The Ford Flex is one of three Ford SUVs that offer three rows of seats; the others are the Explorer and Expedition. Lightly updated for 2013, the six- or seven-seat Flex features interior and exterior changes as well as some drivetrain tweaks for higher power and mileage. Available in SE, SEL, Limited and Titanium trim levels, the Flex competes with models like the Chevrolet Traverse, Mazda CX-9 and Toyota Highlander.
Though the Flex is still one of the boxiest vehicles on the road, the edges of its nose have been beveled some. The Ford oval badge is gone, leaving behind "Flex" in large letters, a design previously limited to the Titanium trim level. Dual exhaust is now standard. An optional Appearance Package, offered on the SEL and Limited trim levels, brings distinct 20-inch machined wheels to the outside and leather seats, door panels and other upgrades to the inside. Contrasting and two-tone roof colors are also available.
The Flex's roomy interior offers the choice of a second-row bench or two captain's chairs along with a two-seat third-row bench. Ford has upgraded the seat cushions and trim, along with other trim pieces on the dashboard and steering wheel.
A supplement to the Sync voice-activation system, the optional MyFord Touch provides additional ways to control the stereo, navigation and other features. It comprises full-color displays on either side of the speedometer, buttons on the steering wheel and an 8-inch touch-screen at mid-dash. Below it, a touch-sensitive panel replaces most of the conventional buttons.
Notable available features include keyless entry and engine start, a refrigerated console for the second row, adaptive cruise control and active park assist — the latter of which automates parallel parking.
Under the Hood
The Flex's base engine is a 3.5-liter V-6 that produces 285 horsepower, an increase of more than 20 hp over the 2012. The mileage is also expected to increase by 1 mpg to 18/25 mpg city/highway in front-wheel-drive versions. All-wheel drive is optional, as is a turbocharged EcoBoost version of the engine capable of 355 hp. It comes only with all-wheel drive.
The six-speed automatic transmission now includes a rocker switch on the gear selector that lets drivers shift manually. EcoBoost models add shift paddles on the steering wheel.
The Flex includes the federally required antilock brakes, electronic stability system and frontal airbags. Also standard are seat-mounted airbags for the front occupants and side curtains that protect all front and rear occupants in a side impact or rollover. The second-row seats now include inflatable seat belts designed to minimize trauma.
Active-safety features include blind spot warning and forward collision warning systems.