2010 Lincoln MKT Expert Review
Approaching the 2010 Lincoln MKT for the first time is like meeting a blind date. You've been told by friends she has a good personality, which immediately has you wondering what she looks like. From a distance you see your fears confirmed: She's a big girl with a toothy grin and a weird hump. If super models are your thing, you'll be disappointed by this three-row crossover sitting alone in the corner with a red carnation in her hair. But if you meet her with an open mind, you'll find that a good personality goes a long way.
It's our job to go on blind dates with vehicles before you do, and despite the MKT's controversial design, we're glad we sat down and got to know her. Now, if you can't get over seeing a beached whale in your driveway every morning, stop reading; no twin-turbo direct-inject V6 engine, advanced infotainment features or luxurious appointments will change your mind. We'll agree to disagree and you'll probably pass judgment on the MKT from afar, not even giving it the courtesy of a test drive before shacking up with that German model. Will you regret not getting to know the MKT like we did? Read on to find out.
Photos by John Neff / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.
The Lincoln MKT has a sister – the Ford Flex. Both models are based on Ford's D4 full-size CUV platform and built in Oakville, Ontario. In past years, that would mean the Flex and MKT were near identical twins, the Lincoln version merely a rebadged interpretation of the Ford, with a new grille and more upscale materials. The MKT, however, is more like a big sister to the Flex – still related but not its twin.
Ford calls it a "differentiated top-hat strategy." The two vehicles share the same platform, suspension, engines and other mechanicals, but everything you can see and touch without the use of a wrench is unique to both. Lincoln designers, perhaps restless after being tethered to Ford designs for so long, went a little nuts.
We count three design elements that make the MKT controversial, and we'll start with that grille. It's called a "dual wing" in Lincoln parlance and can also be seen on the MKZ, MKS and newly redesigned 2011 MKX. We're all for establishing a consistent brand identity, but someone should've had the foresight to consider what enlarging Lincoln's new corporate face by 125 percent would look like. Now we know: Not so good. It's a shame too, as the rest of the front fascia is clean – elegant even – with interesting details like the centered crease that runs forward from the base of the windshield, splits the Lincoln logo and terminates in the undercarriage. But who notices stuff like that when faced with the grille's mighty wingspan?
The other two off-putting design elements are an upward kink in the rear fender and that forward-leaning rear hatch. Whether or not you like the kink is up to you. We don't really understand its purpose, but it doesn't ruin the design. The canted hatch, however, steals valuable cargo space and headroom from third-row passengers. There's only 17.9 cubic feet of cargo space with the third row upright, though that jumps to 75.9 when it's stowed. The Flex, however, with its right angles and slab sides, is easily a more practical crossover because the MKT makes sacrifices at the altar of the aesthetic gods.
Aside from those three distracting elements, Lincoln designers did well making the MKT's outward appearance live up to its more-expensive-than-Flex price tag. Our tester's White Platinum Metallic Tri-Coat paint was as flawless as a pearl, while the lack of cladding, sparing use of chrome and simple surfaces reminded us of contemporary furniture design. The MKT would be right at home in a SoHo loft parked next to a $5,000 Italian sofa.
Once you get past the exterior (if you can), an interior awaits that's above reproach. The materials are first rate, featuring stitched leather on the padded dash, center console and doors. Real Olive Ash wood trim cuts across the middle and also tops the big multifunction steering wheel, and those Canyon-colored leather seats are supremely comfortable and supportive with 12-way adjustability for both the driver and front seat passenger, as well as being heated and cooled.
While two second-row captain's chairs are an option, we prefer the 60/40 split bench our tester was equipped with. The third row can fit two people in a pinch, but we'd rather stuff a third in the middle before banishing anyone to the back. Regardless of which seat you're assigned, Lincoln's optional Panoramic Vista Roof bathes the whole interior in soft light, which helps neutralize claustrophobia for passengers who might feel closed in by the vehicle's high beltline.
