Top Gear’s guilty pleasures: the Ford Flex | Daily News Byte


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After a lifetime spent on the anti-SUV soapbox, it turns out one TG writer likes the fridge-shaped Flex. Explain yourself, man

There are many things that a person may not want to be called. In fact, the list is long enough (and downright tempting) to forbid its inclusion on a family website. And also on most other websites, as well as any periodical you care to mention and maybe even a few toilet stalls. But in the nexus of titles that are a) thoroughly detested by their purveyors, and b) actually fit to be published, there’s one thing that stands out: hypocrisy.

Because this isn’t 1990s high school anymore, caring, or wanting what you really want, isn’t a problem anymore. But it is still a problem as insoluble as Gangkhar Puensum to be a fake, a deceiver, to say one thing while believing another or nothing at all. To paraphrase an old aphorism, it’s not a problem for everyone, all the time, but it’s certainly a problem all the time.

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Which brings us, at a pace that even glaciers would call ‘a touch on the slow side’, to the subject of SUVs. You may have noticed that, at Top Gear, we’re not exactly known for extolling their virtues or excusing their vices. Despite ourselves, though, we keep finding 4x4s we like – as small as we like them. The Jimny, G-Class and Range Rover come to mind.

But then they are (or at least can still be) actual 4x4s, and are therefore used to serve a specific and specific purpose for those who want to work or roam in the wilderness. By contrast, the off-road SUV is almost always derided and dismissed around these parts, generally to a chorus of ‘Not while estates still exist, bucko’.

So what is Flex about? It’s a fairly low-slung family hauler, which is hardly a problem. But it is also an SUV, which should, by rights, be capable of heading to the horizon, regardless of the terrain. That it is absolutely not.

It also weighs an easy two tonnes, which flies (and really spits) in the face of our ‘light is right’ mantra. And you’d better believe that the mass has the same massive size. Having the Flex anywhere but North America will be a litany of minor annoyances: parking spaces will feel the size of postage stamps, Margaret Thatcher is more inclined to swerve, and it’ll probably earn a nickname which is ‘Ever Given’ for how difficult it is to thread through narrow gaps.

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However, like listening to a Sir Mix-A-Lot song, you know we’re about to hit the big ‘but’ – after all, this is an article on guilty pleasures, not ‘Top Gear gives a crap car a kicking for the jollies’. So you won’t be surprised to learn that at least one Top Gear writer thinks the Flex is incredible.

We can point to its stats (get it right and there’s 365bhp from an all-aluminum, twin-turbo, 24v DOHC V6), its performance (no to 60 in 6.2 seconds, aided by an AWD system that can shunts of 100 each.cent of power on either axle) or at his highest, American-spec ride comfort, but they are more than justified. Like the amazing amount of space on offer. So many, in fact, that it deserves its own paragraph.

With all seven adult seats in place, there’s 570 liters of luggage space – 70 more than a 3 Series estate. Press a button and the two rear seats do a little choreographed dance and fold themselves, leaving 1,220 liters and five seats. Hide the second row and there’s a titanic 2,350 liters on offer. Wrong quote Stepbrothers as you see fit, and so on.

So yes, we can justify our guilty pleasure until the cows come home, are auctioned off and turned into leather for future Ford seats, but the truth is we just love the Flex. The (ironically) squared-off, slab-sided design – by ex-Volvo designer Peter Horbury – works overtime, taking the shape of an SUV, cloaking it in what is essentially a minivan and somehow moving away from what the old wagon feels like. And while it’s not specific to any classic car, the 2005 concept car was called the Fairlane: a throwback to the full-size flagship of Ford’s range in the Fifties and Sixties – before Michigan was even in the business of building 4x4s, let alone SUVs.

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And we like that too, to be honest. Because if there’s one thing we don’t want to be called, it’s an SUV driver.


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