• Jul 7th 2008 at 12:35PM
  • 80

2009 Lincoln MKS – Click above for high-res image gallery

The 2009 Lincoln MKS may be the marque's last chance at establishing a distinct image after two decades of struggling to find its identity. At one time Lincoln, like its counterparts at Cadillac, stood apart from lesser vehicles with unique styling, powertrains and features that clearly delineated its place in the automotive hierarchy. Not that Mark IVs, Vs and VIs were high-water marks in design, but at least when you saw one rolling down the road, you knew you were looking at a Lincoln.

But the Continentals of the '80s marked the onset of Lincoln's utterly forgettable image, and when Ford went on a buying binge in the late '80s with Jaguar, continuing through the '90s with Volvo, Aston Martin, and Land Rover, the waters began to be seriously muddied. The creation of the Premier Automotive Group, which bundled all the premium brands together, did nothing to help Lincoln's outlook, so Ford's in-house luxury brand needed a fresh start. With the dissolution of PAG, Peter Horbury and the team went back to the drawing board to define a look that would shout "Lincoln!" for years to come. Read on to find out if the MKS succeeds.

Photos Copyright ©2008 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.

In the PAG years, Ford management didn't seem to have any idea of what they wanted Lincoln to be. Perhaps Lincoln's best shot at moving up the ranks was the LS, which actually came about from the desire to produce a new mid-sized Jaguar and have the American brand compete with lower end BMWs and Audis. But the non-descript styling and limited power (after all, it did have to stay a notch below Jaguar) meant it never really got the attention it deserved. When the life cycle of the LS expired, Lincoln was left without a clear successor. The Zephyr/MKZ didn't advance the styling bar, and it's Fusion-based architecture didn't fit the profile.

The 2009 MKS is one of those rare cars that actually improves upon its conceptual predecessor shown in 2006, and is the first production model to adopt the new cues that first appeared on last year's MKR concept. Unfortunately, most of the MKS was already locked in by the time the well received MKR was finished. The only significant design aspect to make it to production was the grille, but that may well be the most important element. For the first time in decades Lincoln has a face that stands out in a crowd and isn't an embarrassment.

The rest of the car is handsome and clean, if not spectacular. The belt-line rises towards the back and helps to hide its tall stance. As you're likely already aware, the MKS is derived from the same Volvo-based platform as the Taurus/Sable/Taurus X and Flex. At a distance it doesn't look large, but once you get up close you're struck by the MKS's height. The roof-line extends a full four inches taller than a Cadillac STS and 4.5 inches more than the Lexus ES350.

Like the Taurus, you sit tall in the MKS, which makes ingress and egress easy, but doesn't really enhance the idea of a sport sedan. The MKS' doors are cut down into the rocker panels and the skins wrap underneath, which makes stepping in and out easier. It doesn't seem like a big thing, but it does make a difference. Having the rocker panels covered should also keep them cleaner, meaning less chance of getting your pants dirty from road salt in the winter time.

In spite of the high seating position, the rising belt-line still leaves some of the "sitting in a bath tub" effect. If you like to drive around on nice days with the window rolled down, you won't feel comfortable resting your elbow on the window sill. However, the upright seating makes the MKS feel exceptionally roomy front and back. The seats are comfortable and supportive while offering all the adjustments you need, and when exterior temperatures deviate from optimal comfort levels, heated and cooled front seats keep your backside in cozy climes.

Last year, when Ford debuted the Sync system that included USB and line-in inputs with voice controls for auxiliary devices, it proved very popular. For 2009, Sync is being augmented with a new interface to the navigation system and Sirius Travel Link. Travel Link gets real time traffic data from the satellite radio system and can automatically re-route you to avoid backups. It also provides lots of information like sports scores, movie listings and guidance to the cheapest gas prices. Ford's voice control system is actually the most reliable and robust of any that we've tried so far. It recognizes commands the majority of the time and even accepts combinations of commands such as "Destination - POI." The new user interface is probably one of the easiest to navigate and makes BMW's iDrive look like a bad joke.