Functionally, the MKT carries forward the segment-leading infotainment systems that are now a huge selling point for Ford. This current-generation system features SYNC, SIRIUS Satellite Radio with Travel Link, a 10 GB HDD, USB and auxiliary inputs, along with Bluetooth connectivity. We're particularly impressed that most Ford and Lincoln vehicles equipped with SYNC now also handle Bluetooth audio. That means in addition to routing calls through the vehicle, a Bluetooth-compatible music player can also play tunes through the THX-certified stereo without plugging in. All is controlled using a big touchscreen with sharp graphics and an easy-to-understand interface that also doubles as a monitor for the rear view camera, which you're gonna need when backing this big girl up.
On the topic of not hitting things, the MKT can be had with two technologies that help you avoid rearranging its sheetmetal. The first is the Blind Spot Monitoring System, an admittedly ubiquitous piece of tech in large vehicles these days, but a helpful one in the MKT with its rather large blind spots. The second is Active Park Assist, another technology you can find in other high-end automobiles, but the Lincoln's system is by far the best we've used. Simply pull the MKT alongside an open parking spot on the street, hit the APA button and inch forward. When the system senses there's enough room to parallel park, put the vehicle in Reverse and let go of the steering wheel. You're on braking duty, but the system will steer and park this barge perfectly every time.
Low-speed maneuvers are one thing, but how does the MKT perform above parking lot speeds? In a word, remarkably. For one, our tester's push button starter fires up Ford's 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 producing 355 horsepower at 5,700 rpm and 350 pound-feet of torque at just 3,500 rpm. We've sampled this engine in the Ford Taurus SHO and Flex, as well as the Lincoln MKS sedan. It's a superlative mill using twin turbos and direct injection to create a power band as deep as Warren Buffet's pockets. With the EcoBoost V6, you wouldn't know the MKT with all-wheel drive weighs a smidge over 5,000 pounds because effortless power is its calling card, just like a larger V8. The upside is better fuel mileage: We experienced a range of between 19–22 mpg, which is at the hind of the EPA's 16 city/22 highway mpg estimate. The downside: no V8 vibrations or acoustics.
The MKT uses a six-speed transmission with paddle shifters to carve the EcoBoost's output into maximum thrust chunks. Shifts are smooth and transparent while dropping kids off at soccer practice and making back-and-forth trips to Home Depot, but those oddly shaped paddle are there in case manual control is required. Rare among flappy paddles, up and down shifts are activated on the same paddle, not split on either side. Pull back on either paddle for upshifts and push forward with either thumb for downshifts. It takes some getting used to, but manually controlling shifts means the engine will be at your beck and call rather than preoccupied with maximizing fuel economy.
We were all set to comment on the MKT's handling, steering and breaking in the context of a long road trip we had planned that would rack up over 800 miles, mostly on the highway. It would've been what you expect with remarks about how the MKT goes great in a straight line and soaks up expansion joints like a Tempur-Pedic mattress. All that's true, but a navigation glitch by yours truly meant the nav system plotted our route without the benefit of high- and byways. A blessing in disguise, we road tripped from Cleveland to D.C. on back roads only and had a rare chance to flog the MKT on some of Pennsylvania's windiest roads.
While using the MKT more like a Mustang than the three-row crossover it is, we isolated the one difference that makes it a better driving vehicle than competitors like the Audi Q7 above or Buick Enclave beneath: it's low. Other large CUVs have enough token ground clearance to pretend that "off road" is some place they're actually going to explore, but the MKT drops that pretense and hunkers down over its 20-inch wheels wearing P255/45VR20 all-season rubber. That lower center of gravity combined with all-wheel drive, big contact patches and enough ribbon-smooth pavement to wrap the Keystone state in a bow turned out to be a delicious recipe for surprisingly fun driving.
Fortunately, the MKT's power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering didn't spoil our fun in Pennsylvania back country. Heavy assist is present at low speeds to help turn the tiller of this 5,000+ pound CUV, but as speed climbs that buffer begins to fade and you can feel the friction between the road and tires. This feedback helps your fingers know which direction the wheels are pointed instead of just using your eyes. The four-wheel disc brakes kept up as well, though their mushy feel didn't always inspire confidence even if they did arrest motion well enough when asked.
