2010 Cadillac CTS Sedan Reviews and Ratings

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2010 Cadillac CTS Sedan
New Car Test Drive

Introduction
Boasting style, performance and technology, the Cadillac CTS is a sports sedan that can go toe-to-toe with the best the world has to offer, including the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Lexus GS, Infiniti G37, and Audi A4. Available all-wheel drive makes the CTS a good foul weather car.

And for its part, the high-performance Cadillac CTS-V can compete with the best high-performance sports sedans in the world (BMW M3, Mercedes C63 AMG, Audi S4) at a much lower cost.

This doesn't surprise us, quite frankly, because we've been watching the CTS for some time now. The original car was good and they've been improving it ever since, particularly in the area of refinement. What may surprise you about the CTS is its level of refinement.

The CTS boasts responsive handling and excellent high-speed stability, yet it's smooth and quiet around town or when cruising at highway speeds. The ride quality strikes a perfect balance between smoothness and handling. The steering is accurate, with good feel and a nice, weighty demeanor. The car feels solidly put together, and it's quiet underway. Inside is an attractive cabin trimmed with nice materials that exudes an airy, open feel. Everything is easy to operate.

Simply stated, the Cadillac CTS is a very enjoyable car.

The CTS and CTS-V feature sophisticated suspension systems developed, among other places, at the world-famous Nurburgring race track in Germany. Called the Nordschleife, the 14-mile northern loop of what was the old Nurburgring circuit is considered the toughest, most dangerous, most demanding purpose-built race track in the world. A 2009 CTS-V posted what may have been, at that time, the fastest lap at the Nordschleife for a standard production four-door sedan, an impressive feat given the hot rods BMW, Mercedes, Audi and others routinely roll out. To prepare for this lap John Heinricy from GM's performance division simply shifted the automatic transmission into Drive and let it do its thing.

New for 2010, is a 3.0-liter V6 engine rated at 270 horsepower and 223 pound-feet of torque. Though smaller in displacement, the new engine offers more power than the previous 3.6-liter that came standard. Meanwhile, an optional 3.6-liter V6 is available with 304 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. We found both engines smooth and responsive. They are thoroughly modern in every way, boasting all-aluminum construction and double overhead-cams with variable valve timing and Direct Injection for the optimum in power, fuel economy, and emissions. Either is available with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.

The 2010 CTS models come with new features such as 19-inch polished alloy wheels with 245/45ZR19 tires, an air filtration system that takes care of cabin odors, a suede-trimmed steering wheel, a wood trim package for the CTS-V, along with new colors and repackaging of the options.

The Cadillac CTS uses rear-wheel drive, which is the best layout for performance sedans. But it's also available with all-wheel drive. The AWD uses an active transfer case that normally applies 40 percent of the power to the front wheels, 60 percent to the rear, but in slippery conditions can apply all of the torque to either axle. A limited-slip differential is available.

The Cadillac CTS-V has a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 that makes 556 horsepower at 6100 rpm and 551 pound-feet of torque at 3800 rpm; it is available with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic. CTS-V is rear-wheel drive. The CTS-V is a genuinely fast car. Cadillac says it's capable of 191 mph and 0-60 mph performance in 3.9 seconds. We found the CTS-V to be one fast ride at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California, capable of lap times on the sinewy circuit nearly as quick as a NASCAR Sprint Cup racecar. The CTS-V rides on the firmer side, much like the European luxury sports sedans do. Model Lineup
The 2010 Cadillac CTS comes with a 3.0-liter 270-hp V6 engine ($36,730) or a 3.6-liter 304-hp V6 ($43,825). The automatic transmission is optional ($1,300). All-wheel drive is available only with the automatic.

CTS standard features include leather seating surfaces, dual-zone automatic climate control, OnStar with turn-by-turn navigation, a Bose eight-speaker sound system with CD, MP3 and auxiliary capability, remote keyless entry and programmable central locking, power windows with express-up-down on the front and express-down on the rear, power driver's seat and XM Satellite Radio.