Overall, the interior design is clean and well laid out. The center stack is straightforward with audio and climate control buttons, including the heated and chilled front seats. The rear quarters are also thermally enhanced, but the occupants will have to rely on air flow to reduce temperatures. The nicely padded front center arm-rest is split down the middle and each side can be individually adjusted to suit the position of the occupant's elbow. One flaw we found with the center stack design is the section ahead of the shifter and below the climate controls which is emblazoned with "Lincoln" and would make an excellent storage compartment. However, the panel is fixed and our mobile phone was forced to reside in our pant pocket.

On the road, the behavior of the MKS belies its size, but the steering has no dead spots and the responses are reasonably precise. While the MKS and Flex are derived from the Taurus architecture, it's been heavily reworked, and to good effect. Changes were necessary to provide a decent ride with the 245/45R20 tire/wheel package. The short sidewalls alone wouldn't do much for on-road compliance, but the new suspension setup does a good job of allowing the wheels to soak up the battered and bruised pavement that comprises most of Michigan roads.

The 3.7L V6 is adequate for motivating the 4,127-pound sedan, but it probably won't set enthusiast hearts alight. The six-speed automatic is the same 6F50 unit used in other big Fords and co-developed with GM. Each company produced its own control software for the transmission and the team in Dearborn seems to have done a better job calibrating the shift smoothness. Ford applications consistently have seamless shifts at either full or part throttle, while the GM vehicles tend to be more jarring.

Most newer automatic transmission vehicles are saddled with a lackadaisical shift response when set in normal Drive mode, undoubtedly calibrated to optimize the EPA mileage numbers. Thankfully, popping the shift lever in Sport mode has a dramatic effect. Shifts are sharper, although still smooth, occurring at higher revs with downshifts occurring promptly with a stab of the go pedal. Tapping the shift lever to the right enables manual shifts that happen when you ask for them.

At just over $47,000 as tested, including the dual panel moon-roof, all-wheel-drive and the 20-inch wheel package, the MKS isn't cheap. However, it is competitive in price with some of the stalwarts of the luxury set and finally brings some style to the Lincoln line-up. On the off chance that you might have some 5.1 audio DVDs in your collection, you'll be glad that you opted for the THX-II certified surround audio system. Ford includes a sampler disk in the car that features Pink Floyd's Money and it sounded absolutely incredible.

Beginning in about April 2009, Lincoln will begin offering the 3.5L twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 in the MKS which should dramatically improve performance. Given the trajectory of gas prices right now, you may want to wait for a smaller four-cylinder EcoBoost engine to replace the V6s, although if you're spending near $50K on a luxury sedan, the 19 mpg we saw in mixed driving conditions may not bother you too much. For now, the MKS is a great start to the revive Lincoln and hopefully, it won't be long before we see models that incorporate all the elements that appeared on last year's MKR concept.

Photos Copyright ©2008 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      For all those who keep saying it's a Taurus, it has backseat legroom of an econocar etc...why don't you read a few reviews from people who have actually DROVE the car. At least they have some basis to form an opinion.

      Otherwise...well you know.

        • 7 Years Ago
        What no one is saying is that the ES350 (and RX350) is based on a $19k camry which is no different from the MKS being based on the Taurus. The Es350 is one of the prime competitors for this car and its one of the best selling luxury cars in the industry. This idea that the MKS cant sell because its FWD and its not a sport sedan is garbage. Also, that price is a FULLY LOADED sedan. The 3 series starts at $32k but goes over $50k with all the options so I fail to see how this full size is overpriced at $47k loaded. The much smaller 5 series STARTS at $44k with 230hp.
      • 7 Years Ago
      They really need to do something about that lower air dam. it has an anonymously generic look, like what you would expect to see on 90's GM cars
      • 7 Years Ago
      This car does not compete with the CTS. In person it is a very large car; probably competes with the DTS - which in that case it is very competitive.
      Sure, is it as good as the BMW 7, M-Benz S-Class, Jag XF - probably not in the luxury car purists eyes, BUT it does costs a lot less and it is American, which still means a lot to many U.S. drivers.
      You sit up high in this car, which many folks will want since they won't drive their Expeditions and Suburbans anymore due to high gas prices.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Exterior - Simply Decent, nothing special.

