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2010 Lincoln MKT – Click above for high-res image gallery

In 1998, Lincoln's overall sales made it the number one luxury brand in America. The Navigator, Continental and Town Car weren't exactly world beaters – let alone an enthusiast's cup of Darjeeling, but the typical Lincoln buyer was getting precisely what he or she expected: soft, cozy, squishy cruisers for soft, squishy old people. In the decade that followed, Ford's U.S. luxury arm has seen about as much success as a modern day typewriter salesman. Mistakes have been made. The Blackwood. The Aviator. The LS. All big-time blunders – tragically so with the Romulan cloak-inspired design of the LS, as it was a pretty good car under that anonymous sheetmetal – and all consigned to history.

It's easier than ever to tell a Lincoln from 100 yards out.
Fast forward to 2009, and yesterday's gaffes have been replaced with a group of indecipherably-named vehicles that don't seem to be catching the eye of the car-buying public. The MKS, MKZ and MKX are nice enough, with tons of tech and luxury amenities, but America's buying public doesn't seem impressed.

Admittedly, the biggest reason Lincoln was kicking ass on the luxury sales charts last decade was the Navigator. It was big, it could haul heavy loads and it had an over-the-top style that affluent Americans were looking for at the time. Today's Lincoln lineup continues to feature the Navi, but the hefty SUV is no long the toast of the town and its massive girth and lousy fuel economy are borderline synonymous with PR losers like global warming and dependence on foreign oil. The 2010 Lincoln MKT is sized to replace the Navigator, but with the improved packaging, comfort and efficiency of a car-based crossover. We exercised a pair of EcoBoost-powered luxury barges through the twists and turns of Ann Arbor, Michigan to answer one simple question: does the 2010 Lincoln MKT have what it takes to become the spiritual successor to the Navigator and help shake the Lincoln brand of its decade-long sales slump? Hit the jump to find out.

Photos copyright ©2009 Chris Shunk / Weblogs, Inc.
For every vehicle that Lincoln has in its lineup, there is a mechanically identical Ford on the more pedestrian side of the gene pool. The MKT is no different, sharing its platform and powertrains with the boxier Ford Flex. To distinguish the two CUVs, Ford is employing a "differentiated top-hat strategy." That means precisely zero sheet metal and fewer interior parts are shared between the two models. That's a terrific change of pace for Dearborn's luxury stepchild, as the days of Lincolns that looked way too much like their Ford siblings are still fresh in our minds. Heck, the "in showrooms now" MKX is still a dead ringer for the Ford Edge, so thorny reminders of its blue collar heritage are still alive and well within Lincoln's current lineup.

When we first laid eyes on the concept version of the MKT at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show, we were surprised by its odd-looking aesthetics. The tintless glass roof made the massive crossover concept appear to suffer from male pattern baldness, while the exaggerated D-pillar was overshadowed by a bulging hindquarters that made J-Lo's booty look benign. Fortunately the production MKT manages to be better looking than the concept, but we wouldn't exactly say Lincoln's new Freightliner is a looker, either.

Up front, Lincoln turned up the design DNA with its new corporate mug. The split waterfall grille is divided by the four pointed star, and whether you love or loathe Lincoln's new face, it's hard to argue that it's now easier than ever to tell a Lincoln from 100 yards out. The front end rounds nicely into the MKT's overtly chiseled belt line, which moves across the profile undisturbed until it ramps up at the rear wheel.

When viewed from behind, the story gets better, as the smooth transition from the roof to the minimalist bumper and interesting, if over-the-top, tail lamps shows that this Lincoln looks best when it's ahead of you. That rump, by the way, was forged with magnesium and aluminum, shaving 22 pounds from the MKT's 5,000-pound curb weight. Sure, Lincoln's newest crossover is a bit homely, but there isn't exactly a plethora of visually stunning luxury family haulers on the market, either.

The MKT felt more powerful than the 400 pound-heavier Audi Q7.
While we were less than thrilled with the MKT's polarizing exterior, the story improves once you step inside the CUV's commodious interior. High quality leather and soft touch materials abound, with truly impressive blond wood accents that add plenty of visual pop. Ford has faithfully provided very comfortable seating surfaces for some time, and the MKT continues that tradition, but with an added dose of leather-clad luxury.

