Special Coverage

Auto Interiors Conference

The Ford Flex fullsize cross/utility vehicle faced fierce rivals in the 2009 Interior of the Year competition but emerged as the clear-cut winner.

Ward’s editors agree the Flex stands out in the Premium Truck category, which includes heavy-hitters such as the BMW X6 and Mercedes GLK350.

Most judges rave about the Flex’s well-conceived interior, especially the ample space in the third row. While many auto makers tout 7-passenger seating in their CUVs and SUVs, most third rows are practically unusable, except for a small child. That’s definitely not the case with the Flex.

“Best third-row seat ever,” says one Ward’s editor. “OK for two average adults, and the power second-row seats seal the deal by improving access.”

Others are impressed by the overall aesthetics of the Flex’s well-crafted cabin, which represents a giant step forward in Ford’s efforts to enhance interiors.

“This interior will age gracefully,” Associate Editor James Amend writes on his Flex score sheet. “It has a level of luxury that recalls a loaded SUV, but without the guilt.”

The overall spaciousness is enhanced by a massive multi-panel vista roof that bathes the cabin in natural light. The Flex also boasts some nifty gadgets, including a small refrigerator hidden in the middle-row console.

The seats are comfortable and attractive, featuring soft leather surfaces perforated in a distinctive plaid pattern. From the wood trim framing the instrument cluster to the chrome accents on the door panels and the brushed-aluminum center stack, the Flex exudes craftsmanship.

Sure, some judges quibbled over inconsistencies in gloss levels on certain plastic panels, and the whopping $43,875 price tag for a vehicle ostensibly playing in the minivan segment caused pause for a few judges.

But in many ways, the functionality, spaciousness and clever flexibility are worth the money and should put the Flex on shopping lists with more expensive luxury vehicles.

Perhaps Ward’s Dealer Business Editor Steve Finlay sums it up best: “One of the most creative and cleverly done interiors I’ve seen in a while,” he writes on his score sheet. “It’s what happens when an auto maker puts a due emphasis on interior design.”

bpope@wardsauto.com