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2010 Ford Flex EcoBoost AWD Limited Review & Test Drive

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After a more than expected successful first year on the full-size sport utility market, the 2010 Ford Flex Ecoboost AWD Limited returns with more power, performance and high-technology features.  I tested the new Ecoboost ‘top-of-the-line’ Limited model that came equipped with everything I would expect in a luxury crossover sport utility.

Ford Flex already turned heads with its distinctive style and its planted stance, signature Ford aluminum grille, broad shoulders flanked by signature side grooves, a chrome strip that travels from the front A-pillar all around to the other side A-pillar, slab aluminum plate on the rear hatch, LED rear lamps, dual, 3in. polished stainless steel exhaust tips, and a flat roof, it is a style than shuns traditional crossover styling, plus you can still option for the available 2-tone roof.

The Flex comes standard with a 3.5 liter, 24-valve V6 variation of the award-winning Duratec engine family that delivers 262hp at 6,250rpm and 248lb.ft. of torque, more than enough to easily move 7-passengers and cargo; but the big news is the optional EcoBoost twin-turbocharged 3.5 liter 24-valve, direct fuel injected V6 that produces 355hp at 5,700rpm and 350lb.ft. of torque at 3,500rpm, while still returning 16mpg/city and 22mpg/highway with the standard AWD.

Pressurized Direct Injection enables a higher compression ratio, while twin turbochargers work in tandem to reduce lag associated with earlier turbocharged engines.  Even with the additional horsepower and torque, fuel economy is optimized by an increased compression ratio-enabled by charge-cooling air-and sophisticated knock controls.  You can still order the FWD system with the less powerful V6 engine.

All Flex models send power through a six-speed automatic gearbox.  When powered by the EcoBoost V6, Flex is equipped with a six-speed SelectShift Automatic transmission.  This advanced gearbox offers you a choice between fully automatic operation and manual control.  With SelectShift, paddle shifters are integrated into the steering wheel spokes.  Intuitive to operate, a squeeze back on either paddle will deliver an upshift, while a gentle push forward on either paddle will induce a ‘matched-rev’ downshift.  Unlike other competitive transmissions, SelectShift won’t ‘second guess’ you with an override shift; manual control is truly manually controlled.  I loved working the gears up and down when I put the stick into ‘M’ for manual.

All-wheel drive is optional on Flex SEL and Limited with the standard 3.5 liter V6.  The AWD option enhances the Flex’s capability in a variety of weather conditions and is fully automatic, using an advanced array of internal electro-mechanical clutches to efficiently distribute toque between front and rear wheels as needed.  AWD is standard in the Flex with EcoBoost and it really came in handy with the EcoBoost’s standard sport-tuned suspension with stiffer shocks and coil springs that take advantage of the 355hp and 350lb.ft. of torque enabling the Flex to zoom out to 60mph from a standstill in just 5.5.sec.  The fully independent suspension features gas-pressurized MacPherson struts, rear-facing L-shaped lower control arms with hydro-bushings, a stabilizer bar with an isolated subframe to lesson NVH up front, and a multi-link setup in the rear featuring upper and lower control arms, stabilizer bar, gas-pressurized shocks and a fully isolated subframe that gives you precise control in the direction you want to be going.  It hugs the road when cornering and gives great straight-line stability at high-speed on the freeway.

Enhancing the sharp turn-in and well balance handling is a strut tower brace up front that gives the front suspension a more rigid and precise feel.

The EcoBoost equipped Flex also comes standard with Ford’s new electric power assist steering (EPAS) system that gives a great feel for the road, is boosted just right for parking lot maneuvering, and safely getting around slower city traffic.  Turn-in is excellent as I had no problem driving on the back roads or crowded streets of Los Angeles.  Also new this year is Pull-Drift Compensation that is a software-based technology that, working with IPAS, automatically helps you offset vehicle pulling or drifting that can occur in steady crosswinds or on uneven roads.  It comes standard with the EcoBoost engine.

Quickly and safely slowing you down from speed are large brakes.  Up front are 12.6in. vented discs clamped with dual-piston calipers while the rear features 12in. solid discs clamped with single-piston calipers.  Enhancing braking control and your direction during severe braking maneuvers is standard ABS, Brake Assist, and AdvanceTrac with RSC (roll stability control).  These systems work in concert and keep you in control of your chosen path of travel whether it be on slick road surfaces, when cornering into steep curves or when braking hard.

The EcoBoost equipped Flex rides on giant 20X8.5in. polished aluminum wheel wrapped with 255/45R20in. Goodyear RS-A performance tires.  18X8in. machined aluminum wheels and tires come standard with 19in. wheels and tires optional.

Its not only the class-leading room for seven, comfort and myriad interior storage options that have Flex owners raving, Flex is also packed with innovative, class-leading technology solutions that seek to empower, not overpower the consumer.

