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2009 Ford Flex – New York Auto Show

After showing the Ford Fairlane concept vehicle first in 2005 and again in 2006, Ford has taken the wraps off of the production version of the concept. They have adopted the name Flex for this vehicle to communicate its flexibility, versatility and multi-use functionality.


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Flex Crossover SUV (?) Replaces Ford’s Defunct Freestar – Tests New Concept
Flex effectively replaces the Freestar (ex-Windstar) minivan in Ford’s lineup. After years of half-hearted updates Ford killed the Freestar (and, before that, the Mercury Monterey) minivan. Production ceased in November 2006. How do we characterize the Flex? Maybe it’s a minivan in Crossover SUV clothing. Similar to the GM Large Crossover SUVs (Saturn Outlook and GMC Acadia), Flex has sedan type doors (no more sliders) and a minivan-like interior. It’ll be interesting to see how this concept resonates in the marketplace.
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Land Rover Styling Alternative Used for Fairlane Concept
Styling for the concept actually was taken from Ford’s Land Rover studios in England. One of several forward model Land Rover alternatives, the North American arm thought the Landy design was just fine. Reactions at auto shows confirmed that the automotive media and show goers alike were attracted to the Fairlane concept.
Of course the Flex backs off of the concept’s far reaching ideas – like a white canvas roof – but the Flex at-a-glance stays very close to the concept.
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Comments from the Show Floor
Though the Flex offers some interesting features, like a refrigerator in the console that can actually freeze items or keep them cold, a hard-drive music/navigation system, and a power-fold second-row seat, the overall package was underwhelming. The example on the stand was a pre-production unit and we were encouraged not to touch it, but the second-row manual fold looks clunky. The dash and driver’s area looks great, but I wasn’t convinced that the individual skylights are better than a larger sunroof, like Lincoln has on the MKX. The ability to fold third-, second-, and first-row passenger seats flat makes it easier to carry long items, but with second and third rows folded, the floor didn’t look particularly flat nor did was the cargo space particularly impressive.
Ford’s press release for the Flex is shown below the fold…

