By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 10/24/2011
The 2012 Ford Flex is not your typical 7-passenger CUV, at least not if looks count for anything. Where most CUVs attempt to mirror SUVs, the Flex takes a decidedly different approach. Its long and boxy silhouette is reminiscent of the big station wagons of the 1960s and 1970s, plus it's lower to the ground than an SUV. And, while competitors like the 2012 Honda Pilot, Dodge Durango and Chevrolet Tahoe may boast about their max towing or off-road ability, the Flex makes no such claims. Sure, the Ford Flex can tow a trailer or small boat (up to 4,500 pounds), but for the most part, the Flex is all about transporting people. There is no arguing that you can find these same attributes in a minivan, but none of the minivans we can think of have the Flex's cool factor. Then again, if you have teenagers you might find yourself wishing for a minivan because with such forward-thinking options as the voice-activated SYNC communication system, 12-speaker Sony audio, built-in refrigerator and huge Vista Roof glass moonroof, this rolling dorm room makes for the perfect Saturday night cruiser.
If you're looking for a family wagon that is the modern equivalent of the classic American wagon driven by your mom and dad, the 2012 Ford Flex fills the bill. It offers seating for seven, a wide range of models and prices and a turbocharged V6 EcoBoost engine. Oh, did we mention it looks pretty cool?
If you need a family vehicle that can also haul more than 4,500 pounds or go venturing down seldom traveled dirt paths, the 2012 Ford Flex is not the best choice. V8-powered SUVs such as the Dodge Durango or Ford Expedition are better geared to these tasks. Similarly constructed CUVs like the Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia offer more cargo space behind the third-row seat and more legroom for third-row passengers.
For 2012, the Ford Flex now offers roof-rack side rails with the Vista Roof sunroof, repositions the rear wiper arm for better coverage, and adds a folding armrest with cup holders to the second-row bench on the Limited and Titanium models.
If you think the Flex's wide body and long wheelbase make it a bear to manipulate in tight spots, think again. The 2012 Ford Flex's ability to maneuver through tight turns is really quite impressive, and its smooth ride and whisper-quiet interior further an already pleasant driving experience. Sway and body roll are kept in check by a taut suspension, big wheel and tire packages and the Flex's low-to-the-ground stance. Despite is boxy appearance, the Flex glides effortless at freeway speeds, slipping through the air with little buffeting or wind noise. Of course, it's the Flex's generous helping of laminated glass that helps keep wind and road noise at bay. Pushing the Flex to its limits, we simulated a number of emergency maneuvers, all of which were adeptly handled by Ford's AdvanceTrac stability and traction-control system. And, although we were not able to test it in snow conditions, the 2012 Ford Flex's available all-wheel drive is sure to add another level of assurance when encountering slippery road conditions.Favorite Features
The ideal option for long trips with the kids, the 2012 Ford Flex's rear-console refrigerator can hold up to seven 12-ounce cans. And, with a low of 23 degrees Fahrenheit, it can double as a mini ice cream cart.
SYNC Communications System
One of the best audio options in the industry, Ford's SYNC communications system features a voice-activated command center that can access music from an attached MP3 player, pick up and place calls from a Bluetooth-enabled cell phone and even speak incoming text messages.
While a car's exterior may make its first impression on you, it's the interior where you'll spend 99 percent of your time. That's why Ford took extra pains to make the 2012 Ford Flex someplace special with an inviting interior that is not only highly functional, but elegantly appointed and meticulously assembled. There are the numerous technological edges – such as the available center-console refrigerator and massive 4-panel Vista skylight – that set the Flex apart from more common forms of transport. Further attention to detail can be seen in Ford's extensive use of interior lighting located in the foot wells and overhead, as well as in the fabric choices such as the diamond sew pattern on the Limited trim's leather seats. A comfortable driving position is made possible for drivers of all sizes thanks to the available power-adjustable pedals, and when not carrying human cargo, the Flex's front-passenger, second- and third-row seats can be folded flat to create a massive level load floor. As for accommodations, the 2012 Ford Flex's first- and second-row seats provide adult-size comfort for four, five in a pinch. Unfortunately, the Flex's third-row seat is short on legroom and the second- and third-row seatbacks are a bit low, requiring taller passengers to fully extend the head restraints.
