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2009 Ford Flex vs. 2008 Buick Enclave – On the Road Comparison

We have now driven all three General Motors Lambda Crossover SUVs on the market and the all-new Ford Flex Crossover SUV. While we have had a week apiece in the Saturn Outlook, GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave, we’ll use the Enclave as the comparison vehicle because it is most recent.

Ford Flex F34 VehicleVoice.jpg

Buick Enclave F34 VehicleVoice.jpg

Buick Enclave Shows What Lambda Can Be
The Buick is the homerun of the Lambda trio (the fourth Lambda will be launched shortly – the Chevrolet Traverse). It is priced between $40,000 and $45,000 depending on specifications. It has a very upscale look to the interior and exterior with nice touches like blue-toned instrumentation, soft-touch interior trim, and GM’s outstanding navigation system.

Buick Enclave Cockpit VehicleVoice.jpg

Enclave has an excellent ride (in most cases) and excellent NVH – Noise, Vibration and Harshness. Buick has its quiet cabin dialed in with minimal wind noise or road noise. Enclave cruises along like a luxo-barge of old. But unlike the traditional luxo-barge, Enclave is very well-mannered on the road. It handles very well for a vehicle its size – stable and flat cornering – and does not get out of sorts on challenging road surfaces. No more floaty-boaty Buick.
The Enclave sits up high like a proper SUV and there is a moderately high step in. Still ingress and egress are good for all four doors.
General Motors has done a very nice job with Enclave. It is a very conventional approach to the Crossover SUV equation and GM has solved the equation well, but Ford took a completely different route with the Flex.
Flex Goes for Distinctiveness, Flair and Package Efficiency
The Ford Flex is styled unlike any other Crossover SUV. Some people describe it as a Mini Clubman on steroids. Others say it is a station wagon. Still others think its a minivan with sedan doors. But we are positioning it against the Enclave for this comparison. Clearly, Flex is more a head-turner than the Enclave. Where Enclave is a conventional approach to the Crossover SUV, Flex is controversial. Equipped similarly, Flex is priced a bit below Enclave, but a couple of thousand bucks in the $35,000 to $45,000 range usually should not be the decision maker.
Living with Flex is very easy. With its upright A-Pillar the Flex is able to avoid the problem of A-Pillar intrusion when people are getting into the vehicle. The front doors are huge. And, the rear doors are huge. The floor is lower than Enclave and step-in height is about the same as a passenger car. The lower portion of the rear door opening has a bulge at the rear accommodating the Side Impact Protection System evolved from its Volvo S80 parentage.
Flex uses several of Ford’s new DNA features.: better door closing sounds, different turn signal chimes, thicker steering wheel, more supportive seats, more authoritative engine sounds. Simply, Flex seems to be more solid and better thought out than some other recent Ford products.
Ford Flex Cockpit VehicleVoice.jpg

Flex is available with Ford’s latest navigation system with its 8-inch color screen mated to the SYNC system. The nav system is easy to use – very intuitive. Combined with SIRIUS satellite radion and the SIRIUS Travelink system, there is very little Flex lacks when it comes to in-vehicle entertainment and communications.
“We consider cooled seats to be a Lincoln cue,” said one Ford marketing manager. So, I guess you have to wait for the Lincoln MKT next year to get cooled seats in a large Ford Motor Company Crossover SUV. Lincoln MKX is presently available with cooled seats.
Driving Flex is seamless. Powered by a 3.5L V6 engine, Flex has adequate power for a vehicle its size, but the 340-horsepower EcoBoost V6 due mid-year 2009 should really make it a good performer. Flex is quiet, well-mannered, unobtrusive. Maybe that’s a problem? Once you get behind the wheel does it become a minivan? Time will tell.
The Choice – Flex
In a close race, Flex wins because of its distinctive styling, easy to live with package, outstanding navigation system and SYNC. One major failing with the Flex, however, is its lack of cooled front seats.

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