Ford Flex offers big vehicle, fuel economy

LOS ANGELES You really can't miss the new Ford Flex coming down the road. Its long, blocky body suggests a custom from the show circuit. It's a look Ford thinks will be a hit with those who might resist traditionally styled family vehicles.

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"We wanted to make people feel good; we wanted to make them feel proud of driving the car, give them something you need, something that set them apart, and I think that's what the Flex does," said Richard Gresens, exterior designer at Ford.

Ford calls this the family vehicle of the future: lots of room to stretch out in a stylish interior that includes unusual patterns and textures, courtesy of a designer from the fashion world.

"We mixed and matched, and it's just how you decorate your home. So again, it's really important to have that idea of 'this is an extension of the living room,'" said Anthony Prozzi, interior designer at Ford.

There's even an available refrigerator between the rear can actually be a couch potato on the road.

For the driver, the Flex offers the Microsoft Sync system that integrates cell phones and music players hands-free, as well as something new, called "Travel Link."

Navigation, traffic, weather...those aren't new but this system can also help you find a movie theater and tell you what's playing and when. It can even locate gas stations and show which one has the best price, something that's increasingly important for a large vehicle amid today's gas prices.

Yes, sales of large vehicles are down overall. But Ford and other auto companies know that there are a certain number of buyers who do need a vehicle that can carry a lot of people.

And although this is a time when many buyers are looking to go smaller, experts say the Flex could be a good alternative to the traditional truck-based SUVs, doing much better mileage-wise at 16-to-24 miles per gallon.

"And it's also to get in and out of, it's just more convenient in a lot of ways than the big SUVs of old. It's kind of the new wave of these things," said Kelley Blue Book Editor Jack Nerad.

Big vehicles are a tough sell these days, but the Flex's looks and technology could take it pretty far...especially if people want to drive something that really looks different.


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