Did the New Ford Flex and Lincoln MKT Change Enough?

Flex1
The Ford Flex has one of those love-it-or-hate-it vehicle designs. It's boxy, it's square, it's retro and apparently it's also totally L.A. (It turns out Los Angeles is one of the Flex's hottest markets). Case in point, when we hosted actor Joey Lawrence and his family at one of our recent Cars.com Shootouts, he kept comparing the cars we were testing to his own Flex.

More 2011 L.A. Auto Show Coverage

The Flex isn't as popular in other markets, and neither is the Lincoln MKT. Both sell in meager amounts next to mainstream crossovers like the Chevrolet Traverse and even Ford's own Explorer. Can some refreshes to these two vehicles skyrocket them onto families' radars?

Flexcontrols
This year, the Flex gets some minor edits to make it more appealing for families wanting a car with ... well ... flexibility. The new Flex ups the ante by adding a power-folding third row for the first time. It's standard to the top Limited trim and optional for the others. You also can fold either half of the third row flat or reverse the seat to fold into a tailgating bench by pressing a button in the rear cargo area. The power option is definitely preferred versus the three-step manual process that still involves a series of straps to get the seats where you want them. I'd definitely spend the money on the power option.

Manual-seats
With my older daughter just outgrowing her booster seat, Ford's inflatable seat belts — introduced on last year's Explorer and now available as a $200 option for the Flex — in the outbound second-row seats are an appealing, affordable choice for parents. In the event of a crash, the seat belts puff up using a gas canister for quick but gentle inflation. The inflated seat belt spreads the force of impact over a larger surface area, reducing seat-belt-related injuries.

Flexseatbelt
The Flex also gets some updates to the exterior including a "sleeker," though still boxy, front end that some of our editors are mixed on.

Lincoln's MKT, the Flex's sleeker and slightly more sophisticated sister, gets many of the same updates (a refreshed grille, power-folding seats, inflatable seat belts and more), but it's wrapped in the luxury of Lincoln's upscale branding and fit and finish.

Attention to noise dampening was a new focus in the 2013 MKT. Lincoln added more noise absorbers and barriers throughout the vehicle, and it redesigned the side mirrors to be quieter as well. This is something I know I'd appreciate while driving. It seems that with every passing year I'm more sensitive to noisy cars. I feel like my parents. "Turn that radio down now, would ya?! Ah, when I was your age ... blah, blah, blah."

Mkt
Since the MKT is positioned for upscale buyers, Lincoln has thrown in all the fancy-schmancy touches, like real wood trim, seats upholstered with leather from Scotland no less, and "French and Deck" seams, which sound hoity-toity, if you ask me.

The Flex and MKT still have the same family-friendly features and expansive interior, which are unique in this class, as in previous model years. That makes me wonder why these crossovers aren't more popular. When was the last time you saw one in your kid's carpool lane? I hope the Flex's and MKT's polarizing looks aren't keeping parents from adding them to their short list for the next family hauler to park in the driveway.

Comments 

cody

i don't think these will sell any better. they essentially replaced the minivans in ford's lineup, but they lack the space and utility of the minivans they compete with. the seats don't fold into the floor, and there's almost no space behind the 3rd row. styling (or lack there of) can only make up for so much....and then there's the starting price...$29+k??? wtf?!?!

styling-wise, i'm in the camp that hates both of these. the ford looks like an oversized scion xB (not that the regular sized scion xB looks good...) and the lincoln has the proportions of a beach sea creature.

cody

btw, that $29+k was for the ford....the lincoln clone will cost you about $45k....

broq3.5

The MKT already had real wood and Bridge of wier leather- the big news is the Lincoln Drive and active damping. Anyway, I think the Flex and MKT are fine as they are- not every vehicle made by the big 3 has to be a huge seller or cheap. So what if the Lambdas sell more than the Flex, Ford has the Explorer as a mainstream car in this segment.

I hope these stay a little funky- some of us like that.

Broq

wvuguy

I'd have much preferred Ford try an Edge-type front end design on the Flex rather than than sticking with this stylized truck look (which I don't find all THAT much more attractive than the previous design. As for the MKT, I myself continue to view its overall styling as a complete disaster.

A power-folding third row isn't new on the Flex unless it was deleted and re-added. The 2010 model I test drove had it.

Skinner

Nice vehicle, but with anything in it you are already at 40 grand. Ford should make a decontented version that is more of a competitor with the Grand Caravan which you can drive away in the low 20's.

toronado

I actually like the styling of the Flex, and I really like the new front end which is concept car cool to me. But I've never liked the horizontal lines along the sides which remind me too much of the defunct Lincoln Blackwood. I'd never get a contrasting roof color on it either. And the smallest available rims are still too big.

The base SE model starts at 30 grand which is way more than the Ford minivan it replaced. But this is by design. The Flex is a stylish vehicle that is designed to make money for Ford, not for people who want cheap people/cargo haulers. They abandoned that market when they discontinued the minivan, which at the moment, I can't remember the name of because they changed it so many times... Aerostar, Windstar, Freestar, I give up.

@cody, LOL, I agree, the MXT is one of the ugliest cars ever.

jyd

I like the idea of the Flex. I think the styling is bold and different. I'm glad Ford abandoned the minivan but I do think the Flex is overpriced.

While I continue to pull for LIncoln, I must admit the MXT is ugly from every angle.

Rick

I really like the look of the Flex and I want to see it do well. The only beef I have is that it is wayyyy overpriced. I think if they took 10k off that would be more realistic. Any thoughts?

jim

If they redesigned the MXT grille [its most polarizing feature], why didnt cars.com show a photo? Make me search the internet? Other than the previous grill, I liked the MXT.
And the cool thing about the Flex, is that it looks like nothing else out there. Sure they wont sell as many, sure they still need a minivan, [unless thats where Explorer is headed] but niche vehicles have, umm, their niche!
I'd like to see a comparo of upscale, umm, SUV/Van/crossovers... What $55k buys in a luxury hauler.

Paul

Horrible nose job.This does nothing that a minivan cant already do.While I sorta like the style,it kind of references back to the old station wagons,but its missing the one ingredient that would cement it as the Country Squire of the 22nd century.....vinyl applied woodgrain body panels.

Parrots

I actually loved the old MKT's design. I think they ruined it with this refresh. Oh yeah! If you're going to buy an MKT, be sure to get it in black!

Jim,
We should have added links you're right. But you can just type in "MKT" into our search bar, top right and you'll get all our extensive coverage. Thanks for your comment.

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