The optional Luxury Package ($3,400) for the CTS with 3.0-liter V6 adds a six-disc CD changer, Bluetooth, a cargo convenience net, accent lighting, memory, heated and 10-way power driver and front passenger seats with power lumbar, theft deterrent alarm, universal garage door opener, wood trim, and leather-wrapped steering wheel. The Performance Package ($5,000) adds foglamps, HID headlamps, limited-slip differential, V-rated tires, performance brakes, sport suspension and some additional features. The optional AM/FM/CD/MP3/DVD audio system ($3,145 with 3.0-liter V6, $2,145 with 3.6) has Bose 5.1 Cabin Surround Sound, 10 speakers, a hard-drive, HDD-based navigation, XM NavTraffic/Real Time Weather and USB connectivity.

The Premium Package for the CTS with 3.6-liter V6 ($6,095) includes cabin filtration, the high-end sound system with navigation, keyless entry, remote start, rear park assist, heated and ventilated seats, power tilt and telescope steering column with memory, moonroof, and numerous luxury and convenience features that are parts of other packages. The Performance Package ($1,840 with manual transmission, $2,090 with automatic) includes 19-inch polished wheels, performance tires, steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters (with automatic transmission), fog lamps, performance suspension, limited-slip differential, and performance brakes. In addition, there are several stand-alone options, including the moonroof, polished alloy wheels and various paint choices.

The CTS-V ($60,720) features a supercharged V8, a limited-slip differential, Brembo disc brakes with six-piston front and four-piston rear calipers, P255/40ZR19 tires in front and P285/35ZR19 tires in the rear, and 10-spoke alloy wheels measuring 9.0 inches wide in front and 9.5 inches wide in the rear. The CTS-V also has distinctive exterior details, including a mesh grille and appropriate badging, to make it stand apart from the normal CTS. The CTS looks clean, elegant and modern, but the CTS-V, with its few changes, takes on a more assertive appearance. Optional for the CTS-V are Recaro front seats ($3,400) and a suede steering wheel ($300).

Safety features that come standard on all models include front, side and side-curtain airbags, ABS and Stabilitrak electronic stability control and traction control. Optional all-wheel drive improves safety further. Walkaround
The Cadillac CTS looks like a modern Cadillac sports sedan should. We think it's a great looking car, with adventurous lines everywhere, especially in the gracefully sloping rear roof section.

The eggcrate grille on the CTS is in keeping with the rest of the Cadillac lineup, plus it provides a generous supply of incoming air for the engine, brake and transmission cooling functions. The large lighting units at the front and rear make good use of LED (light-emitting diode) technology: lots of light and lots of style for little electrical load. The taillights, rear quarter panels and decklid also fit the Cadillac theme. Below the rear bumper are exposed dual exhaust tips.

The CTS-V is distinguished by functional features. The power dome hood, distinctive wheel and tire package, and the bold mesh grille suggest intent for serious driving. The larger mesh grill is for improved airflow. The power dome hood is as small as they could make it. Big brake ducts help cool the big two-piece Brembo calipers. The center brake light reduces rear lift. The dual exhaust provides better performance. Interior
Inside, the theme is black with brushed metal and chrome accents. It's very contemporary, very modern, very attractive and very space efficient.

The dashboard is fairly low and away from the front seats, which gives an airy and open feel to the car. The center stack on the CTS is beautifully done, easy to read and use, with some interesting readout placements here and there. While the previous-generation model had a cold interior, the current CTS boasts a lovely cabin indeed.

We found the comfortable front bucket seats held us down and in place behind the wheel, including some enthusiastic driving on central California's windiest, curviest roads.

We really appreciated the range of adjustments offered by the power seats and the power steering column. The tilt-and-telescope column offers ultimate comfort and proper driving position. The instrument package is complete, easy to read, and graphically pretty.

