2013 Ford Flex
Starting price: $33,225
Top: Multipanel "vista roof"
MPG: 18 city, 25 highway, 20 combined
When you can't decide between a moonroof, a really big sunroof or just a bunch of portholes, don't be hasty. Just use them all.
This was Ford's approach to the sunroof question poised by its boxy, Mini-like Flex. When it finally decided to let some more sun in, Ford opted to give the Flex's SEL and Limited models and optional "Vista Roof" that offered a little bit of everything while never settling on any one solution.
The folks in the front-row seats get a standard moon roof. It tilts, it slides, no big whoop. In the middle row of seats, however, there are two square skylights cut above the passengers' heads just in case they ever wondered what it would be like to commute to work in one of the old submarines from Disney World's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride. Finally, above the third row, there's an expansive single skylight that stretches the width of the cabin and looks like something that would be installed in a Jurassic Park tour vehicle.
It's the kind of quirkiness that relegated the Flex to the weird art-school stepbrother of the buttoned-down Explorer when it came to sales, but endeared it to fans and critics. Edmunds drove it for 70,000 miles as a test car and enjoyed the entire ride. Besides the three rows, it offers automatic headlights, fog lights, a 60/40 split second-row seat with power assist for third-row access and a six-speaker sound system, all standard. Upgrades include heated mirrors and seats, the Microsoft Sync entertainment and navigation system, HD radio, a vista sunroof, sliding captain's chairs in the second row and a refrigerator in an optional second-row console.
"If you need a king-sized road trip vehicle, the Flex is a winning selection," says Edmunds.com's Clarke. "With three rows of seating, it accommodates seven in comfort."
The only problem is the Flex's full 83 cubic feet of cargo space. Not only is it smaller than that of most minivans and large crossovers, but it requires sacrificing that third row to get it. Still, if drivers are willing to roam springtime America while the warm weather stays, they may as well do it beneath the skylights of a safari-inspired crossover.