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2018 Ford Flex: New Car Review

If you’re looking for information on a newer Ford Flex, we’ve published an updated review: 2019 Ford Flex Review

Don’t be surprised if the 2018 Ford Flex doesn’t make it beyond this model year. After all, it’s been almost a decade since it was introduced, and Ford has invested little time, effort or money in it ever since. It’s like some past-its-best relationship that Ford can’t quite kick.

There are several reasons why the Flex keeps hanging on. 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 over the weekend. And it does so with a look that stands apart from the usual cookie-cutter SUV shapes.

Perhaps, though, flexibility has also been its weakness. It’s not exactly a 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 2018?

The rear seat entertainment system has disappeared from the options list. There’s been a slight rearrangement of equipment. And the Sync 3 infotainment system has been upgraded to accommodate Apple CarPlay/Android Auto phone integration. See the 2018 Ford Flex models for sale near you

What We Like

Smooth ride; excellent outward vision; elegant interior; adult-sized space in all three rows

What We Don’t

Small cargo area behind third-row seat; no sliding facility for the standard second-row bench

How Much?


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 city, 23 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined (front-wheel drive), or 16 mpg city/22 mpg 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 2018 Ford Flex is available in either 6- or 7-passenger form, and in SE, SEL and Limited trim levels.

The SE ($31,020) comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry, air conditioning with rear controls, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, rear parking sensors, Sync voice-command system with Bluetooth and a 4.2-in touchscreen, a power-adjustable driver’s seat (manual recline and lumbar, though), cruise control, automatic headlights, a self-dimming rearview mirror, a rearview camera and a 6-speaker audio system with an auxiliary input and a USB port.

The SEL ($33,725) steps up to 18-in alloys, remote start, fog lights, Sync 3 infotainment system (including an 8-in touchscreen, high-tech gauge cluster and two USB ports), additional powered adjustments for the driver’s seat (making it 10-way), a power-adjustable passenger seat, heated front seats, heated mirrors, brighter exterior trim, a universal garage door opener, wood-effect dashboard trim, dual-zone automatic climate control, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration and satellite radio.

The Limited ($39,225) 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/LED taillights, ambient cabin lighting, a powered tailgate, a 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, a multi-pane sunroof, an automated parallel-parking system, adaptive cruise control, cooled front seats, a 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.


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

2018 GMC Acadia — Better cargo space, but the Flex’s third-row seat is more accommodating.

2018 Toyota Highlander — Holds its value better than the Flex and comes in a hybrid version.

2018 Dodge Durango — Impressively powerful V6, or there’s the option of a V8. The Durango’s towing capacity is superior as well.

2018 Mazda CX-9 — Does almost everything right. Try to get a model without the base engine and entry level stereo system, though.

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

Autotrader’s Advice

Now that everyone’s buying crossovers, the Flex may not appear fashionable enough. But for those adventurous few who still want to take a chance, they just need to decide how much they want to spend. And bear in mind that the demand for crossovers will have a beneficial impact on their resale values, but not so much on the Flex’s.

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