I love taking road trips. Packing up the car. Filling up the tank (ok, I don’t really love this part of the road trip). Getting our ‘mix tape’ together. Putting the pedal to the medal and exploring all that this fine planet of ours has to offer.
The last couple of years have found Heuer and I in planes more than cars, so I love it when the road trip presents itself…
When we were offered the opportunity to host the Ultimate Blogger Dinner (UBD) with Lenovo during CES, we started evaluating all the equipment we needed to bring for the event (cameras, light kit for video shoots, recorders, collateral, extension cords, power strips, etc.) and realized quickly it would be a huge pain in the ass flying with it all.
We needed to drive to Vegas, and Heuer’s Cherokee was not going to be big enough. Did I mention I needed to pack shoes too?
So we jumped on the horn with our pal Scott Monty over at Ford, and threw out the idea of us taking their just released Ford Flex for an extended road test.
Scott made a few calls and the day before we were scheduled to leave for CES, a cinnamon colored 2009 Ford Flex was sitting in my driveway just begging to have its tires kicked. Awesome.
My initial thought of the truck (sorry Scott, I have a hard time calling it a ‘cross over’ vehicle even though I get why its classified as that) was how much it looked like the big brother to the Mini Cooper Clubman. Nice. Heuer and I have talked about buying me a Mini Cooper once my Lexus finally bites the dust, so already the Flex was winning me over in the aesthetics department.
Next test – capacity. The Flex has three rows of seats and can sit seven (7) people comfortably. We put all the seats down and packed six suitcases into the back of the Flex along with a small cooler and a bag of snacks for the road. And you know what? It all fit, with room to spare. Sweet.
We were ready to hit the road.
I wanted to drive the first leg of the trip to give Heuer a chance to play with the Sync system and get familiar with all the gadgets so he could then train me. LOL. Side note: Heuer and I have an understanding that if we were ever to be accepted in the Amazing Race series, I would be the primary driver so he could man the maps and the gadgets. It always works best that way as even though I think I have a sense of direction…I really don’t. I am meant to drive…so I do.
I settle in behind the wheel, immediately noticing how ‘sedan like’ it felt. To me, this is a good thing as if given the choice between driving a sedan or a SUV full time, I will always pick a sedan for shear comfort. The Flex really scores on this level.
We head South…
About an hour into the trip, Heuer discovered the USB port AND the electric outlet in the middle console. Who ever added that into the product plan is a genius. Seriously. Every new car should have this capability. So.Damn.Smart.
Now here comes more information than you probably wanted to know:
Along the way, we stopped in Santa Nella for Andersen’s famous split pea soup (a Wells family favorite pit stop), in Kettleman City for a really crappy pot roast (took two bites, gagged, paid the bill and left), and ‘harassed’ some sheep on the side of the road. Each time we stopped, folks mentioned what a sharp looking truck we had. No lie. The barista at the drive through coffee shop, the older couple at the split pea joint, the attendant at the gas station. I will admit, it was kind of cool to have something so bright and shiny at my control.
And each time we stopped, Heuer asked if it was time to change drivers and each time he heard the same thing, no. I enjoyed driving the Flex and was not ready to turn the keys over to him. It handled well. It was comfortable. And after six hours behind the wheel, I was not tired…so we carried on.
I ended up driving all 12 hours of the trip to Vegas (did I mention it was a smooth ride?) and when we arrived at the hotel, the valet sized up the truck, and again – all positive comments. We drove the Flex all week in Vegas, and I will say it continued to receive high marks from everyone we met. When we were transporting a couple of our friends home from a party, there were sounds of glee from the back as they both found the heat button for their seats. I know this is such a simple option, but it is again a sign of a thoughtful designer.
When Heuer and I started plotting our trip back home, we decided to extend it one more day and see how the Flex felt about the Ocean. It liked it. At least, it felt like it liked it as it handled the flat roads of 1-15 as well as it did the hills of Route 223/I-5. Smoothly. And who was behind the wheel? That’s right. Me.
We met up with our Social Media Club Los Angeles crew and had a wonderful brunch in Malibu. After filling our bellies we contemplated hanging out in Los Angeles for a day, but realized after being on the road for a week – we were ready to head home. So we packed ourselves back into the truck and headed North.
I do think it important to note that Heuer did, in fact, get to drive the Flex. We were about three hours from San Francisco on the return home when I finally turned the keys over to him. I was tired. Vegas has finally caught up to me. And you know what? The passenger seat was as comfortable as the drivers seat.
I will admit I was sad to return the truck back to Ford the next day as I surely could have kept driving it longer.
I will say the ‘real world’ experience driving the Flex really turned my views of Ford around as I come from a Ford loving clan (the ones I can remember – as there were more – are two Broncos, a Ranger, a F150, two Mustangs, a Thunderbird and a couple of Jaguars) and my entire family strayed years ago due to one reason or another, mostly technical/ performance based. My last Ford was the 1990 Thunderbird SC that I turned in after 18 months due to transmission issues that could never be fixed – in shop four times. I think it important to note this as when talking about buying new cars, Ford has not been top of mind for me for 18 years.
The Flex really put them back on the map for me.
Heuer and I chatted at length on the way home as to whether or not we would consider purchasing the Flex, and both agreed we would, if (1) we had kids (or dogs, which is more likely) as it is too big for just the two of us and (2) we did not live in San Francisco where parking is tough (though not impossible) for a large[r] vehicle. The Flex just isn’t practical for us [today], but would be cool to rent if we headed to Tahoe or wanted to take a road trip with a few friends in tow. I want to drive this truck again.
I do think it is brilliant for Ford to put every day people in their cars and let them live life for a bit. They will naturally win with some and not with others, but overall, smart marketing on their part. It also shows confidence in their product as people will normally find something they don’t like after they ‘drive it off the lot’. When they don’t – you should pat yourself on the back for a job well done.
I linked to a bunch in this post, but if you would like to see more photos of our trip, check out my photo stream and Heuer’s too.