2011 Ford Flex EcoBoost Limited

A smart vehicle for summertime car camping

When my girlfriend and I decided to go camping in the Adirondacks in early June we made a list of things we'd need to acquire before the trip. It looked something like this: food, propane canisters, insect repellent, vehicle.

Living in Brooklyn, NY, I've haven't really needed a means of conveyance for about seven years, ever since my 1991 Ford Explorer went to the big junkyard in the sky. Therefore, if we were going to be able to haul all of our gear up north, we'd need get our hands on something with a decent amount of cargo capacity (as Gear Editor of this fine publication I tend to accumulate a lot of stuff that needs testing), but also a vehicle that would be comfortable for the 6-hour drive each way. When I emailed my contact at Ford, he recommended the Flex. At first I was a bit hesitant, as, honestly, the Flex's boxy chassis, grooved door panels and two-tone roof is not really my style. But he assured me that it would be the ideal vehicle for our trip…and he couldn't have been more right.

The model that we borrowed was the 2011 Ford Flex EcoBoost Limited with Active All-Wheel Drive. It provides 355 horses at 5,700 rpm thanks to a 3.5L GTDI V6 EcoBoost Engine, which was more than game regardless of whether we were passing semis with ease on Interstate 87, gliding up steep-grade mountain roads, or winding our way around tight bends along the countless lakes and streams that dot the Adirondack landscape. The 117.9-inch wheelbase and independent rear suspension also played major roles in providing us with such a smooth ride, as each wheel functions independently and absorbs any and all bumps in the road.

The Flex has seating for seven, but since it was just my best girl and me, we folded down the third row of seats and easily fit our tent, sleeping bag and pad, cooler, fishing rods, camp chairs and more in the spacious rear area (20 cubic feet). When we awoke the first morning to a biblical rainstorm, the rear door provided the perfect awning under which we made our sausage and egg breakfast sandwiches--an unintended purpose, I'm sure, but a welcome feature, nonetheless.

Other cool features included an on-board navigation system with Sirius Travel Link, SYNC In-car Connectivity System and a Sony Audio System. A rear-view camera mounted on the rear door made backing up and parking a cinch, even given the Flex's robust size (88.8"x201.8"x68").

The 2011 Ford Flex Crossover starts at $29,075. Check it out at http://www.fordvehicles.com/crossovers/flex.