Are we saying that the MKT is the best handling big CUV out there? No, we're saying that if you require three rows of seating and like the finer things in life, there aren't many better handling large luxury crossovers available, short of a much more expensive and narrowly focused BMW X5 M. In other words, if you want a luxury CUV that feels more like a wagon than a wannabe 'ute, get the MKT.
There's also the issue of price, and the MKT scores well here with a $49,200 base MSRP for the EcoBoost model. When equipped with comparatively powerful V8 engines, the German competition (Audi Q7, BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz GL) all start above $55,000 with less standard equipment. Our MKT EcoBoost tester came with a $4,000 Elite Package that adds navigation, a THX-certified stereo, the Panoramic Vista Roof and Blind Spot Monitoring System. The only other option we had was Active Park Assist for $595, though Adaptive Cruise Control is also available for $1,295. Even still, the MKT EcoBoost tops out fully loaded where its Germanic competition is just starting.
So our blind date with the 2010 Lincoln MKT turned into a week-long getaway where the journey was more enjoyable than the destination. It does everything well that you'd except, and proved to be extremely comfortable, luxurious and technologically advanced enough to impress the editors of Engadget. But we were most surprised with how well this lady dances, something we would never have known if we saw her sitting alone in the corner and made a B-line for the door.
Photos by John Neff / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.
For the last year and a half, Ford has repeatedly discussed EcoBoost as its high volume, mainstream technology for reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. While Ford is putting a lot of effort into developing hybrids, plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles, the high cost of those technologies will keep volumes low for the near term. Meanwhile, engine downsizing combined with turbocharging and direct fuel injection (GTDI) can cut consumption for a much lower cost. The technology arrives this summer, and while it has a green sheen to it, there's plenty of excitement for gearheads, as we've just learned.
Ford's first GTDI engine is the 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 that is set to debut in the Lincoln MKS, MKT, Ford Flex and Taurus SHO. Over the last eight months, Ford has conducted a number of background preview drives with EcoBoost equipped vehicles that we haven't been allowed to discuss. With production starting in the next few weeks, however, Ford allowed us to drive some pilot production examples of the two Lincolns powered by EcoBoost engines at its Romeo Proving Ground in Michigan. This time, we can finally tell you about it and give you a preview of the new MKT.
Photos copyright ©2009 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc
With sales of the big Navigator sinking into oblivion along with just about every other full size SUV, Lincoln is introducing the MKT as a three-row, seven-passenger alternative for those who need something a bit bigger than the MKX. The MKT shares its Volvo-derived architecture with the Ford Flex. The rectilinear super-sized Mini styling of the Flex has been replaced with a look more in keeping with the current Lincoln design language that debuted on the MKR concept before being adapted to the production MKS. It is a look that's at once distinctive and controversial – not everyone will like it, but the MKT certainly stands apart from the crowd.
For our preview drive, we had the chance to compare the EcoBoost-equipped MKT against a more SUV-minded crossover, the 4.2-liter V8-powered Audi Q7. The Audi was chosen because, like the Lincoln, it can accommodate seven occupants (five in actual comfort) with a similar footprint. When developing the MKT and MKS, Lincoln considered whether to offer a V8 engine to compete with premium competitors. However, given the expectation that fuel economy and emissions standards would get tougher, the choice was made to follow a different path.
Thus, the Blue Oval has wrought an EcoBoost V6 that produce power levels equal to or better than competing 4.2- to 4.6-liter V8 engines, but with substantially better torque. We've already described the EcoBoost technology at length so we'll just briefly recap here. Turbocharging is nothing new to Ford or other automakers. Ford first started playing with downsized turbocharged engines in the early '80s. At that time, carburetors and and later port fuel injection meant that compression ratios had to be cut in order to prevent knocking and detonation. The result was weak low end torque, followed by a sudden rush of power. These engines had reliability issues and generally weren't that pleasant to drive.
The key to these new engines is direct fuel injection. With the turbochargers now pushing nothing but compressed air into the combustion chamber, there is no longer an opportunity for pre-ignition. Directly injecting fuel into the combustion chamber actually cools the compressed intake charge allowing the compression ratio of the EcoBoost engines to be kept much higher than in the past. The result: the 3.5-liter EcoBoost hits its torque peak of 350 lb-ft at just 1,500 rpm and stays there all the way to 5,250 rpm. The power peaks at 355 hp at 5,700 rpm. By comparison, the Q7 V8 generates only 325 lb-ft and peaks at 3,500 rpm.
