In a market overflowing with SUVs and crossovers that look like SUVs, the 2013 Ford Flex brings classic wagon proportions and a unique rectilinear design to the 3-row utility segment. This isn’t one of those high-riding SUVs; the step-in height is about the same as a Ford Taurus sedan. The Flex uses conventional rear doors instead of sliding doors but is nearly as roomy and flexible as any minivan. It carries seven passengers with the standard second-row split bench or six passengers with captain’s chairs. A deep well behind the fold-flat third-row seat swallows 20 cu ft. of cargo, and maximum cargo capacity is 83.2 cu ft. The front passenger seat also folds flat to enable carrying long objects.
New to the 2013 model is revised styling that adopts a Range Rover-like front-end look with a narrow horizontal grille, small headlamps and large block FLEX letters replacing the previous Ford oval. The previous year’s Titanium model is dropped. Inside are revised seats and a new instrument panel. Dual exhaust becomes standard for 2013. Both the base 3.5-liter V6 and 3.5-liter EcoBoost turbo V6 receive power and fuel economy boosts.
The Flex is available with an improved version of MyFord Touch driver-connect technology, combined with Ford’s excellent SYNC infotainment system for hands-free connectivity with smartphones and MP3 players. It comes standard with eight airbags, anti-lock brakes, adjustable head restraints and stability and traction control that incorporates roll stability control, which senses the onset of a rollover and takes action to avoid it. Inflatable second-row seat belts, forward-collision warning with brake support, a blind spot monitoring system and rear cross-traffic detection are also options.
The Flex is a good choice for buyers looking for the roominess and utility of an SUV combined with the layout and overall appearance of a car-based station wagon. See the 2013 Ford Flex models for sale near you
What We Like
EcoBoost V6 power; SYNC voice-activated infotainment controls; retro wagon looks; Range Rover-like front appearance; roomy second-row seat; fold-into-floor third-row seat; quiet inside; easy ingress and egress
What We Don’t
Large turning circle; impact harshness with 20-inch wheels; crosswind sensitivity; drives as big as a minivan
Fuel Economy & Engine Specs
The Flex comes standard with a double-overhead-camshaft 3.5-liter V6 with variable valve timing, which uses regular unleaded fuel. The 3.5-liter V6 generates 287 horsepower (up 25 from 2012) and 254 lb-ft of torque. It’s teamed solely with a smooth-shifting 6-speed automatic transmission. Equipped with front-wheel drive, the V6 has an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rating of 18 miles per gallon in the city and 25 mpg on the highway (up from 17 mpg city/24 mpg hwy in 2012), while all-wheel-drive versions improve to 17 mpg city/23 mpg hwy. Its maximum tow rating is 4,500 pounds.
Optional on the Flex Limited trim is a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6. This twin-turbocharged V6 develops 365 hp (up 10 from 2012) and 350 lb-ft of torque, giving the Flex V8-like response on demand. It’s mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. EPA ratings are 16 mpg city/23 mpg hwy, and premium fuel is recommended but not required. The EcoBoost V6 also tows 4,500 pounds.
The available intelligent all-wheel-drive system monitors traction and delivers the required amount of torque to each wheel based on road conditions and driver inputs.
Standard Features & Options
The 2013 Ford Flex is available in SE, SEL and Limited trims.
The SE offers 7-passenger seating and includes standard front and rear air conditioning, tweed cloth upholstery, a power driver’s seat, a leather shift knob, a front center armrest, cruise control, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel with remote audio controls, remote keyless entry, a 6-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo with an MP3 decoder, auto headlamps, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, intermittent wipers, a trip computer, backup sensors, 17-in alloy wheels, a rear-window washer/wiper, split fold-down second- and third-row bench seats, a panic alarm and power doors, windows and mirrors.
SEL models gain automatic air conditioning, heated front seats, a power passenger seat, heated door mirrors, a garage-door opener, fog lamps and 18-in alloy wheels. SEL options that aren’t available on the SE include navigation with SiriusXM traffic and travel links, leather seating, driver’s-seat memory, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, a power Vista Roof sunroof, a power lift gate, adjustable pedals, a 7-speaker premium audio system, second-row buckets, all-wheel drive and 20-in alloy wheels.