      Interior - Between decent and bad. Whats up with the gauge cluster? Looks cheap in my opinion. Also, who came up with the idea to put the "LINCOLN" letter on the center console? Stupidest thing I've ever seen.

      Overall at this price point I would pick something else.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Styling aside, I find the statements with regard to pricing most amusing. So what if it is based off a Taurus. If one didn't know any better, that would be one less argument .... not to mention the fact that it doesn't even look like a Taurus.

      So if the MKS is overpriced, I suppose: FWD variants of the A6 with 255 hp are overpriced (start at $42K), an E Class which isn't the most thrilling vehicle to drive is going to start at $50K and yes you could pick up a Genesis but Hyundai dealers seem to think it is OK to charge well over sticker for one thus negating the savings. I happened upon a dealership in Orange County willing to part with their V-6s for no less than 5K over sticker.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Why is a blogger writing about Lincoln?
      • 7 Years Ago
      I don't care what anyone says.

      Everyone said the MKZ was overpriced. Same with the MKX and that it looked identical to the Edge. And people ragged on the Navi.

      Yet, isn't Lincoln still receiving a lot of sales? Especially when compared to only a couple years ago???
      • 7 Years Ago
      The car simply is not enough to make Lincoln a player in the market today. It is a decent looking car with alright specs. The problem is that it is a $47k Taurus based on a very old european platform that has been outclassed by almost every rival.

      Ford would have been better off bringing over the brand new Mondeo with a Lincoln face, pricing it at $35k, and then using the small ammount of money it has to build a real halo car. At least then the MKS would have had a platform that could play with the German rivals in the segment.

      Cadilac made the trasformation from a luxury barge brand to a European style sport sedan brand with a single car. The CTS redifined Cadilac and brought the brand back as a major luxury player once again. The CTS architecture is far superior to anything Ford has in its current US catalog to draw from. People actually bought a CTS over a BMW becuase it was a striking design and American. I don't think anyone can look at the MKS and say, I'd rather have that over a BMW or Mercedes. The MKS needed to be a striking car, something outlandish to be seen in.

      The MKS could be summarized in one sentence. If you are going to spend $50k on a luxury sedan, you are better off buying a car that was designed and built to start off life as a $50k luxury sedan.

        • 7 Years Ago
        Disgruntled goat,

        In 1998 Lincoln was the No.1 luxury car nameplate in America. So I guess that your comparison is a hell of a good omen!

        Personally I like the car a lot and the execution is flawless. It is coming to the market in a horrid time but anyone looking for a luxury bargain will find in this Lincoln the bast value in the market. And don't forget the array of brand new and exclusive technology this baby has. To me the MKS looks like a real winner.

        Oh and BTW, this car does not compete with the CTS, but with the dullest and unforgivable American luxury car today, the Cadillac STS.
        • 7 Years Ago
        "Cadilac made the trasformation from a luxury barge brand to a European style sport sedan brand with a single car. The CTS redifined Cadilac and brought the brand back as a major luxury player once again."

        Really Cadillac began their long march towards recovery starting with the Seville STS back in 1992. It's taken a decade and a half to effectively change their reputation and there's no reason it wouldn't take Lincoln just as long if they really wanted it changed. Unfortunately I see no evidence that they truly want to redefine Lincoln into something that can compete with Cadillac, BMW and MB. The MKS will make a decent replacement for the old Town Car but that's about it.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Iridium ...

        Tell that to the over 10000 consumers that pre-ordered the vehicle.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Johnny ... your ignorance is showing!!!!!

