“I just couldn’t warm up to the Flex until I actually drove it,” said Jan Queen, a suburban Detroit media executive, echoing the opinion of many motorists when it comes to Ford’s big people mover. The exterior styling, as designers like to say, is “polarizing,” though it has generated plenty of kudos for its interior functionality and flexibility.
Now, Ford is hoping to win more bravos for design, as well, with an updated version of the Flex ready to take its bows at the Los Angeles Auto Show later this month.
The 2013 update will feature some modest styling changes but put the emphasis on performance, fuel economy, comfort and functionality.
As with the first-generation, the 2013 Ford Flex eschews the bulbous curves of the classic minivan in favor of a more retro-modern two-box design. The exterior updates are relatively modest, the most notable being the more machine-like grille, with a billet-sized bar stretching across the grille and anchoring newly-updated projector-style headlamps.
There’s a smaller, three-bar chromed grille under the front bumper. But those grooved accent lines extending through the front and rear doors carry over.
Inside, there’s an updated instrument panel with a revised gauge cluster and, notably, the 2013 Ford Flex will feature the revised MyFordTouch. Ford took some body blows from critics in recent months, including a sour review from Consumer Reports magazine, for problems with the infotainment system, which owners complain was slow to respond and prone to unexpected reboots.
Ford says it has fixed the technology and, on Monday, revealed it will send out flash disks to 250,000 owners to update the MyFordTouch and MyLincolnTouch systems in vehicles that include the 2011 Flex and Lincoln MKT. (For the full story, Click Here.)
Ford got more positive reviews when it introduced the 3.5-liter V-6 version of its fuel-efficient EcoBoost into the Flex line. That powertrain will carry over into 2013, but the new version of the people carrier also will get some more muscle – and better mileage – out of its base 3.5-liter V-6. For 2013, the engine will be making 285 horsepower – up from the current 265 – while it will see mileage jump to 18/25, an extra 1 mpg in both City/Highway measurement cycles.
Meanwhile, the EcoBoost will now feature manually operable paddle shifters.
New technologies will include push button start, adaptive cruise control and rain-sensing wipers, but as with last year’s well-rated Explorer remake, the 2013 Ford Flex will get a number of new safety technology. That includes advanced collision avoidance systems like a Blind Spot Information System, and the optional inflatable rear seatbelts first introduced on the Explorer.