At the grand opening for the San Francisco Ford-Mercury-Lincoln dealership, we got a close look at the new Ford Flex. This big wagon offers retro styling, something that made the new Ford Mustang so popular. But the Flex doesn't share the same kind of heritage, making its success less of a sure thing. The Flex goes on sale this summer.
Ford takes a risk with the boxy design of the Flex, but if the success of the Scion xB is any indication, there isn't much to fear. Boxy cars are gaining ground, with Nissan planning to bring its Cube model to the U.S. Of course, this being an American car, it is much bigger than the xB, offering three rows of seating.
Retro elements on the Flex include the roof cap, available in white or silver, the ribs in the sides, which bring to mind wagons from the 1950s, and the silver tailgate insert. But the 3.5-liter V-6 under the hood is thoroughly modern, producing 262 horsepower. Ford says the car will get 17 mpg city and 24 mpg highway. Other Ford models we've tested with this engine stayed on the low side of that range.
Interior elements are pure Ford, with materials and switchgear we've seen in other models. The quality feels good and the interior space is vast. Width in particular seems in large supply inside the Flex.
The navigation system is Ford's newest generation, using a hard drive to store maps with space for music storage. It uses Sirius satellite radio for traffic information, and gets the Sirius Travel Link service, which offers fuel prices, movie times, weather, and sports scores. Sync is also available, letting you hook up cell phones and MP3 players. Sony supplies a premium audio system.