The Limited adds leather seats, a navigation system with an 8-in touchscreen, a 12-speaker DVD audio system, a memory driver’s seat, a leather-and-wood steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, a power lift gate, 19-in alloy wheels, adjustable pedals and a center armrest with cup holders. Heated rear seats are optional, along with ventilated front seats, a Vista Roof sunroof, roof rails, a power tilt steering wheel, dynamic cruise control, 20-in alloys and all-wheel drive. The Limited is also available with the 365-hp EcoBoost 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6.
All Flex trims are available with rear-seat entertainment. Power-folding third-row seats, a small second-row electric refrigerator/cooler and a self-parking system are also available.
Because the Flex is a roomy, family-type vehicle, it’s often used for long road trips, and finding a low-mileage used example won’t be easy. There’s constant demand for pre-owned midsize crossover wagons such as the Flex, provided that they are clean and have the right equipment.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued the following safety recalls for the 2013 Flex:
The front half shaft may disengage from the drivetrain while the car is in motion, increasing the risk of a crash. This condition may also cause the vehicle to roll away and crash when parked if the parking brake is not applied.
The fuel delivery module may crack and leak, increasing the risk of a fire in the presence of an ignition source.
A faulty sensor may cause the electric power steering system to lose boost and revert to manual operation, raising steering effort especially at lower speeds and increasing the risk of a crash.
Recall repairs are required by law, even if the vehicle is out of warranty. Your dealer can check to see if the repairs were performed and, if not, will fix the car at no charge to you.
Safety Ratings & Warranties
NHTSA didn’t rate the 2013 Flex overall or for frontal- and side-impacts but did give it a 4-star rating for rollover performance.
The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named the 2013 Flex a Top Safety Pick. It gave the Flex an Acceptable rating for small-overlap front impacts and Good ratings for moderate-overlap front and side-impacts, as well as for head-restraint and seat performance.
Ford Motor Company sold the 2013 Flex with a 3-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty, a 5-year/unlimited-distance corrosion-perforation warranty and 5 years/60,000 miles of roadside-assistance coverage.
Ford certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicles can’t be more than 5 years old or show more than 80,000 miles on the odometer. Each CPO model undergoes a 172-point inspection. Those that pass receive a 12-month/12,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, and powertrain coverage extends 7 years from when the vehicle was first sold or until it reaches 100,000 miles, whichever occurs first. A vehicle-history report and roadside assistance are also included.
Other Cars to Consider
2013 Toyota Highlander — Toyota’s 7-passenger midsize crossover is available with a 187-hp 2.7-liter 4-cylinder, a peppy 270-hp 3.5-liter V6 or as a hybrid that’s EPA-rated at 22 mpg city/28 mpg hwy. The third-row seat folds flat into the floor, but its cramped design is for children only, as access to the third row is difficult. A Center Stow second-row seat provides a small center seat for a child or can be stowed away.
2013 Chevrolet Traverse — Chevy’s 7- or 8-passenger Traverse crossover is longer, wider and taller than the Flex, boasting more cargo capacity, as well. But it has less legroom in the second-row seat and lacks the Flex’s fold-into-the-floor third-row seat. Maximum tow capacity with the dual-exhaust 288-hp 3.6-liter V6 is 5,200 pounds.
Because Ford recommends that more expensive premium fuel be used in the EcoBoost V6, we suggest the base V6, which has ample power and runs on regular fuel. Go with a reasonably well-equipped SEL or Limited with long-wearing, easy-to-clean leather upholstery. The optional 20-in wheels look great, but the 20-in tires ride harshly over bumps. All-wheel drive is a plus in northern climes, but with all-season tires, front-wheel drive offers ample traction and returns better fuel economy. Look for a CPO Flex or a low-mileage example that’s seen obvious care and maintenance. Make sure the Flex you’re thinking of buying has had any applicable safety recalls attended to by the dealer.