Available turbocharged engine? Check. Optional voice-activated navigation? Check. Seating for the whole family? Checkmate! No, this is not the new premium SUV from Lexus or Range Rover, but the 2013 Ford Flex. Even though the styling may be a little off the beaten path compared with that of crossovers or SUVs, it has all the available options one is looking for while being surprisingly comfortable with good road manners.

The Ford Flex is often compared to rivals such as the Chevrolet Traverse or Toyota Highlander. The two rivals do offer some advantages: Both have more of an SUV feel, and the Traverse provides a little more seating comfort for the family, while with brand loyalty the Highlander tends to hold its value a bit better. In contrast, however, the Flex is easier to drive, and with its distinctive look and high-build quality to back it up make, is a true contender.

On the inside, the Ford Flex has the look and feel of a premium crossover. Take a look at the Flex SEL, for instance. With optional leather seats that add to the upscale vibe, great technology, including voice-activated navigation that includes Sirius XM Traffic and Weather, all wrapped in a clean and uncluttered layout, this could be the total package.

Unlike the two rivals mentioned earlier, the Ford Flex offers great standard technology both inside and out, even on the base models. This includes the Ford SYNC, a hands-free communication system that allows easy iPod or smart phone operation with voice commands and a reverse sensing system that beeps when you get too close to objects while backing up. Safety features for all trims include a Safety Canopy System that includes a rollover sensor and side-curtain airbags that protect all three rows.

Since the Flex is so large, Ford fitted the base model with a 287-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 engine. This smooth-running engine is matched with a SelectShift 6-speed automatic transmission that allows the driver to manually select gears. Depending on the trim, the Flex can also be had in both front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. For a bit more of a kick, an optional 365-hp, turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 engine is available on the Limited all-wheel drive version.

For the budget conscious, the base Flex starts at just over $30,000. If money is not an issue, a fully loaded 2013 Ford Flex Limited with the EcoBoost engine is a spectacular vehicle. With a starting price of $44,330, it is not quite at the premium SUV price level, but with its fantastic, yet peculiar looks, and the latest in technology and power, this vehicle may separate you from the Jones.

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Josh Sadlier is an automotive journalist based in Los Angeles and has contributed to such publications as Edmunds.com and DriverSide.com. He holds arguably the most unexpected degree in his profession: a master's in Theological Studies.

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