• Dec 21, 2010
Competing Against Edge More Than Other Luxury CUVs

2011 Lincoln MKX - Click above for high-res image gallery

With Mercury dead, hundreds of former Lincoln-Mercury dealerships will be forced to rely on Ford's 93-year-old luxury brand to bring home the bacon alone. These dealers are nervous about their future, and rightfully so.

Every Lincoln on sale today is a gussied up version of a Ford. True, most mainstream automakers with luxury divisions, like Toyota/Lexus, Honda/Acura and Volkswagen/Audi, use a similar strategy of platform and technology sharing to save costs, but U.S. domestic automakers have never been particularly good at it. A Volkswagen is usually praised for being Audi-like, but a Lincoln is usually decried for being too similar to a Ford. Sharing can so easily become rebadging, and Lincoln dealers are wondering how they'll live off a lineup of simply "more expensive" Fords.

The answer may lie in the 2011 Lincoln MKX, which is the lux version of the Ford Edge. Since the latter received a significant mid-cycle freshening for the 2011 model year, so has the former. With their first significant update since 2006, the duo is poised to upset the status quo in the premium mid-size CUV segment. We've already told you how impressed we are with the 2011 Edge, so you won't be surprised to learn we feel much the same about the new MKX. The difference is that the Lincoln has a lot further to go to be competitive within the luxury CUV set. Does it succeed? Will we now praise the Edge for being Lincoln-like?

Continue reading...

Photos copyright ©2010 John Neff / AOL

The first-generation Ford Edge was a handsome CUV, and the 2011 model merely modernized the original's lines. The original MKX, however, was something of a design orphan. It's front end was inspired by concepts like the 2003 Navicross and 2004 Mark X. But that influence was short-lived, and the MKX quickly wound up as the odd man out in Lincoln's lineup.

Today's Lincoln fleet is much more cohesive, with every 2011 model tracing its design lineage back to the 2007 MKR concept and its dual-winged grille. While controversially proportioned on some models (*cough* MKT *cough*), Lincoln's new corporate face looks right at home on the MKX. In fact, we dare say that those dual wings have never looked more comfortable than on the upper lip of this crossover's face – at least in modern times.

2011 Lincoln MKX side view2011 Lincoln MKX front view2011 Lincoln MKX rear view

In addition to extensive rhinoplasty, the MKX has also received a new rear end with a pair of distinct taillights replacing the full-width strip of lamps on the old model. The new design's only deficiencies are found between the wheels – that particular swath has been left untouched, highlighting the fact this is a refresh rather than a redesign. Newcomers, however, will just see a smartly shaped and nicely detailed CUV.

But some demerits are clearly visible when viewing the MKX in profile. Like the new Edge, it needs an industrial-sized orthodontic retainer to correct its front overhang, which is exacerbated by what's visible of the drooping baleen grille. Even at rest, the MKX looks like it's tipping forward from all the visual weight over its front axle. The standard 18-inch wheels, polished aluminum on our front-wheel-drive tester with the $2,500 Premium Package, don't do anything to help, looking overwhelmed by all that visual bulk in those extra large openings. If you've got the scratch, we suggest opting for the $7,500 Elite Package and you'll get much more fitting 20-inch wheels in your choice of chrome or polished aluminum. Go with the polished aluminum, as one more piece of shiny trim on the MKX would be one too many, and a set of four would be way, way overboard.

2011 Lincoln MKX headlight2011 Lincoln MKX grille2011 Lincoln MKX wheel detail2011 Lincoln MKX taillight

Fortunately, chrome trim has been used sparingly inside the MKX where the entire interior has been redesigned. You'll find some reflective trim pieces around the starter button and air vents, but the dominant material here is leather, and lots of it. In addition to the heated and cooled front seats, the steering wheel (also heated), shift knob and entire dashboard are dressed from head to toe in animal hide. There's just no mistaking the new MKX for anything but a luxury vehicle when you're sitting inside one.

There's also no doubt that the MKX is a member of the Ford family when you behold its new MyLincoln Touch system. Like the Edge with its MyFord Touch system, the MKX is the first Lincoln to host this infotainment and navigation system that, if you haven't heard, is easily the most advanced of its kind in any vehicle at any price. Building on the already popular and easy-to-use functions of SYNC, MyLincoln Touch ups the ante on competitors by improving the infotainment experience with more screens, better graphics and a completely reworked user interface.

It all starts with those LCD screens. In addition to the giant eight-inch display in the center stack, there are two 4.2-inch screens that sit on either side of the analog speedometer. Think of the left screen as a MENSA-certified trip computer. It can display all manner of vehicle information including mileage, fuel efficiency, vehicle settings and diagnostics, but at the same time also displays those analog gauges that you're missing, namely the tachometer, fuel gauge and oil temperature.

