For more years than we care to remember, Lincoln has soldiered on without a competitive large car. Ford's luxury marque finally gave its high-end roster some love for the 2009 model year with the large-and-in-charge MKS. At 204 inches long, the MKS is a Reese's Cup shy of a Navigator, and at 4,305 pounds, our all-wheel drive tester is only 166-pounds lighter than the super-sized Ford Flex.
When we tested the MKS last year, the relatively modest 3.7-liter V6 left us eagerly anticipating the long-promised twin-turbo EcoBoost variant. The first press samples of the MKS EcoBoost came in the spring, and our brief time with the 355 horsepower sedan at Milan Raceway gave us a newfound appreciation for the big Lincoln. But only a few hours behind the wheel wasn't nearly enough time to fully take in the EcoBoost experience, so we spent a week with Lincoln's Big Easy to see if 355 force-fed ponies catapults the MKS into the realm of the luxury elite. Hit the jump to find out how this latter-day Hot Rod Lincoln fared.
Our Red Candy Metallic MKS EcoBoost tester was completely loaded, bumping its price tag to a not-insubstantial $54,910. When stepping up to the MKS EcoBoost, the base MSRP jumps by exactly $5,000 compared to the standard AWD MKS, and nearly $7,000 more than the entry-level front-wheel drive model. Our tester included the up-level Rapid Spec 201A, which for $3,500, includes a massive navigation/infotainment system and an expansive dual panel moonroof. Also added to our tester were park assist and adaptive cruise control, adding another $650 and $1,310, respectively.
For perspective, the MKS EcoBoost's downmarket sibling, the Taurus SHO starts at $37,170. Optioned out similarly to the MKS, the SHO tips the financial scales at $45,470. That's a lot of money for a Ford-badged sedan, albeit one loaded with AWD, 365 horsepower, and every option known to man. But it's still $10,000 less than the very similar MKS, and some would argue the Taurus looks better, too.
At least in terms of raw statistics, another vehicle worth mentioning is, surprisingly, the Audi A8. Both vehicles have AWD systems and the long-wheelbase A8 is within an inch of the MKS in length, while the Lincoln is an inch wider and five inches taller, has four more cubic feet of trunk space, 25 more lb-ft of torque and five additional horsepower, all with a price tag that undercuts the Audi by $30,000. The MKS is even lighter by 100 pounds.
Granted, the Audi carries more prestige and we'd argue that it's more refined inside and out, but the fact that the two vehicles are so similar in dimension and performance shows Ford studied the best large luxury vehicles on the market when planning the MKS.
When looking at the MKS from a distance of about 100 feet, the sedan's well-proportioned sheet metal gives the illusion that it's only slightly larger than the typical mid-size sedan. Get closer, though, and you realize the roofline is over five feet off the ground, those moderately sized chrome wheels are actually 20-inchers, and Lincoln's luxury barge barely fits within the confines of a standard Stateside parking space.
Once inside, it feels even bigger from the driver's seat. Massive, comfortable brown leather seats capable of heating or cooling your posterior feel ready for sale at the local Lazy Boy outlet. The dash, adorned with plush, soft-touch materials has an 8.5-inch LCD navigation system at its center, and a thick, metal-effect design garnish that stretches from the passenger door all the way to the steering wheel. A long, elegant center stack separates the driver cockpit from the front passenger compartment, and a well-padded center armrest is dual adjustable, giving both front seat occupants the ability to set up their seating area to their own individual tastes.
We already knew the MKS had an inviting interior, so we were far more interested in the performance of the highly touted EcoBoost V6 powerplant. At 355 hp and 350 lb-ft, the twin-turbo'd MKS finally has the power to match up with the competition's V8 offerings. And while those power numbers look run-of-the-mill for the large luxury market, they're a bit deceiving. Thanks to its duo of turbochargers, the MKS has one of the healthiest, flattest torque curves in the segment. Those 350 lb-ft are at your beck and call all the way from 1,500 to 5,250 rpm, providing instant twist in almost any driving situation.
