Oakville Drives: 2016 Ford Flex: A Professional Driver’s Perspective

Large boxy station wagon
Oakville Drives: 2016 Ford Flex: A Professional Driver’s Perspective

About the Author

R. G. Beltzner

R. G. Beltzner

A long time automobile enthusiast, and competitive race driver, Rainer Beltzner provides performance driving and racing instruction for Porsche, BMW, and Ferrari owners and clubs. He's been doing this for over 25 years. Often, Rainer is found driving/teaching on one of the Canadian Tire Motorsport, Shannonville or Watkins Glen tracks. During the “off-season”, Rainer spends his spare time driving and evaluating a broad range of vehicles. Follow Rainer on Twitter @redy2rol.

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The Ford Flex is a local product from the Ford Oakville Assembly Plant where it has been produced since 2008. The 2016 Flex is largely similar to the 2015 model with one notable exception. The 2016 Flex is provided with the new Sync 3 infotainment system that replaces the much criticized and confusing MyFordTouch system. The rearview camera is now a standard feature on all trim levels. Our review vehicle came with the high end Limited trim package as well as a number of additional options highlighted below.

I am someone who frequently drives up to ten or more different vehicles (compacts, sports cars, CUVs/SUVs, sedans, exotics, and even trucks) every week. For both the amount of time I spend driving as well as my 6’6” frame, there are certain features that I have found to be essential for my comfort, sanity and safety.

Ford Motor Company of Canada

Model: FLEX LIMITED - AWD
Engine: 3.5 L V6 EcoBoost
Base Price: $45,099
Price as Tested: $57,989

Handling characteristics
This was my first experience in a Flex and I was pleasantly surprised by the power and stability. The 3.5-liter V6 turbocharged EcoBoost engine with 365hp and 350lb-ft torque provides plenty of excitement when you “step on it”. All-wheel drive, steering wheel mounted shift paddles, stiff suspension, P255/45R20 A/S tires and good brakes add to the fun and safety factor. The Flex responds with minimal body roll to aggressive entries to the QEW on/off ramps. With this EcoBoost engine, there is no problem at all in accelerating quickly to enter traffic or to pass other cars. But, watch the speed! The smooth ride can get you in potential “points” trouble very quickly. The Flex handles very well in both city and highway driving conditions.

For a reasonably large vehicle, it has an excellent turning radius making it possible to get in and out of the tight shopping mall and GO train indoor parking spots and even execute the occasional u-turn on downtown Lakeshore.

Comfort

Dash with steering wheel

The driver also benefits from a heated, tilt and telescopic adjustable steering wheel.

For the driver and front passenger, this FLEX Limited was equipped with comfortable driver 10-way (passenger 6-way) power heated/cooled front leather seats with adjustable headrests. Both the door armrest and center console were well sized and positioned. The driver also benefits from a heated, tilt and telescopic adjustable steering wheel and adjustable foot pedal height. What is also quite noticeable is the ease of entry and exit as a result of the lower profile and large doors.

The second row seats are provided with a tilt adjustable back as well as a fold down armrest with cup holders. There is plenty of legroom for taller people and my 6’6” son was happy for the additional inch or so head room provided by the moon roof. The third row power fold seats were not tested for comfort. Adding to the overall comfort factor were sensible climate control features that allowed for individual front as well as separate second row settings.

Safety
This FLEX included many of the “standard” as well as several additional and excellent safety features including an automatic parallel parking system, adaptive cruise control, frontal collision alert, blind spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, rear camera, second row inflatable seatbelts, and a very useable hands free voice command system for navigation, media and telephone control. This FLEX was equipped with the 12-speaker SONY audio system as well as an 8” touch screen (with pinch and swipe) that displays navigation, climate, media, telephone and general settings.

Other “helpful” features/options

Electronic touch screen

The Sync 3 voice command system is responsive and efficient for telephone and media and a little less efficient but still quite useable for navigation.

Remote start, keyless entry/lock, power rear tailgate, power third row seat stow, and full trailer connect with 4,000 lb tow capability add to the overall ease of use and flexibility of this vehicle. Finally, it goes without saying that there is ample storage available in the FLEX. What deserves additional positive mention is the new Sync 3 infotainment system. This system effortlessly synced my iPhone along with its contacts making voice command calls straightforward. The Sync 3 voice command system is responsive and efficient for telephone and media and a little less efficient but still quite useable for navigation.

Things to consider
This vehicle has many excellent virtues as most previous car reviews have agreed on. The “boxy” design reminiscent of the “woody” station wagon of the past is not to everyone’s liking. But I have to admit it does grow on you.

There are a few things that I found less than desirable. Driving at even 75 km/hr. there is significant wind noise in the vehicle. The turn signal indicators are too loud and mechanical sounding. Finally, the rear window wiper motor is easily heard from the front seat, and could be quite annoying to rear seat passengers on a long rain filled trip. From a design standpoint, I also found the steering wheel and its controls to be bulky, perhaps to match the mini baseball bat sized and awkward positioned wiper and turn signal control column. From a safety standpoint, the FLEX could really benefit from the addition of audible front as well as audible blind spot sensors.

Fuel consumption for this vehicle is rated at 15.7 city/11.2 hwy/13.7 combined (L/100km). After the better part of a week of driving this vehicle, I experienced closer to 15.9 combined (L/100km).

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