- The Washington Times - Friday, July 11, 2008

Ford says the 2009 Flex is “all about the journey” and, when you look at this novel family vehicle, you’ll see a brand-new car that has been engineered for improved capability and designed with a fun personality. Breaking the rules of what a “crossover” vehicle is, this up-to-seven-passenger model is available in both front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive, and comes in three trims; SE, SEL and Limited.

A “class of one” with its unique high-roofline and boxy looks, it competes with the GMC Acadia and other upscale crossovers with three rows of seating. It will be available this summer.

When it comes to classification, the new two-box Flex, which Ford describes as having a “floating roof” - it is set off against its all-black greenhouse, or glass below - falls into a bit of a grey area. Jim Farley, Ford’s Marketing VP says there is nothing on the road like it, and it ‘defies being categorized’. We say it’s a crossover, with wagon styling, and applaud its Class III towing capability of 4,500 pounds that adds utility to this practical package.

The front of the Flex is adorned by a chrome-finished, three-bar grille. Each end of the grille angles into the horizontal Halogen headlight housing to give the front a crisp, linear look. Fog lamps resting inside body-colored surrounds are positioned into the front fascia on the SE, while the surrounds on the SEL and Limited trims are chrome. HID headlamps are standard equipment on the Limited

The Flex’s lid comes with a two-tone, twin-paneled roof option. The roof portion can be body-colored or one of two contrasting roof colors; Brilliant Silver or White Suede.

On SEL and Limited trims, a four-paneled Vista roof is available; three of the panels- two over the second row seating and one over the third row seating-function to bring in abundant sunlight, while the front panel opens into a sunroof. When the Vista roof option is selected, second and third row seating come with manual sunshades to limit glare. Side mirrors are black on the SE trim and body-colored and heated on the SEL and Limited trims.

Built on Ford’s large vehicle platform, the Flex body was stretched an additional five inches, giving it a sure-footed stance. Large, limousine-type doors open to the second row seating, with easy access to the third row.

The Flex’s interior opens to abundant room for both passengers and cargo. The front dash is crafted with an easy-to-read gauge cluster and instrument panel and a center console adorned by a shift knob with chrome accents and a dual-cup holder. A 6-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo system, with Sirius satellite radio (not a standard feature on the SE trim) is standard. Optional is a Sony 7.1 Surround sound 12-speaker audio system.

Flex is designed with exclusive F-family, theater-style seating with integrated bolsters to give the seats a wider look, with a Flex-exclusive fold-flat passenger seat in the front. Cloth seats are standard on the SE trim, while leather is found inside the SEL and Limited trims. Second tier seating features a 60/40 bench, with optional captain’s chairs that give a walk-through isle or center console. An optional refrigerated console, with a compressor-driven refrigerator, can be positioned between the captain’s chairs in the second row. Third row seating is a single bench seat or optional 50/50 bucket seats. All passenger seats fold flat. A push-button, auto-fold control tumbles the second row seats into a fold-flat position to increase cargo space.

The new Flex comes with a 3.5-liter Duratec V-6 engine with a dual overhead cam and die-cast aluminum block, dolling out 262-horsepower and 248 pounds-feet of torque, mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. The front-drive flex gets 17/24 mpg, while the AWD gets 16/22.

Flex rides on an independent suspension, featuring MacPherson struts with rear-facing lower L-arms in the front and a multi-link fully independent rear suspension. The front-wheel drive model also features 4-wheel power disc brakes with anti-lock brakes and traction control. Intelligent all-wheel drive is also available. Standard 18-inch aluminum wheels are found on the SE and SEL trims, with 19-inch polished aluminum wheels on the Limited. 19-inch aluminum and 20-inch chrome-painted aluminum wheels are also available for all three trims.

Flex’s 5-star safety system includes dual front air bags, front seat thorax side air bags and front passenger sensing system.

The new Flex has a bevy of additional standard and optional features, including an optional family entertainment system that toggles between music and movies that display on an 8-inch DVD screen mounted on the ceiling behind the front row seating. Interior mood lighting is another option, giving the option to toggle between seven interior mood lighting settings that illuminate the foot wells and cup holders.

Also available is a SYNC communication system that features voice-activated commands and Bluetooth wireless hands-free cell phone use and mp3 navigation, along with the optional voice-activated navigation system, with Sirius satellite radio and an 8-inch touch screen located at the top of the center console stack. The optional navigation system also features a reverse camera system that automatically displays images on the navigation screen.

Some of Flex’s additional standard features include a keyless entry pad located along the B-pillar that illuminates in red backlighting when touched, an easy fuel capless fuel filler, and SecuriLock anti-theft system.

The 2009 Ford Flex comes in ten color choices; Chocolate, Licorice, Green Vapor, Marina Blue, Cranberry, Gold, Slate, Fir Green, Atlantic Blue and Deep Orange, and is priced starting at $36,555.

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