Ford Motor Company redefines the modern American family journey with the introduction of the 2009 Ford Flex, a full-size crossover that sets a new standard for style, features, functionality and comfort in the U.S. industry’s hottest segment.
On sale in the summer of 2008, the Flex is arriving as crossovers continue to outpace even the remarkable growth of SUVs during the 1990s and minivans of the 1980s.
Last year, crossovers surpassed traditional SUV sales for the first time, and they are trending toward annual crossover sales of 3 million units by the end of the decade. Such growth likely will make crossovers the first or second largest vehicle segment in the U.S.
The Flex joins the Edge and Taurus X in Ford’s expanding crossover lineup. Ford’s success with crossover utility vehicles is substantial. In March alone, the company’s U.S. crossover sales were up more than 40 percent over last year – led by the success of the new Edge.
Flex’s signature exterior design includes:
* Ford’s signature chrome horizontal three-bar grille, which builds on the family “face” that defines the Ford Edge and Taurus X crossovers, as well as the Ford Fusion sedan.
* A unique, all black “greenhouse” – defined as the windshield, rear and side windows, and the pillars separating and connecting them to the roof. The design brings together seamlessly the body with the available multi-panel roof. Customers can pair a White Suede or Silver roof option with one of Flex’s 10 available exterior colors or choose a body-color roof.
* Standard 18-inch or available 19-inch bright aluminum wheels, which plant the new crossover firmly on the road.
* Flex’s integrated rocker panel design, which eliminates the need for customers to step over the rocker panel when getting in and out of the vehicle.
* Edge-inspired taillamps, which are outlined in chrome. Flex Limited models have LED taillamps and a brushed satin finish metal appliqué spanning the center of the liftgate.
Interior Quality
Inside, Ford Flex delivers textures, features and functionality – including segment exclusives – that create an ideal atmosphere for discerning customers and their families.
Details include tweed-like fabric for the base-level Flex SE’s seats, with inserts in a miniature houndstooth. Meanwhile, the Flex SEL features a soft insert with a more pronounced grain on the seat bolsters, while the Flex Limited features unique diamond-pattern perforations on the leather seat inserts.
Cool Features Built Right In
Flex is set apart from other vehicles thanks to a long list of surprising features. They include:
* Class-exclusive refrigerator, mounted between the second-row captain’s chairs. Unlike competitors’ systems that merely keep cold beverages cool, the Flex’s available compressor-driven refrigerator can cool up to seven 12-ounce cans, four half-liter bottles or two 20-ounce bottles from room temperature to 41 degrees in just more than two-and-one-half hours. That’s 40 percent faster than a standard home refrigerator.
* Multi-Panel Vista Roof™. It not only brightens the interior, it gives Flex occupants seated in each row their own special skylight.
* Second-row, best-in-class legroom, including class-exclusive adjustable and removable footrests. The Flex’s second-row seats fold and tumble to provide access to the third-row and fold flat into the floor for added cargo space.
* Seven-color programmable ambient lighting. Flex owners can choose interior lighting to fit their mood. With this feature – which also is being introduced on the 2008 Ford Focus – customers use a dashboard switch to change the lighting on two LEDs mounted on the front console, two on the footwells and two around the cupholders.
* Capless fuel filler system.
* Ford Sync™, Ford’s industry-exclusive, voice-activated hands-free in-car communications and entertainment system. This available system fully integrates mobile phones and digital media players into the vehicle. The Sync in-car communications system was developed in collaboration with Microsoft and will be offered exclusively on Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles later this year.
* Ford’s next-generation navigation system, featuring voice recognition technology and more than 150 hours of music storage. Users can browse the music jukebox via touch-screen or by using voice recognition. They can also create custom play lists and burn CDs for storage on the system’s hard drive. The system also integrates the climate control and SIRIUS Satellite Radio into one easy-to-use, smudge-resistant, 8-inch touch-screen display. Premium AM/FM/MP3 audio systems also are available with a six-CD changer, auxiliary jack to accommodate MP3 players and the latest generation DVD entertainment system with a large 8-inch, drop-down screen.
* Ford’s exclusive second-generation door-entry keypad.
Quiet, Confident Ride
The Ford Flex’s chassis was designed to be capable, including more than 4,000 pounds of towing capacity, while still delivering the quiet, confident ride that crossover customers demand.
Engineering advancements include a new independent rear suspension system (IRS) with
unique geometry that allows for better tuning to deliver a broad range of capabilities without compromising the interior package. Interior noise was minimized by using sound-deadening materials in the dash panel, headliner and under the carpeting.
In addition, a 6-millimeter thick windshield helps reduce wind and powertrain noise, while specially selected tires make road noise nearly unnoticeable.
Powerful V-6 with AWD
Flex is powered by Ford’s award-winning 3.5-liter V-6 engine and is mated to a fuel-efficient
6-speed transmission. The powertrain is expected to deliver more than 260 horsepower,
245 lb.-ft. of torque and good fuel economy.
Flex’s available intelligent all-wheel-drive system is tuned to provide confident driving in all weather conditions. Intelligent AWD uses an active, on-demand electronic center coupler to allocate a precise amount of torque from front to rear – up to 100 percent to either axle. The system also can anticipate wheel slip before it happens.
Safety advancements include:
* Rear back-up camera. Mounted in the bottom of Flex’s liftgate badge, the available camera is activated when the vehicle is shifted into reverse, giving the driver a view of what’s behind the vehicle. The system works in conjunction with the vehicle’s reverse sensing system and uses the navigation screen as a display.
* AdvanceTrac ® with RSC ® (Roll Stability Control). This system can predict a vehicle’s path, using a sensor to measure oversteer and yaw by monitoring the vehicle’s speed, throttle position and steering wheel angle. When the system senses wheel slip or the loss of traction, it applies braking where needed to keep the vehicle safely on its intended path.
* Ford’s Personal Safety System. This suite of safety features includes dual-stage driver and front passenger air bags, thorax side air bags for front seat occupants, safety belt pretensioners, seat weight sensing system for the passenger seat and crash severity sensing.
* Ford’s exclusive Safety Canopy ® side curtain air bag. Designed for all three rows, this feature utilizes roll-fold technology to efficiently deploy the air bag when an occupant’s head is resting against the side glass. In the event of a crash, the roll-fold bag will deploy between the occupant’s head and the side of the vehicle.
* Ford’s BeltMinder™ safety belt reminder for driver and front passenger. Flex also comes equipped with such standard features as child safety locks on the rear doors, the trunk LATCH system and Ford’s tire pressure monitoring system.

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