2016 Lincoln MKX First Drive [w/video]
A Quietly Powerful Statement
EngineTwin-Turbo 2.7L V6
Power335 HP / 380 LB-FT
Curb Weight4,447 LBS
MPG17 City / 24 HWY
As Tested Price$60,105
Enter the 2016 Lincoln MKX. Flagships like the Continental are great, but Americans buy way more crossovers, and Lincoln's redesign of the MKX focuses on the needs of modern luxury customers. That means more and better safety features, a quiet interior with attractive materials, and classy exterior design.
There's also a new engine – Ford's potent 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6 pushing out 335 horsepower – that outguns V6 offerings from Lexus and Acura. All told, it's a tasteful redesign with some spotlight features that might turn a few more customers Lincoln's way. The updates are intriguing, yet many of them (aside from the V6's 380 pound-feet of torque) are rather subtle. So we grab the key fob to an attractive all-wheel-drive model decked out with the Reserve package and set out for a long weekend to absorb the new MKX.
The potent 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6 pushes out 335 horsepower, outperforming V6 offerings from Lexus and Acura.
Several days of running errands around town, commuting, and a three-and-half-hour drive from metro Detroit to the northern tip of Michigan lay ahead of us. We're going to be spending a lot of time in the MKX, so naturally, we take stock of the interior. Our tester (we photographed a different one) is done up in a cappuccino leather theme, which means brown leather for the steering wheel, armrests, and the tops of the door panels. Another chocolately strip bisects the dashboard. The rest of the cabin – the headliner, the seats, the sides of the doors, etc. – is a creamy white. We sink into the seats, which are cushy yet supportive. The headrest is like a pillow, and the plush floormats feel made for bare feet.
The MKX is generally user friendly. The touchscreen works well, with little poking or jabbing. It's complemented by redundant buttons and switches, which we like. The steering wheel controls enable scrolling through driving modes, safety features, and the interior's appearance configurations. It's logical, but there are a lot of layers to it, and we ran over an already-dead skunk while trying to toggle through to sport mode. That smells of over-complication.
The touchscreen works well, and it's complemented by redundant buttons and switches, which we like.
The center console cover also was a bit awkward to use initially, and Managing Editor Steven Ewing almost snapped it off during a drive to lunch. Those are minor warts on an otherwise elegant interior. The pushbutton transmission is classy, and it's one old-school feature that's easier to use than modern systems (sort of the opposite of a safety razor). The panoramic vista roof lets in a lot of sunlight. Crack it open and it's the closest thing to a convertible you can get in an SUV, short of buying a used Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet.
Unlike that homely Frankenstein of a Nissan, the MKX has a tailored, handsome exterior appearance. The split-wing grille is punched up with chrome and a satin inlay. It's flanked by adaptive wraparound LED headlamps that use a blade-like layout that cuts up the side of the module. Pun intended, it looks sharp. Lincoln product development director Scott Tobin says it results in "the finest execution" of the grille to date, and we're inclined to agree.
Lincoln says this is "the finest execution" of the split-wing grille to date, and we're inclined to agree.
The back is more demonstrative, with LEDs running the length of the tailgate into the rear fenders. Lincoln is spelled across the back in an elegant font. The sides have more subtle styling, with chiseled marks launching from the front fenders before disappearing into the rear door panels. There's plastic cladding that runs along the bottom of the body and looks vaguely Subaru-esque. The low-key looks are broken up by 20-inch painted wheels and chrome accents that outline the greenhouse and body-colored door handles. It's an attractive design with a properly executed amount of flair that's distinctive to the brand. Anyone who knocks the style is unjustly ragging on Lincoln. The MKX has a similar silhouette to Audi and Porsche crossovers, and the enthusiast press drools over them.
To get a feel for all of this in motion, we head north for a canoeing weekend in the beautiful Huron National Forest. The MKX is more than three inches longer than its predecessor, and it provides about five more cubic feet of cargo space. The crossover swallows all of the gear for our summer adventure, and we set out under sunny skies for some quality time with a few bros. The twin-turbo V6 is the runway star of the MKX's mechanical makeup. It's strong yet smooth, sort of the way the great Lincolns of yesteryear were powerful without being uncouth. There's plenty of torque served up low in the band (it maxes out at 3,000 rpm), which makes for easy passing. We notice a slight growl, but even under heavy load the engine is quiet. But take note: to get the full output, you'll need to put premium in this thing, though it will drink 87 octane.
The twin-turbo V6 is the runway star of the MKX's mechanical makeup.
We observed 22.3 miles per gallon during our freeway-dominated trip, which is right in line with the EPA ratings of 17 mpg in the city and 24 on the highway for the AWD model. That's actually one mpg better in city and highway driving than the carryover, naturally aspirated V6 achieves (though their 19-mpg combined ratings are the same). It's a similar story for the front-wheel drive versions. Since there's no real fuel-economy benefit to taking the 303-hp V6, you basically have to pay $2,000 to upgrade to the turbo V6, which is clearly the superior unit.
After exercising the engine, we settle into a cruising state along Interstate 75 and soak in the rest of the MKX's drive characteristics. The six-speed automatic transmission shifts appropriately. It works well with the engine to create a silky driving experience. We hardly notice the gearbox unless we're actively thinking about it. The chassis is tuned for comfort. The only quibble: the brakes are a bit grabby for our taste. Dialing up sport mode tightens the suspension and steering, though it's hardly detectable. It wouldn't make sense to give the MKX a demonic sport mode. It's a quiet cabin, and conversation is easy. We tried the safety systems, and the adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, and blind-spot features worked together to make highway driving almost mindless.
The MKX has a lot of cool gadgets. Our tester comes in at $60,105, so it's loaded with most of them. Base pricing slots in between two of the segment heavyweights. The base MKX begins at $39,025, which is less than the 2015 Lexus RX ($42,850), but above the 2016 Acura RDX ($36,910). Many of the Lincoln's options are worth the extra cost. The 360-degree camera is useful for maneuvering in tight parking garages. We also enjoyed the Harman Revel audio system, which Lincoln is launching on the MKX. Lincoln wants you to buy its cars because of the audio system, and this one does indeed sound good. We'll admit, we were skeptical at first. The three main settings: stereo, audience, and on stage, seemed too subtle during our initial experience. Our view changed late one night when we found an old Springsteen concert on satellite radio. Toggling between audience and on stage, it did feel like we at the show. Our advice: if you take this feature, put up the windows, let all of the Lincoln insulation do its job, and turn up your favorite band. Then you'll see the difference.
The MKX is more luxurious, more powerful, and more compelling than before.
That's a metaphor for the 2016 MKX. Lincoln, and this crossover especially, often fly under the radar. But if you actually check out the MKX, you'll notice it's more luxurious, more powerful, and more compelling than before. Lincoln has a ways to go before its vehicles are again seen as trophy purchases. Perhaps the Continental will help with that when it returns next year. But today Lincoln needs to sell vehicles, and the MKX is a good one. For now, that's enough.
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