THE RIDE: Four-door, up to seven-passenger midsize 2009 Ford Flex Limited AWD SUV.
DOWN THE ROAD: All new for 2009, the boxy SUV with bold styling will draw curious looks from onlookers. The two-tone exterior colors work on the Flex, which comes equipped with a powerful engine to deliver a pleasant drive.
TECH & PERFORMANCE: Available in five trims, the 3.5-liter V-6 engine pumps out 262 horsepower at 6250 rpm and 248 pounds-feet of torque at 4500 rpm. It is mated to a standard 6-speed automatic transmission, which results in a quiet drive train. Best of all is the intelligent all-wheel-drive system, which delivers torque to all four wheels, front to rear and side to side, ensuring stability in untoward situations. Suspension is handled by a MacPherson strut in the front and a fully independent multilink system in the rear. The power rack-and-pinion steering has a good feel to it, especially when navigating sharp turns and corners.
LOOK & FEEL: It's got the look, the retro look. Sharing a basic design with its smaller twin, the Edge, our two-tone Flex came with a sterling gray metallic color on body sides and hood, and a white-colored roof. A chrome horizontal three-bar grille, signature side grooves, exterior chrome door handles and mirrors, horizontal-shaped HID headlights, chrome-bezeled fog lamps and rounded LED tail lamps and a squared hood are the other exterior highlights. The interior is equally appealing as the facade, with wood atop the four-spoke leather steering wheel, instrument panel and front and rear doors. Standard power-adjustable pedals will please drivers of varying heights in the family. Also standard is the power lift gate, which can be helpful to load/unload cargo. If long road trips are in the offing, the $760 rear console refrigerator would be a wise choice. It's available with a touch-screen navigation system (optional for $2,375) that shows traffic in real-time and pinpoints the price of fuel at nearby gas stations.
SAFETY FIRST: Standard features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes, antiskid system with rollover sensors, theft deterrent system, leather child safety system and tire pressure monitoring system.
OUT THE DOOR: $36,555, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges. Go for the $1,495 vista roof, which offers four glass panels to bring in plenty of sunshine.
BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, P235/55R19 BSW; wheelbase, 117.9 inches; length, 201.8 inches; weight, 4,460 pounds; fuel capacity, 18.6 gallons; city, 16 mpg; highway, 22 mpg.
WHY DIG IT: The Flex makes an audacious statement. For that, all credit goes to Ford. Though the appearance is retro, everything else is modern about this SUV. It starts from the exterior appearance and an attractive cabin, and trickles down to an imposing and powerful engine. Thanks to remarkable passenger- and cargo-hauling capabilities, the Flex has an edge over the competition.