For our preview drive of the EcoBoost MKT, we started off with three laps of the Romeo Proving Ground's five-mile high speed oval in both vehicles. For the first lap, we ran at speeds of up to 100 mph to evaluate the power and smoothness of the engines at sustained high speeds. For the second lap, we dropped speeds down to about 40 mph and tried out light to medium throttle tip-ins to simulate what a driver might need to make a pass on a two-lane road. For the third and final lap, we set the cruise control to 70 mph and reset the mileage readout to record highway mileage at constant speed.
Anyone who's driven any of the bigger Fords and Lincolns of the past couple of years will be familiar with Ford's 6F50 six-speed automatic transaxle. This unit was co-developed with General Motors, but each company does their own control software. In Blue Oval guise, this transmission is one of the smoothest shifting units on the market. For EcoBoost applications, the gearbox has been upgraded with beefed-up gears and clutches and an optimized torque converter. The EcoBoost versions also get steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters and standard all-wheel drive.
As we soon discovered, the engine and transmission combination seems particularly well matched in these vehicles. In fact, anyone who was to climb in and drive off in a MKT without knowing what was under the hood would be hard pressed to guess that only six cylinders are doing the heavy lifting. In spite of the immense torque, the MKT just pulls away from the line smoothly and quietly. In fact, quiet is the major element of the MKT driving experience. Ford's aerodynamicists have put a lot of effort into subduing wind noise, which, combined with thicker acoustic side glass and an upgraded structure, allow the MKT to cruise in comfort at speeds well beyond 100 mph. When cruising at more modest velocities, the EcoBoost V6 is nearly silent and vibration free, only making its presence felt audibly when you stand on it. Even then, it produces a quality mechanical sound that's a satisfying addition to the driving experience.
Where the EcoBoost engine really showed its performance advantage over the Audi was when it came to throttle tip-in. The EcoBoost's fat and flat torque curve gives the Lincoln a response that is almost diesel-like, albeit without the attendant soundtrack. A light squeeze on the go pedal results in a seamless sweep of the speedometer needle clockwise around the dial, even without a kick-down of the transmission. Simply put, it's just a rush of acceleration. Regardless of whether you're going from 40 to 60 mph, from 50 to 70 mph, or 70 to 100 mph, the result is the same. Attempting the same feat in the Q7 results in a response far less impressive in its forcefulness. As good an engine as the Audi V8 is, it simply doesn't have anywhere near the low-end torque of the EcoBoost V6.
Of course, the biggest reason for going with a boosted V6 rather than a V8 is better fuel consumption. We ran a five-mile lap in each vehicle with the cruise control set at 70 mph. This is obviously far too short a test to be considered definitive, but it gives a reasonable indication of the results we can expect. Winds were blowing at speeds up to 40 mph on the day of our drive, but since we ran in both directions on the oval, its impact was minimized. The final EPA numbers for the MKT aren't ready yet, but Ford is expecting them to be at least 16 mpg city and 22 mpg on the highway. For comparison's sake, the Audi Q7 is rated by the EPA at 13/18 mpg and it registered 18.8 mpg on our short test. The same resulted in an average of 22 mpg for MKT, with a peak of 23.8 mpg on the tailwind side of the oval. That's a healthy 17% better than the V8-powered Audi, although other factors like weight, aerodynamics, mechanical drag, etc. need to be considered in this comparison.
Following our oval laps, we headed over to the hill route and durability loops for some ride and handling evaluations of the MKT and Q7. When we drove the Flex last summer, we were particularly impressed with the dynamic behavior of the big wagon. For such a large vehicle, it felt remarkably well-balanced with a great combination of spring and damping rates that kept body roll and understeer in check while still delivering a comfortable ride. For the EcoBoost MKT, the engineers have continued tweaking the formula, and when run back to back against the Q7, the difference was immediately apparent. In short, the Flex drives like a vehicle much smaller than it is, and the same is true of the MKT in spite of its luxury ambitions. You can manhandle the MKT hard into a corner, and the combination of well-tuned mechanical bits and seamless stability control intervention allow it to just track through at speeds that are surprisingly high for a CUV.