In short, we found the CTS cabin to be a nice place to sit and take a drive. The driver is held in securely yet comfortably to properly operate the car, and the passengers enjoy a feeling of ease, confidence and luxury. It's great to see Cadillac offer such a terrific interior.

The AM/FM/XM Bose 5.1 sound system with the 40-gigabyte hard-drive, iPod connector and USB port offers the ultimate in musical enjoyment. Using the navigation screen, it's easy to switch back and forth between the three broadcast and three stored-music formats by simply touching the screen, and the blue display is large enough to be read from the back seat. We think it's one of the best, most fun-to-use sound systems available. Many other luxury cars have audio systems that are fussy or difficult to operate.

The CTS-V has a sportier cabin, with a thick-rimmed steering wheel available in suede. The dead pedal, allowing the driver to brace the left leg, is optimized for racing. A Recaro option is available with 14-way adjustable seats, including bolsters that can be pumped up for hard driving then deflated for cruising. Driving Impressions
The Cadillac CTS is a responsive sports sedan with excellent handling and high-speed stability, yet it's smooth and quiet when cruising.

Both V6 engines have dohc, variable valve timing and direct injection. As a result, they are both responsive and lively. The 3.0-liter, with its 270 horsepower, is a very good standard engine, although it doesn't match the power and torque of the 3.6-liter V6. The Direct Injection gives each engine extremely good throttle response, and also enhances fuel economy and emissions. Somewhat surprisingly, there is little or no penalty in fuel economy with the larger engine, so, if the additional expense is not an issue, we have to recommend it. With its 304 horsepower it feels ready to go out and play anytime you want, delivering a really solid combination of power, torque and assertive sound whenever the throttle is opened all the way up.

The six-speed automatic is very quick and positive to shift manually, up or down, with a little bit of throttle blip on the downshifts to keep the drivetrain happy and to keep the tires from skipping and chirping. The six-speed manual offers an easy clutch and requires only a light touch on the shift lever to change gears; it is surprisingly good. The choice comes down to your preference. We liked both of them.

The steering is sweet to drive, very accurate, with good feel and a nice, weighty demeanor. The steering system uses a forward-mounted power rack-and-pinion that pulls, rather than pushes, the steering arms. (It pulls on the steering arm of that front tire which will be on the outside in the turn, so in a right-hand turn it is pulling on the left-side steering arm, placing that side in tension rather than compression.)

All-wheel drive is optional on the CTS. We found it makes the car feel very stable and adds to driver confidence on winding roads. We recommend getting if wintry weather or big rain are part of the seasonal picture.

The brakes are excellent, equipped with ABS and Electronic Brake-force Distribution. They provide very good stopping power, even for a car that tips the scales at well over two tons.

For all its steering, cornering and handling prowess, the CTS doesn't seem to exact any penalties in quietness or harshness over the road, an impressive combination. It feels very solidly put together. It's quiet inside in all modes other than wide-open throttle. Its 17-inch high-performance tires seem to assist it with this balance.

Driving the CTS-V is a completely different experience from that of the CTS. It's not a lightweight at well over 4000 pounds, but with 556 horsepower and 551 pound-feet of torque, it delivers stellar performance. Yet, it's perfectly capable of idling around town. The clutch is light, the shifter feels just about perfect, the seats are comfortable and, the CTS-V can mosey down to the grocery store just fine. It's fairly quiet underway, and the ride is not harsh.

On the road, we found the CTS-V idled smoothly and quietly but responded to throttle inputs unlike any other Cadillac. Big torque, big power, right now. The huge tires didn't make very much road noise, but they did provide the kind of cornering we're not used to in a fully equipped, 4300-pound luxury sedan. In combination with those instant-acting shock absorbers and the big tires, the CTS-V felt like a German-style sports sedan, with quick steering and deft handling on the country roads, a smooth ride, and massively powerful brakes.

