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Our Take: 2018 Ford Flex

, Contributing Editor -

The 2018 Ford Flex defies easy categorization with its wagon-like looks. Classified as a crossover SUV, the Flex offers very good first- and second-row seats along with ample cargo flexibility. But the style is dated and prices can easily reach Lincoln levels.

Best Value

The 2018 Ford Flex is a mid-size sport utility vehicle with room for seven. It comes with standard front-wheel drive and available all-wheel drive. Ford offers the 2018 Flex in SE, SEL, and Limited trims.

Ford offers a pair of engine choices. We chose front-wheel drive and the standard V6, which comes with a six-speed automatic transmission. Upgrading to the powerful turbocharged V6 requires all-wheel drive, adding $8,200 to your price. Fully loaded, the 2018 Flex can easily top $50,000.

We chose the SEL as it adds such features as keyless entry with push-button start, a remote start system, Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment system, power front seats with lumbar support, and fog lights. At this middle trim level, you're also able to enjoy a few package options not available with the base model. Three of them are included in our recommended build.

Here's how we'd build ours:

  • Model: 2018 Ford Flex SEL
  • Engine: 3.5-liter V6
  • Output: 290 hp / 254 lb-ft
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic
  • Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive
  • Fuel Economy: 16 City / 23 Hwy
  • Options: 202A Equipment Group ($2,400, leather-trimmed seating surfaces, premium seven-speaker audio system, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, power liftgate, memory driver's seat and exterior mirrors, 110-volt outlet), 2nd Row 40/40 Reclining Seats ($695), Navigation ($795).
  • Base Price: $33,990 (including a $995 destination charge)
  • Best Value Price: $37,880

Performance

Ford Flex

With the 2018 Flex, Ford delivers standard and turbocharged versions of its 3.5-liter V6 engine. There's a significant power difference between the two, but the base engine is no slouch – you have 290 horsepower and 254 pound-feet of torque at your disposal. Ford pairs this engine with a six-speed automatic transmission. In this day of eight or more cogs, the Flex seems behind the times. It also consumes more gas than what we’d like.

Our chosen powertrain performs admirably, with sufficient acceleration and a transmission that moves through the gear range without drama. This model delivers a compliant ride, crisp steering, able handling, and firm brakes. Nevertheless, the 2018 Flex feels heavy, just like the utility vehicle it is.

Style

When the Ford Flex rolled out in 2009, its look was an attention getter. Trouble is, other than some cosmetic changes across the ensuing years, the look is relatively the same. It no longer commands the surprise that it once did. The one thing that can be said is that the Flex, with it boxy outline, won’t be easily confused with other Ford models – or with anything else on the road for that matter. And with bona fide wagons such as the Buick Regal TourX beginning to find traction, customers have even more options to explore.

Inside, we give the Flex high marks for its very comfortable first- and second-row seats. Even the third-row seat is usable and cargo space is excellent. For our sample model, we replaced the three-seat middle row bench seat with a pair of 40/40 seats. Yes, you lose one seat, but you gain even more comfortable second-row seats, while offering improved maneuverability in the third row.

The Best and Worst Things

Perhaps the best thing about the Ford Flex is that it's a suitable alternative to a minivan. No, you don’t have the second-row sliding doors to aid access and egress, but you do get a highly usable and flexible interior. However, choose a top-end Limited and maximize the options, and you’re looking at a $50,000 vehicle, which is very close to what you’d pay for a similar Lincoln MKT.

Right For? Wrong For?

Ford Flex

The Ford Flex is right for the person who prefers a traditional wagon-like interior, but also needs plenty of cargo space. With up to 83 cubic feet of space at the ready, the Flex shows its flexibility to handle your cargo needs. That said, the Flex’s style remains polarizing, even after a decade of market exposure.

The Bottom Line

The 2018 Ford Flex is an outlier among crossovers, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It doesn’t ride as high as the similar Ford Explorer, but you won’t confuse it with long-retired models such as the Ford Country Squire wagon. In all, the Flex fills a niche with no strong challengers to consider.

Buying With CarsDirect

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Used Ford Flex in 20149

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