2011 Lincoln MKX interior2011 Lincoln MKX front seats2011 Lincoln MKX gauges2011 Lincoln MKX shifter

The right screen, then, is like Robin to the main screen's Batman. This little sidekick screen lets you control the four main functions of the main screen – Entertainment, Phone, Navigation and Climate – through the steering wheel and see what's happening without taking your eyes too far off the road. Both of these digital windows in the gauge pod are controlled by a pair of four-way directional pads with a central 'OK' button on either side of the steering wheel; the left one controls the left screen and likewise for the right side. They're remarkably easy to use, though the menu systems are very deep, so spend some time getting to know them in the driveway rather than on the road.

Ford's major advancement, however, is in the main LCD screen where it has redefined the user interface of infotainment screens. Gone are big, square buttons that lead you to screens with more big buttons. In their place Ford has colored-coded each of the screen's four corners where the system's aforementioned main functions are housed: Entertainment is the lower left red corner, Phone is the upper left orange corner, Navigation is the upper right green corner and Climate is the lower right blue corner. Each corner is always visible and displays a few lines of information about its current functionality, and no matter what you're looking at on the screen, navigating to one of these four main functions is as simple as touching the corresponding corner. It's ingenious, easy-to-use without cracking the owner's manual and shows that parent company Ford is the leading automaker in really thinking about how we use these systems when we drive.

2011 Lincoln MKX touch screen2011 Lincoln MKX touch screen2011 Lincoln MKX touch screen2011 Lincoln MKX touch screen

Aside from the snazzy graphics and a new UI, MyLincoln Touch also sports some heavy hitting hardware like two USB ports, an SD card slot and RCA video input jacks. The SD card slot can accept an SD card from your digital camera and display images on the main screen, but if you opt for the premium map-based navigation, that slot will be taken up by an SD card that contains all of the Telenav map data. The USB ports, meanwhile, enable an industry first by giving you two ways to turn your car into a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot. The first is by plugging in a compatible smart phone that allows for tethering of its cellular broadband data, and the second is by plugging in a compatible USB 3G data card. Both are a neat trick that would be most appreciated by passengers on long road trips, though the list of compatible phones and data cards is limited at kick off. Our data card from Sprint, for instance, wouldn't work.

Still, we'd classify everything about MyLincoln Touch as a useful improvement over the old way of doing things. There's one thing about the MKX's new interior, however, that doesn't fall into that category. Despite the fact that you can fully control both the stereo and climate controls exclusively through the main screen, Lincoln has kept a set of redundant physical controls for each on the center stack. Rather than use conventional buttons and knobs, however, these controls are all touch-sensitive. Requiring a simple tap or slide of the finger to use, they're a novelty at first, but that wears off quickly as you realize that an accidental graze of the hand when reaching for the main screen can activate them. The button to activate the vehicle's hazard lights is particularly ill-placed directly under the main screen, which had us accidentally flashing our warning lights at least once a day.

2011 Lincoln MKX multimedia inputs2011 Lincoln MKX stereo and climate controls

For 2011 the MKX has been upgraded with Ford's 3.7-liter V6, replacing the old model's less powerful 3.5-liter V6. Horsepower is up from 265 to 305 at 6,500 rpm and torque increases 33 pound-feet to 280 at 4,000 rpm. Despite the extra grunt, the 2011 MKX also manages to increase fuel economy by two miles per gallon to 19 mpg city and 26 mpg highway. The 3.7-liter is a fine engine with plenty of power, but not remarkable in any way, and coupled with a slick six-speed automatic, performs its function without drawing attention – good or bad – to itself. It's the only engine available for the MKX at the moment, though may be joined by Ford's 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder after it launches in the Edge.

Dynamically, the 2011 MKX follows the same course set by its engine. It goes about the business of turning and stopping without much fanfare, probably because prospective owners aren't looking for a performance vehicle. That said, the MKX does exhibit a firmer ride than the average luxury CUV. While far from sporty, the suspension won't hide every surface detail of the road from you. The same cannot be said of the steering, which is yet another application of Ford's electric power assist steering system. Good for some extra fuel efficiency over a hydraulic-only system, EPAS still requires another generation or two of tinkering to perfectly replicate that feeling of being connected to the road, though the MKX features one of Ford's best efforts yet.

2011 Lincoln MKX engine

The MKX could be described as one of Lincoln's best efforts if it weren't for the Edge offering many of the same features for a smaller sticker price. Despite this latest freshening, it's still easy to spot that these two CUVs are related just by looking at them. And while other luxury CUVs like the Lexus RX350, Acura MDX and Cadillac SRX should be nervous about how good the MKX has gotten, Lincoln dealers should be equally nervous that customers don't recognize the Edge has improved just as much.