On the track, we found the CTS-V to be a rocket, fast and predictable. We were quickly able to drive it very hard while still well within our driving abilities. It is a car that inspires confidence. The CTS-V is a superb car, capable of running against the best sedans from Germany and Japan. Summary
The Cadillac CTS looks great and is relatively roomy inside. It's got lots of go for the performance enthusiast. And all-wheel drive is available for wintry climates. For those who don't need or want the extra stuff, there's lots of style with the standard V6 and rear-wheel drive. But we recommend checking the box for the all-wheel-drive system regardless of where you live because it adds so much more to the safety margin and it's more fun to drive, even if the car is heavier for it. We could find ourselves infatuated with the awesomely impressive CTS-V but, in actuality, we could be perfectly happy with the CTS and its optional 304-hp Direct Injection 3.6-liter V6.

NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Jim McCraw test drove the CTS in Northern California and the CTS-V near White Plains, New York; with Mitch McCullough reporting on the CTS-V from Infineon Raceway at Sonoma, California.

Model as tested
Cadillac CTS 3.6 AWD ($45,725)
Basic Warranty
4 years/50,000 miles
Assembled in
Lansing, Michigan
Destination charge
825
Gas guzzler tax
N/A
Base Price
36730
Price as tested
51550
Options as tested
AM/FM/CD/DVD/MP3 Bose 5.1 Cabin Surround Sound with 10 speakers, HDD-based navigation, XM NavTraffic, and USB connectivity ($2,145); Performance Luxury Package ($2,855)

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Cadillac CTS 3.0 ($36,730); 3.0 Auto AWD ($39,930); 3.6 Auto ($43,825); 3.6 Auto AWD ($45,725); CTS-V ($60,720)
Safety equipment (standard)
frontal airbags, side-impact airbags, side-curtain airbags, ABS, EBD, Stabilitrak electronic stability control with traction control
Safety equipment (optional)
N/A
Engines
3.6-liter dohc 24-valve Direct Injection V6
Transmissions
6-speed automatic

Specifications as Tested
leather seating surfaces, dual-zone air conditioning, power steering, power disc brakes, keyless entry, power windows, remote keyless entry, power locks, power mirrors, cruise control, trip computer, fog lights, AM/FM/CD sound system

Engine & Transmission
Engine
3.6-liter dohc 24-valve Direct Injection V6
Drivetrain type
all-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
304 @ 6400
Transmission
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
18/27
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)
N/A

Suspension
Brakes, front/rear
vented disc/vented disc with ABS, EBD
Suspension, front
independent, upper and lower arms, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Tires
P235/55R17
Suspension, rear
independent, multi-link, coil springs, stabilizer bar

Accomodations
Seating capacity
5
Head/hip/leg room, middle
N/A
Head/hip/leg room, front
38.8/55.1/42.4
Head/hip/leg room, rear
37.2/54.1/35.9

Measurements
Fuel capacity
N/A
Trunk volume
13.6
Wheelbase
113.4
Length/width/height
191.6/72.5/58.0
Turning circle
36.0
Payload
N/A
Towing capacity
1000
Track, front/rear
61.8/62.0
Ground clearance
NA
Curb weight
4118

2010 Cadillac CTS Sedan
New Car Test Drive

Introduction
The Ford Flex is a full-size crossover utility vehicle that can seat up to seven adults and carry luggage or groceries at the same time. It's the modern-day equivalent of what used to be the family station wagon, but no old station wagon can match the comfort, utility, capabilities or driving enjoyment of the Flex.

The Flex has three rows of seats, with a standard 2-3-2 layout or optional 2-2-2 configuration. It's built on a passenger-car platform, as opposed to that of a body-on-frame truck, and thus has the basic stance and friendly driving characteristics of a car.

The Flex is larger and roomier than the Ford Edge, and its three-row seating allows it to carry more people, and in more comfort. Its passenger-car platform makes it lower and more carlike than the Explorer or Expedition, and thus easier to drive and live with in daily use. Competitors for the Flex include the Chevy Traverse, GMC Arcadia, and Buick Enclave, though they are quite different in a variety of ways.

Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 17/24 mpg City/Highway for a front-wheel-drive Flex, 16/22 mpg for an all-wheel-drive model, and that's on Regular 87 octane gasoline.

For 2010, the major change for the Flex is the availability of Ford's strong EcoBoost turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 engine. EcoBoost utilizes advanced turbocharging technology to deliver the fuel efficiency of a smaller engine with the power and performance of a larger engine. EcoBoost includes two turbochargers and direct fuel injection. The 3.5-liter V6 EcoBoost engine in the Flex is rated at 355 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque, yet with no penalty in fuel economy compared to the standard non-EcoBoost 3.5-liter V6, which is rated at 262 horsepower. In the Flex, the EcoBoost engine will be available only with all-wheel drive.

Also new for 2010: Active Park Assist, an Autofold 60/40-split second-row bench seat, MyKey programmable vehicle key, Trailer Sway Control, tilt-telescoping steering wheel. SYNC comes standard on the SEL trim level, navigation is standard on the Limited trim level. Model Lineup
Ford Flex SE ($28,495) comes standard with cloth seating surfaces, single-zone air conditioning, seven-passenger capacity (2-3-2 seating), six-way power driver seat, manual tilt steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, fog lights, power door locks with autolock, power mirrors with manual-folding bezels, remote keyless entry, retained power, AM/FM/CD six-speaker audio with MP3 compatibility, center-stack screen display (for audio, compass, temperature), message center with trip computer, front-row center console, 10 cup holders/bottle holders, power windows, carpeted floor mats, rear privacy glass, three 12-volt power outlets, 235/60R17 BSW tires, and alloy wheels.

Flex SEL ($31,270) adds bright exterior trim, 18-inch machined alloy wheels, dual-zone A/C, Sony AM/FM/six-CD/MP3/satellite radio, leather seating surfaces, heated first-row seats, 10-way power driver seat, six-way power passenger seat, universal garage door opener and interior woodgrain trim. The Flex SEL AWD ($33,120) adds all-wheel drive. The SEL Convenience Package ($1,000) adds 110-volt power inverter, power adjustable pedals with memory, power liftgate, memory driver's seat and side mirrors, door-mirror mount puddle lamps, and heated mirrors. The SEL AWD is also available with the EcoBoost V6 engine ($36,115).

Flex Limited ($37,165) adds HID headlamps, power multi-function door mirrors with puddle illumination, power-opening liftgate, P235/55R19 BSW tires, 19-inch polished alloy wheels, 110-volt power outlet, power-adjustable pedals with memory, ambient lighting, second-row footrests, perforated leather seating surfaces (for first and second rows), first-row memory seats, Microsoft SYNC system, and navigation. The Flex Limited AWD ($39,015) adds all-wheel drive. The Limited AWD with the EcoBoost engine ($42,010) adds, along with the twin-turbocharged engine, dual exhaust, SelectShift automatic transmission with paddle-shifting, and electronic power steering.

Options include a Class III Trailer Towing Prep Package ($570) with receiver hitch, wiring harness with 4/7 pin connector, engine oil cooler, tire mobility kit; second-row 40/40 reclining seats ($650); second-row floor console ($100); rear console refrigerator ($760); DVD rear entertainment center ($1020); deep-tint Vista roof ($1495); steel roof panel in contrasting White Suede or Brilliant Silver ($395); tri-coat paint ($395); Microsoft SYNC system ($395); roof rack side rails ($195); six-CD with satellite radio ($430); and remote start system ($295).

Safety features include driver and front-passenger dual-stage airbags, side-impact and safety canopy airbags, front passenger airbag sensing system, rear door child-safety locks, perimeter alarm, seatbelt pre-tensioners, reverse sensing, passive anti-theft system and tire pressure monitoring system. Active safety features include anti-lock brakes (ABS), AdvanceTrac electronic traction control, RSC Roll Stability Control, brake assist, and electronic brake force distribution (EBD). Adjustable pedals come on the Limited model. All-wheel drive is available for the SEL and Limited. Walkaround
The Ford Flex looks boxy, in an attention-getting and stylish sort of way, but boxy nonetheless. The hood and roof are long and flat, the windshield stands tall and proud, corners are squared-off, side body panels are vertical, side glass is nearly vertical, and the tailgate could be plotted with a T-square. The overall box shape suggests interior room and maximum space utilization. Many would also find the shape honest, simple and elegant.