The MKT can be had in several interior combinations, all of which include a third-row seat. Our Ecoboost-powered test vehicle came equipped with the $4,000 Spec 201A package, which includes Ford's excellent Travel Link navigation package, chrome 20-inch alloys, a panoramic moonroof and second row captain's chairs that mirror the excellent seats in the front row. The third row looks to be about the same size as its Flex sibling; just big enough for a couple of amiable teenagers.

With all rows upright, there is 17.9 cubic feet of space aft of the third row, but available cubes jumps all the way up to 75.9 when the second and third row seats are stowed. Spec 201A also includes a compressor-powered mini-fridge between the second row seats; a feature that MSRPs for $895 as a stand-alone option. The fridge can hold all of seven cans (or about three water bottles) of cooled refreshment, and it can freeze ice in half the time of your Maytag – a good thing considering it costs as much as the appliance in your kitchen.

Behind the wheel, we were immediately presented with the thick, leather-wrapped steering wheel with a real "hold me" feel. Beyond the tiller are Lincoln's corporate white-on-black gauges, which are simultaneously stylish and easy to read. The supple seating surfaces are matched with equally impressive armrests at the door and the center console. The general largesse of the MKT is also evident in the cockpit, as both leg room and hip clearance is plentiful, even for the widest of Autobloggers.

When it's time to take off, the MKT starts with a touch of a button (doesn't everything), bringing Ford's newest powertrain to life. The twin turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 boasts 355 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque from 1,500 RPM all the way to 5,250 RPM, resulting in healthy, lag-free acceleration in almost any situation. Ford's claim of the EcoBoost V6 delivering the power of a V8 with the fuel economy of a six-pot are born out through the numbers, returning an EPA-tested 16 MPG in the city and 22 MPG on the highway.

To properly show off the capabilities of the MKT's twin-boosted powerplant, Lincoln provided a V8-powered Audi Q7 to compare and contrast. The Q7's 4.2-liter powerplant flexes its muscles to the tune of 350 hp and 325 lb-ft of twist, similar numbers to the MKT, yet the four-ringed crossover manages only 13/18 EPA numbers, or four fewer highway mpg than the Lincoln. The MKT is also a bit friendlier to the environment than the Q7, as Lincoln claims 19 percent fewer CO2 emissions. When driving the vehicles back to back, the MKT felt significantly more powerful than the 400 pound-heavier Audi, as the Super CUV went from zero to cruising speed with more authority, while providing more punch when accelerating from steady speeds.

The EcoBoost V6 sounds good, too, with a quiet roar on heavy acceleration, and the MKT doesn't just win in terms of power, either, as the large crossover proved to be more agile in the curves while sporting a more impressive, quieter cabin. The Q7 felt tank-like in comparison to the longer, lighter MKT, though the Audi did supply more steering feedback and confidence-inspiring braking compared to the MKT's somewhat numb wheel and spongy stoppers.

The MKT is a fine entry in the large luxury crossover market.
The Lincoln engineering team tells us that special attention was paid to the MKT's road handling prowess, and the Ecoboost-equipped variant received a stiffer suspension both front and rear. The Ford stat machine says that the MKT registers a roll gradient score of 3.8 and a roll dampening tally of 23.6, better than the Q7 or the Acura MDX. Our experience with the MKT showed that the big crossover did remain flat and composed at speed on twisty roads, and we feel that the MKT's lower, wagonesque stance helped keep its 255/45/R20 Goodyear radials firmly planted to the road.

Despite the MKT's fairly impressive performance chops, this three-row crossover is still at its best when cruising, proving flat out comfy in every environment, with a plush, bump-soaking ride, a pristine THX sound system and terrific ride height and visibility. During our road trip we were able to hold conversations in muted tones thanks to laminated glass and sound deadening insulation. We did detect some minor road noise emanating from the spanking new Goodyear radials, but the back roads we traversed could be at least partly to blame for the intermittent issue.

