Ford's big crossover, the seven-passenger Flex, gets a makeover for...

Ford's big crossover, the seven-passenger Flex, gets a makeover for 2013, including a new base engine that has more power, yet slightly better fuel economy, the automaker says. Credit: Handout

Ford's big crossover, the seven-passenger Flex, gets a makeover for 2013, including a new base engine that has more power, yet slightly better fuel economy, the automaker says.

Along with the new 3.5-liter V-6, the boxy sport utility vehicle sports a new front end, an upgraded interior and a list of new high-tech features.

This isn't a complete redesign, but just a "freshening" of the vehicle, which was introduced for 2009.

Its styling has been controversial, as it's one of those polarizing designs that people seem to either love or hate.

The Flex has a new grille, along with new headlights and front fascia, and the Flex name is now displayed on the hood in place of the Ford Blue Oval.

Inside, there is a new instrument panel, as well as inflatable rear seat belts -- a new safety feature that arrived first on the newest generation of the Explorer.

Horsepower is up by 25, to 287, compared with the 2012 model, with the new normally aspirated V-6 engine also getting 1 mpg better city fuel economy. The optional 3.5-liter turbocharged EcoBoost engine cranks out a whopping 365 horsepower.

Among the new technological features available on the Flex are some that have been showing up on a lot of luxury vehicles lately, including adaptive cruise control that paces the Flex to the speed of the vehicle it is following, and a blind-spot warning system.

The cruise control even has a forward collision warning feature that alerts the driver if the vehicle is approaching another from behind too fast.

Handling has been improved on the Flex, whose three rows of seats make it a great family hauler. There is better steering response, too, thanks to a new electric power-assist system, replacing the traditional hydraulic power steering.

The new Flex also comes with "curve control," which senses when the vehicle is entering a curve too quickly and "can apply four-wheel smart braking to reduce vehicle speed by up to 10 mph in approximately one second and help drivers follow their intended path," Ford said.

The suspension has been retuned to help with handling and ride at the same time, although usually when a suspension system favors handling, ride comfort takes a backseat. In the Flex, though, ride comfort is important because owners often have lots of people on board -- kids, grandkids, grandparents and so forth.

There is room for two people in front, three in the middle, and two in the third row. Front and middle seating positions have decent leg and knee room, but it's a bit tighter in the rear, which most folks will leave to the kids.

 

 

2013 FORD FLEX

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