling behind front seats (H1)||28.75"|
|Height from cargo floor to ceiling behind 2nd row seats (H2)||31.75"|
|Height from cargo floor to ceiling at entry of vehicle (H3)||32.5"|
|Height of wheel arches (H4)||10.5"|
|Height from ground to top of bumper (not pictured)||30.5"|
|Width of cargo area at ceiling (W1)||45.5"|
|Width of cargo area maximum (approx. at 2nd row seats (W2)||52"|
|Width of cargo area between wheel arches
(cargo "table" holders encroach into space)
|Illustrated dimensions 1 (W1, W2, W3, D2, D3)
Illustrated dimensions 2 (H1, H2, H3, H4, H5, D1)
|Rear windows do not open|
|Multiple sunroofs available. The only one that opens is over passenger area. All include shade screens. |
|Back window doesn't open.
|Rear AC vents are on the ceiling.
|Electrical outlet in rear||Yes|
|Electrical outlet in front||Yes|
|Location of spare tire|| Under cargo floor|
|Tailgate lifts up||Yes|
|Roof rank available
|Rear Seats||First and second row seats fold flat|
|Cargo Volume (cu. Ft.)|
|2nd-row seats down||83 cu. ft.|
|2nd-row seats up||43.2 cu. ft|
|Back-up camera available as option.