Ford has been producing Lincoln vehicles for 98 years, but I’m sure Henry Ford never envisioned making a crossover as great as this one.
There is a lot of competition in this luxury crossover space, and this MKX is right up there with the best of them, from Japan, Europe, and cross-state rival Cadillac.
It’s obvious that Lincoln is shooting to make a new name for itself as being a company that builds vehicles that can pamper its customers in luxury, and also make their customers smile with invigorating performance and handling.
The standard engine in the MKX is a familiar 3.7-liter V-6, rated at 303 hp and 278 ft. lbs. of torque. For $2,000, you can get the optional 2.7-liter V-6 Ecoboost, twin turbo engine that Lincoln hops up to 335 hp, and 380 ft. lbs of torque. That’s strong enough to push this 4,630 lb. vehicle from zero to 60 in 6 seconds. That’s quicker than the Lexus and Infinity rivals, and right up there with Audi, BMW and Mercedes. Gas mileage is also impressive with 17 City and 24 Highway estimates. We bested both of those marks by 1 MPG in the city and 2 MPG on the highway.
The power hits the ground by being mated to a six-speed manumatic (with paddle shifters) and it is a good marriage. Other competitors have an extra gear or two, but I like this set up because the 6-speed doesn’t force early upshifts for fuel economy reasons, and always has plenty of torque and grunt at your right foot for passing or merging maneuvers.
Of course, Lincoln’s of yesteryear were also known for straight line performance, but the new Lincoln’s, including this MKX, also know how to handle curves. On AWD versions, a continual variable damping system tightens up the handling when needed, and the large 21” tires and wheels provide plenty of grip. Also, the driver can delve into the vehicle settings, and tailor the handing qualities to suit individual tastes. The surprising result is crisp turn-ins and firm tracking throughout the turn with very little body roll, and lots of driver confidence. And with strong torque always on tap, this MKX is much more fun to drive than one would anticipate.
Optional Adaptive Steering changes the amount of assist based on speed. Low speed parking lot maneuvers means it’s easier to turn the wheel for parking, and at higher speeds, boost is lowered for firmer feel and better highway tracking, making the MKX feel agile and athletic. Again, the Japanese and European competitors have nothing over this MKX in the handling department. And still, the ride quality is supple, smooth, and luxury comfortable, even over the most broken pavement that seems everywhere in the Chicago area.
Luxury abounds inside the Lincoln’s cabin. And that starts with how quiet it is. They’ve added lots of sound deadening measures, including acoustic glass, better sealing, acoustic underbody panels and wheel well liners. That is appreciated when listening to the optional 13 speaker Revel Ultima Audio system, turning the interior into a concert hall. The MKX also offers full integration with a smart phone so you can use many of your phone apps through the vehicle.
The test car came with a lot of standard and optional safety features. All models come with a standard rearview camera, with parking sensors. A package bundles things like adaptive cruise control, lane departure warnings, lane-keep assist, blind spot monitors, forward collision warning, and automatic braking. Also, it had a set of surround view cameras to go with front parking sensors and automatic parking assist.
The test car was outfitted with the heated and cooled 22-way power leather massaging front seats. Again, by drilling down into the vehicle settings, you can set and tailor the inflatable bladders (separately for driver and passenger) up and down the seatback, seat cushions, and side bolsters as they inflate and deflate to keep body fatigue at a minimum on long trips. They work, and since we get so few cars with that feature, we used them even for shirt trips to the store. One gripe is that in order to turn the massage feature on, you have to touch the nav screen 4 times to get to the right menu that activates it. There is a simple button on the console to turn on the heat or cool feature, so why not one more to turn on the seat?
In fact, we had several gripes about the way the features interact with the driver. There are few buttons and controls on this center stack and console. The push button transmission occupies one side to the left of the screen. But for so many functions, dash mounted controls are so much easier than dealing with the touch screen and having to find the right menu, and sub menu, and sometimes, sub-sub menu. Trying to find the Lane Keep assist button was an hour long adventure. I found the right menus to adjust it in the touch screen, but that didn’t have a button to activate it. I finally found a teeny-tiny switch on the tip of the turn signal stalk, where in addition to being in that odd spot, makes it easy to inadvertently turn it on and off when using the turn signals.
To activate the AC, there is a button on the dash, and lights up when pushed. But to activate and sync the driver and passenger climate settings, you push the button, and turn the light off. Doesn’t make sense to me.
There are small info screens in the center of the tach and speedometer gauges, with separate steering wheel controls to toggle through them. I chose to see the gas mileage info on the tach screen on the left, but couldn’t find how to toggle through that menu to find the distance to empty reading. The following day, I noticed that information was shown on the speedometer info screen on the right. Wouldn’t you think that all the fuel economy information would be available on the same screen?
Now, trust me, folks, this same rant can be done on every luxury vehicle I test, from virtually every manufacturer. This is not a Lincoln problem only. As the price of a vehicle goes up, there are more options available for controlling settings, and functions. For some reason, the manufacturers think that the “old fashion” easy to use knobs and switches are too downscale for expensive cars. But they haven’t figured out better solutions than the old tried and true methods. And voice recognition technology is fine for some basic commands, but don’t look to it for easy use in setting navigation destinations, and many other things. And they don’t even have a command for “turn on massage seats !” Whew, I feel better now, but I have digressed . . .
The MKX is roomy front and back, and the huge panoramic sunroof is delightful to bring in light to the cabin. It does cut down a bit of headroom for taller passengers, however. All the materials, including the textured wood trim is top shelf, and worthy of the rather hefty price tag. Soft touch and low gloss materials look and feel upscale, and stylish. The cargo area is nicely finished, and has a cargo cover to keep out prying eyes. The rear seats fold down, but unfortunately, not quite flat. Still there is a generous 73 cubic feet of cargo space. The lift over height is pleasantly low, and a shake of your foot beneath the bumper, opens the rear hatch electronically, which is great for those times when you approach with arms full of packages. Another cool feature is the puddle lamps that turn on as you approach the vehicle. They do a great job of illuminating the ground by the front doors, and also show a Lincoln logo on the pavement, kind of like the Bat Signal in the sky. Also, all the door handles are illuminated at the same time.
Getting in and out of the MKX is easy for vertically challenged people. It’s more of a tallish sedan than climb-into SUV. And it gives a nice commanding view of traffic, without feeling like you’re in a semi-truck.
Styling for this MKX is distinctive and elegant as it should be for a luxury vehicle. Character lines down the sides are subtle, but the front end is distinctive with the Lincoln split-wing grill that integrates into the headlight treatment and curves into the front quarter panels, making it look almost like one piece. A light bar runs the full width of the rear hatch, and is flanked by LED tail lamps that flow into the rear quarters. It both handsome and distinctive.