Ford Motor Co. officially takes the wraps off the much-anticipated production version of its Fairlane cross/utility vehicle concept at the recent 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.