Last weekend, Ford lent us a Flex for our 5-hour road trip from Los Angeles to Bass Lake near Yosemite National Park. We’d be “cabin camping,” which is one step below car camping in terms of roughing it: a bare-bones cabin was provided, so no need for a tent, and meals were served in the dining hall, so no need for the umpteen-million cooking and cleaning supplies. Still, with a lake in which to frolic and two little boys to outfit for the four-day trip, I knew we’d need some serious cargo room. The Flex proved itself worthy not only with its ample space, but also with many other perks.
My husband and I drive an Element and a Galant, respectively – enough for the daily lives of a family of four but a little close for comfort when jam-packed. When the Flex came to our house, we were taken aback. On my maiden voyage around town, I was a bit nervous because it was so big to me that it felt like I was driving a bus. It instantly occured to me that this vehicle would be perfect if my boys were teenagers involved in sports. With three rows of seats and a cargo space with a recessed floor, we could have teammates and hockey/football/golf/tennis equipment ride with us in comfort.
It was a good thing I used the Flex for a few days locally before we set out on our journey, because I was able to become comfortable driving a vehicle of such different dimensions from the one I am used to. My husband, who specializes in automotive design and has driven every car I can name off the top of my head, was less intimidated. The morning of our departure, he got down to business and took a bunch of pictures, in the gallery below.
Of course, Stewart’s main interest was fuel economy. On the electronic dashboard, the Flex told us that it gets 17 MPG. Stewart saw that and said “Oh yeah, we’ll see about that.” Our trip took us through city and mountain traffic, and during our stay in the Bass Lake area we wound up driving the kids around to help them fall asleep a couple of times – a ritual to which we don’t usually resort – so we did cover a variety of different road types.
The media center in the middle of the console was something new to me. Since our own cars are from 2004 and 2005, we are not accustomed to all this newfangled technology at our fingertips, and the whole family really enjoyed the touch-screen navigation system. Every time the lovely and firm female voice told us to turn or continue on a certain road, our 4 year-old would emphatically repeat the command. “In two tenths of a mile, turn left, Dad, okay?” Apparently the system could be voice-activated as well but we were too intimidated to try it. Plus, we had an old-school paper map with us too. We were covered.
Once we returned home we calculated the gas mileage: 20.1 MPG! Stewart noted that the Flex’s frontal area is lower, making it drive more like a car than a SUV, and “It seems to have less drag than say, an Expedition. The drag force is proportional to the frontal area, as well as the drag coefficient.” This is the kind of talk I listened to during the entire ride. Let’s just say he was impressed. Basically by lowering the frontal area of the Flex, Ford gets more bang for the buck.
What I loved best about the vehicle, as I mentioned above, was the room. One of the things I hate about having two four-seater cars is that when grandparents come to visit, there’s no room for them, and we have to take two cars for the whole family to go anywhere. Anywhere you live, that’s impractical. When we were up at Bass Lake, the first night we had to go off site for dinner, and with so much room in the Flex we were able to install a third car seat and our friend and her 4 year-old rode with us, eliminating the need for a caravan. That alone made me sad that I would have to give it back at the end of the trip.
The kids, well, at least the 4 year-old, got attached to the Flex, too. In between them was a 2nd-row refrigeration system. A refrigeration system! We kept drinks cold in there during the ride, and there is even an option for freezing items! When we returned home, I explained to Kyle that we had to give the car back to Ford. I said “It’s not our car, honey.” He nodded and said “It’s our camping car!”
Our Flex’s color was “Cinnamon,” and with all of the options included, the price tag it carried was $43,250, but bare bones price is $28,550.” I can only hope we get something as cool and useful to drive the next time we go camping.