Unlike many of the other premium vehicles on the road with automatic transmissions, the MKT doesn't offer an explicit sport mode for the transmission. Sport modes typically move the shift points higher and enable downshifts under braking. Normally, moving the shifter to the manual mode enables the steering wheel paddles. However, moving the gearshift to manual (but not touching the paddles) enables a hill mode that behaves in much the same way. While the EcoBoost doesn't really need the higher revs to optimize performance thanks to its ample torque, the automatic downshifts can be handy and entertaining during more aggressive driving.
Aside from changes to the springs and dampers, the only real mechanical change to the suspension of the EcoBoost vehicles is the debut of electric power steering assist. The EPAS system will eventually be rolled out to non-EcoBoost models, as well. EPAS is notoriously hard to calibrate for good feedback, with only a few vehicles doing an excellent job, other systems border on terrible. The MKT falls somewhere in the middle. There are no on-center dead zones like we've experienced in the Acura TL and TSX, but the effort is a bit on the light side under some conditions. Overall, it is a good effort and the steering engineers will no doubt continue to tweak the calibrations.
Around the facility's durability route, there were a variety of different surfaces, many of them uneven, replicating roads that can be found out in the real world. It was here that the MKT really outshone the Q7. The big German bobbed nervously up-and-down and side-to-side over uneven pavement in a manner that would prompt most drivers to slow down significantly. The MKT, on the other hand, exhibited far superior control over both its vertical and lateral body motions. At the same time, the bumps and valleys were simply gobbled up by the suspension, keeping things serene inside the cabin.
Speaking of the cabin, we found the inside of the MKT a wonderful place to be. The dashboard and door panels are trimmed in cut-and-sew leather, and all models get the same eight-inch LCD touchscreen in the center stack – regardless of whether they are equipped with a nav system. Even without nav, you get the same basic graphical interface that we've found to be among the easiest to use of any on the market, regardless of price. The MKT seats are also outstanding, with nice, long lower cushions that provide excellent thigh support. All MKTs get a massive glass roof as standard, with a retracting panel over the front row as an option. The one place where the Lincoln loses out to its Ford-badged sibling, however, is the third row. The forward sloping rear glass and downward trending roof means the back row is a bit tighter in terms of headroom than the cubist Ford.
Once we finished with the MKT, we ran the same evaluations with the MKS four-door and found much the same results. For the sedan, Ford offered up competition in the form of the Infiniti M45X and Cadillac STS. Both of the competitors are at the end of their lifecycles, but remain competent vehicles, particularly the former. Perhaps when Lincoln gets around to longer drives of the EcoBoost MKS, they will bring out the new Mercedes E-Class instead. Regardless of the competition, the MKS revealed itself to be a surprisingly good car. That's significant, because as recently as a decade ago, the thought of a big Lincoln sedan that could run like the MKS was all but unthinkable.
Over the same hill route as the MKT, the MKS more than held its own and felt surprisingly tossable. The EcoBoost V6 proved to have plenty of grunt for pulling out of corners, and the suspension kept the car remarkably composed. Just as in the crossover, there is no adaptive damping on the Lincoln, but the system kept body motions well under control at all times. When we hit the oval with the sedans, the results also corresponded to what we experienced with the MKT.
In spite of the ten-inch longer Lincoln weighing some 300 pounds more, it felt significantly more responsive both at full and part throttle compared to the Infiniti, whose 4.5-liter V8 is rated at 325 hp and 336 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. The MKS' mileage results were also similar to its more family-minded sibling. We averaged 25.1 mpg around the loop in the Lincoln, while the M45x only achieved 21 mpg, a disadvantage of 16.4%. Again, the results of our too-brief test should be taken with several grains of salt, but they should also provide a reasonably accurate forecast at what to expect in real-world driving.
