2012 Ford Flex Review Ratings
Average Ratings from 1 reviews
2012 Ford Flex Titanium AWD w/ Ecoboost Review
The Flex has the ride quality, drive train and chassis performance to rival cars or trucks of any price point and/or origin. It is truly a class of its own.
Poor front seats support and quality of its leather/alcantara. Brick shape body adds strain when punching through air at high speed.
A Car That Knows What Good Value And True Luxury Is, Yet Still Provides Turbo Charged Entertainment. — The Ford Flex Titanium replaces a '01 BMW 740iL I decided to part with, a rather hard act to follow. Despite these 2 vehicles being seemingly different, the Flex has provided mostly positive experience when compared to my former car. In my search for a successor to the bimmer, I decided I would not give up any of its luxurious, yet sporty and well controlled ride and handling characteristics. It has to be reliable and built so well it should last for decades. Furthermore, as my lifestyle changes, I need a vehicle with a greater level of utility to accommodate the needs of the family. Initially, I was gravitating towards another (would have been my 10th) BMW, the Gran Tourismo, based on the 7 series but with a very practical hatchback trunk access. I decided against it because I have no faith in modern BMW, a result of their having lost focus and would no longer produce serviceable and reliable cars. I then looked at the VW Passat CC, the Subaru Legacy Outback and found both to be too cramped inside. The Mercedes R Class, again, does not have the built quality a Mercedes should have for the price. The Porsche Cayenne, if not for it being an SUV, and for the projected high maintenance costs that I have learnt from my other Porsche, would have met my requirements. Amazing handling, quiet and luxurious ride (due to its heavy 6,000 lbs curb weight), ultility, and the prestige too. But something is telling me life is only as hard as one will make it, and there must be a better way to spend my hard earned money. I have been curious of how much, in general, the quality and design of cars has improved over the last decade. Recent experiences with a handful of rental vehicles (thanks to my bimmer quitting on me again) had provided interesting insights. Both Chrysler products of the Charger and the 300 had Teutonic level of chassis stiffness and handling. Their drive trains, despite being the base level V6 with auto box, impressed me nonetheless in terms of their smoothness and power delivery. The Toyota Matrix was a big disappointment – unacceptable level of interior squeaks/rattles, poor ergonomics of the controls, and very uncomfortable ride quality. The Honda Civic Coupe, on the other hand, had matured into a nice riding vehicle with less hardcore handling characteristics. All these had made me realize if I look hard enough, there are options out there that will provide the ride and handling characteristics I am looking for without resorting to the luxury brands where complex electronics is the means to keep up with competitions and where the resulted poor reliability is the norm. I first found the Flex's chassis in a Mazda CX-9 where reviews had raved about its solidity and quiet highway manners. When Ford finally built its Fairlane Concept as the Flex using this shared chassis, my jaw dropped. The boxy proportion of the Flex had taken those from the MINI Clubman (my wife currently owns) to a different level. The Flex does not need the level of details found in the MINI for its lines to work, every panel is perfectly flat, some completely vertical, and mostly parallel or perpendicular to each others. Similar shape in the MINI Clubman had surprised me in how space is so efficiently utilized, with the Flex, it is mind boggling! The Ford Flex is a rare gem thanks to a complete marketing failure on Ford’s part. The Flex Titanium has further priced itself out of the market as it is only thousands from the base Lincoln reincarnation (the MkT) of the same chassis. The Titanium is also a no brainer for drivers who are not comfortable with huge chrome bars for front grill and fake wood panels everywhere inside. This car invites cross shopping from buyers who would otherwise only look at European imports. The resulted exterior appearance is decidedly Land Rover, down to the “FLEX” lettering on the leading edge of the hood! The most distinguished feature of this vehicle, however, must be the rear hatch. The tailgate is almost completely covered by a black anodized appliqué leaving only a few inches of painted body colour at the bottom edge. The results – a very clear message to the pursuing drivers that this vehicle means business, it has the heaviest dose of American muscle and boldness to it. To complete the image, there are these oversized dual exhaust pipes hung low just beyond the apron. Updated technologies such as HID projector headlights and LED tails are also found in the top line Flex. The colour palette for the Titanium is very limited. The roof is always in Tuxedo (coarse grain metallic) Black, while the rest of the vehicle can be ordered in Platinum (pearl tri-coated) White, Tuxedo Black, Silver (coarse grain), and the Red Candy (pearl tri-coated) Metallic which I ordered. Both tri-coated colours cost extra ($300) but are well worth paying for if you are not a fan of traditional coarse grain metallic paint. (The equivalent paint upgrades from any typical luxury German brand would have cost upward of $2,500!) The Candy Red paint on the Flex is of top quality where the pearl coat is just thick enough to allow variations in tone when viewed from different angles. The clear coat does not exhibit fish scaling but is on the thin