Special Coverage

logoNew York Int’l Auto Show

NEW YORK – Ford Motor Co. officially takes the wraps off the much-anticipated production version of its Fairlane cross/utility vehicle concept today here at the New York auto show.

Dubbed the Flex, the ’09 model will slot between the Ford Edge and Taurus X (formerly Freestyle) CUVs when it goes on sale in the U.S. in summer 2008.

The Flex offers seating for seven and boasts a “clean, modern” design, says J Mays, group vice president and chief creative officer.

The Flex has a contrasting roof, refrigerator, second-row footrests, the Ford-Microsoft Corp. Sync in-car multi-media system, cap-less fueling, 2,300-song personal jukebox and programmable interior mood lighting.

Ford paid special attention to the interior because its research shows 90% of CUV buyers base their purchase decisions on interior quality.

The auto maker says the base SE Flex will have “tweed-like fabric, with inserts in miniature houndstooth.”

Flex SEL and Limited models will offer more upscale seating fabrics, with the latter having diamond-pattern perforations in its leather inserts.

The Flex will be powered by Ford’s 3.5L V-6 engine mated to its 6-speed automatic transmission. Both already can be found in the Edge CUV. In the Flex, the V-6 will be rated at 260 hp and 245 lb.-ft. (332 Nm) of torque.

The available intelligent all-wheel-drive system employs an active, on-demand electronic center coupler to deliver up to 100% of torque to either the front or rear axle.

Towing capacity for the Flex should surpass 4,000 lbs. (1,814 kg).

Safety features include a back-up camera; AdvanceTrac stability control; front, thorax side and side-curtain airbags; and strategic use of high-strength steel, the auto maker says.

Mark Fields, president-the Americas, says that with Ford’s CUV sales up 42% last month, the largest increase among the Big Six, the Flex has potential to be a “game-changer.”

“Ford intends to be the defining crossover company this decade,” much the same way it owned the SUV segment in the 1990s, he says.

Meanwhile, racing legend Carroll Shelby joins Fields on stage here to debut the new Mustang GT 500 KR, which boasts more than 540 hp, the most output ever for a Mustang.

The car goes on sale next spring with a limited allotment of 1,000 units, Shelby says.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com