- Spacious and versatile cabin with genuine three-row space
- Refined ride
- High-tech features
- Outstanding visibility
- Excellent turbocharged engine option
- Tech interfaces can be difficult to use
- Two-person-only third-row seat
- Standard second-row bench doesn't slide
There are plenty of options these days for big families who need transportation. You can choose from crossovers, big SUVs and minivans to fit your brood and haul the road-trip gear. Somewhere among all those options though, the boxy, wagonlike 2015 Ford Flex seems to have gotten lost. It's a car we think goes overlooked far too often, especially since it offers plenty of versatility.
Since it is a box, it's able to easily swallow more cargo than its numerical specs would indicate. Its third row seat is also comfortable for adults (especially with the optional second-row captain's chairs slid forward), with its abundant headroom and large windows that eliminate the claustrophobic feeling indicative of many third rows. Very good visibility for the driver is another benefit from the Flex's shape.
Yet there is more to like here than just the Flex's utility. It's a bit more carlike to drive than some other crossovers, and offers a smooth ride for long family road trips. Ford also gives you two different engine options, which is rare for a large crossover. The base V6 is certainly capable, but there's also a turbocharged V6 available that can take the Flex from zero to 60 mph in just 6.1 seconds, which makes it far and away the quickest vehicle in the segment. Who says a family vehicle has to be boring?
That said, there are many competitors out there that may be a better match for your family. We like the 2015 Mazda CX-9, as it is engaging to drive and offers a bit more maximum space than the Flex does. The 2015 GMC Acadia is also very roomy and offers a comfortable, composed ride along with room for eight passengers. The 2015 Toyota Highlander is a well-rounded favorite of ours with an excellent ride quality, a quiet interior and an available hybrid powertrain. There's also the Flex's mechanically related sibling, the Ford Explorer, but in most respects (especially in terms of practicality), we prefer the Flex. Whatever you compare it to, the 2015 Ford Flex deserves a chance, as few vehicles on the road manage to combine style and practicality so well.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2015
The 2015 Ford Flex carries over unchanged.
TRIMS & EQUIPMENT
The 2015 Ford Flex is a large crossover/wagon available in six- or seven-passenger configurations. There are three trim levels: SE, SEL and Limited.
The base SE comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, heated mirrors, automatic headlights, rear privacy glass, integrated blind spot mirrors, rear parking sensors, cruise control, keypad entry, air-conditioning, a six-way power driver seat (manual recline and lumbar support), a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 60/40-split second-row seat (with a passenger side auto-fold feature for easy access to the third row), a 50/50-split third-row seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a 4.2-inch central display screen, the base version of Sync (voice controls for phone and audio and emergency assist), Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, a USB port and auxiliary audio jack.
The SEL adds 18-inch wheels, upgraded brakes, foglights, chrome door handles, keyless ignition and entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, an eight-way power driver seat (with power lumbar), a six-way power front passenger seat (manual recline and lumbar support) and satellite radio. Also included is the MyFord Touch electronics interface, which includes an 8-inch central touchscreen, two multifunction secondary displays in the gauge cluster, enhanced Ford Sync features (turn-by-turn navigation and traffic reports), two USB ports, an SD card reader and an audio/video input jack.
Two option packages are available for the SEL: 201A and 202A. Equipment Group 201A adds a 110-volt power outlet, a rearview camera and a power liftgate. Equipment Group 202A has those features plus a remote ignition, a blind spot warning system, rear cross-traffic alerts, power-adjustable pedals, leather upholstery (vinyl in the third row), driver memory settings and an upgraded seven-speaker sound system.
The Limited comes standard with the features from the SEL's 202A package and further adds 19-inch wheels, power-folding mirrors, additional chrome/satin aluminum exterior accents, xenon headlights, LED taillights, rain-sensing wipers, a navigation system and a 12-speaker Sony sound system with HD radio. Stand-alone options for the Limited include 20-inch wheels, a refrigerated compartment in the optional second-row console, heated second-row captain's chairs and the Equipment Group 301A (or 303A) package that includes an automatic parallel-parking system, adaptive cruise control, a collision warning system with brake support, ventilated front seats, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering column and a one-touch power-fold-and-tumble third row.
Optional on every trim level are roof side rails, second-row inflatable seatbelts, and sliding and reclining second-row captain's chairs.
