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Ford Flex is too good to be a family car

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Ford calls its Flex a "crossover" vehicle, but "my son’s cool-looking, modern version of a ’60s power wagon" might be a better description. A whole new front end certainly gives the 2013 edition of the Flex a chic, contemporary appearance, and Ford has packed it with even more mind-boggling technology.

The Flex is a different kind of family-size multiple-seat vehicle. Yes, it has a roomy, space-efficient cabin that provides generous seating room for up to seven people, and it can quickly transform into a cavernous cargo-hauler without having to remove any seats. Yet,it also has the looks and performance of a cool, classy ride.

Made in Canada, the front-drive Flex comes in SE, SEL and Limited editions, with prices starting at $30,999. The all-wheel-drive versions are available in SEL and Limited trims, with a starting price of $39,099. An optional EcoBoost V-6 engine is also (and only) available on the Limited-trim version.

For 2013, the Flex comes with improved chassis dynamics and noise-reduction measures. The front shock towers are now wrapped with sound absorbers and there’s upgraded body-sound-deadening used under the dash, under the hood and around the rear wheels. It has revised spring and damper rates, and a hard-mounted steering rack now provides a quicker steering ratio.

In addition to the latest MyFord Touch system, Flex can also come with driver-aid features such as adaptive cruise control with collision warning and brake support. There’s Ford’s Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), as well as Intelligent Access with push-button start, remote-start technology, rain-sensing wipers, a power tilt and telescopic steering column and power-fold mirrors. Heck, the Flex can even park itself with the self-guiding Park Assist option.

Upgrades to MyFord Touch make the screen easier to use and faster to navigate. The text is larger and the touch areas on the screen look and function more like buttons.

The large Ford oval badge is a notable absentee on a more rounded front, and F-L-E-X in large lettering is on the leading edge of the hood. The three-bar grille has been reduced to one with a black surround, and the lower front fascia has a restyled air intake. Although largely cosmetic, the exterior changes give Flex a very different look that’s bolder and far more distinctive.

The second-row seats offer generous leg and head room and the third-row seat is an adult-usable position with access past a second-row seat that folds and flips out of the way.

Storage is impressive. Even with all seven seats upright, Flex has 566 litres (20 cubic feet) of cargo space in back. That jumps to 1,224 litres (43.2 cu. ft) with the third row down and a whopping 2,355 litres (83.2 cu. ft) if you then lay the second row flat. Start the car, IKEA, here we come!

Having 365 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque available any time your brain gives the signal to your right foot is very comforting and satisfying. The EcoBoost V-6 engine offers V-8-like performance without the fuel-consumption penalty.

An ally in the Flex’s fuel-conservation fight is a smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmission geared for good highway fuel economy. On the other hand, it also provides both sport and manual operation modes. You can also use the manual shift paddles in the normal D (drive) mode, really handy if you want to make a quick change in speed to get past something or merge with traffic.

On the road, the Flex transmits a solid, secure feeling through its taut body structure and wide track. While Ford has firmed the suspension, it’s still a comfort-oriented ride that’s composed and quiet. It’s a more car-like driving experience than you’ll get in most of its seven-seat competitors.

-- Postmedia News

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