- The Washington Times - Friday, July 31, 2009

I’m so revved about what I’ve been reading on Ford’s new EcoBoost, a revolutionary engine science that makes a V-6 engine perform like a V-8 while retaining the fuel economy of a V-6.

The 3.5-liter V-6 engine on the 2009 Ford Flex produces 262 horsepower and 248 lb.-ft. of torque with a fuel economy return of 16 miles per gallon city and 22 mpg highway on an all-wheel-drive model. The 2010 Flex, equipped with the advanced twin-turbocharged EcoBoost 3.5-liter V-6, will generate 355 horsepower and 350 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s just astonishing.

Checking the fueleconomy.gov Web site, I see that the EPA rates fuel efficiency on the 2010 EcoBoost model at the same levels derived from the 262-horsepower V-6: 16/22 mpg. An interesting side note: both front-wheel- and all-wheel-drive 2010 Flex models are EPA-rated at 16/22 mpg, while the 2009 Flex with FWD gets 17/24 mpg.

The 355-horsepower EcoBoost will be offered on the 2010 Ford Flex in late summer as an optional engine choice alongside the standard V-6 on SEL and Limited models. The SE model features the standard 262-horsepower V-6 only.

The excitement in the upcoming EcoBoost technology sort of dulls my interest - unfairly - in my test-drive vehicle, the 2009 Flex. The upside to this is that buyers can drive a hard bargain on the outgoing 2009 Flex, as dealers want to make room for the new EcoBoost version. Besides, not every driver is hot-to-trot for V-8 performance, and you can bet EcoBoost will come with a pretty price tag.

My 2009 Flex Limited all-wheel-drive tester had a base price of $37,255, including destination charges. The 2010 Flex Limited with AWD and EcoBoost will start at $42,785.

People considering the Flex are primarily drawn to its charismatic looks and its utilitarian function. Frankly, I’m not so sure what’s gotten into today’s design stylists - so many auto designers seem to be pinned to a geometrical square design. Of all the cube-looking boxes hitting the market, the Flex seems to square off in this cubist-cult market in the most fashionable way.

Signature side grooves prevent the large box from looking static. A planted stance and 18-inch wheels give the Flex a confident, sporty appearance. Interior ambient lighting allows the owner to program seven different fluorescent-like colors to suit a mood - and it’s just plain fun.

With a low step-in, getting into and out of the Flex is easy for women in skirts and heels and for small children. The Flex, with three-row seating, is spacious inside with loads of personal space for six to seven passengers.

The Limited tester featured a second-row seating option that I found to be a rescue remedy. I escorted my two nephews around for the weekend, ages 13 and 8. They were peaceably separated in the comfortable leather seating by the optional rear console refrigeration system ($760), which kept their sports drinks cooled. A $100 floor console let them easily store a few items for travel. These second-row seats also featured a 40/40 easy auto fold ($870). The Panoramic Vista Roof ($1,495) allowed all of us to enjoy an open-air feeling inside the Flex.

Other options included the $2,375 navigation system with a rear back-up camera and a $395 white two-tone roof. Equipped with a $570 Class III trailer tow package, the Flex’s towing capacity is rated at 4,500 pounds. The Flex comes with safety canopy side curtain airbags for all three rows and AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control.

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