Sweet strains of the Beach Boys seemed to drift across my driveway recently, mixed oddly with the loopy thrashings of Frank Zappa. I didn’t know whether to dance or run. The vapory music felt strange even here at Chateau Box, where a battered hubcap from a 1941 Plymouth serves as fine wall-art. It fit the 2017 Ford Flex like a tailor-made hemp and rice-husk vest.
If you have some interest in a Flex, you might want to act pretty fast.
Part California surf-wagon, part mid-American station wagon, and part minivan, the funny-looking Flex absolutely sparkles as the most lovably weird vehicle in the auto industry. I admit I felt right at home in the dark blue and black Ford Flex Limited I had, a vehicle so square you figured it just had to somehow be cool. Here’s a tip, though: If you have some interest in a Flex, you might want to act pretty fast. Ford intends to kill off the big wagon -- its lowest-selling vehicle last year – sometime in 2020, according to Road & Track and the Detroit Free Press. It deserves better. Based on platforms shared with the Explorer SUV and Taurus sedan, my all-wheel-drive Flex smirked at convention. Seemingly two large boxes, the Flex sported a flat broad hood with subtly rounded edges and chiseled lines on its perimeter. Up front, a sleek, blacked-out grille with semi-hidden headlamps wrapped around the bulky front, looking a bit like a silver necklace on a Presbyterian preacher. While the expansive sides and large doors initially appeared to be boringly flat, their edges were slightly rounded and the doors included one of the more unusual style elements around: four parallel grooves. In a way, they vaguely evoked an old woody to me – one of those all-American wagons from the ‘40s and ‘50s with wood-covered sides. Maybe that’s how I managed to get the Beach Boys tangled up in this. About the time you conclude “deranged retro,” you notice clear-lensed boy-racer taillamps and black 20-inch spoked wheels wearing pretty meaty 255/45 tires.
The Flex’s square black top offered more large windows than some urban lofts.
Incidentally, the Flex’s square black top didn’t even match its dark-blue body, but offered more large windows than some urban lofts. Still, the real gravy for this mysterious meat loaf on wheels bubbled beneath its thick back bumper – dual, chrome-tipped exhausts connected to a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6. As you probably know, the 3.5 was Ford’s first EcoBoost engine, a turbocharged and direct-injected six-banger that has been tweaked and twisted to a point where it now quietly generates 365-horsepower. More important, maybe, it also churns out 350 lb.-ft. of torque at a reasonably low 3,500 rpm. As a result, the engine surges to life right off idle, creating a wave of power that coupled with a slick-shifting six-speed automatic makes for a satisfying shove. Despite weighing nearly 5,000 pounds, the porky Flex sprints to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds, according to Car and Driver – as quick as most V-6-powered mid-size sedans. Just don’t expect that sort of economy: The Flex can manage only 15 miles per gallon in town and 21 on the highway, putting it in the thirsty company of full-size pickups. However, it steers and handles much better than a truck, tackling moderate-speed corners with playful eagerness and holding a steady line in curves in spite of some body lean. While the ride was firmer than I had anticipated – which was OK with me – the Flex mostly just felt athletically composed, its long wheelbase absorbing bumps. The steering, meanwhile, was a little slow, but well-weighted – neither too heavy nor too light. It also delivered reasonable road feel. The gray interior in my $49,000 Flex, though, seemed somewhat subdued compared with the exterior, but offered decent material and three rows of seating.
In short, the Flex is way too practical to be a true eccentric – a goal I aim for.
“Charcoal”-colored plastic that looked gray to my eyes covered the large, mostly flat dashboard, for example, which was dominated by a display screen mounted flush to the dash. It included Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system, a USB port and – light applause, please -- buttons and knobs for the sound and climate-control systems. Though the square plastic door panels looked too much like what you’d find in an F-150 pickup, the seats seemed more upscale with medium-gray edges and light gray centers. Moreover, comfortable bucket seats in the second row were positioned so that even adults could squeeze between to get in the third row of seats, which provided fairly good leg- and head-room. In short, the Flex is way too practical to be a true eccentric – a goal I aim for. If I were a cool dad, a Flex would be my vehicle of choice over any minivan or SUV. It would make even the morning school-run more rousing.
2017 Ford Flex Limited
- What I liked most: The Flex’s unconventional body wrapped around its spirited V-6 EcoBoost engine.
- What I would change: The interior, which could use some freshening even if the Flex has only a few more years left on its run.
- MSRP: Base price, $43,030; as equipped, $48,710.
- Fuel economy: Rated at 15 mpg in town, 21 on the highway and 17 mpg combined with the filler on the left.
- Official color: Blue Jeans.
- Odometer reading when tested: 7,974 miles.
- Weight: 4,946 pounds.
- Length-width-height: 201.8 inches long/75.9 inches wide/69.3 inches tall.
- Fuel-tank capacity: 18.6 gallons.
- Towing capacity: 2,000 pounds.
- Spare tire: Temporary compact.
- 2017 Ford Flex in a few words: One of the most distinctive, likable vehicles in the auto industry.
- Warranty: Three-year, 36,000-mile overall and five-year, 60,000-mile powertrain warranty.
- Final assembly location: Oakville, Ontario, Canada.
- Manufacturer’s website: www.ford.com
- E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org