People seeing the Flex for the first time generally agree it has presence and a variety of upscale cues. Those who find it attractive are reminded of the Mini Clubman and Toyota FJ Cruiser, both of which share basic Flex proportions and even color-contrasting tops.

The Flex may at heart be a functional people and cargo-carrier, but it's certainly not shy when it comes to exterior design. There's design everywhere, both in the overall look of the vehicle and in the details. A fair amount of brightwork, just short of bling, sets the Flex apart and communicates upscale intentions. A signature three-bar Ford grille in a muted silver finish extends across the front. Front bumper foglights are encased in highly reflective jeweled surrounds. Door mirror housings are not only chromed, but the caps have little tab-like crenellations that sparkle in sunlight. Big, bright 19-inch polished alloy wheels on the Limited suggest Lincoln more than Ford, as do large chrome door handles, bright window surrounds, and a shiny band running across the tailgate that repeats the front grille theme.

Beyond the brightwork, the Flex has a series of small, horizontal, body-color indents stamped into the door panels. These not only visually lengthen the vehicle and break up mass along the sides, but likely also strengthen the panels and reduce oil-canning noise within the doors. Sure, such detailing is a little finicky and over the top, but the Flex would look a lot heavier if the indents weren't there. Another Flex signature is the optional roof color of either warm white or silver.

The Flex is taller than most station wagons but significantly lower than such traditional SUVs as the Explorer and Expedition. Unlike traditional SUVs, the Flex roof is about level with your eyes, not above them, so when you look at the Flex from up-close, you're looking across it, not up at it. Interior
Inside, interesting design elements are everywhere. While most cars show more attention and budget devoted to exterior design than interior design, it's clear the Flex interior designers were given free reign and considerable budget to work their magic and get things right. The Flex on the inside looks full, complete, spacious, roomy and luxurious. All the basics and most of the details are well covered.

On opening a door and seeing the Flex interior for the first time, the impression is rich and inviting. Color coordination is carefully managed. Materials, plastics, fabrics, leathers and carpets are well matched with textures and sheen is nicely controlled. The visual impression is more Lincoln than Ford, and definitely upscale.

The impression of comfort and luxury is reinforced by large door openings and excellent entry and egress for all three seat rows. Seats are chair height, which means you slide across as opposed to jumping up or squatting down to sit, making it easy for even the less limber among us.

The two front seats, separated by a stylish multi-function console, are more comfortable and accommodating than the second-row seats, which in turn are more comfortable and accommodating than the third-row seats. Perforated leather inserts and smooth leather seatbacks are on the front seats, but only leather inserts in the middle seats (vinyl everywhere else) and all-vinyl seats in back. All interior materials, including the vinyls, have a look and feel that communicate quality and durability.

The front seats are superb, beautifully shaped and wonderfully supportive over long drives. There is a caveat, though, in the form of fairly aggressive headrests Ford claims are mandated by new federal safety standards. These place your head farther forward than you might be accustomed to, in the interest of reducing whiplash in the event of a rear-end accident. Maybe so, but other vehicles that must meet the same requirements seem to have less intrusive headrests.

Second-row seats offer generous legroom and basic support good for long trips, and are marginally less supportive and comfortable than those in front. The second-row seats are adjustable fore and aft, and they can also be folded through an electric switch to enable third-row access. Push a button in the C-pillar and the seatback folds forward, then the seat cushion folds up. It's clever and well done. Another interesting second-row touch is a pair of wedged footrests that attach, with Velcro, to the carpeted floor and add greatly to overall comfort.

