2009 Ford Flex

Stylishly moving lots of people and stuff

If there's hope that the left and right sides of your brain can agree on anything, that one thing may be the 2009 Ford Flex. Both emotional and practical needs are more than fully met by the 2009 Ford Flex, a crossover that's equally sporty and utilitarian.

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Flex Appeal

Many who need the carrying capacity and practicality of a minivan wouldn't be caught dead in one: Their parents drove minivans and they are not their parents. Also, many of these same people like the assertive styling and image of freedom offered by sport utility vehicles. However, all except the most gargantuan of SUVs are short on people room-and those big boys are more than a bit challenging to maneuver in tight situations.

The 2009 Ford Flex can match the people- and cargo-carrying capacity of minivans and big SUVs, while offering an aggressive character all its own. Inconspicuous the Flex is not. Instead it shouts, "Look at me." This starts with the large, square hood and a grille featuring three wide horizontal chrome bars. (To some the Flex might even say, "Don't mess with me.")

Optional white or silver roofs also separate the Flex from the crowd, although buyers can stay with a single, monochromatic color for the entire vehicle. The Flex also offers the multi-panel Vista Roof that features four separate windows in the roof.

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Power Flex

Powering the Flex is the 3.5-liter, double overhead cam, four-valves-per-cylinder Duratec V-6. It makes some 262 horsepower and 240 lb.-ft. of torque (based on preliminary data). The Flex comes equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission to provide both good acceleration and fuel mileage. The Flex is available in either front- or all-wheel drive. Standard on the Flex are 18-inch-diameter tires, with 17-inch wheels and tires available on SE FWD.

The 2009 Flex comes in three trim levels, starting with the surprisingly well-equipped SE. Included on the SE are Roll Stability Control, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, six airbags (two front, two side, and two side curtains), painted 18-inch aluminum wheels, grocery bag hooks in the cargo area, a capless refueling system, and a sound system that features six speakers, a CD player and MP3 capability. Also standard on the SE is a reverse sensing system that warns of misplaced bicycles and unseen poles, remote keyless entry and Securicode, and a new invisible keypad on the b-pillar with numbers that light up beneath the surface upon touch.

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The mid-level SEL gets machined-aluminum 18-inch wheels, dual-zone climate control, leather seating surfaces for the first two rows, and a Sony sound system with a six-disc CD changer and satellite radio. In addition to everything on the SE and SEL, the top-of-the-line Limited has heated and power-folding outside mirrors, a power-opening rear liftgate, 19-inch-diameter polished aluminum wheels, and a wood-trimmed steering wheel, among other features. The optional DVD navigation system also features a rearview camera, which combines with the reverse sensing system to ease parking. One of its features, SIRIUS Travel Link, provides (via the display screen) up-to-the-minute traffic and weather data, game scores, dining and movie information, and gas prices with station locations.

Also available is the Microsoft-developed SYNC system, which allows voice activation of Bluetooth-enabled cell phones, MP3 players and more. It even translates incoming text messages to voice on compatible phones.

The Flex offers seating for either six or seven, depending on the options selected. Six-passenger, second-row seats slide and fold to provide easy access to the third row. If you regularly transport older people, they will find access to the Flex much easier than high-riding SUVs.

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Flex Time

The Flex can be quickly converted from a people mover into a cargo hauler: All seats (except for the driver's) fold forward to create an immense flat floor. The Flex will carry almost everything for sale at the home improvement store, thanks to its 10-ft. cargo-length capacity (from instrument panel to liftgate). Another choice is to mix people and cargo: The second row folds in a 60/40 split on 7-passenger models, while the third row splits 50/50. Passengers can enjoy the optional Family Entertainment Center, while everyone can enjoy cold drinks from the optional second-row console refrigerator.

If you're looking for the practicality of a minivan combined with the tough-guy (or gal) image of an SUV, the 2009 Ford Flex is more than worth a test drive. (www.fordvehicles.com)

About the Author

Mac Demere is an auto journalist, vehicle tester and race driver who competed in the NASCAR Southwest Tour and Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona.

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