The refreshed 2013 Ford Flex continues to defy conventional thinking with in your face boxy styling. Is it a very large wagon, a crossover, an SUV, or a van? It doesn’t matter what you call it, because it can transport seven people in great comfort and carry a lot of their stuff as well. Isn’t this what the three-row midsize crossover segment is all about?
The Ford Flex was first introduced in 2009 to fill a void in the Ford lineup left behind by the discontinued Freestar minivan and the Freestyle Wagon. The Flex has been refreshed for the 2013 model year, and the simplest and only way to tell is to look at it from the front. There is a new large front grill element that integrates into nostril-like air inlets inside the headlight assemblies. It toughens up the overall appearance with just a hint of F-series style.
There are more updates on the inside. Most notably, the steering wheel now has a fresh and modern look. Ford went for toggle style switchgear for the steering wheel volume and cruise system controls, which I found a little difficult to get used to. Of course, the refresh also bring you the updated center gauge cluster and the latest Ford Sync system. It means that you get the large dialog speedometer and all other gauge information is displayed digitally. I liked the new gadgetry except for the small digital tachometer. I still enjoy keeping tabs on engine RPMs to stay engaged with the vehicle, and the small digital one was hard to see. I did not have any issues with the Sync system. It understood my commands and performed the tasks, but it’s still not at Siri levels of sophistication.
The Flex has one of the more spacious and comfortable interiors in the segment. All seats are soft and comfortable for the long haul, second row passengers get a huge 44.3 inches of leg room, and there is plenty of head room throughout. I was even able to stuff my 6′ 2” frame into the third row. I had good head room but my knees were hitting the second row. I was wishing that my Flex had the captain chairs second row option which allows for the middle row to slide fore and aft.
It’s also worth to note how quiet the Ford Flex cabin is at speed. It has Lexus levels of quietness. However, I cannot compliment some of the hard interior plastics that are left over from the original 2009 design. The quiet cabin goes hand-in-hand with the plush and compliant suspension. Flex’s suspension is tuned for comfort not sport, but it does not feel top heavy in corners and does not have excessive lean. The steering feel is a little numb but is well weighted. This crossover feels confident and predictable in fast bends. All together this would make for one excellent road trip vehicle.
The 2013 Flex uses Ford’s familiar 3.5 liter V6 rated at 287 hp and 254 lb-ft of torque. It’s backed by the 6-speed SelectShift automatic transmission. These are impressive numbers, but my all wheel drive Flex SEL weighs in at more than 4,643 lbs of curb. This is a large and heavy car and it did not feel particularly quick at one mile above sea level. Still the transmission does have a Sport mode that kicks it into a more aggressive mood and the difference is noticeable. My Flex returned an average of 18.4 MPG after my regular mixed city and highway driving loop. This is average for the segment and left me wondering whether better efficiency should be possible in this day and age. Diesel or hybrid drive-trains came to mind.
The mid-size 3-row crossover segment is one of the most competitive in the industry and any advantage is critical to winning the consumer dollar. The Flex has some of the best passenger leg room and volume, but it has less than average cargo volume, towing capability, and the lowest ground clearance in this group. It’s starting price is competitive, but many popular features are at additional charge.
|AWD/4WD||Starting Retail Price||City/Hwy MPG||HP / Lb-Ft||Towing Lbs||Cargo Cu-Ft/Ground Clear. In|
|2013 Ford Flex SEL||$35,250||17/23||287/254||4,500||83.2 / 5.9|
|2013 Chevrolet Traverse 1LT||$35,725||16/23||281/266||5,200||116 / 7.2|
|2013 Dodge Durango Crew||$37,095||16/23||290/260||6,200||84.5 / 8.1|
|2013 GMC Acadia SLT1||$41,780||16/23||288/270||5,200||116.1 / 7.6|
|2013 Honda Pilot EX-L||$36,620||17/24||250/253||4,500||87 / 8|
|2013 Hyundai SantaFe GLS||$30,100||18/24||290/252||5,000||80 / ?|
|2013 Mazda CX-9 Touring||$33,820||16/22||273/270||3,500||100.7 / 8|
|2013 Nissan Pathfinder SL||$36,450||19/25||260/240||5,000||79.8 / 6.5|
|2013 Toyota Highlander SE||$35,860||17/22||270/248||5,000||95.4 / 8|
(Note: I did not list the Ford Explorer although it is also a direct competitor to the Flex. I also did not list the Mitsubishi Outlander and Subaru Tribeca because they are considerably smaller than this group.)
On the TFLcar scale of:
- Buy it!
- Lease it!
- Rent it!
- … or Forget it!
I give the 2013 Ford Flex SEL AWD a Lease It! My test car stickered for $39,195. It had plethora of safety features, such as: blind spot monitors, backup camera and assist, and rear inflatable seat belts. Yet it did not have all the options such as the navigation system or sun roof. The Flex does not significantly stand out among the competitors in any one specification. If it does have an advantage, then it has to be the classically American large and comfortable interior, ride, and very quiet cabin. The Flex’s versatility is limited by the relatively small ground clearance and less than average towing ability.
Please enjoy this TFLcar comparison video where this Ford Flex goes up against the Mazda CX-9:
And here is the Flex doing a 0-60 MPH run at altitude:
Andre Smirnov is a life-long automotive enthusiast, software engineer, writer, and reporter. He has been writing and reporting at TFLcar since 2011. When not working or spending time with the family – you can find him tinkering in the garage or scouring the internet and other media for various automotive, mechanical, and computer related information.