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QUESTION & ANSWER

Ford targeted Flex interior quiet, ride

Gary Boes is chief engineer for the Ford Flex.
The 2009 Flex is Ford's newest model, an unconventional-looking crossover. Gary Boes, chief engineer for the Flex, said a quiet interior and a near carlike ride were two top priorities. Boes spoke with Product Editor Rick Kranz during a Flex press event last month may in New York City.

When did development on the Flex begin?

A little over three years ago.

What competitive vehicles did Ford target?

The Honda Pilot and the Toyota Highlander.

The last-generation Pilot and Highlander are somewhat smaller than the Flex. The Flex is on the D platform used for the Ford Taurus. Why didn't Ford select the smaller Mazda9 platform for the Flex, which also seats seven and is a stretched version of the Ford Edge platform?

We looked at the Edge at one time in terms of a platform. One thing the D platform allowed is that it had the fold-in-the-floor third-row seat. which was in the platform already. We (wanted) a wheelbase that we thought would have a leadership advantage in terms of second row (comfort).

We also have in our lineup the Edge, the MKX, the Taurus X — so we also had to be conscious of where else we were in the segments and where we felt there wasn't anybody else playing in the market.

The Flex's front door is wider than the Taurus'. Since the Flex's platform is based on the Taurus', why did the team push the B-pillar aft?

When we stretched the wheelbase five inches, we moved the B-pillar aft about 30 mm (1.18 inches) to make (the front door wider) and ingress/egress a little better. We were able to increase front-seat travel. We wanted to make sure that if you put the seat all the way back you could get in and out without contacting the B-pillar.What were some of the targets that were agreed upon from an engineering standpoint that would set the Flex apart from the competition?

We felt the two areas would be interior quietness, which would be wind noise and road noise. The other is to really have a personality to the drive, which we called "a point of view." at the time.

In a traditional SUV/crossover world, you're talking about a little more body roll, a little bit more head bobbing. We wanted to keep the driving more like a car, a very planted-on-the-ground feeling. We didn't want a harsh ride or a too-soft ride. We wanted something that, when you get inside that car, you know you are driving something different than those other crossovers.

From a wind-noise perspective, for example, there's the acoustic laminated windshield (all models) and the acoustic laminated side door glass (SEL and Limited models only).

The seats in the Flex are very comfortable, a few notches above what Ford has offered in the past. Did the seat frame and padding come from Volvo?

No. They are our new F family of seats. It is an internally designed, Ford-designed seat family that is in the Lincoln MKS, Focus, Flex and the new F series. We have different suppliers that assemble the parts, but we have designed the structure to give us the comfort and requirements that we want to have as a seat structure.

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