SAMPLE RUN: Here's a quick review of my first chauffeured ride in a Ford Flex. . .
As part of my continuing industry education at LCT, I try to ride in or drive new livery vehicles being brought to the market so I at least have some basic clues on what's happening in the industry. During my Christmas break this week, we had a chance to sample and compare a Town Car, a Navigator SUV, and a Ford Flex all in one vacation. My wife and I were picked up in a Ford Flex Tuesday morning that took us to the Norfolk International Airport in Norfolk, Va., courtesy of Carey Transportation of Virginia's three-year-old Airport Connection service which added a fleet of six Ford Flex vehicles in November.
Overall, the Ford Flex, as its appearance would indicate, combines the characteristics of a sedan with a crossover utility vehicle.
The first pleasant surprise for us was the individual bucket seats, similar to those in a mini-van, that the chauffeur said can recline all the way for clients who prefer to sleep on the way to the airport. The open luggage area, which accommodated all six of our checked and carry-on bags of varying sizes, is also a hit on runs with multiple riders, who can spot right away if a chauffeur is unloading the wrong bag when dropping off a client.
We noticed no difference in the smoothness of the ride, compared to the SUV, but the Town Car still wins out for floating like a boat. The chauffeur explained that the V-6 engine lacks for nothing with performance, and delivers gas mileage superior to a Town Car or SUV. He said he does notice the shorter wheelbase compared to the Crown Victoria and the Town Car, and that those two traditional livery models offer deeper trunk space for big luggage.
Once airport passengers find out the Airport Connection's Ford Flex service can be cheaper and faster for most destinations compared to a taxi cab (taxi drivers are known to choose longer routes to rack up larger fares), they shed their misperceptions of chauffeured transportation as costly and exclusive, the chauffeur explained. That proves my ongoing point that operators can still go a long way in educating the traveling middle class public about the advantages of chauffeured transportation. People generally want convenience, comfort, service, and overall value.
The clincher for me, however, being 6-foot 2-inches tall, is having plenty of head and legroom, which the Ford Flex amply provides. In a difficult economy with clients increasingly wanting to appear practical, vehicles that can pull off an understated appearance without sacrificing internal comforts will go a long way to growing and defining chauffeured transportation in the new decade upon us.
-- Martin Romjue, LCT editor
Photo courtesy of Carey Virginia
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