All four EcoBoost models go on sale later this summer, and we'll have more in-depth reviews when they are available. Come 2010, Ford promises that a longitudinal version of the EcoBoost V6 will find a home in the F-150 pickup (and most likely in the Mustang eventually, as well). We've already driven an early prototype F-150 with EcoBoost, and while it was far from finished, our initial impressions were positive. In fact, it bordered on "Who needs a V8?" Sometime later next year, we also expect to also see the first four-cylinder EcoBoost engines in the bay of the next-generation Focus. Although the latter application will probably be more fuel-economy minded than performance oriented, but we can hardly wait.
Photos copyright ©2009 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
New Car Test Drive
A roomy, agile, entirely unexpected crossover.
One glance at the huge, toothy shark smile on the grille of the all-new 2010 MKT tells you Lincoln wants your attention. And no wonder; this sporty, crisp-handling new crossover SUV is worth a second look. For many families these days, clunky truck-based sport utilities are being recognized for what they are: clunky trucks. By contrast, sleekly styled crossovers like the Lincoln MKT, with car-like amenities and agile, well-balanced performance, beckon to more and more buyers.
In that context, the impressive new Lincoln MKT is a star at first glance. With its distinctive, slightly hunchback lines behind the rear door, it will be instantly recognizable in the traffic flow. Powered by a 3.7-liter V6 or the stellar new 355-hp twin-turbo 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6, and enhanced with all-wheel drive, the MKT boasts the forceful performance and athleticism of all but the hottest performance sedans.
Of course, anyone can put a powerful engine in an SUV and achieve good acceleration, while guzzling too much gas. But the new EcoBoost engine achieves decent EPA City/Highway ratings of 16/22 mpg, while providing full-size, three-row seating and a full list of amenities.
Where the MKT leaves the competition behind, however, is in its over-the-road dynamics. We drove the twisting, hurtling New York State backcountry for a day, and the MKT proved itself completely at home on what would otherwise have been called sports car roads. Our EcoBoost MKT showed a minimum of body roll in curves and its shock-absorber tuning and live-wire electronic rack-and-pinion steering flawlessly communicated road-surface information. Competing full-size Cadillac Escalade, Acura's MDX and the Audi Q7, all variously competent, can't hold a candle to the agility of this three-row sports car.
But MKT buyers aren't looking for a sports car. Why is agility so important? Simple: sudden accident-avoidance maneuvers require exactly the same extreme vehicle dynamics as high-performance driving. In a crisis, family SUVs need the safety option offered by agility.
In addition to exhibiting excellent handling, the Lincoln MKT is a comfortable, lavishly appointed luxury crossover. Its interior is part living room on wheels, part wood-lined room at the club. It even features power second-row seats that leap forward at the touch of a button for easy access to the third row. The second row can be comfy twin buckets, yielding seating for a total of six, or bench seating with seating for seven. You can even choose an available second-row refrigerator to keep family beverages cool and crisp.
Finally, MKT offers the full variety of cyber-connectivity expected from Ford products. A voice-actuated Lincoln Sync communication and entertainment system can be combined with two separate seatback DVD screens. There will be no backseat fighting over what to watch. And Sirius satellite and Travel Link provide entertainment and all relevant traffic, weather and local information, including full listings regional gas stations, arranged by nearness or price per gallon.
A full inventory of airbags is standard, and the MKT received a Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Additional safety equipment includes blind-spot warning, cross-traffic and rear alert for use in parking lots, a rearview camera, gap-sensitive adaptive cruise control with collision warning and brake support and much more.
The 2010 Lincoln MKT ($44,200) comes with a 270-hp 3.7-liter V6, front-wheel drive, six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. All-wheel drive ($1,995) is optional.
