The limo. The hearse. The Ford Flex. This strange, out of the box vehicle arrived at my house last week, and I couldn’t decide if I was at a funeral or a red carpet event. The sleek vehicle is a flattened SUV, an updated station wagon, and the classiest soccer mom “van” around. If only I was a soccer mom…
The “flex” part of a Ford Flex could mean anything. Flex your muscles? No, lets wait for the Mustang. Flexibility? Much more likely. This vehicle seems meant to accommodate whatever you happen to be doing that day, because who really only lives one lifestyle? The soccer mom still wants a fine night on the town, and the traveling salesman still has a stroller and diaper bag to throw in the back on weekends. Who knows when you’ll need to fold down the back seat to transport an impulse buy at a garage sale on an early Saturday (antique ladder, anybody)? The flex is a limo, a grocery-getter, a carpool caddy, a functional transporter, and a sophisticated ride for two.
Day 1- My part time job as a “limo” driver
It’s like the universe knew that a semi-limo had just arrived. Hours after the Flex showed up, Justin called, and was absolutely swamped with airplanes and passengers flying into the small local airport where he works part time. A group of students needed picked up and taken to the airport to fly out. How many people? I didn’t ask, because the Flex can fit eight people, total. As long as three of them are less than 100 pounds or so, and I don’t know many people like that. The back-back seat, as we couldn’t stop calling it (aka the third row), was roomy, but not comfortable for anyone other than children or very small people.
That wasn’t an issue for the airport transport. There were only four flyers (did I really think eight could fit in a private airplane?). I popped out of the car, and with the push of a button the back hatch was opening on its own. I went to gather their luggage, which could fit nicely into the trunk-like space. Later in the week I would learn that this space also keeps groceries in place as well, as long as you are a paper-not-plastic person. The width and depth of the storage space was about as deep as a paper bag. No more finding a week-old orange that has rolled out of its bag, under the back seat. Gross.
But back to the “limo” ride. The group of four piled into the Flex, and immediately looked up, as the second row has individual sunroofs that crack open about an inch. It’s an unexpected surprise for anyone who gets stuck in the backseat. For sensitive stomachs, it also reduces the closed-in, claustrophobic feeling that some adults get when they ride in the back seat. No “courtesy sickness” bags needed in this ride—save it for the plane.
And did I mention that CMT (country music television) uses a Ford Flex on their World’s Strictest Parents show to bring the parents to be united with their newly reformed little delinquents—limo style, driver and all.
Day 4: A sophisticated ride for 2
Although I did feel like the modern mom in this car at times (minus the kids, of course), there were other moments when I felt like James, err, Justin, was my personal chauffer, taking me on a luxurious night out. Maybe it was the butt-heat, or the ambience. For some reason, be it the box-shaped rear end, the limo look, or just the strange vibe the vehicle gives off, people look when the Flex drives by. Sometimes twice. After two looks, they seem to have accepted that the date night car is evolving, and its okay that it was once a station wagon frame, years and years ago. If it can still turn heads, and doesn’t land you on your rear instead of your super high heels as you slide out the passenger seat, it continues to earn five stars for date night drive-ability.
Day 5: The low point
Like the notorious “walk of shame” the Flex also experienced a morning after date night low point. The next day, I get a call from my mother:
Her: “Where are you?”
Me: “In bed! Where are you?”
Her: “Oh. Well, remember that cemetery that your high school marching band would parade through on Memorial Day?”
Me: (annoyed) “Yes?”
Her: “Well I just saw your car there! At a gravesite! Told you it was a hearse. It’s called the Element, right?”
Me: “Nope, false alarm. Not the Element, it’s the Flex.”
Her: “Oh. Well they look alike.”
The Flex may be for all lifestyles, but I promised her it was not, in fact, a hearse. And I believe in any color other than black it would lose the hearse/limo image and would just be a new, gussied up version of the soccer van.
Day 7: Stretching the limits
In college, especially as a graduate student, the boundaries are blurred between college kid and real grown-up. One minute you are playing intramural softball, and the next minute you are at a conference in a suit. It can be very confusing, but on this last day with the Flex, the car showed us that it could accommodate any lifestyle, once again, even if they all occurred in a twelve-hour period.
We called in “sick” to our last classes, and jumped in the car and headed for the Newport Aquarium in Newport on the Levy. Justin had never been, and I saw it as a centerpiece for good old Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky tourism to show him around. After all, he’d been an honorary Cincinnatian for a good year or two now since we met. So we were overdue for the trip, and in a hurry to make it for the 2:15 otter feeding!
In our tizzy to get out of town, we forgot the GPS. Oxford, Ohio has an awkward way of being out of the way to almost everywhere. So, the GPS often advises on the quickest route to get to common places that normally I-75 would accommodate in a flash. Luckily, the Flex has a built-in GPS that you can work by voice command, if you have the patience. Justin clearly didn’t, but not for a lack of trying (see Justin arguing with the GPS). While he didn’t “go off” on it per se, they exchanged some choice words; rather, Justin yelled at it and it kept repeating an irrelevant command back. Try arguing with a machine—it usually wins.
We quickly realized, somewhere between the shark petting and the frog climbing station, that this outing was meant for children of all ages. Navigating through the three class field trips, we discussed how the Flex would be perfect if we actually had kids to take on a field trip. (Don’t worry Dad, not happening anytime soon). It would easily fit all the luggage—strollers, diaper bags, over sized teddy bears (well sharks, in this case)—that the mothers were toting around the aquarium.
A keeper (with a few minor adjustments)
The Flex is made to be lived in, to have dirt from a soccer field, and groceries in the back. And a camera to prevent backing up over neighborhood kids can’t hurt. The one to eight person seating arrangement is built for the modern family, the nontraditional family, and the family carpool.
The only downfall is the gas mileage, which is about as awful as Justin’s Nissan Titan at 22 MPG on the highway, and 17 in the city. Also, keep kids out of the way of the closing hatch—it stops for no man, or child, after it gives two quiet warning beeps that it’s coming down, ready or not (see tour of the back)! No mercy for stuck strollers or fingers. Ouch. How do we know this? I tried it with a broomstick in the way, and Justin tried it by just jumping under, all six feet five inches, and hoping for the best. No such luck. He narrowly escaped with his life. Ok, that’s a bit over the top.
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