side. The body panels are stamped from thin gauge metal and is most apparent around door handles and edges where irregularities to the otherwise perfectly flat surfaces can be seen. Panel gapping is also wide and not perfectly matched. Overall, this is a vehicle that excels in its bold lines and proportions from afar, but not as finely crafted when examined up close. The decidedly “crossover” ride height of this vehicle allows easy in/egress as there is no need to climb or lower yourself onto the seat, just open the door and slide your bum onto the cushion. Once inside, the door can be slammed shut gently to provide an air-tight seal like feel with no distracting rattles from the door card. The driving position is one of perfectly upright with no need for reclining. The powered and memorized pedals fore/aft adjustment is a handy feature but useful only to drivers of smaller statues. The interior fit and finish is generally upscale. There is no suggestion of luxury except the chrome bezel analog clock situated in the centre console. No exotic materials are to be found beside the leather and alcantara seating surfaces, which are no Nappa (full grain) nor Montana (top grain) leathers found in luxury brands. All plastic and vinyl panels are tastefully textured, colour coordinated and fitted together very well. Despite the absence of soft padding, elbow and arm rests are generous in size and well positioned. Besides a sizable covered centre storage bin (which can swallow baseball caps by the dozens), I especially like the generous twin cupholders which are chrome trimmed and neon lit at night for ease of use with a touch of funkiness. Great care has also been taken to minimize squeaks and rattles as I already had the opportunity to take apart the centre console for some custom installations. Sound deadening material is used extensively in all panel joints, wiring harnesses, and metal fasteners. I am more than convinced that Ford knows how to put a quality, quiet interior together. This is consistent with the complete lack of interior squeaks and rattles even when the car was driven in subzero temperature. The only noise I could hear was from movements of objects inside the console storage and gloves compartment, the only thing Ford had overlooked. What is most luxurious of the Flex’s interior is the amount of space available for both rows of passenger seats. Consider the same upright seating position, combined with the wrap-around dark tinted windows, easy access to the 3rd row seats (thru the centre aisle or the power folding 2nd row captain chairs), individual passenger controlled ventilation system, and, most of all, the limo like leg room, this is one comfortable ride that can minimize fatigue for trips in any distance. I have sat in ALL crossovers and sport-utes in the N.A. International Autoshow and none even register this level of space! When all seats are folded flat (an easy manual task), there is enough room to swallow my wife’s MINI Cooper (just kidding here)! Unlock the doors with the car key remote or the coded keypad on the B-pillar, the dash and console lit up in blue electroluminescence, quite attractive when reflected by the chrome gauge rings. Put the key into ignition and the seat slides into driver specific position. The 8 inch LCD screen also begins its boot-up sequence and starts playing the last chosen media be it DVD movie, satellite or HD radio music, etc. A computer generated voice will inform the driver his cellphone is now connected through Bluetooth so calling and texting using voice commands is possible. The screen will also show you a traffic map and the current road constructions near your location. Satellite weather map can also be selected instead to warn you of pending storms. Too bad I still have to rely on my smartphone for live TV (via Sling), but now using the car’s outstanding Sony digital surround sound system for its audio. It is all too easy to get completely distracted by Ford’s showcase of its entertainment and convenience technologies. Twist the key and the engine comes to life immediately without drama, more like you will just see a twitch of the tach needle kind of subtle. The engine idles with no audible noise nor vibration unless you give it some gas. First gear engages with the same immediacy as soon as the accelerator is depressed. Gears are held all the way to redline with the pedal to the metal. Engine sound is sonorous with a raspy edge, solid like a V8 but in higher pitch. The overall volume is somewhat muted and is only noticeable if you pay attention. Turbo whine is completely absent. This forced fed 3.5L V6 churns out good torque right from the get-go with no discernable turbo lag. Low engine speed throttle modulations are always rewarded with crisp in gear responses. For more abrupt accelerations, the transmission can be coaxed to kick down a gear smoothly and effortlessly even with partial throttle. Let the drivetrain takes care of things with WOT acceleration? The 6-speeds autotranny shifts precisely at redline while the AWD chassis maintain traction even in winter pavements with no tire chirps nor activation of electronic traction control, requiring absolutely no driver inputs. This is an easy stoplight racer and a perfect Q-ship for that too. No “pretend-to-be” sport hatches out there will post a threat either - this is the American muscle car most feared in their nightmares. This power plant may not be a traditional small block eight, thanks to the ample power, ultra wide torque band, and a 20% saving in fuel, this engine has already earned its place in the Mustang GT and the Taurus SHO, both achieved their fame decades ago with V8 power plants. I am also secretly