Part SUV, part wagon, part minivan, what distinguishes the 2019 Ford Flex from 3-row SUV rivals like the Honda Pilot and the Ford Explorer is its one-of-a-kind design. Boldly boxy, lower-riding than SUVs (for tidier handling), with interior space that’s both generous and versatile, the Flex makes a credible claim to be a true crossover.
You'll Like The 2019 Ford Flex If...
Space and accessibility are high on the list of priorities. The Flex has a somewhat raised driving position, a trait that pulls so many people toward conventional crossover SUVs. If the extra confidence of all-wheel drive is required, it’s optional in the Flex. So is a muscular 365-horsepower V6 engine.
You May Not Like The 2019 Ford Flex If...
It’s important to have the newest machine and the technology that goes with it. That’s not so much the case with the Flex. Some advanced features are available -- like intelligent cruise control with forward-collision mitigation, and semi-automated parallel parking -- but only as options at the most expensive trim level.
That earlier mention of regular vehicle updates, or the lack thereof, applies here. The 2019 Flex comes into its latest model year with no significant changes. And we were pretty unimpressed that last year’s model dropped the rear-seat entertainment system option. Styling-wise, the Flex hasn’t changed since its 2009 debut.
The 2019 Flex comes standard with three rows of seats. A pair of premium chairs is optional for the second row in the top two trims, taking the occupant count down from seven to six. But they also make access to the third row even easier. Both the second and third row fold flat to create a massive maximum cargo space of 83.2 cubic feet. Even behind the second row lurks 43.2 cubic feet. Thanks to the split function and the front-passenger seat also folding down, long objects like an 8-foot ladder can go along one side.
Inspired perhaps by Lego, the rectangular Flex has its charm. Things that are mainly functional are often compelling. Large glass areas -- to the side and (optionally) above -- bring a pleasant airiness to the cabin while contributing to the excellent outward vision. The Flex has dimensions similar to a minivan, but comes across as cooler. Ride height slots between a regular sedan and an SUV, so entries and exits may be easy and dignified, while strapping kids into seats won’t put a strain on parents’ backs. A powered tailgate is optional on the SEL, standard on the Limited -- but it doesn't offer the impressive foot-operated action found on the Ford Explorer.
So many vehicles dedicated to family life, like most minivans, are often a chore to drive. Again, the 2019 Flex forges its own path with a smooth ride quality (thanks in part to the long wheelbase -- the distance between the front and rear axles) mixed with canny composure. From highway stretches to tight urban maneuvering, the Flex takes it all in its stride. When reversing, its squared-off back makes judging distances easy. But the standard rearview camera and rear parking sensors are always welcome. The basic 287-horsepower engine is powerful enough for getting comfortably up to speed on freeways and making passing moves, while the turbocharged option brings that extra urge we all desire occasionally. Either version can tow up to 4,500 pounds with the Class III tow package. Blind-spot monitoring is available, but not more sophisticated features like lane-keeping assistance. The cabin is generally quiet, although larger wheel/tire combinations may create more road noise.
The 2019 Ford Flex starts at $31,569, which is the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) plus a $995 destination charge. This is for the entry-level SE trim. A smarter buy would be the SEL, from $36,235, not just because of the extra standard equipment but it’s also eligible for more options. The top Limited trim starts at $39,785. Loaded with the turbocharged engine and other features, the 2019 Flex Limited could pass the $48,000 mark. These prices are in the same area as regular 3-row crossover SUVs like the Ford Explorer, Volkswagen Atlas, Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot, a class that’s more keenly contested. The Kia Sorento, for example, can be had for less. Before buying, check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying. In terms of residual values, the Ford Flex is expected to underperform by comparison to those crossover-SUV rivals.
Trim levels for the 2019 Ford Flex are SE, SEL and Limited. The least expensive Flex comes with cloth upholstery, keyless entry, 6-way power-adjustable driver's seat, 17-inch alloy wheels, and air conditioning with extra controls in the rear. Standard infotainment consists of an AM/FM/CD player with Bluetooth phone connectivity, one USB port and a basic version of Sync, Ford's voice-controlled tech hub. The Flex SEL adds 18-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, universal garage-door opener, heated front seats, push-button start, power-adjustable driver's seat, two USB ports, and the Sync 3 infotainment system that's ready for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
All-wheel drive (AWD) is available in the top two trims, which also offer power-folding rear seats, the Multipanel Vista Roof, heated steering wheel and ventilated front seats. The range-topping Limited trim has the powered tailgate, leather upholstery, blind-spot monitoring, rain-sensing wipers, voice-activated navigation and an upgraded Sony audio setup as standard. Those seeking the more powerful engine and the parallel-parking-assistance feature are also obliged to choose the Limited model. However, inflatable rear seatbelts may be installed in any version.
MULTIPANEL VISTA ROOF
With this option, everyone in the Flex gets a sky view, which prevents even rear passengers from feeling closed in. The glass panels consist of a moonroof in front, twin skylights over the second row, and a large single skylight over the third row.
Ford's audio/information setup keeps improving, and Sync 3 (standard on SEL and Limited trims) is its best yet. Easy to see and use, this touch-screen-based system is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration.
Under the Hood
Propulsion for the 2019 Flex comes from either a naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V6, or an optional turbocharged 3.5-liter V6. The standard engine performs its duties well enough to make the alternative more of an indulgence than a necessity. Even though both engines are fine with regular unleaded gasoline (turbocharged engines often require premium gas), fuel economy is not as good as crossover-SUV rivals like the Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander. The sole transmission is a 6-speed automatic; the turbo version in the Limited model also has steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters for a little more fun. Front-wheel drive (FWD) is the default setup.
287 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm
254 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/23 mpg (FWD), 16/22 mpg (AWD)
3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6
365 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
350 lb-ft of torque @ 1,500-5,250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 15/21 mpg (AWD)
The 2019 Ford Flex doesn’t stick to the rules. Assuming the rules include strict classifications of SUV, wagon and minivan, along with a stipulation that each vehicle should be updated every two or three years. Instead, the Flex exists in its own particular universe, where functionality triumphs over style and where it’s acceptable to encompass various automotive elements to become a true crossover SUV. Luckily, the Flex has the right attributes to make sense in this universe as well. Within its boxy boundaries are three rows of seating with generous space for up to seven occupants and options for cargo carrying that really make it, um, flexible. Rivals like the Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander tend to have relatively high beltlines, but kids sitting in the Flex have good outward views.