AutoPacific’s Ideal Vehicle Award (IVA) recognizes the vehicle that best hits the target its buyers demand. Winning an IVA shows the product planners, engineers and designers of the manufacturer understood what their target customers want and have made the vehicle to meet their demands.
The 2012 Ford Flex comes closest to the ideal of any Large Crossover SUV scoring a close win over the Chevrolet Traverse. Eighty-percent or more of Flex owners find these characteristics ideal: exterior size, exterior styling, passenger roominess, seat comfort, ride and handling, tires and wheels, ease of getting in and out and safety features.
EcoBoost Gives Flex a Substantial Performance Advantage, but Only 15% of Flex Owners Bought It: About 25% of Flex V6 owners want more power and acceleration, but only 6% who opted for the 355HP EcoBoost 3.5L V6 want more. Clearly, EcoBoost provides surprising power without a fuel economy disadvantage. About 11% of all Flex owners would give up power and acceleration for better fuel economy. So, when it comes to Flex, performance and fuel economy, twice as many owners would take more power and acceleration than would trade off power for fuel economy.
More/Better Technology Wanted: The 2012 Flex is available with SYNC and SYNC with navigation, but not Ford’s new MyFord Touch system. About a quarter of Flex owners want more/better technology than their vehicle has now.
You can find an Autobytel review of this IVA award winner at http://www.autobytel.com/auto-news/awards/ideal-suvs-pickups-rated-by-owners-in-2012-iva-awards-112117/
For a complete summary of all AutoPacific 2012 Ideal Vehicle Award results contact email@example.com and title your email “IVA Results”. A copy of the results will be emailed to you within 48-hours.
Best in Class 2012 Large Crossover SUV: Chevrolet Traverse
2012 Chevrolet Traverse Winner of AutoPacific's 2012 Vehicle Satisfaction Award
Owners of the 2012 Chevrolet Traverse give the Large SUV a photo-finish win over the Ford Flex while giving the Traverse top ratings in eighteen of forty-eight categories in AutoPacific’s 2012 Vehicle Satisfaction Award research. The Traverse gets top marks for Cargo Space, Vehicle’s Reputation, Brand’s Reputation, Interior Storage, Braking, Fuel Economy, Easy to Use Controls, Cupholders, Tire Brand/Size/Appearance, Wheel Size and Style, Environmental Friendliness, Infotainment Technology, Dealership Experience, Recyclability, Advanced Powertrain Technology, Collision Avoidance Technology, Range and Warranty. With a possible high score of 5.0 satisfaction rating points, 4.5 or higher can be considered very good. Traverse owners rated the Large SUV above 4.5 rating points in: Overall Satisfaction, Seating Capacity, Exterior Color, Reliable/Dependable, and Feeling Safe While Driving. Traverse owners, while the highest rated Large SUV for Fuel Economy, are least satisfied with their Traverse’s gas mileage. Traverse owners rate five characteristics below 4.0 satisfaction rating points: Fuel Economy, Range, Environmental Friendliness, Recyclability and Price.
Ford EcoBoost Logo
High Tech V6 Gives V8 Power and V6 Efficiency: Several years ago at a dinner with Ford Group Vice President Derrick Kuzak we had a spirited conversation about replacing V8 engines with high technology V6 engines in Lincolns. My position was that a Lincoln could not be a REAL Lincoln without a V8. Kuzak’s position was that Ford could not wait to bring high technology, high performance, high efficiency engines to market. His strategy resulted in the Ford EcoBoost engines that have now been on the market for over a year. Based on AutoPacific’s owner data, it appears that the EcoBoost strategy is on the mark.
Ford Motor Company launched a new powertrain technology called EcoBoost earlier in 2010. EcoBoost will eventually be available on 90% of Ford’s lineup in the USA. The first EcoBoost installations are in Ford’s new D3 Platform vehicles – Ford Taurus SHO, Lincoln MKS, Lincoln MKT, and Ford Flex. EcoBoost’s first installation is a 3.5L V6 with gasoline direct injection and twin turbochargers. Power output on the Taurus SHO is 365HP while on the MKS, MKT and Flex is 355. The EcoBoost 3.5L has 350lb-ft of torque. These technology advancements yield substantially better performance while achieving equivalent fuel economy as a vehicle equipped with a non-EcoBoost 3.5L (of course this is only on paper. EcoBoost is so fun to drive you’ll be in it all the time – achieving equal fuel economy is just a dream).
EcoBoost a $5,000 Proposition Anyway, EcoBoost is not free. A Taurus SHO is almost $40,000 and the price increase for EcoBoost on the MKT, MKS and Flex comes out to about $5,000. That price includes all wheel drive which EcoBoost requires to handle the power and torque on the front wheel drive platform. So, with the power and price increase, how many is Ford selling?
EcoBoost Installations Running Ahead of Forecast According to George Pipas, Ford’s spokesman for sales reporting and arcane numbers, the Taurus SHO now represents about 15% of the Taurus lineup. This is 5%-pts higher than Ford had estimated. Each Taurus SHO generates $10,000 more economic profit than an average Taurus. Installation rate on the Lincoln MKT is 47%. About 30% of Lincoln MKS gets EcoBoost (and 37% gets AWD). The Flex has about an 11% rate lowest of the four.
