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2016 Ford Flex: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader March 2016

The capacious 2016 Ford Flex is too flexible to be pigeonholed. It's not exactly an SUV, even though all-wheel drive is available; it's not exactly a minivan, even though it can seat up to seven; and it's not exactly a wagon, even though it has excellent driving manners. It could be described as a blend of all three.

It is, however, incredibly useful as a family vehicle, as it's able to handle the school run during the week and then carry around a bunch of sports equipment during the weekend. And it does so with a look that stands apart from the usual cookie-cutter SUV shapes.

What's New for 2016?

The previous user-unfriendly MyFord Touch infotainment system has been replaced by a new SYNC 3 setup. All trim levels now have a rearview camera as standard.

What We Like

Smooth ride; excellent visibility; elegant interior; upscale options and electronics; adult-sized space in all three rows

What We Don't

Small cargo area behind third-row seat; no slide function for the standard second-row bench

How Much?

$30,495-$38,695

Fuel Economy

The Ford is offered with two V6 engine choices, which are both linked to a 6-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is the standard setup; all-wheel drive is optional in SEL and Limited trims.

The standard motor is a 3.5-liter V6 rated at 287 horsepower and 254 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy estimates are 16 miles per gallon in the city, 23 mpg on the highway and 19 mpg combined (front-wheel drive) and 16 mpg city/22 mpg hwy/18 mpg combined (all-wheel drive).

Available on the top-of-the-line Limited model is the EcoBoost 3.5-liter V6, a twin-turbocharged powerhouse making 365 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. Steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters and all-wheel drive are standard with this engine. There's no fuel consumption penalty: This engine also achieves 16 mpg city/22 mpg hwy/18 mpg combined.

Both engines are capable of towing up to 4,500 pounds.

Standard Features & Options

The 2016 Ford Flex is available in either 6- or 7-passenger form and in SE, SEL and Limited trim levels.

The SE ($30,495) comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning with rear controls, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, rear parking sensors, a SYNC voice-command system with Bluetooth and a 4.2-in touchscreen, a power driver's seat (with manual recline and lumbar, though), cruise control, automatic headlights, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a rearview camera and a 6-speaker audio system with an auxiliary input and a USB port.

The SEL ($33,195) steps up to 18-in alloys, fog lights, a SYNC 3 infotainment system (including an 8-in touchscreen, a high-tech gauge cluster and two USB ports), additional adjustments for the power driver's seat, a power passenger seat, heated front seats, heated mirrors, a brighter exterior trim, a universal garage-door opener, a wood-effect dashboard trim, dual-zone automatic climate control and satellite radio.

The Limited ($38,695) has 19-in wheels, keyless entry/ignition, leather upholstery, a 12-speaker Sony audio system, power-folding mirrors with puddle lamps, voice-activated navigation with real-time traffic, xenon headlights, ambient interior lighting, a 110-volt outlet, adjustable pedals and a wood/leather steering wheel. The optional EcoBoost V6 comes with sharp-looking 20-in wheels but bumps up the price to $43,495.

Some higher-spec standard features are available on lesser trims as options. Other extras (depending on trim) include two second-row captain's chairs in place of the standard 3-person bench seat, a multipane sunroof, a refrigerated rear console box, an automated parallel-parking system, adaptive cruise control, cooled front seats, a power-folding third-row seat and a power-adjustable steering wheel.

Behind the third row of seats, cargo space measures 20 cu ft. Behind the second row, volume expands to 43.2 cu ft. With both rows down, there's 83.2 cu ft. above a flat load floor.

Safety

Traction/stability control and 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes are standard on every Flex. There are the usual airbags positioned front and side, while side-curtain airbags cover all three rows. Inflatable second-row safety belts are offered on all trims.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Flex its top score of Good in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact, roof-strength and head-restraint tests. In the small-overlap frontal-offset impact test, the Flex earned a second-best score of Acceptable.

Behind the Wheel

The Flex's elegant interior looks and feels like a premium crossover, with diamond-pattern-stitched leather seating, a handsome dashboard and sculpted door inserts. The audio and ventilation controls seem a tad undersized, but the overall layout and features are pleasing enough.

The Flex is a delight to drive, delivering a supple ride and a quiet cabin. It's also surprisingly easy to maneuver in tight situations despite its long body and wheelbase. The base 3.5-liter V6 is strong enough for passing and merging, while the 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine is a fine choice for those who want more power -- and it gets pretty good fuel economy on the highway.

Both the second and third rows have plenty of room for adults. Some rivals have more cargo space, but the Flex's squared-off shape is especially practical.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 GMC Acadia -- The GMC Acadia has better cargo space, but the Flex's third-row seat is more accommodating.

2016 Toyota Highlander -- The Highlander holds its value better than the Flex and comes in a hybrid version.

2016 Dodge Durango -- The Durango has an impressively powerful V6 and a V8 option. Its towing capacity is superior, as well.

2016 Mazda CX-9 -- The CX-9 does almost everything right. You should try to get a model without the base engine and stereo system, though.

Used Chevrolet Suburban -- The Suburban has big power and big space, but the big fuel bills might be an issue.

Autotrader's Advice

Only you can decide if you want all-wheel drive. Otherwise, you should get the best model you can afford.

Find a Ford Flex for sale

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Used 2016 Ford Flex FWD SEL
Used 2016 Ford Flex
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Used 2016 Ford Flex AWD SEL
Used 2016 Ford Flex
$21,900
This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2016 Ford Flex: New Car Review - Autotrader