Third-row seating is what might be called occasional for adults, but reasonably comfortable and accommodating for anyone under five-feet tall. Adults can reasonably hang on for 30 minutes or so; longer than that, and it becomes confining. This sense of confinement is exacerbated by all rear side glass being fixed, as well as the rear window. Third-row ventilation either has to come from overhead A/C ducts or someone in the second row opening rear-door windows. On sunny days, the third row can quickly become hot and stuffy.

The multi-function screen display in the center stack of the instrument panel works in conjunction with Ford's SYNC Hands-Free and Communications System and offers everything from airwave audio to satellite audio, climate controls, Sirius Travel Link, navigation, hands-free phone and rearview camera monitor. Push-button or touch-sensitive switches are either adjacent to the screen, on the steering wheel, or within the screen itself. Split-screen readouts are available. The reversing camera offers a day-for-night feature, which means that even in the darkest alleys, the rear-view image you see on the screen is as bright and clear as in broad daylight. We found the rearview camera in the Flex to be one of the best available for backing around obstacles.

Audio quality through the system developed by Sony is excellent.

The in-dash screen functions and display look spectacular. The colors, the graphics, the sheer range of capabilities never fail to impress. In practice, there are some limitations. The voice recognition function often takes a couple of tries to get it right. Maybe it's the accent, maybe it's the inflections, maybe it's ambient noise, but regardless you learn to pace yourself giving instructions and have to be prepared to try more than once. Then there are the screen readouts. Some colors (red, for instance) are hard to see in certain lighting conditions. Others are in symbols or fonts too small to distinguish while driving. Still, the system as a whole is a technological tour de force and clearly paves the way for future developments. In any case, don't work these systems while driving.

An refrigerator that fits between second-row bucket seats on 2-2-2 models is available. It's not just a cooler that keeps cold things cold, but an actual refrigerator that takes warm things and makes them cold.

The deep-tint Vista Roof appears to be a single moonroof over the front-row seats combined with a huge glass panel over the second and third-row seats. From the inside, the front-row pane is a conventional glass moonroof with normal slide and tilt features. In the second row, glass is visible over the right and left sides, with a solid headliner trim panel up the middle. In the third row, a single glass pane extends across the seat from left to right. Second and third-row overhead glass is fixed, with retractable sliding shades to reduce interior heat and glare.

Behind the third-row seat is a small cargo area about the size and shape of what you might find in a minivan. This is accessed through a swing-up one-piece tailgate. The load floor is carved into a recessed well, which keeps cargo in place and prevents things spilling out but also makes access marginally more difficult than with a flat load floor. Those needing more room or better access can easily fold the third-row seats to suit.

Cargo capacity is 20.0 cubic feet with all three rows of seats in place, 43.2 cubic feet with the third-row seat folded down, and 83.2 cubic feet with the second- and third-row seats down. Driving Impressions
The Ford Flex and other people and cargo movers are more about features, accommodations and equipment than the actual driving experience. That said, the Flex is remarkably composed on the road and dynamically competent, and not just for a vehicle its size, but remarkably taut for a vehicle of any size. Seamless is the word that comes to mind.

The prevailing feeling on the road is less of power and speed than overall safety and solidity. The Flex feels like a vault. NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) control is exceptional. This results from a well reinforced body structure (both visible and notable in the way the various pillars and door openings are constructed) that eliminates the usual creaks and groans. The only noise you hear while underway comes from the mirrors, but even this is only slight and at speeds over 65 mph. The Flex is one composed and quiet car.

The standard 3.5-liter V6, with double overhead-cams and 262 horsepower, has more than adequate power for normal driving conditions, along with sufficient torque to either tow a 2000├╗pound load in standard form or a 4500-pound load with the optional trailer towing package. A newly designed six-speed automatic transmission does its job efficiently and well. We found it was rarely, if ever, caught in the wrong gear.

Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 17/24 mpg City/Highway, 16/22 mpg with all-wheel drive.

