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Flex is an acquired taste. Should Ford’s low-slung SUV alternative be on your 2016 crossover menu?

What changes will make it different?

The one thing we can rely on with this crossover is that it will stay the same. And when you are as fascinatingly unique as the Flex is and you have a dedicated band of followers, why wouldn’t you? Rumors have swirled about the vehicle’s imminent demise almost since its launch in 2008, but it should be with us for at least a couple more years. And, yes, the model-year 2016 version will probably be relatively unchanged.

Why should I wait for the 2016?

You shouldn’t—unless you’re uncertain about buying one at all, that is. Like we said, the model-year ’16 version won’t differ much from its predecessor.

Should I buy a 2015 model instead?

This is a vehicle you either love or hate—and you’re a lot more likely to love its interior than its exterior. If you’re a fan, go ahead and buy the ’15 model.

Will the styling be different?

The styling has been altered very little since the vehicle was launched, which is part of its charm for some people. If Ford were to smooth out its boxy lines and make it sleek and sporty, it wouldn’t be a Flex anymore. Bottom line? This is about the last vehicle in the company’s lineup that would undergo significant refinements.

Any mechanical changes?

Although the exterior refuses to move with the times, the underpinnings certainly don’t show the same levels of stubbornness. This vehicle has gotten rave reviews for the way it has improved over time, particularly regarding its handling. The ’15 model year already has an EcoBoost engine option and a new electric power steering system, so don’t expect many more advancements for model-year 2016.

Will fuel economy improve?

Regarding making the gas mileage better, there’s only so much that can be done with engine development and transmissions before thoughts inevitably turn to aerodynamics. And don’t expect the aerodynamics to undergo any sort of overhaul. EcoBoost technology has taken this vehicle’s fuel efficiency as far as we can reasonably expect.

Will it have new features?

If you go beyond the base model, you get the usual array of Ford features. It has lacked some of the very latest safety features, such as lane-assist technology, so we might see more of them. In fact, if you go for the top-of-the-range Limited for model-year 2015, cutting-edge safety features are about all that’s missing, although it does have blind-spot monitoring.

How will 2016 prices be different?

Without any significant changes, there’s little justification for Ford to boost the cost. The manufacturer seems to jack up prices by a few hundred bucks each year as a general rule, but that can be offset by negotiating with your dealer.

When will it come out?

Expect to see it sometime in the third quarter of 2015.

Best competitors

Buick Enclave, Honda Pilot, Chrysler Town & Country, Range Rover Sport, Lincoln MKT

What change would make it better?

Some rather cruel people may suggest that the only change that could make it better would be to end its production run. And way sales have gone—outside of California, that is—those people might get their wish in the next few years. But some of us think the auto world is a better place for having oddballs like the Flex.

Quick hit

A lot of people may never experience the true quality that lies beneath the unorthodox exterior, and that’s a shame. Perhaps only the fabulously opulent Land Rover LR4 can claim to offer more quality in anything even close to a rectangular a shape. But although the Land Rover is better than the Flex, it also costs considerably more and isn’t exactly buoyed by a stellar reputation for reliability either. If you can get over the styling, there’s a lot to recommend about this vehicle.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]