I got the chance to review a 2013 Ford Flex for a weekend just before we had our new baby. I was kind of hoping Lucy would arrive in time to have her first ride in a new vehicle, but she was on her own timing.
First of all: a confession. I came at this vehicle already loving the look of the car. There's something about the boxy exterior that appeals to me. I recognize it's not for everyone - my wife wasn't completely sold on it - but I love it. When I got the call saying that I had a 2013 Flex to test out I was excited to see if I liked the interiror as much as the exterior.
I was actually quite surprised how roomy the Flex is inside. I'm not sure what it was, but from the outside I kind of expected it to feel tight and constrained inside maybe because of it's truck-like appearance. But there was plenty of both leg and head room - and I'm not short at just over 6'.
The dash and controls are all fairly well laid out. Coming from older vehicles without all the digital dashboard integration it's a bit overwhelming at first to see everything presented with a digital display. Connecting my iPhone was really easy. The Ford Sync technology works seamlessly to play my music back, listen to podcasts or other media.
The vehicle provided had Sirius Satellite radio installed and hooked up which sounded great and was simple enough to find different stations - I'm just too into my own music and/or podcasts that I didn't spend too long using it. A new 2013 Flex apparently comes with 3 months of free Sirius Satellite service which should give you more than enough time to figure out if you're going to make use of it or not.
At the time of the review, we just had two kids and so putting two car seats in the middle seats wasn't a problem. A smaller person than I would have a bit of an easier time attaching the belt that loops around and behind a seat - but I figured out that by folding the rear seats down I could quickly latch everything in properly.
Our 5 year old could easily reach down and open up the cooler between their seats - how awesome is it having a cooler inside your car? - which could prove to be a bit of a problem if you're hoping to store some chocolate milk back there on a road trip and they decide to help themselves.
Left and right climate controls in the front and a separate set of controls for the rear seats work well to allow everyone to be able to be as hot or cold as they want. We had the 2013 Flex during a warm week in fall and so didn't have a lot of need for heating or cooling - but the air conditioned seats were a big hit for my 9 month pregnant wife!
One feature I loved is all the sunroof/moon roof placement in the 2013 Flex. You can see the photos in the slideshow below, but every seat has plenty of natural light shining in from above - along with a screen to slide out if it gets too bright. This lends to the roomy feeling inside the 2013 Flex and also comes in handy when you point out a plane to your kids in the rear seats and they can look up and see it instead of getting frustrated.
The rear camera view for backing up was a big hit with the kids as well and with me. A larger vehicle like the 2013 Flex does make it harder to know if there's any little people, toys, bikes or parking pillars behind you and having the assurance that you can back up safely. With all the sensors on the 2013 Flex (i.e. assistive cruise control that automatically adjusts your speed to the flow of traffic, alerts on the side mirrors if a vehicle is beside you and it's unsafe to change lanes), it feels like we're inching closer to the day when we just ride along in our car while the onboard computer drives.
The biggest hit of all for my 5 year old was the ability to press a button and have the rear seats adjust to how you want them configured. Control each individually or have them both in the same setup, he tried them all.
(I'm sure Ford has tested those controls extensively, but I don't want to know how many times he pushed those buttons!)
I took him out of the city and found a nice spot to switch to the rear facing arrangement and watch a sunset.
Or at least as much of it as he could handle until he kicked me out to try a different arrangement of seats. Check out how much fun he had in the quick video I shot below:
One funny thing that I noticed, and I feel odd mentioning it, but the turn signal sound - you know, the "bing/ding/?" your car makes when the left/right turn signal is activated - didn't sound as cool as the rest of the car felt. Odd, right? I even asked a friend and he concurred. Something about the sound of the turn signal reminded us both of old people - like my grandparent's car's turn signal. Not sure why.
The push button start takes a bit of getting used to. Not requiring the key in the ignition means the key fob can be anywhere inside the vehicle. If you put it anywhere other than back in your pocket when you get in means you're likely to forget it in the vehicle when you get out. I suspect this is one of those user issues where if I had this car on a regular basis I'd just get used to the patterns of just putting the key fob back in my jacket or pants pocket.
The last issue we came across was that before we had the child seats installed, our 2 year old was climbing around behind the front seats and found the button that collapses one of the middle seats in order to get easier access to the rear seating. It didn't come down hard or fast, but was enough to give him a little bonk. And a normal kid would've never touched the button again and all would be well. Our 2 year old happens to have a thick skull and decided to push the seat up and press the button again, laughing as the seat smacked him. Again - your mileage may vary depending on your kids.
Overall I really loved driving the 2013 Ford Flex and was very reluctant to return it. It's a stylish, distinctive looking vehicle that would make a great company vehicle for my business in a nice bright Lemon yellow colour - hint, hint!