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2017 Ford Flex: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader May 2017

The 2017 Ford Flex is an example of a good idea that never really gained traction. It's incredibly useful as a family vehicle, 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.

Perhaps, though, that flexibility has also been its weakness. 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.

What's New for 2017?

The options for heated second-row seats and the mini-fridge have been deleted.

What We Like

Smooth ride; excellent outward vision; 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 facility for the standard second-row bench

How Much?

$30,900-$39,105

Fuel Economy

The Flex is offered with two V6 engine choices, 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 in combined driving (front-wheel drive), or 16 mpg city/22 hwy/18 mpg combined (all-wheel drive).

The top-of-the-line Limited model offers the option of the EcoBoost 3.5-liter V6, a twin-turbocharged unit making 365 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. Steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters and all-wheel drive are standard with this engine. This setup achieves 15 mpg city/21 mpg hwy/17 mpg combined.

Either engine is capable of towing up to 4,500 pounds.

Standard Features & Options

The 2017 Ford Flex is available in either 6- or 7-passenger form, and in SE, SEL and Limited trim levels.

The SE ($30,900) comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning with rear controls, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, rear parking sensors, Sync voice-command system with Bluetooth and a 4.2-in touchscreen, power driver's seat (manual recline and lumbar, though), cruise control, automatic headlights, auto-dimming rearview mirror, rearview camera and a 6-speaker audio system with an auxiliary input and a USB port.

The SEL ($33,605) steps up to 18-in alloys, fog lights, Sync 3 infotainment system (including an 8-in touchscreen, 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, brighter exterior trim, universal garage door opener, wood-effect dashboard trim, dual-zone automatic climate control and satellite radio.

The Limited ($39,105) has 19-in wheels, keyless entry/ignition, leather upholstery, 12-speaker Sony audio system, power-folding mirrors with puddle lamps, voice-activated navigation with real-time traffic, xenon headlights, ambient interior lighting, 110-volt outlet, adjustable pedals and a wood/leather steering wheel.

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, multi-pane sunroof, automated parallel-parking system, adaptive cruise control, cooled front seats, power-folding third-row seat, 20-in wheels 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 (IIHS) 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 under-sized, 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; 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

2017 GMC Acadia -- Better cargo space, but the Flex's third-row seat is more accommodating.

2017 Toyota Highlander -- Holds its value better than the Flex and comes in a hybrid version.

2017 Dodge Durango -- Impressively powerful V6, or there's the option of a V8. The Durango's towing capacity is superior as well.

2017 Mazda CX-9 -- Does almost everything right. Try to get a model without the base engine and stereo system, though.

Used Chevrolet Suburban -- Big power, big space. As long as the big fuel bills aren't an issue.

Autotrader's Advice

After eight years in production with no big updates, it might be assumed that Ford's heart is no longer in the Flex. But it's still going to be perfect for some people. Those buyers just need to decide on budget and whether all-wheel drive is a necessity.

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Used 2017 Ford Flex AWD Limited
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Used 2017 Ford Flex AWD Limited
Used 2017 Ford Flex
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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.
2017 Ford Flex: New Car Review - Autotrader