Saturday, July 18, 2015

New tow vehicle: Ford Flex

This year we purchased a new vehicle that also our tow vehicle for our Shasta. It's a 2014 AWD Ford Flex. We were looking for a 6 passenger all wheel drive vehicle that would be a good daily family car and good for towing to replace our 2006 Chrysler Pacifica. The Pacifica served us very well but it was getting on in age and up in miles. If you are considering a Pacifica as a tow vehicle I highly recommend one, it is very comfortable for long trips, has just enough engine to pull a 16' vintage trailer, and at least in AWD trim feels very solid and stable on the road. The Pacific has a nice combination of American and German car traits as it was developed during the time when Chrysler was owned by Daimler-Benz and was built on a german platform.

Our Flex has the optional Ecoboost engine, it's a 3.5 liter V6 with a twin-turbo that achieves the equivalent power to a 6.0 liter V8 while getting better fuel economy. While the improved fuel economy is better than the Pacifica's 3.5 liter V6, it is the horsepower difference that is most noticeable. The Flex is really quick by itself and when towing pulls the Shasta up hills with ease. The retro styling of the Flex pairs nicely with a vintage trailer and the fairly low flat roof works well for carrying our boats. One technology feature that is pretty amazing is that the factory towing package includes electronic Trailer Sway Control that uses the brakes and AWD system to reduce trailer sway when it senses it taking place. It's also good to note here that the towing rating of the Flex is higher with the built with a factory towing package than you can get with an aftermarket hitch. The automatic transmission also uses the motion sensors to make choices about things like downshifting when going down a large hill, and it has paddle shifters that let you manually change gears as well. If you are thinking about a Flex you might also consider a Lincoln MKT as it shares it's drivetrain and other features. Consumer Reports has a nice review of towing a vintage Argosy Minuet with the MKT Ecoboost.

To set the Flex up for use with our trailer I needed to purchase a ball mount with a slightly different "drop" than the one we had been using and also add a Brake Controller. The factory towing package includes a built-in socket for this under the dash. I chose a digital proportional brake controller made by Tekonsha and am very happy with it. It uses its own motion sensors that change the timing and force of the trailers brakes depending on what it thinks is going on. The regular brake controller that we used on the previous vehicle worked fine, but the improvement with the proportional controller is quite noticeable and things feel generally more in control. To finish it off, my wife made a custom graphic for the hitch reciever cover so we can now have a little bit of Shasta with us even if the trailer is not along for the drive!