Approaching the MPV Differently
Sam Blockhan last edited by
Due to the declines in both wagon and minivan market share, Ford elected to replace both the Taurus wagon and Freestar minivan with the unique Freestyle in 2005. In the past, many companies had created MPVs by adding height to their hatchbacks, which brought greater headroom, a more elevated seating position, and increased cargo space.
To create the Freestyle, Ford presumably designed a wagon variant of the Five Hundred (née Taurus) and added height. Because MPVs had begun to struggle in the US with the rise of the SUV, Ford added body cladding, equipped all-wheel-drive, and marketed it as a crossover, with the bonus of a far more useful third row than a wagon. Ford projected 120,000 sales in the first year, but missed by over 40,000 units. Things only went downhill from there, especially after the name was changed to “Taurus X” for 2008.
It would be superseded in 2009 by Flex, whose exterior was very similar to the 2005 Fairlane concept, minus the suicide doors. The shipping container shape was detrimental to fuel economy, but contributed to a cavernous interior, especially with all of the seats folded flat. I rode in one once, and found it to feel like an SUV in space, but low to the ground like a car.
Reviewers noted more carlike handling than the Explorer, as well as a comfortable ride. Flex sales were never particularly strong, but they were consistently between 20,000 and 30,000 units per year, all the way up to its farewell in 2019.
An interesting use of the platform was the Lincoln Town Car’s replacement, the MKT. Thanks to the tall body height and low ground clearance, interior access was made easier and space maximized in comparison to the Town Car, though the third row was tighter than that of the Flex. Handling was commendable, and, with the EcoBoost V6, acceleration was quicker than V8 rivals while achieving better fuel economy. The impressive feature set included ventilated seats, a second-row refrigerator, an automated parking system, adaptive cruise control, and a panoramic glass roof, most of which were found in expensive equipment bundles on rivals.
However, the MKT was immediately a slow seller, mainly due to its heavily criticized exterior (which I find quite attractive from the right angles). Another issue was the disastrous MyLincoln Touch infotainment system, which was notoriously unreliable and annoying to use, though it was replaced by the vastly superior Sync 3 system in 2017. The biggest blow was that the Flex, whose sheetmetal found many fans, was available with many of the same features as the MKT.
Sales remained consistently below 5,000 each year, and it was discontinued in 2019 after 50,717 had been sold. While the MKT was unsuccessful with private owners, it did well on the stretch limousine and hearse markets, likely thanks to the high roofline.
dogisbadob last edited by
no mention of the C-Max?
zipfuel last edited by
@Sam-Blockhan it's weird, on paper all of these should have been a hit. the freestyle since it's what the pilot/highlander/explorer are nowadays (maybe the venza is a better comparison)
Then the others they all had an Achilles heel, the flex is a great car but it's looks are polarizing (my wife hates it) and the Lincoln already looks like a hearse from the factory
Sam Blockhan last edited by
@dogisbadob That was an MPV, but it wasn't an SUV/MPV.
Qaaaaa last edited by
@Sam-Blockhan fun fact: a bone stock twin turbo flex can run a low 14 bone stock. Just add radials and you’ve got a 13 second family hauler. There are also way more tuning options than you would expect.
Taylor Martin last edited by
@Sam-Blockhan I came very close to getting a Freestyle. It was affordable and wagon-like, which were my two criteria for a first car... but the dealership was too far away to justify even looking at it.
The Flex is a car I would consider owning if I ever got a wife who said we needed a "family car" under the contingencies that we're trading in her car and I get to keep Iris... if there's ever a choice between a happy marriage and my current wagon, the wagon is going to win hands down.