        Thee are over 10000 preorders from customers accorcing to "Automotive News." These are retail customer orders. The one or two stock vehicles sent to each dealer are not part of this count. If Ford reported 385 MKS vehicles actually delivered in June that is amazing as neither of the local Lincoln dealers here in West Michigan has even recieved their first stock unit yet.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Bafeldu just loves drinking the Ford koolaid.
        10,000 people did not pre order them, according to Autoblog it was 8600.

        Secondly they are not customers these are preorders for dealers.

        There are 4600 Ford dealers out there. If every single one ordered 2 , one in black one in red, thats 9,000 orders right there.

        According to the June sales report by ford, nobody bought this turd. Only 385 sold? I guess the 8600 orders will last them 27 months.

        read here ford sales release

        • 7 Years Ago
        The 1998 Town Car had 14,000 pre-orders when it first shipped:


        It's funny but you could almost change the dates in that article and have it apply to the MKS today. Personally I really liked the Town Car but I often felt I was the only one, not counting limo drivers of course. Ultimately the MKS will be a fine update to the Town Car but it's not going to change anything for Lincoln.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Why do Ford and GM insist on jacking up the back end of their cars, recreating the airshock look of 1981? I also really hate the wedge fascination they seem to have. Is it too much to ask to have a car appear level? Every time I see a new Impala I think "Why is that car sticking its a$$ up in the air?" This make we wonder the same thing.
        • 7 Years Ago
        For those of us old enough to remember, British Leyland did get one thing right:
        "The shape of things to come," which was the tagline for the...


        Triumph TR7.
        I just wish the domestics (mostly GM and Chrysler, but apparently now Ford, too) would stop with the freakishly high and rising beltline and remember that the outward visibility afforded by large windows adds both safety and an impression of roominess. Hummers are the worst about that. The windows are not much more than gun slits.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Unfortunately (for you) a raised rear-end is not just a styling gimic. It's an aerodynamic solution to an airflow issue. Note the high trunk lines of many of today's cars, foreign and domestic. The higher the tail of the car, the better the management of the over-the-car airflow.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Its too bad a RWD, v6/v8 LS one time COTY didnt get a freshening to compete with the CTS and 5-series. The MKS looks nice but Ford had a sport lux sedan that could compete nearly a decade ago and if they had updated it would still compete while distinguishing itself from a Taurus.
        • 7 Years Ago
        You know, I always felt the same regarding the LS. Its actually a fairly attractive car and its quite old. If you squint your eyes you could mistake it for a bimmer. Its a shame Ford didn't update the LS like you said. Could be a real nice car by now.
        • 7 Years Ago
        The LS was almost a straight copy of a Mitsubishi Diamante, as I noticed when I saw one on test with camo in LA before introduction.

        If you live where there are fewer Japanese cars, it looked nice enough --- but I thought it an insult to American talent.

        In any case, this is a larger car, the replacement for the Continental, (and, partially, the Town Car) not a sport sedan.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Distintive? Hardly...good car driving that it might possibly be it says "I've made it!" perhaps somewhat less than a Hyundai Genesis, a car I persoanlly would take in a heartbeat over this twice baked made to look like a designed in China look-s-like for a Buick. Time to hire some rich people to tell you what a car that supposedly they might want looks like...
      • 7 Years Ago
      Above and beyond the competition is what's needed when your cars mostly suck - at least in comparison to the competition. The MKS seems almost cool, but cool for a Lincoln. When your cars are historically "decent", you need your car to just be plain cooler than all the rest, not cool "for a Lincoln". The Fusion.... I mean, Zephyr... I mean, MKZ and the Edge... I mean... uh... MKX and the F150... oh sorry, I mean Mark LT really mess with the success of the MKS as well. Months ago, GCBC wrote: "- Lincoln really wants the MKS to sell well in California, where luxury cars are as mainstream as.... mainstream cars. Ford/Lincoln believes they can succeed "by offering confident, understated, respectful luxury – not something that will go out of fashion in a year or two," according to Lincoln's GM of marketing." Dream on.
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