The 2012 Ford Flex has a design that is both old and new at the same time. To those born before 1979, the Flex's long lines and paralleled side groves are vaguely reminiscent of the old Ford Country Squire wagons, which featured distinctive wood panels and bold colors. Younger buyers will probably appreciate the same design for its unique look and wow factor, especially the aluminum-plated rear hatch and optional contrasting roof paint. Some might even claim to see hints of Scion xB and MINI Cooper in the Flex's reflection, yet its boxy, upright sides and bold front end are pure Ford. And, while the Flex's big wheel and tire combo and low-to-the-ground stance won't win it any friends among weekend off-road adventurers, the folks who love a long and slow Saturday night cruise will likely give a big thumbs-up to this family-friendly ride.
The 2012 Ford Flex comes in four trim levels: SE, SEL, Limited and Titanium. Standard equipment includes Ford's keypad keyless entry, a 6-way power driver's seat, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, Reverse Sensing System, fog lights, Easy Fuel capless fuel system, front and rear air conditioning, an MP3-compatible CD player and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with controls for cruise control and audio. Moving up to the top-of-the-line Limited and Titanium trims brings heated front seats, a 10-way power driver's seat with memory, Sony Premium audio with Ford SYNC communications system, voice-activated navigation, leather interior, a power rear liftgate, power folding third-row seat, dual-zone automatic climate control and 19-inch polished aluminum wheels (20-inch on the Titanium trim). Standard safety equipment on all models includes three-row side-curtain airbags and AdvanceTrac electronic stability and traction control with Roll Stability Control.
Options for the Ford Flex vary by trim and include a 355-horsepower EcoBoost V6 (SEL and Limited), rearview camera, power rear liftgate, heated second-row seats with power Autofold mode, second-row captain's-chair seating with rear-console refrigerator, 4-panel Vista roof, all-wheel drive, a contrasting painted top, remote start, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system and Park Assist active parallel parking aid.
Ford currently offers two powertrain options for the 2012 Flex. The standard engine on all trims is a 3.5-liter V6 engine with variable valve timing attached to a 6-speed automatic transmission. The smooth and efficient V6 generates a respectable 262 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque – not the best in class but certainly far from being tagged as anemic. Fuel economy, on the other hand, is near the top of its class, with an estimated 17 miles per gallon city and 24 highway. All-wheel-drive models earn slightly lower estimates. Optional on SEL, Titanium and Limited trims is the EcoBoost V6, which mates the 3.5-liter engine with gasoline direct injection and twin turbochargers to produce an impressive 355 horsepower. Ford claims the EcoBoost engine delivers V8-like performance with V6-like fuel economy. Flex models equipped with EcoBoost also feature all-wheel drive as standard equipment.
262 horsepower @ 6,250 rpm
248 lb-ft of torque @ 4,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/24 (FWD), 16/23 (AWD)
3.5-liter V6, Twin-Turbocharged
355 horsepower @ 5,700 rpm
350 lb-ft of torque @ 1,500-5,250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/23
The 2012 front-wheel-drive Ford Flex SE has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting around $30,000, while the SEL starts closer to $33,000 and the all-wheel-drive version is past the $34,000 mark; a fully loaded Limited or Titanium trim with the EcoBoost V6 tops out just over $50,000. The Flex's pricing is in line with competitors such as the 2012 Chevrolet Traverse and Honda Pilot, but slightly higher than a comparably equipped Hyundai Veracruz. To make your best deal, be sure to check the Fair Purchase Price, which shows the typical Flex transaction prices being paid in your area. As for resale value, Kelley Blue Book expects the Flex to hold a good portion of its original purchase price, surpassing the Hyundai Veracruz, on par with the Chevrolet Traverse, but falling slightly behind the Honda Pilot.