CC Outtake: 2016 Ford Flex and Explorer – Same Goods, Different Packaging


The Ford Flex is rumored to be axed from Ford’s crossover-heavy lineup come 2020 but if you saw sales figures, you would be wondering why it didn’t happen sooner. Here’s one reason.


As this Fortune article explains, the Flex was originally expected to sell 100,000 units annually and has never reached even half of that goal in any year since its 2009 launch. This is despite the fact the slow-selling Taurus X was deep-sixed after 2009 to make room for the Flex; Ford had no other three-row crossover in its North American lineup. The introduction of the new Explorer in 2011, riding the same Volvo-derived D4 platform, served to undermine the Flex and its more conventional, SUV-style styling was more to North American consumers’ tastes.


While the Flex is a slow seller in 49 states, Californians love the wagon. Around a quarter of Flexes are purchased by Golden State residents. The Flex’s old-school station wagon styling is deeply polarizing and yet Californians seem to be firmly in the ‘love it’ category; anecdotally speaking, I noticed a lot more Flexes than Explorers during my visit to LA. That’s a boon for Ford which, like the other domestic automakers, is seeking to restore their reputation here after having lost so much market share to Japanese, German and Korean automakers. The Explorer, however, is also a strong seller in California and this means, considering the wagon’s dismal sales elsewhere, this niche offering will be no more.

I spotted this matching Flex and Explorer duo in Downtown Los Angeles. You can see how vastly different the two lines look despite sharing a platform. The Explorer is much more generic while the Flex has a quirky swagger, and yet the Flex is arguably the more practical choice due to its superior packaging and space efficiency. It is, after all, a big box. The base price of the Flex undercuts the Explorer by around $1500; both base models share the same 3.5 V6 and six-speed automatic transmission. The choice comes down to personal preference. Which would you choose?

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