The navigation system is optional for the SEL. The Appearance package (SEL and Limited) adds 20-inch wheels, a black or color-matched painted roof, different exterior and interior trim, and black-gray two-tone leather upholstery. The SEL and Limited can also be equipped with a multipanel rear sunroof (Vista Roof), a rear seat entertainment system (with dual displays) and a tow package.
INTERIOR & SAFETY
Overall, we like the Flex's interior because of its abundant soft-touch materials and attractive design. The spacious layout comfortably affords seven-passenger seating, although opting for the second-row captain's chairs reduces capacity to six. Rivals like the Toyota Highlander and Chevrolet Traverse go from eight to seven when so equipped. Nevertheless, the Flex's third row is easily accessible and big enough for adults, and those captain's chairs are quite nice since they recline, can be heated and slide forward to expand third-row legroom. The available center console increases comfort further and can even be equipped with a refrigerated compartment.
With either six- or seven-passenger configurations, the Flex can hold a maximum of 83 cubic feet of stuff with the second and third rows folded. That's less than many crossover competitors, but you can make the most out of the available space thanks to the Flex's conveniently boxy shape. The deep well behind the raised third row also makes the Flex a bit more useful when all seats are in place.
Unfortunately, both of the Flex's electronics interfaces leave something to be desired. The SE's MyFord system includes a display screen, but it's not especially intuitive and some buttons can be hard to reach. The MyFord Touch system that is standard on the SEL and Limited consists of configurable gauge cluster displays and a large main touchscreen. There are nice customization possibilities here, but the experience is soured by occasional glitches and the touchscreen's small virtual buttons that can be difficult to press on the move. You'll likely acclimate to MyFord Touch and its idiosyncrasies (and the Sync voice command system continues to be very useful), but in general, other systems are easier to use.
The 2015 Ford Flex comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, integrated blind spot mirrors and rear parking sensors. Also standard is a version of the Ford Sync system that includes an emergency crash notification feature that automatically dials 911 when paired with a compatible cell phone and Ford's MyKey, which can be used to set certain parameters for valets and teen drivers.
All trim levels can be equipped with optional second-row inflatable seatbelts. A rearview camera and a blind spot warning system with rear cross-traffic alerts are optional on the SEL and standard for the Limited. The Limited is also available with adaptive cruise control and a collision warning system with brake support.
In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) testing, the Flex earned a top rating of "Good" for its performance in moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests.
In Edmunds brake testing, a Flex Limited with front-wheel drive and the standard 3.5-liter engine stopped from 60 mph in 120 feet. An all-wheel drive Flex Limited with the EcoBoost engine stopped from 60 mph in 119 feet. Both are shorter than average for the class.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
The 2015 Ford Flex comes standard with a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 287 horsepower and 254 pound-feet of torque. Front-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission are also standard. All-wheel drive is optional on the SEL and Limited. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 20 mpg combined (18 city/25 highway) with front-wheel drive and 19 mpg combined (17 city/23 highway) with all-wheel drive.
Optional on the Flex Limited is a turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 (dubbed EcoBoost) that produces 365 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. This engine is paired exclusively with all-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. During Edmunds performance testing, an EcoBoost-equipped Flex went from zero to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds, which is 2 seconds quicker than the class average. Fuel economy ratings drop to 18 mpg combined (16/23).
Properly equipped, both powertrains are rated to tow up to 4,500 pounds.
The 2015 Ford Flex's base V6 is adequate for a vehicle this size, providing enough gusto to keep up with competing crossovers. The turbocharged V6, meanwhile, is deceptively fast. It invigorates the Flex Limited with more of a sport wagon demeanor thanks to its extra power and the tighter suspension tuning that comes with it.
No matter the model, the Flex provides a very pleasant, if not exactly exciting, driving experience. The ride is always comfortable -- even with the bigger wheels -- soaking up bumps in the road with luxury car ease. Uncharacteristically responsive steering adds to the Flex's well-rounded dynamics, as it makes parking easy and provides excellent stability on the open road. Excellent outward visibility also makes the Flex easy to drive.
The 2015 Ford Flex offers a desirable combination of space, versatility, features and solid driving dynamics. It's a top choice among large, seven-passenger family crossovers.