The EcoBoost V6, with its 355 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque, is a wonder of power and response, and brings with its additional output no penalty in fuel economy, being rated at the same EPA figures of 16/22 City/Highway as the standard V6.

Ride quality is controlled to the point of neither being noticeable nor a real factor in the driving experience. Cornering is level and quiet. Turns taken at enthusiastic speeds elicit no audible reply from the tires. Four-wheel disc brakes with every conceivable electronic interface are equally quiet and composed, and provide peace of mind.

Towing capacity is rated at 4500 pounds when equipped with the optional Class III Trailer Towing Prep Package. Summary
The Ford Flex is a large, stylish and capable crossover vehicle that can carry six or seven passengers and a fair amount of cargo in luxury and comfort. It is easy to access, easy to use, easy to drive over short and long distances, and comfortable for everyone. The exterior design is distinctive and memorable. The interior is filled with clever details and surprise-and-delight features. High-tech touches abound. For families who need a large vehicle, the Ford Flex offers everything you would want in the way of a satisfying and rewarding vehicle to own and drive.

NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Rex Parker filed this report from Santa Monica, California.

Model as tested
Ford Flex Limited AWD ($39,015)
Basic Warranty
3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in
Oakville, Ontario, Canada
Destination charge
775
Gas guzzler tax
N/A
Base Price
28495
Price as tested
43785
Options as tested
Package 303A ($3,600), includes Vista roof, second-row captain's chairs, second-row refrigerator, 20-inch alloy wheels; white roof ($395)

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Ford Flex SE FWD ($28,495); SEL FWD ($31,270); Limited FWD ($37,165); SEL AWD ($33,120); Limited AWD ($39,015)
Safety equipment (standard)
dual-stage front airbags, side-impact airbags, safety canopy airbags with rollover sensor, front passenger sensing system, driver seat position sensing system, crash severity sensing system, up-down adjustable head restraints for all passengers, LATCH system child-seat anchors and tethers, rear door child-safety locks, seatbelt pre-tensioners, load-limiting seatbelt retractors; AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control (RSC), ABS, brake assist, electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), electronic traction control, yaw control and vehicle roll motion sensor; wiper-activated automatic headlamp on-off switch, intermittent speed sensing windshield wipers, reverse sensing system, tire pressure monitoring system
Safety equipment (optional)
N/A
Engines
3.5-liter DOHC 24-valve V6
Transmissions
6-speed automatic

Specifications as Tested
leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic temperature control with second-row auxiliary control, 10-way heated power perforated leather driver seat with memory, 6-way heated power passenger seat, first-row center console, 40/40 second-row captain's chairs with perforated leather seating surfaces, 50/50 vinyl third-row bench seat, Sony AM/FM/6CD audio with 12 speakers, Sirius satellite radio with six-month subscription, Microsoft SYNC voice-activated hands-free communications and entertainment system, automatic headlights with wiper-activated daytime switching, power liftgate, reverse-sensing system, power windows, power door locks, power door mirrors, cruise control, trip computer, fog lights

Engine & Transmission
Engine
3.5-liter DOHC 24-valve V6
Drivetrain type
all-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
262 @ 6250
Transmission
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
16/22
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)
N/A

Suspension
Brakes, front/rear
ventilated disc/solid disc with four-channel ABS
Suspension, front
independent, strut, stabilizer bar
Tires
P235/55HR19 all-season
Suspension, rear
independent, multi-link, stabilizer bar

Accomodations
Seating capacity
7
Head/hip/leg room, middle
40.5/55.0/44.3
Head/hip/leg room, front
41.8/55.5/40.8
Head/hip/leg room, rear
38.7/41.1/33.3

Measurements
Fuel capacity
N/A
Trunk volume
83.2
Wheelbase
117.9
Length/width/height
201.8/88.8/68.0
Turning circle
40.7
Payload
N/A
Towing capacity
4500
Track, front/rear
65.4/65.4
Ground clearance
5.9
Curb weight
4643


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