Standard features include three-zone climate control, cabin-air filtration, premium leather upholstery, 12-way cooled/heated/ lumbar driver and front-passenger seat, heated second-row seats, third-row 50/50 seats, seat memory system, power tilt/telescope steering, leather steering wheel with wood accents and redundant audio and speed controls, touch-screen monitor, illuminated front visors, one-touch up/down four windows, AM/FM audio CD/DVD/MP3 with 10 speakers, Sirius satellite radio, capless fuel filler, reverse sensing system, Lincoln Sync communications and entertainment, speed-sensitive/rain-sensitive front wipers, 2-speed rear wiper, intelligent access with pushbutton start, universal garage door opener, adjustable pedals with memory, second-row sunshades, anti-theft alarm, power door locks with auto-lock, keyless entry keypad, performance-limiting programmable key, fog lamps, second- and third-row privacy glass, glass roof with power front and rear sunshade, adaptive headlamps with auto high beam, heated power mirrors with memory and driver's side auto-dimming, 19-inch painted wheels, genuine wood interior applique, rear-window defroster, courtesy lamps, LED instrumentation, message center, auto-dimming rearview, power liftgate, four 12V powerpoints, rear cargo cover and net.
MKT EcoBoost ($49,200) upgrades with a 355-hp twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter 24-valve EcoBoost V6, all-wheel drive, 20-inch polished-aluminum wheels.
Elite Package ($4,000) adds voice-activated navigation with in-dash DVD/CD/MP3 player, DVD audio and video capability; internal hard-disk drive for map; 10GB Music Jukebox storing up to 100 CDs; Sirius Travel Link and THX II 5.1 audio system; blind-spot information and cross-traffic alert; signal indicator mirrors; power panoramic vista roof.
Options include adaptive cruise control ($1,295) and collision warning with brake support; Class III trailer tow package ($595), including wiring harness, 4/7-pin connector, engine oil cooler (3.7-liter V6), tire mobility kit and trailer-sway control; dual headrest DVD system ($1,995), third-row power-fold seat ($595), second-row heated and cooled power fold-and-tumble bucket seats ($995), second-row refrigerator ($895), active park assist ($595); 20-inch polished-aluminum wheels for 3.7-liter V6 ($1,350).
Safety equipment includes front and side airbags, three-row side-curtain airbags with rollover sensor, safety-belt pretensioners, safety-belt energy management retractors, safety-belt usage sensors, driver-seat position sensor, crash severity sensor, front-passenger sensing system, rearview camera, post-crash alert system, child-safety rear door locks, child-safety seat anchors, electronic stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes, tire-pressure monitor. All-wheel drive is available, which enhances traction and stability in adverse conditions.
The Lincoln MKT is a prime example of the design phenomenon that smoothly rounded styling often makes a vehicle look smaller than it is. With the debatable exception of the MKT grille, the vehicle has a graceful, attractive, and declaratively chrome-y American presence. Its toothy grille seems a bit overbearing, purportedly a latter-day restatement of the timelessly elegant 1939 Lincoln Continental prow.
In profile, the MKT's hunchback character line at the aft side windows adds interest, though the dramatic narrowing of these third windows is fair warning that third-row headroom and space is limited.
The distinctive, somewhat bluff styling of the rear end and power hatch resembles the tail of a Chrysler PT Cruiser on growth hormones. Handsome 19- or 20-inch sport wheels and wide tires give the MKT a sportingly dynamic tone.
But make no mistake, this full-size crossover is figuratively and literally a whale of a vehicle. Bumper to bumper, it is longer than two of its primary full-size rivals, Acura MDX and Audi Q7. It also has a considerably longer wheelbase than either of these offshore entries. The MDX roofline is lower than either the Acura or the Audi, lending it a handsomely modeled and noticeably sleeker stance than its competitors. At 4925 pounds in EcoBoost all-wheel-drive form, it is slightly heavier than the MDX but a massive 500 pounds lighter than the heavy Audi Q7.
The prospect of parallel parking all this bulk in a normal parking space might seem an intimidating chore. For those who need help, and we all do, Lincoln offers an active park-assist option, which will handle all the backing and turning automatically, only asking the driver to operate the brakes. We've tried it and it works well.
From the moment you climb into the Lincoln MKT, you are struck by the bright, up atmosphere of its interior. Light colors, leather and bright blonde wood surround you, and the wood is real.
The steering wheel is trimmed with wood and contains all the expected buttons for cruise control and audio adjustment. The audio is powerful, excellent and easy to use. And what is this! The audio system is tuned with genuine, old-fashioned, functional radial knobs. Brilliant! The substantial chrome-and-leather shifter fills your palm, but for those who want to control their six-speed transmission more actively, paddle shifters behind the steering wheel offer gearshift-by-gearshift driving.
