UPDATE: Read our comparison of the 2016 Ford Flex vs Ford Explorer.
Ford Motor Company has a variety of SUVs and crossovers, two of them being the Ford Flex and Ford Explorer. The Explorer has been a staple SUV since 1990. The Flex is a bold, unique newcomer that was introduced in 2009. Today, we’re comparing the Ford Flex vs Ford Explorer to see which one comes out on top in this Ford Family Feud.
Ford Flex Overview (base)
Engine: 3.5L V6
Fuel Economy: 18 City / 25 Hwy
MSRP: From $29,100
2015 Ford Flex Review
The 2015 Ford Flex has a design that stands out in the crowd. This crossover is a boxy tribute to station wagons of old, with futuristic styling cues all around. Ford flexes its creative muscles by forging a new design path that is part minivan, crossover, SUV, and wagon. The front of the vehicle features “FLEX” stamped just above the grill, and the only “Ford” badge is a small logo on the lower right of the rear hatch.
Open the doors of the Ford Flex, and you’ll see a low-sitting instrument panel and an analog clock on the dash. Seats are comfortable, and Ford has added more soft-touch materials to the dash and doors. The ride inside the Flex is also quieter than in previous years, making the 2015 Flex feel more luxurious than ever.
The first and second rows will fit large adults comfortably. While most vehicles have a crammed third row, the Flex has a spacious third row that will fit most adults. The second and third rows can be power-folded down to create a ton of cargo space. The Flex is ready for large families and large loads.
The base V-6 engine excels in passing power, but only has average acceleration speeds. The available turbocharged model will greatly increase acceleration power. The upgraded turbocharged models feature EcoBoost and paddle shifters, giving you the ability to control the transmission manually.
For its size, the Ford Flex handles quite well. Every trim of the Flex now has Ford’s electric power steering system. AWD is available, but will add extra weight to the Flex which already weighs well over 2 tons. Due to the weight, the Flex achieves fair fuel economy, 18 mpg city / 25 mpg highway.
The Ford Flex is an IIHS top safety pick. It received top “good” crash test ratings in all IIHS categories except the difficult “small overall front” test, which it received an “acceptable” mark. The Flex is filled with optional safety features such as parking sensors, rearview camera, adaptive cruise control, Ford MyKey, and more.
Since its release in 2009, the Ford Flex has been known for great tech and features, and this still holds true in 2015. The base flex comes with capless fuel filling, MyKey, third-row seating, and more. Some of the most unique optional features include rain-sensing wipers, second row refrigerated console, passive entry and start, and paddle shifters. Other optional features include infotainment and navigation, panoramic sunroof, voice-command, and more
Ford Explorer Overview (base)
Engine: 3.5L V6
Fuel Economy: 17 City / 24 Hwy
2015 Ford Explorer Review
A long-time favorite in the world of SUVs, the 2015 Ford Explorer has come a long way since 1990. The exterior design of the Explorer has remained largely unchanged since 2011. It has a big SUV presence, with attention to detail and lines that add a hint of rugged elegance.
The interior of this year’s Explorer has added higher-quality materials, especially in the top Platinum trim. The controls are both functional and simple. Riding inside the Explorer is very quiet in comparison to other vehicles at this price point.
The Explorer will work well for tall adults with great headroom. The front two seats are spacious, but the third row has minimal leg room. With foldable second and third row seating, there is plenty of cargo room inside the Explorer.
The base V6 engine is smooth and powerful enough to satisfy the average driver. For improved fuel economy you can choose a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that has 240 horsepower and 270 lb ft of torque, more than the base V6. This engine will be great for the commuter, but may prove inadequate if you plan on towing consistently. Those wanting maximum power should opt for the V6 twin-turbo Explorer Sport, the beefiest engine in the lineup.
With a standard V6, the Explorer will receive up to 17 city mpg and 24 highway mpg. The highway mpg decreases to 23 if you add AWD. The optional 240 hp 4-cylinder engine does best, achieving up to 20 city mpg and 28 highway mpg.
The NHTSA gave the 2015 Ford Explorer 5 stars, and it is an IIHS Top Safety Pick. The Explorer did well in all IIHS crash tests except the “small overlap front” test, which it received a “marginal” rating. This crash test has proved to be difficult for other vehicles in the class as well. Safety features are readily available, if you’re willing to pay for them. The Explorer has available inflatable rear-seat belts, blind-spot monitors, trailer-sway control, active park assist, curve control, and more.
This year’s Explorer is a step ahead of the game in terms of tech and features, especially in higher trims. The base trim of the Explorer has a few perks such as steering-wheel audio controls, auxiliary jack, and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel. Upgraded trims have ample options such as WiFi, Ford SYNC, MyFord Touch, rearview camera, sun roof, power tailgate, remote start, rear heated seats, navigation, DVD entertainment system, SD card slot, dual USB ports, and much more.
Ford Flex vs Ford Explorer:
Base model: 2015 Ford Flex
The base 2015 Ford Flex is slightly less expensive than the base Explorer. The Flex is a bold, comfortable, spacious, and fun choice that still feels complete in the base model.
Upgrades: 2015 Ford Explorer
The top trim of the Explorer, the Ford Explorer Sport, is decked out with more features than you will ever need. Not only that, but it looks extremely cool thanks to an “Explorer” stamp across the nose, glossy black trim, attractive grill inserts, and 20-inch wheels.
Overall winner: 2015 Ford Flex
When comparing the Ford Flex vs Ford Explorer, the 2015 Ford Flex comes out slightly ahead of the Explorer thanks to bold originality. Seldom does a car make a statement this bold without getting made fun of, but the design of the Flex has resonated with many drivers since 2009. This design leads to a spacious third row, which the Explorer is unable to compete with. The Flex edges the Explorer in 2015 by providing great handling, more comfort, and a fresh design.