But as always, in the end it comes down to money. The MKX we tested was a front-wheel-drive model with a base price of $39,145 that ended the day at $46,075 thanks to a $2,500 Premium Package, $495 Wood Package, adaptive cruise control and collision warning for $1,295 and the premium navigation system for $1,790. A similarly equipped 2011 Ford Edge Sport, which is the only model of Edge that comes with the same 3.7-liter V6, comes in at $42,670. If you don't mind taking a slightly less powerful 3.5-liter engine, the difference could be even larger. In fact, the Edge starts at just $27,220, nearly $12,000 less than the MKX.

2011 Lincoln MKX rear 3/4 view

What that $3,405 difference between our MKX tester and a similarly equipped Edge gets you is Lincoln styling and luxury. If you're willing to pay more for the association of driving a luxury brand rather than the more blue-collar Blue Oval, the MKX is a great choice for your CUV dollar. In fact, we'll go so far as to say its 2011 refresh, particularly the addition of MyLincoln Touch, takes the MKX from the bottom rung to right near the top of the luxury CUV segment. In the end, Ford's mistake was making its own version of this CUV a little too good, because the 2011 Lincoln MKX still feels like the best Edge money can buy.

Photos copyright ©2010 John Neff / AOL

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      I owned 3 Lincoln LS"s over a period of 10 years, but after I purchased my last one in 2006, they changed the body styles. This year after having my 2006 Lincoln LS for 4 years, I considered it time for me to change my car, before the trade-in prices dropped any more. Unfortunately, I ABSOLUTELY HATE the looks of the Latest Lincolns, with, what I consider, a very femine looking grill at the front, and they now Physically look a lot smaller car to me. I am a BIG car man, and eventually settled on the 2011 Camero SS.
      SORRY but I never even considered the Lincolns, and will NOY again until the body style changes again to my liking. I have no doubt the Lincolns ane technically as good as ever, BUT first impressions to me, I.E. Looks, are what initially get me interested, SOOR Lincolns, NO MORE FOR ME. Terry R
      • 3 Years Ago
      I am not sure why Lincoln stylists insist on continuing with the ugliest design anyone can come up with for the FRONT of the Lincoln vehicles.

      I have abandoned Lincoln since this HUGE mouth came out, a few years back.

      Bring back a front like that of the LS, and I will be back in a new Lincoln.
      The LS was a very good car, handling-wise, with a great looking front face.
      The only bad thing about the styling of the LS was its rear end. It was ugly.

      Lincoln stylists never listen to their customers. They come up with designs THEY like, regardless of what customers think.
      • 4 Years Ago
      The previous gen MKX was so handsome. It's a shame what they did to it.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Funny I think Lincoln is becoming the new Buick....
      • 3 Years Ago
      About the only people I would see buying and driving a MKX would be female real estate agents who deal in $500K + residential homes. I think I'd rather drop $42k on a 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit. It's better looking even with more bling than the typical Jeep.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Sorry Ford... this is like a evil playback of GM's Aztec designing disaster. Great gadgets, great interior... really bad front end design... ugly as sin...
      • 4 Years Ago
      I wish Ford would hire some new stylists. One buys a Lincoln to be seen. The new Lincolns may drive just fine, but they all look like soccer mom minivans. Yawn. Remember the timeless styling of the 1961-67 Continentals? The road-race Lincolns of the early to mid 1950s? Now they were classy. The current crop of Lincolns may be tech masterpieces, but they certainly don't make the heart beat any faster. Current offerings are just so vanilla and dull looking. The attempt to copy the grillwork from the 1941 Continental simply didn't work at all. Ugly! The alphabet model naming is confusing too. The new Lincolns have no pizzaz.
      • 4 Years Ago
      They need to give it a proper name.
      • 4 Years Ago
      i may be 59 and lincoln is no longer interested in my business but i was a lincoln customer and to me the initials drive me nuts. bring back names i can remember even if they are new names what is with the initial craze. mmr mmx mmz mma etc etc why not easy to remember names??
        James Hussher
        • 3 Years Ago
        Still the same old sad sack two-faced hypocrite. Smoking crack all night with male hustlers and then coming on the web and fondly reminiscing about the good old days when Mommy was alive. You hate the world, hate progress, actually you just hate yourself.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Quick.Take it to the dentist.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Humor fail.


        And you meant to say orthodontist, but that still wouldn't have been funny.
      • 1 Year Ago
      First of all, I have a 2011 MKX. I have had nothing but problems with the MY TOUCH Software. This has been ongoing since I purchased the car in 2011. Updates were no good. Still problems, such as the backup camera comes on while driving. Does an update and the screen goes black. Switches from USB to Radio, all by itself. Now, the latest is my battery went dead. I went out to the garage and tried to start the car, to no avail. I have approx. 14,000 miles on it, and already the battery is shot. This is the second MKX, and it will probably be my last. I'm going to be looking at a Lexus...
      • 4 Years Ago
      While it's a little weird and disingenuous to see Roger Sterling selling your cars, I like where Lincoln is going. I'm in law school right now and will probably be buying my first new car around 2013 (2014 model year). Im interested to see how their c-concept or whatever it's called turns out.
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