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Flex Appeal

“In a sense, Ford has reinvented the station wagon,” writes James R. Healy in a USA Today review of the new Ford Flex (6/13/08). He says so because the design sits higher than “a pure station wagon” but “still has enough SUV persona.” Plus, its “long, straight roofline evokes Ford Country Squires of yore.” It actually looks a little like a gargantuan Mini Cooper. Whichever comparison applies, James says the Ford Flex is the “best-looking SUV since the now-departed Jeep Cherokee.”

The irony of this, he adds, is that the design flies in the face of today’s “flowing” look, bringing back the “two-box” design originating with “Chrysler’s first mini-van in 1984,” and presenting it as “the latest thing.” The Flex’s interior is also closer in size to that of a station wagon, with cargo space of “about 83 cubic feet, vs. 100-plus in most full-size SUVs. Three rows of seats can be done up all bucket style, or as benches. But you must order the buckets if you want “the optional refrigerator in row two.”

The buckets, by the way "allow you to dial out all the lumbar support you wish," writes James, adding: "Comfy seats are a new frontier for Ford." It must have been the seats that inspired Ford to name the car Flex, because it certainly has nothing to do with any kind of "futuristic powerplant." The V-6 Flex "is a conventional gasoline-only machine" that gets about "17 mpg in town, 24 highway," or about the same as other crossovers, even smaller and lighter ones. Calling the Ford Flex "a champ," James says "driving a machine that looks like Flex is outrageous fun." ~ Tim Manners, editor