Unlike the Taurus SHO, which masquerades in vein as the second coming of Ford's original sleeper sports sedan, the MKS doesn't try to be something it's not. Looking at the MKS, the only pretensions of sportiness are a miniscule decklid spoiler out back and an EcoBoost badge the size of a Band-Aid. And with a green leaf growing from said emblem, we don't get the impression that the top-level MKS is a pavement punisher.
In reality, the MKS is anything but dangerous to our nation's roads. Sure, the 4,305-pound MKS is almost large enough to qualify for weigh station status, but its plush, compliant ride ensures that neither pavement nor driver is negatively impacted by its girth. The weight and plushness of the MKS gives the impression that the Lincoln sedan isn't going to tackle challenging chicanes on the world's best race tracks, and our experiences around town support the theory. While the MKS holds its own when cornering hard, thanks in large measure to its Haldex AWD system, its sheer mass and relatively high center of gravity means that no amount of suspension engineering is going to make this big Lincoln feel like a track star.
In a straight line, though, the MKS can flat-out ball. Ford tells us that the MKS EcoBoost will hit 60 in six seconds flat, and we'd speculate that it'd probably hit the magic mark a couple of tenths faster. That puts the straight-line performance of the boosted MKS in the middle of the pack compared to its V8-powered large lux competition, while keeping efficiency and CO2 emissions at V6-levels.
To properly manage all of its power, the MKS EcoBoost swaps gears with a smooth-shifting six-speed automatic. The MKS EcoBoost also has the option of changing gears via paddle shifters on the steering wheel or on the console-mounted shifter. We found the paddle shifters to be fairly quick on the trigger and fun to use, but the muted tones of the force-fed V6 and the MKZ's somewhat limited pedal feel (and probably our limited attention span) led us to hit redline and bog out on more than one occasion.
Unfortunately, the polished nature of the MKS means that you feel little of the exhilaration associated with going fast. Stab the accelerator and the MKS will take off with authority. But you won't hear the rumble of a powerful engine, the tires won't scream, the front end won't lift on takeoff. The MKS EcoBoost just goes, level and steady, without any hint of drama. That may be fine for the average executive looking to mix in a little off-line pep on the way to the golf course, but we tend to want something more visceral. At the very least, Ford needs to dial in a better exhaust note to remind the owner that he or she has plunked down the extra dough for the EcoBoost, even if aural stimulation is only audible during hard acceleration.
On the safety front, the MKS feels as much like a Sherman tank than it does a large luxury sedan. Big, thick doors, airbags everywhere, and a cockpit that feels like it's impenetrable to all but the most advanced weaponry gave us an untested sense of security. Adaptive cruise control was one of the safety options checked off on our tester, and we used the radar-based feature quite a bit. On the freeway, the system helps keep your foot off the accelerator and the brake, as it automatically adjusts speed to keep a safe distance between you and the car in front. It works as advertised, and it isn't as overbearing as some systems we've used before, but we're more than a little turned off by its $1,310 price tag. That's a lot of coin for a feature few will use regularly.
The MKS also comes equipped with a collision warning heads-up display that flashes and beeps if the radar system senses you're going to mount another vehicle from behind. If danger is imminent, the brakes pre-charge for improved response. The heads-up system isn't our favorite feature, but in an age where drivers are more interested in text messaging and Twittering while behind the wheel, we're thinking it's one safety advancement that will avert a few fender benders.
Additionally, the MKS' multitude of sensors can help you park. Whether backing in or going into a spot nose-first, the system beeps whenever you get too close to another vehicle. We would have liked the system to be a bit less touchy, though, as the beeps, buzzes and flashing red lights made us feel like we were driving a pinball machine. And we don't want to hear the flat-line sound while parking, only to find out that we're still over a foot away from the vehicle in front of us.
While we were down on the EcoBoosted Taurus SHO's inability to fulfill the promise of the SHO badge, our feelings are a bit different when it comes to the more upscale MKS. In the large luxury segment, V8 power is still necessary to remain competitive, while a cushy demeanor takes precedence over razor-sharp handling. The MKS EcoBoost delivers on both fronts, while also providing superior fuel economy compared to its competitors.
So is the MKS EcoBoost for you? If you desire a plush ride, strong acceleration and interior appointments that will make you feel coddled, the twin-turbo MKS is definitely worth a look. If you want sports car handling and a tight turning radius, look somewhere else.