To the driver's right in the center stack of the console is a touch-screen monitor, delivering all the countless cyber-communication virtues of navigation, weather information and so on included in Lincoln Sync. With available voice-activation, you can select whatever function you need without removing your hands from the wheel.
The leather-upholstered driver and passenger seats are extremely comfortable, and both feature 12-way adjustment and lumbar support. Your passenger has no grounds for complaining of second-class service. Both heating and cooling are available, and the front seating is an excellent blend of alert lateral support and well-tailored comfort.
Hand-stitched leather covers all the surfaces not already covered in blonde wood. Deluxe. Two indispensable cupholders are provided for each of the MKT's three rows, and the second row seats are provided with a separate climate-control system.
An available power folding mechanism for the second row seats flops them forward at the touch of a button to allow third-row riders easy access, though as mentioned, the dimensions of the third-row compartment are tight and best suited to mid-sized or smaller children. Yet even with all three rows full, there is still a small but serviceable stowage space aft of the third seat.
Generous interior courtesy lighting is provided, welcoming all passengers. The very roomy second row features available massive twin bucket seats, with adjustable lumbar support. Power takeoffs are distributed throughout the interior for operating personal electronics.
The MKT offers many pleasant surprises, but none can match its driving experience. First of all, consider the top-of-the-line EcoBoost model's 355 horsepower and 350 foot-pounds of engine torque. The MKT is a family SUV, but power figures like that sound like they belong in a sports car!
Given the burden of the MKT's nearly 5000-pound weight, however, these power figures are well suited to delivering a full-size luxury SUV that has enough performance to match the luxury sedans around it. The MKT may not be a muscle car, but it's no truck, either.
In fact, driven vigorously, it blends smoothly with other competent luxury vehicles, and does so in the most surprising of ways. The MKT design staff is outright boastful about the handling of the MKT, and just for once, we buy every word of it. On back roads, this crossover exhibits extremely accomplished cornering and over-the-road controllability. Its excellent wheel control means the wheels follow the terrain of the road surface with a minimum of bounce, maintaining smooth, constant contact. Its steering is remarkably alive, feeding to the driver constant information about the road being traversed and how much traction is available. And entering a corner, the MKT has almost no roll or lean as it turns in. This encourages an undisturbed, calmly analytic state of mind in the driver.
Pushed harder through a corner, the MKT's front wheels grip tenaciously, closely following the steering wheel's turn commands, a characteristic lacking in most big SUVs. The value of this heightened cornering ability is, if you have to swerve out of someone's way very suddenly in an emergency, the MKT will do a better job of following your commands than some of its most prestigious competitors, including Acura and Audi. This crossover SUV's agility and predictability make driving it both very safe and honestly exhilarating. In fact, against all expectation, we found this Lincoln to be the best-handling large SUV we've driven. Period.
The 2010 MKT is a lavishly equipped full-size luxury crossover of the first order. It offers enormous interior capacity and comfort and a long list of deluxe standard and optional equipment. Driven in real-world conditions, this Lincoln is exceptional, a powerful, poised sports car of an SUV with agility and poise unmatched in its class.
Ted West filed this NewCarTestDrive.com report after his test drive of the MKT.
Lincoln MKT ($44,200); MKT AWD ($46,195); MKT EcoBoost ($49,200).
Oakville, Ontario, Canada.
Options As Tested
Elite Package ($4,000) includes voice-activated navigation with in-dash DVD/CD/MP3 player, DVD audio and video capability, internal hard disk drive for map, 10GB Music Jukebox storing up to 100 CDs, Sirius Travel Link and THX II 5.1 audio system, blind-spot information and cross-traffic alert, signal indicator mirrors, power panoramic vista roof; adaptive cruise control and collision warning with brake support ($1,295); Class III trailer tow package, wiring harness, 4/7-pin connector, engine oil cooler, tire mobility kit and trailer-sway control ($595); third-row power-fold seat ($595); second-row heated and cooled power fold-and-tumble bucket seats ($995); active parking assist ($595).
Lincoln MKT EcoBoost ($49,200).
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