When you open the doors of the Flex EcoBoost Limited you see oversized seats, real wood trim on the leather-wrapped steering wheel, dashboard and doors with plenty of chrome trim wrapped around the instrument cluster, inside the steering wheel, air-vents and controls for the aluminum-faced center stack.  The tilting/telescoping steering wheel feels perfect in your hands and contains buttons for the audio system and cruise control.  The wide leather-trimmed seats have white contrast stitching for another luxury touch.  The driver gets 10-way power adjustments and front the passenger seat is 6-way power adjustable.  The chrome-ringed instrument cluster is straight-ahead and easy to see and understand with a trip computer to let you know about miles left in the fuel tank, instant MPG, average MPG, etc.  All buttons, switches and dials are within easy reach and fully illuminated for safe nighttime travel.  You also get power windows/door locks, self-dimming rearview mirror, tri-zone electronic climate control with rear fan/thermostat for second/third row seats with round air-vents located on the headliner, power adjustable pedals, power opening/closing rear hatch, ambient lighting, dual map lamps, dual illuminated vanity mirrors, HomeLink garage door opener, grab handles above each passenger door, HID headlamps, foglamps, Vista Panorama skylights with power operated front sunroof, two smaller glass panels above the second-row seats and a wider single glass panel above the third-row seats that let in the light or have manual shades to block the sun when needed, keyless entry, dual power/heated remote sideview mirrors, rear windshield wiper/washer/defogger, memory for two drivers for the seats/sideview mirrors, rear cargo net, power pedals, thick cut-pile carpeting/floor mats, Ford SYNC with Traffic, Directions and information leverages industry-leading voice-recognition software, integrated GPS technology, and a customer’s Bluetooth-capable mobile phone, Sony surround sound AM-FM-CD audio system, SIRIUS satellite radio, active park assist using sensors on the front and rear of the vehicle that work in conjunction with the EPAS system to guide you into a parking space, and a reverse camera system that displays the area behind the Flex in the rearview mirror if you don’t have the navigation system, when the Flex is shifted into reverse.

My Flex Limited came with fold flat second row seats but if you get the captain chair option you can get the class-exclusive refrigerated console mounted between the chairs that can cool up to seven 12oz. cans, four half-liter bottles or two 20oz. bottles from room temperature to 41-degrees in a little more than two-and-a-half hours-40% faster than a standard home refrigerator.  It is available only on the Limited model.

The flexible storage space behind the front seats come in handy when you need a long and wide cargo space.  The second-row seats easily fold flat and the third-row seats fold flat and out of the way by pulling on three straps one at a time.  The rear also has storage bins on each side that can hold drinks or personal items plus Ford offers a rear-seat entertainment system that plays DVD movies or video games to keep rear passengers happy and busy during long outings.  The Flex does it all in style and with ease.

Safety is also a high priority and Ford comes through with a bevy of safety technology and systems including an advanced structural safety system that combines octagonal front frame rails, tunnel rails, and support members designed to absorb and redirect crash forces away from the passenger compartment.  Flex also uses Side Protection and Cabin Enhancement (SPACE) Architecture to optimize side-impact occupant protection.  The SPACE system integrates a hydroformed high strength steel tube embedded in the floor that runs the width of the vehicle from B-pillar to B-pillar and along the rocker panels to form a safety cage to help protect passengers in side impact incidents.  The Flex also comes standard with three-point seat belts for all 7-seating positions with front load limiter and pretensioners, adjustable height seat belt up front, front and side airbags up front, safety canopy for all outboard seats, SOS Post Crash Alert system, SecuriLock Anti-Theft system, and a tire pressure monitoring system.

Equip the Flex anyway you want it and you’ll still drive in a roomy, comfortable and safe multi-function vehicle with excellent power, sharp handling, a compliant ride over poorly paved roads and a very unique style that still turns heads today.  I was asked many times when I came back in a parking lot about the Flex, all positive questions, even one from an owner of a new Mercedes-Benz SL 6.3 AMG who needed and wanted more space for all types of cargo that he would be carrying.  The Flex was the answer; it is a smart value with prices starting at just $29,270.00 up to my fully loaded Flex Limited EcoBoost AWD that was priced at just $45,245.00.  I truly enjoyed my seven-day test drive of the new 2010 Flex.  You will too.

COPYRIGHT:2010:HARVEY SCHWARTZ

SPECIFICATIONS

Price: MSRP $42,465 As-Tested $45,245
Type: Large Wagon
Where Built: Canada
EPA Class: Midsize Station Wagons

Dimensions

Exterior
Length: 201.8 in. Width: 75.9 in.
Height: 68 in. Wheel Base: 117.9 in.
Curb Weight: 4839 lbs.
Interior
Front Head Room: 41.8 in.
Front Hip Room: 55.5 in.
Front Shoulder Room: 58.4 in.
Rear Head Room: 40.5 in.
Rear Shoulder Room: 58.1 in.
Rear Hip Room: 55 in.
Front Leg Room: 40.8 in.
Rear Leg Room: 44.3 in.
Luggage Capacity: 20 cu. ft.
Maximum Cargo Capacity: 83 cu. ft.
Maximum Seating: 7

Performance Data

Base Number of Cylinders: 6
Base Engine Size: 3.5 liters
Base Engine Type: V6
Horsepower: 355 hp
Max Horsepower: 5700 rpm
Torque: 350 ft-lbs.
Max Torque: 3500 rpm
Maximum Towing Capacity: 4500 lbs.
Drive Type: AWD Turning Circle: 40.7 ft.
0-60mph: 6.5 seconds

Fuel Data

Fuel Tank Capacity: 18.6 gal.
EPA Mileage Estimates: (City/Highway/Combined)
Automatic: 16 mpg / 22 mpg / 18 mpg
Range in Miles:
Automatic: 297.6 mi. / 409.2 mi. / 334.8 mi.

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