Live from Dearborn: Driving the Lincoln MKR Concept

Click on the MKR for a high-res gallery of the concept drive

Ford took the wraps off of a trio of concept vehicles at this years Detroit Auto Show that went with the themes American Journey, American Muscle, American Beauty. The first two were represented by the Ford Airstream and Interceptor concepts while beauty took the form of the Lincoln MKR. Ford recently invited a group of journalists out to its Dearborn Development Center to sample the concepts and get a preview of some other technologies they are working on.

In general concept cars are usually far from complete vehicles, generally being built to show off design ideas rather than performance prowess. The MKR is no exception with Ford limiting our speeds on the ride loop to a mere 10-15 mph. The MKR, like the Interceptor, is built from a stretched S197 Mustang platform, in this case with an extra six inches between the wheels. The point of the MKR was to define a new coherent design language for Lincoln. Since the 1980s, Lincoln has been all over the place with no coherent image or direction. That is all about to change.

Continue reading about the new look of Lincoln after the jump, including a discussion with design lead Xitij Mistry.

[Source: Ford]

click any image to enlarge

In the late '90s, the designers at Cadillac defined a new look that they dubbed Art and Science, which has since spread to all of Cadillac's production models. Whether you like the look or not, at least when you see a modern Cadillac you know what it is. Lincoln is late to the party, but at least they are now going to try. The design team at Lincoln led by chief designer Gordon Platto and exterior designer Xitij Mistry took a look back at all the classic Lincolns and what made them special, and then created a modern look and style that still invokes hints of the brand's storied heritage.

The MKR has a number of features that will be showing up on upcoming production Lincolns, starting with the 2009 Lincoln MKS. The split "bow wave" grille of the MKR invokes the look of the 1936 Lincoln Zephyr and, combined with the narrow horizontal headlights, will become the face of Lincoln much like the vertically stacked lights and the trapezoidal grille have become the face of Cadillac. The biggest change to the production MKS from the 2006 concept will be this new face. Since the MKS project was started before the MKR, a lot of things were already finalized so the MKR elements stop at the face.

The chamfer visible on the front fender and flowing back along the body

Another prominent feature of the MKR that will adorn future production models is the shoulder chamfer. The concept features a curving character line that stretches from the outer edges of the headlights back to the taillights. Rather than a single sharp edge the corner has been shaved off providing two parallel lines sandwiching an angled surface. The roof line will also be reflected on the street with it's thick, forward leaning cantilever C-Pillar.

On the inside the elevated floating console provides a good armrest location and a cockpit feel without the feeling of sitting in a bathtub. This is another feature that may turn up in future Lincolns. As a concept most of the interior including the instrument cluster was non-functional. Even the driver door latch wasn't working so the door could swing open at any moment which thanks to the low speeds was not really a problem.

The day Ford invited us out to the track to sample the concepts turned out to be exceptionally steamy with temperatures in the low 90s and humidity to match. Since concepts generally don't have their cooling airflow worked our or in many cases implemented at all, this meant that the cars typically had to sit for several minutes between short bursts of activity to allow them to cool. Although the MKR was advertised as having a twin-turbo direct injection V6, it actually runs with a standard Mustang 4.0L V-6. The two highly visible turbos are strictly for show on this particular car. Because of the heat, Ford removed all the cladding that hides the engine on the show stand.

One of the prominent design features of the MKR is the full glass roof stretching from the firewall to the trunk lid with a Lincoln logo on the underside of the glass. While this looks fantastic on the show stand, on this hot day in a car with windows that don't retract and no air conditioning the short drives were definitely a blessing. The MKR literally was a greenhouse and if anything like this roof is ever built it will need some kind of filtering to minimize the heating effect. You can't really evaluate anything about the way the car drives trolling around at 10-15 mph, but under the bright sunshine this machine sure is gorgeous. If Ford makes good on its promise to incorporate these design elements into future Lincolns, the brand might have a future after all.

Click on the link to hear designers Gordon Platto and Xitij Mistry talk about the MKR in their own words. Sorry about the wind noise in a couple of spots.

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