With the 2010 Lincoln MKT, the Blue Oval appears to have a very competent luxury cruiser that can stand up to the competition in terms of performance, efficiency, technology and luxury amenities. But while we enjoyed our time behind the wheel, we still don't see Lincoln's new crossover as being the answer to Ford's prayers. The MKT may have the size and luxury to replace the Navigator, but despite its assertive love-it-or-hate-it design, it just doesn't have that "King of the Road" swagger that made Lincoln's first SUV a smash hit in the urban jungle. The MKT is most certainly a fine entry in the large luxury crossover market, though, and that might be all that's needed to keep Lincoln buyers in the family when the time comes to trade in their aging Navis.

Photos copyright ©2009 Chris Shunk / Weblogs, Inc.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      I saw at the Miami International Car Show last weekend and its a VERY nice looking car inside and out...its stylish, unique and doesn't look like anything else out there...bravos to Ford!
      • 5 Years Ago
      It looks like a hearse!
      • 5 Years Ago
      I love the bustle-back effect induced by the gently sloping rear, clean design and full-width tail lamps. There mustn't be a lot of us liking that typically 80's like design cue, but it's really classy!
      • 5 Years Ago
      Wow! thanks Autoblog for reviewing the MKT! I really really love the design of it. I think it's gorgeous! and it's amazingly fast to drive. It could and I believe this, it could be the most beautiful Lincoln ever. I also love the MKS. Which is also gorgeous! Ford and Lincoln really know how to put together an automobile! Go Ford!
      • 5 Years Ago
      Beautiful automobile! My dream car MKT. Definitely want one of it. Gold color exterior and light beige interior !!!! LOVE that styling inside and out!
      • 5 Years Ago
      I do not like Lincoln's direction since the demise of the rear-wheel-drive V8 LS sport sedan. The LS V8 Sport is one of the greatest cars I have owned. Handles amazing with near 50/50 weight distribution, tight steering and suspension...on and on.

      I saw a red MKT last week at the dealer for the first time. I shook my head as I drove through the lot right past it. The MKT is another disgusting design for Lincoln. In fact, I think all Lincolns now are pretty awful. I guess I must be one of the few who really thought the LS was the greatest car Lincoln has EVER had. I would have loved to have seen an evolution of the LS in 2007 instead of canceling it, but now Lincoln showrooms are filled with these ugly faced front drivers.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Nice review. As for Matt, he needs to be sent for counseling.
      • 5 Years Ago
      For those "in this market" for the MKT, that audience wants strong and different looking vehicle that stand-out from the crowd, so the front of the MKT fits that audience. Compared to others in this market (as AutoBlog says), it ain't any ugler that the rest...

      Lincoln is positioning EcoBoost as an exclusive advantage in this segment and it fits and performs above expectations. You can also expect annual upgrades to every vehicle in the Lincoln line-up as you'll soon see with the new MKX mid-size crossover and new "C" size 4-door compact luxury/sport sedan... plus a surprise!
      • 5 Years Ago
      That reminds me, I need to make a dentist appointment..
        • 5 Years Ago
        No, to fill that David Letterman gap.
        • 5 Years Ago
        to get bigger OR more teeth?
      • 5 Years Ago
      It looks like Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas. Now it will be the nightmare on main street. Is Tim Burton moonlighting?
      • 5 Years Ago
      The back end looks like a Cylon, which isn't entirely a bad thing. I kinda like it. I'd never own one though.

      I'm quite glad to see Ford has gotten over badge-eneering cars between brands. If only GM and Ford had figured that out 10 years ago, they'd probably be in a much better state right now.

      (I remember going to a car show 6 or 7 years ago and I found something like 7 versions of the same GM minivan - they all looked identical, interiors included, but just had a different logo slapped on the grille. Who ever thought that was a good idea? Sheesh.)
      • 5 Years Ago
      why are we comparing this to the Q7? and why the apparent surprise a twin turbo v6 provides better fuel economy and equal power to a v8, don't we all know this? isn't this why the B5 S4 was twin turbo, decades ago?

      how does this compare to GM's offerings? to BMW? Why just the Q7? Is our gut feeling that Audi shoppers are cross shopping MKX's and Q5s? I dunno, i see potential for cross shopping between say, audi and subaru for those buyers that love awd, or lincoln and caddy for those who buy domestic branded vehicles... I've just never come across an auto review pitting Lincoln against BMW/Mercedes/Audi/Jag. Didn't realize those consumers frequently cross shopped Lincoln products.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I don't think people buy Audis for the driver involvement OR the reliability (there isn't any).