thankful that Ford is not sharing this wonderful power plant, a loss to Land Rover, Jaguar, and Volvo which have to make do with the old V8, they may just have to wait a bit longer. To me, the soul of a car is everything to do with its ride and handling. Every interior and exterior clues, muted engine notes, and its mammoth size suggest a quiet and comfortable ride. It cannot be more true the Flex has a magic carpet ride when driven in moderate speed and on smooth pavement. However, a twist of the steering wheel reveals the sporting nature of its suspension tuning. There may still be an initial hesitation, likely due to the fact I am currently running 65 profile snow tires with very soft sidewalls. The Flex, otherwise, changes direction with no appreciable body roll, rather unbelievably so as it sits high and there is no electronic suspension aids. Squat and dive are also similarly absent. It has very sharp responses due to how quickly the suspension can take a set. Cornering traction is severely limited at present due to the use of “premium class” snow tires. The higher than passenger car ride height may also hamper cornering force here due to the more abrupt and extreme weight transfer. Despite, the Flex turns in with only minimal understeer, but can apex and power out of the turn with very enthusiastic and neutral stance. A touch of well controlled rear power slide adds a dose of naughtiness to its execution but still completely civilized thanks to, I believe, the perfect front-rear torque proportioning. There is no interruption by the electronic nanny. Ford engineers definitely liked to have fun and preferred to research their work on the race track. The Flex has a soul, a sport sedan kind of a soul. I will slot its driving feel right between the 5 and 7 Series BMW that I used to own, though it will not have the same level of absolute traction nor performance limits when driven beyond 7/10. There is just not the same degree of over-engineering of its hardware to make this car a track ready vehicle like the German sedans. Yet the Flex is no less refined when driven within its scope. In time, when I become more comfortable with its handling traits, and when I swap back onto its low profile summer tires (nothing less than the factory 255/45/20 performance all seasons tires), I shall make revisions. In the meantime, rest assured that the Flex Titanium will provide comfortable and secure ride that is equally entertaining at the same time. No car is perfect and the Flex is no exception. As I have mentioned earlier, the Flex’s sheet metal is on the thin side. Once up to highway speed, wind noise becomes noticeable. Not intrusive by any means, but this does take away from the otherwise very calm and relaxing nature of the ride. The Flex has also its brick shape body to blame for this. For the same reason, cross wind can affect the car’s directional stability but would hardly require any driver inputs to correct. This is no surprise, as domestic manufacturers have always place minimal priority in high speed performance of their products. The Flex is not a global market vehicle and will certainly not be seen on the Autobahn if at all. At this price point, the Flex Titanium is in direct competition with other luxury brand models and yet it is hard to find evidence in the Flex’s interior. The seats lack support in the bottom (another domestic car trait) and are covered with paper thin leather/alcantara (perforated with the latter) of unknown quality. The only saving grace being the appropriately applied chrome gauge and trim rings and the driver selected 5 colours theatrical (ambient) lighting. This is nothing lavish, just functional, but still significantly more upgraded than other non-luxury product lines. The Flex is a car for the purist as it excels in all areas of drive train, ride, handling, utility, safety, design, and high-tech interface. In these areas, the Flex is not afraid to rival cars and trucks of any price point and/or origin. As a matter of fact, few can even be as good or significantly better than the Flex. This is especially true with space utility in the 2nd and 3rd row seats when none out there could march. The Flex is not missing anything from lack of exotic material in its interior, the distinct and bold styling of this “funk wagon” is a class of its own. The Flex is a classy act where superior value is demonstrated by its functionality, but not by how much its contents would match its competitors. I looked very hard to find a vehicle whose existence is not driven by the use of leading edge technologies to impress, and in the process, sacrificing reliability and any possibility of reasonably maintaining the vehicle beyond its warranty. When manufacturers choose to introduce expensive technologies, quite often prematurely, in order to stay ahead of the game, the consumers ended up paying the costs of their up keeps and accelerated depreciations. More often than not, these cars meet their ends as movie props bullet strewn, rolling off cliffs and exploded in midair! (See The Transporter, Tomorrow Never Dies, The Ambush, and many others to view how many ways a BMW 740iL, my former car, can be shot at, blown up, or play midair acrobatics.) I refuse to play this game and most drivers too, should be able to live without complex unreliable technologies and not miss anything. I chose the Flex for these precise reasons. A car that has loads of style, a very luxurious ride, heart stopping driving dynamics, and most of all, easy serviceability for decades to come. Ford promised to be different and they have kept their words.
Primary Use: Commuting to work
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