A couple of weeks ago, Ford Canada was cool enough to lend me a 2016 Ford Flex for a week to review it. We drove it in the city, we took it on the highway, and we took it on a road that was under heavy construction and kind of scary. Here is what I learned about the crossover.
Mark and Oliver liked it. Especially Oliver. The third row of seats is amazing when you have children. There is no fighting, no arguing, just peace and quiet. When they are sitting beside each other, it is like an uneasy truce both sides are trying to break. When they are separated, it is peaceful, calm, and relaxing.
The second row of seats is large enough for myself and I am 6’4. The rear row was fine for Mark and was large enough for Oliver to think he had his own apartment back there. It is a legit third row of seating.
I should say that the 2016 Ford Flex broke Mark’s heart. I have been reviewing Ford automobiles for the last couple of years and each one of them, Mark has been too young to drive anything other than his mountain bike. In his mind, when he turned 16, he was going to get behind the wheel and put it through his paces. He just turned 16. Then I told him he had to be 18. He was crushed. Devastated. Forlorn.
So I asked him what he was going to do about it? I suggested he tweet at Ferrari that he was kid in the middle of Saskatchewan and if they could lend him a vehicle for a week to review. Mark was like, “Really?” I then told him to compare his Twitter following to Kim Kardashian’s and evaluate his chances. Yes, I troll my own kids from time to time.
Oh well, there is hope for him in 2018.
Driving Around Town
I took the Flex to work with me for the week and we pretty much parked the Chevy HHR. It is pretty agile around town. It has a tighter turning radius than you would expect and quite a bit tighter than my old Dodge Caravan which made it a nice commuter vehicle. While I drove it pretty conservatively, I had to stomp on the gas once to avoid a careless driver and it unexpectedly tossed you back into your seat. For a vehicle that long, you don’t expect it to handle and have the power of a sports car but does.
The kids liked it. I had to drop Mark off at Bedford Road Collegiate for his school’s canoe trip. The response was, “When did you get that SUV?” and “Is that a new Ford Flex?” Not a huge sample size but it is approved by high school students who love to explore.
If you want to take a moment to point out that Mark did up the hip straps on his backpack to load it into the car so I could drive him like three kilometers to his school, go ahead, I don’t know what he was thinking. The Flex had a lot of room for his gear but could barely hold all of the geekness. The design may be a bit polarizing but the shape means there is all sorts of storage. if you get the optional luggage rails and then add a luggage rack or pod, you have a vehicle that begs itself to be taken for long road trips.
Driving on the Highway
There were four of us and the dog. We had a cooler full of cold drinks when we were done and three and a three quarters expedition sized backpacks. They all fit comfortable in the back even if the dog was confused why she wasn’t driving. Check out Mark loading the gear in he back when were done. There was lots of room.
It was a quiet drive using the cruise control on the way up but it’s a great highway vehicle. Lots of room, Sirius XM radio, nice sound speakers and heated and air conditioned chairs. It was excellent. A combination of a long wheelbase and Ford’s suspension made for a smooth and comfortable ride.
Years ago a friend of mine bought a Ford Grand Marquis when his father retired from work. He picked his dad up, tossed him in and they drove the Trans Canada highway to the east coast, came back, went south and joined up with Route 66 and drove that from coast to coast before heading north to Highway 1 again and headed back to Saskatoon. I always wanted to do that and have always thought of the Ford Grand Marquis as the perfect vehicle to do that with. If I was going to do a trip like that, it would be the Ford Flex.
I do have a funny story though about the Ford Flex. As we were turning into Prince Albert National Park right at LT’s Food and Fuel, I heard a horrible sound from the Flex.
I immediately slowed down but the noise go louder, I pulled into the parking lot and was about to call Ford over the still going loud noise when I realized that it was a Diet Coke I was holding. I hadn’t done the lid up tight and the road was rough which shook up the pop until air and fizz started to leak out making this noise that had us all convinced there was something wrong with the car. For the rest of the weekend, every time something in the Flex would make a noise, Mark would go, “Dad, the Flex is breaking! Better stop.” I deserved that mocking.
The Ford Flex was quiet on the highway and while I didn’t have a lot of traffic to contend with, when I had to pass, there was power to pass which is what is really important.
Leaving the Pavement Behind
The main reason we didn’t complete the trip was that Kingsmere Road was under heavy construction during the week and was closed. In what we had hoped would be a three day hike instead turned into a two day one which was more than Oliver could handle.
The construction did allow me to see how the Flex handled off the pavement on some soft and sloppy roads. Parks Canada warned us about the roads before hand. She said that it was passable but unpleasant. I took the warning seriously but despite the soft spots, the Flex handled it easily. Even coming back from trailhead after a large storm the night before where the road was worse, I didn’t worry. Well there was one part of the parking lot where there was a D6 Cat that looked stuck, I avoided that part of the road.
Over a week, I developed some strong opinions about the 2016 Ford Flex. Let me share them here.
- For a family like ours that loves to travel, the extra space was amazing. Three rows of seats but the second one was large enough for the boys travel comfortably without them bugging each other. It’s the vehicle you want when driving to Disneyland, the west coast or Waskesiu for the day.
- ESPN Radio. It may not be your favorite thing on a roadtrip but it is mine. Sirius XM radio is worth the money and if the car you purchase has it built in and ready to go, you are one step ahead.
- Heated seats / air conditioned seats. When you just walk a bazillion miles in the Canadian Shield, things hurt. Heated seats make that pain go away. Air conditioned seats cool you down. They are amazing.
- Cup holders up front, in the back, on the sides…. Let’s see we had coffee cups, pop bottles, and water bottles all going on the way home. There was room for all of them.
- The front and rear sunroofs are a nice touch. The rear one is split. At one point Oliver had his one open and Mark had his one shut.
- Designed to seat seven adults, the Flex is equipped with large, plush, overstuffed front and second-row seats.
- The third-row seat dumps into a well in the vehicle’s floor, similar to a minivan, and because the Flex has a nearly vertical rear window and a square roofline, it provides an impressive amount of cargo room even when traveling with a full house of passengers.
- For the 2016 model year Ford gave us the company’s new Sync 3 infotainment system in the Flex. Sync 3 replaces the MyFord Touch infotainment system, and it represents a significant improvement.
Highlights of the new system include:
- Capacitive touch screen with swipe and pinch-to-zoom capability
- Improved graphics, faster response to inputs
- Upgraded voice recognition technology
- Siri Eyes Free, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- System updates available via Wi-Fi
- Fuel mileage wasn’t bad. You can check out Fuelly and see what other Ford Flex drivers are getting. The average seems to be about 18 mpg. I get around 25 mpg with my Chevy HHR but it is a much smaller and less powerful vehicle.
I am a fan of the Flex. It’s styling isn’t for everyone but I have come to love it. If you are a family who loves to travel or just wants a comfortable ride to the great outdoors, the Ford Flex is worth looking a closer look at, you will be impressed at what you see.