        The vast majority of people who buy Audis, Benzes, BMWs, Lexuses, etc., do so for the badge. Especially when it comes to vehicles that aren't performance models (e.g., Q7).

        Though Audi is far more closely associated with AWD than Lincoln is, people wanting a crossover with AWD can (and do) choose from just about every brand out there.

        Lincoln is trying to come back into respectability in the luxury field. Are they there? No. But then again, Audi's ascent into the upper tier of luxury car brands has been fairly recent, too.

        And they didn't get there by appealing to Subaru buyers. And neither will Lincoln ascend by merely targeting traditional domestic buyers.
        • 5 Years Ago
        most of your comments are pretty spot on but your argument suffers with the audi reliability quip, many (myself included) haven't had major issues and consumer reports would seem to be backing that experience up (lots more BMW products on the do not recommend side).

        also i'd recommend visiting audi's museum or website if you think they're a new luxury brand. it's not like vw invented them 10 years ago like toyota did lexus.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "The Lincoln has more power, with less weight, than the Q7 4.2L. That's a huge advantage for the MKT."

        Right, to those kind of buyers. But audi buyers typically don't purchase that way, if that was their chief concern the RS4 would never sell, the Q7 would never sell, the A8 would never sell. Where the MKT fails to trump the audi (driving involvement as pointed out by this article, interior design as championed by any auto publication) are where audi typically finds buyers. your typical audi buyer isn't looking for the quickest bang for the buck in a straight line, pretty much none of audi's lineup offers that. Which is my entire point.

        Everyone does offer awd, but as we saw in the consumer reports ratings yesterday, not everyone's as good at doing it as audi and subaru.
        It's all part of my primary point. People tend to buy audis because they like quattro, audi interiors, etc. Not because they're the fastest in a straight line, and not because they have jarringly uncohesive exteriors.

        But if you think people are cross shopping audi's and lincolns across the entire range of cars offered by both companies, that's fine. I've just not seen a lot of data to back up that kind of trend (both in reviews in terms of what cars are paired together and in terms of actual sales trends). It seems like the Q7 was tossed in because autoblog perhaps had one liying around, or Ford championed it as a good competitor for the car. Not because we typically find customers cross shopping Audi/Mercedes/BMW with Lincoln.
        Also given the seemingly unwavering increase of market share audi's been grabbing the last 24 months I'm curious where the data is to substantiate anyone, lincoln or anyone, are taking sales away from audi.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Zamafir: Lincoln provided the Q7 as the comparison vehicle of choice... they're both similarly sized vehicles. The other choice would have been the Acura MDX, but then we would be stuck with the MKT/MDX weird naming convention problem.

        If you think in terms of seven seat luxury crossovers, those are the three samples that come to mind. R-Class is the only other vehicle, but it's rear drive and even uglier and more expensive.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The Q7 and MKT are very comparable in terms of dimensions and luxury features. Though the engine comparisons may be off, a better comparison may be the Q7 TDI vs the ecoboost, in terms of driving feel.

        Though I still believe many will opt for the Q7, if not simply based on aesthetics alone.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The Lincoln has more power, with less weight, than the Q7 4.2L. That's a huge advantage for the MKT.

        While I would like to see how the MKT stacks up against the Buick Enclave (GM, can we please get a higher-performance model?!?).

        Also your comments about cross-shopping are a little silly in my opinion. If Lincoln should only be expected to get sales from, as you call them, "domestic buyers", they may as well pack it in. Lincoln has to be able to take sales away from its luxury competitors, like Lexus, and yes, Audi.

        Audi and Subaru are in totally different strata, and nearly EVERYONE offers AWD these days. Audi and Subaru are by no means unique in this regard anymore. I don't see very many people cross-shopping a $30k Tribeca with a $47k Q7.

        If Lincoln starts marketing the $44k MKT ($46k AWD, $49k EcoBoost) well, they will get some consideration from people looking at Q7s. They've priced the MKT right up against the Q7. They obviously think they'll get some cross-shoppers.
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