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2011 Ford Flex ReviewThe Good
The 2011 Ford Flex ventures into high-end territory with the debut of its new luxury-oriented Titanium trim, which joins a strong lineup of roomy, well-equipped, functional vehicles with good handling and plenty of power.The Bad
Some drivers find the driver's seat difficult to position correctly, while others consider the 2011 Flex's handling somewhat sedate and would like to see a sportier overall ride.
The CarGurus View
With plenty of positives and very few negatives, the 2011 Ford Flex continues to demonstrate that American automakers can build high-quality, competitive vehicles. The Flex combines a unique exterior design, a functional cabin, and top-rated safety features in a package just about any driver will love.
At a Glance
Ford expands the Flex lineup for 2011 by adding a new top-level Titanium trim. Based on the Flex Limited trim and designed to stand out from the crowd, the Flex Titanium sports a new Tuxedo Black two-tone roof, a black chrome finish grille, and blackout treatments for the headlights and taillights. The interior similarly exudes an upscale tone, thanks to its charcoal-black leather seats with gray Alcantara suede inserts, metallic-finish center stack, perforated leather-wrapped steering wheel, and illuminated scuff plates. The automaker plans to extend the Titanium-level trim, which has proved successful in Europe, to other Ford vehicles in the near future.
Now in its third year, the four-door Ford Flex full-size crossover seats up to seven passengers in three rows. The Ford Flex comes in SE, SEL, and Limited trims for 2011, as well as in the new Titanium. All trims except the entry-level SE are available with either front-wheel or all-wheel drive.
Outside, the Flex retains its funky box design, which results in good overall functionality, maximizing interior passenger and cargo space. The three-bar grille and grooved door panels give the Flex a bold look, while its squared-off shape results in clean lines. The cabin's straight black pillars and darkened glass in the second and third rows result in a "greenhouse" effect.
The Flex SE trim comes equipped with foglights, power exterior mirrors, and halogen headlights, while the SEL features chrome door handles and power heated exterior mirrors. The Luxury trims include such standard features as a power liftgate, HID headlights, LED taillights, and a rearview camera.
The Flex's base 3.5-liter, 262-hp Duratec V6 engine provides plenty of power for all four trims, especially in typical around-town driving situations. The engine mates to a six-speed automatic transmission designed to deliver responsive acceleration while conserving fuel. The V6 posts fuel economy numbers of 17/24 mpg for front-wheel-drive trims.
Owners who desire more spirited performance can opt for the EcoBoost V6, available in all trims except the SE. The EcoBoost, which runs on regular gasoline, features direct fuel injection and a twin-turbo setup, and generates 355 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. It links to a SelectShift six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters for manual shifting. Fuel economy numbers drop slightly, to 16/21 mpg.
Ford offers its Intelligent All-Wheel Drive system for all trims but the entry-level SE, when equipped with the EcoBoost V6 engine. The AWD system continuously monitors vehicle and driver inputs, anticipates problems, and reacts accordingly to minimize loss of control during wheel slippage. In addition, owners can add an optional Class III Trailer Tow Package, which includes electronic trailer sway control.
Ride & Handling
Despite its rather hefty weight (4,471 pounds for the SE front-wheel-drive trim, increasing to 4,643 pounds for the Limited AWD trim), the Flex delivers a smooth, capable ride with limited body roll in corners. Some reviewers would like to see more responsiveness and sportiness from the Flex's handling, but most drivers will find little fault with its stable, reassuring ride.
All Flex trims feature independent front and rear suspension, and come equipped with Ford's AdvanceTrac traction control system with Roll Stability Control, as well as antilock brakes. The Flex SE rides on 17-inch aluminum wheels, while the SEL receives 18-inch aluminum wheels. The Limited gets 19-inch polished aluminum wheels, while the new Titanium sports 20-inch polished aluminum wheels.
Cabin & Comfort
The Flex's squarish exterior design results in a large, versatile cabin with plenty of legroom in all three rows of seats. All trims come equipped with front bucket seats, a 60/40-split second-row bench seat, and a 50/50-split fold-flat third row. Owners can swap out the second row for optional buckets seats, reducing seating capacity to six.
The Flex's interior materials get mixed reviews. Some owners and reviewers like the overall design, padded surfaces, and ergonomic audio and climate controls, but others find an overabundance of plastic and rough corners. In addition, some owners report difficulty in finding a comfortable seating position in the driver's seat, due in part to the headrest, which tilts forward at a federally mandated angle.
The Flex's standard interior package includes a fold-flat front passenger seatback, which helps extend cargo space. Other standard features include a leather-wrapped shifter, 10 cupholders, air conditioning, a manual tilt/telescopic steering wheel, and an electrochromic rearview mirror. The entry-level SE trim also includes a six-speaker audio system with CD/MP3 player and an audio input jack. The SEL trim adds power-adjustable heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, woodgrain appearance applique trim, and Ford's SYNC in-car connectivity system, as well as an upgraded audio system with a 6-CD changer and Sirius satellite radio.
The Limited comes well-equipped with such upscale features as perforated leather seats in the first and second rows, memory for the driver's seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with wood inlay, a voice-activated navigation system, a rear-view camera system, and a 12-speaker Sony audio system. Options include a Vista Roof and a dual-headrest DVD entertainment system for all trims except the SE, as well as a PowerFold third-row seat for the Limited and Titanium trims.
The NHTSA awarded the 2010 Flex a top rating of five stars for protecting all passengers in front and side-impact collisions, while the IIHS gave the 2010 Flex its best rating of “Good” in frontal and side-impact tests. Dual front side-mounted airbags, front and rear head curtain airbags, child seat anchors, child-proof rear door locks, and a post-collision safety system are standard across all Flex trims.
What Owners Think
Owners frequently comment on how solid and quiet they find the Ford Flex. The Flex also provides plenty of power with good handling, owners say. Large doors make it easy for passengers to enter and exit the vehicle, while large supportive seats keep passengers comfortable over long distances. Most owners like the driver's seat, but some taller drivers note difficultly in finding a comfortable seating position. In addition, some owners have problems with the driver's headrest, which tilts too far forward, they note. CarGurus owners particularly like the Flex's styling, performance, gas mileage, and build quality.
Rob has been a contributor to CarGurus since 2007, and an automotive test-driver and writer since the early ’90s. He’s test-driven everything from BMWs and Jags to Bentleys and Saabs, with an occasional Range Rover, Ferrari, Porsche or Lamborghini thrown in. He also created the annual Car of the Year and Exotic Car of the Year awards for Robb Report magazine. He currently resides in Florida.
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