So, it appears that EcoBoost is well on its way to being a success even in these tough economic times. In each vehicle line, with the possible exception of Flex, the installation rate is healthy for a performance option. It will be interesting to see what the mix is of EcoBoost engines as Ford continues to roll the technology across its vehicle lines.
Is the Flex a Cool, Tricked Out Hipster?
Ford has an all-new crossover SUV/minivan/people hauler for the 2009MY, the Flex we’ve brought you several reports on. The Flex has been filtering into dealerships, and this week was the full and ferocious advertising start.
Flex TV ads hit hard with the start of the 2008-09 NFL season (click here
for one), but unconventional outreaches include iPhone apps that allow a 360-degree view of the interior; Xbox, Dish Network, and Yahoo technology offering photos and videos on-demand; skits on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson
featuring Flex; and description videos on Flex’s home page. On one hand, we’d like to give Ford kudos for enabling Team Detroit to create such an all-encompassing, innovative approach. On the other hand, this is a two-box people hauler and not a sexy icon of technology. Are they trying too hard?
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.
Right in Our Own Backyard
On my way home from a meeting yesterday afternoon, this “beauty” caught my eye. And, yeah, I had to stop in and see how much they’re asking for it and if anyone’s actually buying them. We’ve known that the option would be available, though not supplied by Ford directly, has been floating around for a while, but this was our first in-the-vinyl-and-tin sighting.
Though it seems that the same people who talk about how ugly such options also bemoan the use of vinyl to create a wood look over heavy, expensive, and difficult-to-maintain real wood, the Flex actually wears this niche choice as well as possible, and far better than just about any other modern-day car.
Ford has been teasing us with the Ford Flex for months now. We’ve seen it as auto show after auto show and been given rides in it, but not able to actually drive it. Finally, Ford let us drive its new Large Crossover SUV.
GM Lambda Crossover SUVs are Primary Competitors
Competing with General Motors Lambda Crossover SUVs – Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook and the upcoming Chevrolet Traverse – the Ford Flex adopts a much different styling strategy. Where the Lambdas are serious looking, formidable and SUV-like, Flex takes a much more flamboyant approach to style. In some ways it looks like an XXXL Mini Cooper. This is especially true when its roof gets its optional white paint.
While we really like the flamboyant stying (apparently Flex style is a gestation from a Land Rover styling exercise that Ford chose for itself), we wonder if the Flex may be so much of a fashion statement that it will operate like a sporty car. Most sporty cars have an effective life of 18 to 24 months. They are extremely desirable when they are new and fresh, but quickly soften as time goes on. The utility of the Flex may offset that swoon, but Ford would be smart to have an update in the wings for Year 4.
Package is Flex Forte
But style isn’t the only story the Flex tells. The Flex is based on Ford’s excellent D-Platform (Volvo S80/XC90, Ford Taurus/Taurus X, Mercury Sable and Lincoln MKS). This means it has adopted Volvo safety strategies and even improved upon them. The wheelbase of the Flex is 5-inches longer than the Taurus and all that length is behind the B-Pillar giving the Flex a limousine-like 2nd row seat. The two-passenger third row seat (all Flexes have a third row seat and are 6 or 7-passenger vehicles depending on seating configuration) is a tight fit and useful for small people (defined: kids) or extremely occasional use.
Being a stickler for good ingress/egress the Flex excels. Ford stylists did not go for a fast sloping windshield, so the upright A-Pillar provides excellent access to the front seat. The long rear door gives excellent ingress to the rear seat. Ford also has adopted hidden rocker panels that move the rocker panels inboard so stepping into the seating positions is very easy. In addition, Flex has nice big windows and outstanding visibility.
We’ve seen the Ford Flex on numerous occasions over the past two years – auto shows, press events, etc and have been pretty impressed with the style and the package of Ford’s upcoming Crossover SUV. The Flex is a seven-passenger Crossover based on the Ford Taurus/Taurus X/Sable platform which itself is based on the Volvo S80. So, what makes the Flex different from the Taurus X that has the same DNA?
Flex Has Personality Taurus X Lacks
First, the Flex has style. It looks like a huge Mini Clubman and I don’t intend that as an insult. Rumor has it that the initial theme for the styling of the Flex was developed by the Land Rover studios in England and then Ford opted to use the concept as its Ford Fairlane concept vehicle that received positive reviews at its first viewing at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
The interior is very well done and has excellent ingress/egress. The relatively stiff A-Pillar and gives a large front door with a generous opening. The rear doors are large making for very easy ingress/egress. Ford says the rear seat has five inches more knee room than an Expedition. The 3rd row seat folds flat into the floor, but it is not as slick as that on the Expedition and Navigator which has power assist. The seats are comfortable giving good support.
Flex is one of the first vehicles to benefit from Ford’s new DNA for door closing sounds, engine sound, material feel, etc. These minor touches give the Flex a very upscale feel even though it is tough to get its price over $40,000. Base price is under $30,000 and there is a logical walk upwards from the base (still well-equipped) vehicle to the range topping Limited.
Public Will Warm Up to Flex
Walking around the Flex display at Fabulous Fords Forever this past weekend at Knott’s Berry Farm, I kibitzed as folks crawled over the Flex. They seemed genuinely surprised at the interior roominess of the vehicle and the size of the rear seat. They appeared to like the styling even though it is a bit polarizing (love-hate). One woman wondered if this was the “next minivan”. Another thought it was bigger than her Suburban. In any event, Flex elicited mostly positive reactions and should sell very well when it is launched inlate summer.