Dan Neil - Ford Flex

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, Jul 12, 2008.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    The total family package is high-functioning and deserves a good home.

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    By Dan Neil, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
    July 2, 2008

    In absolute terms, the Ford Flex is squarely brilliant. Here is a six- or seven-passenger spawn hauler with none of the minivan stigma that so evidently traumatizes suburbanites and their delicate eros. Actually, with its blacked-out roof pillars and "floating" white or silver roof, the Flex looks like the star of Roger Corman's "Attack of the 50-Foot Mini Traveller." How could this not be a Nobel-winning idea?

    In terms of packaging -- the art of putting the most usable space over the smallest footprint, carbon and otherwise -- the Flex mops the garage floor with your typical full-size SUV, such as Ford's own Lincoln Navigator. The Flex offers about 83 cubic feet of cargo space -- it's a pity children aren't cube-shaped -- compared with about 103 for the Navi-slayer. Meanwhile, the Flex weighs about 1,500 pounds less and gets 30% better fuel economy (17/24 miles per gallon, city and highway). For anyone with a big family who wants to downsize from their gawdamighty SUV -- all those in favor, raise your empty wallets -- the Flex compromise is pretty attractive.

    Based on the Ford Taurus X platform -- a large crossover, in other words -- the Flex is, essentially, a super-sized wagon, powered by a 3.5-liter, 262-hp V6 channeled through a six-speed automatic, with optional all-wheel drive. OK, it's not nuclear-powered or anything, but it's adequate for a breeder limousine. The Flex has fair to good acceleration, steady and predictable handling, civil and servile brakes, and the whole dynamic of the thing is served up with deep-piled serenity and a cottony ambience, thanks to a soundproofing program that includes extensive use of acoustic glass.

    In up-level trim, it's got glassy roof panels over each seat position. It's got an honest-to-Häagen-Dazs refrigerator between the vast second-row bucket seats. It's got a voice-recognition multimedia system that will keep you updated on sports scores and schedules, weather, traffic, and will even direct you to the stations in the area selling the best-priced gasoline (that's the Ford- Microsoft Sync system with Sirius Travel Link service -- see our Web video at latimes.com). Good Lord, the Flex does everything but diaper the dog and write your kid's term papers.

    And yet, right about now, nobody cares. Such is the wholesale misery of $5-per-gallon gas. Such is the dysphoria that pervades the car market. Ford's June sales, for example, were down 28%. If you're an earnest product-development engineer in Dearborn, you must just want to eat a bullet.

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    Bear in mind that it takes anywhere from 20 to 36 months for a typical vehicle to get to market. Once the product development trajectory is set, it's virtually impossible to alter it if the target moves.

    In the last year, unfortunately, the entire automotive world has been knocked off its axis, making almost every new car seem dumb, clueless and irrelevant. But they aren't, or at least they weren't. When it debuted as a concept car in 2005 (then called the Fairlane), the Flex seemed conspicuously clever. A vivid bit of hyper-design, with postmodern insouciance combined with a kind of raw primitivism -- the squared-off profile is what you'd expect a 4-year-old to draw with a fat crayon -- the Flex brought the station wagon into the sardonic age. Compared to the dire brainlessness of something like the Nissan Armada, the Flex was practically avant-garde.

    Oh, but now.

    Maybe it's because I too work in a beleaguered industry, but my heart goes out to Ford on this one. The Flex brims with insightful details. For instance, the door bottoms are chamfered, cut into the body in such a way to greatly reduce the step-in distance. The sight lines are tremendous. The interior is so spacious, so utterly airy that about the only people who won't like it are agoraphobics. And it actually does get pretty good mileage, considering that it's a virtual auditorium on wheels. If you don't think so, go out and shop for a more space-capable vehicle that gets better gas mileage. There just aren't many choices.

    Here's my prognosis for the Flex. It's too good a vehicle to be ignored entirely. It will scavenge minivan sales away from league leaders like the Honda Odyssey and the Toyota Sienna (the redesigned Chrysler Town & Country never really achieved escape velocity). It will garner the attention of buyers with big families, and only those with big families. In the space of six months, the Flex has gone from mass-market vehicle to niche product, though I predict huge sales in Utah.

    I further predict the Flex will be a hit in service fleets, converted into limousines, taxis and hotel courtesy vehicles. The thing has more legroom than an old Checker cab.

    And I predict the Flex, as good as it is, as on-point as it is, won't help Ford uncircle the drain. Things are tough all over.

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    Final thoughts: Ford's UnHappy Meal

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  2. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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  3. art_VW_shark

    art_VW_shark OT Supporter

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    This car is in a nutshell, why FoMoCo is failing
     
  4. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    So unique and cleverly designedd vehicles are why Ford is failing?

    I could swear it was because they relied on an abundance of cookie-cutter trucks and SUVs.
     
  5. LanceVance

    LanceVance Beta Orbitor

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    This will be a huge hit and will soon give the Honda and Toyota major headaches.
     
  6. art_VW_shark

    art_VW_shark OT Supporter

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    ...clever? C'mon man don't be an apologist for Detroit when they don't deserve it. That car has nothing appealing about it, exterior-wise.
     
  7. Lucien

    Lucien Guest

    I'd drive it.

    I love wagons and that looks cool to me. :dunno:
     
  8. slowbird

    slowbird I am the son, and the heir, of a shyness that is c OT Supporter

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    fuckin awesome :bowdown:
     
  9. themorrison

    themorrison New Member

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    FUGLY, and it's a fucking FERD
     
  10. art_VW_shark

    art_VW_shark OT Supporter

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    ...Please don't tell me you think anyone will buy this over a Odyssey because they think it's a better car. They're gonna make that choice (this over Odyssey) because this car will have 2K on its hood in a few months and is big
     
  11. crnkwlk

    crnkwlk New Member

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    .

    Good alternative instead of a minivan or large suv.
     
  12. Lucien

    Lucien Guest

    I'm betting it would look pretty cool lowered a couple inches.
     
  13. dbman96

    dbman96 Active Member

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    I'm all for Ford being clever and edgy but the buying public has told them time and again they expect status quo from Ford and anything more upsets them.
     
  14. dbman96

    dbman96 Active Member

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    did it take yer jerb?
     
  15. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    You made a stupid statement and I corrected you on it. Whether you like this car or not is irrelevant.

    Ford is in trouble not because of making a car like this, it's because they made an endless amount of trucks and relied on them solely for profits instead of bringing an alternative like this to the market sooner.
     
  16. dbman96

    dbman96 Active Member

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    come on, americans soaked their collective panties for the Scion xB. this is the time of the lunchbox on wheels.
     
  17. ROFL

    ROFL New Member

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    :rofl: why are they still making big SUVs no wonder they're going bust
     
  18. art_VW_shark

    art_VW_shark OT Supporter

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    So I don't think that statement is true when F-150 sales just fell a few months ago and are still in the top 10. THe F-150 may be part of the problem, etc etc but people are still buying 'em. Just a little less than before. This car isn't the root of the problem as it just came out, but watch and wait -it won't help too much
     
  19. art_VW_shark

    art_VW_shark OT Supporter

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    error 404 box on frame suv not found
     
  20. all they did was steal an XB and made it the size of a small bus :rofl:
     
  21. slowbird

    slowbird I am the son, and the heir, of a shyness that is c OT Supporter

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    :werd: square is hip.


    :mamoru:
     
  22. slowbird

    slowbird I am the son, and the heir, of a shyness that is c OT Supporter

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    if they bring the Fiesta over it will help some. :x:
     
  23. art_VW_shark

    art_VW_shark OT Supporter

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    yes, that will.
     
  24. m3 bavaria

    m3 bavaria Come again?

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    :ugh:

    I'm hardly a Ford fanboy, and I think that car/truck/whatever is rock star.
     
  25. Lucien

    Lucien Guest

    What's the retail on one of those?


    ibmorethanyoucanaffordpal
     

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