We were moderately impressed with the Lincoln MKS when it debuted in 2009. It had traditional Lincoln presence and advanced cyber-connectivity, which we liked, but as an over-the-road automobile, we found it merely competent.
For 2010, however, MKS has smelled the coffee, and the result is bracing. As before, the car remains commodious and dignified, providing comfortable seating for five and offering, for those who choose it, the original mildly interesting 2009 drivetrain. But for those who want more, a lot more, the 2010 MKS provides a brilliant new engine package and a range of canny under-the-skin additions that transform this car into a serious performer in the luxury sedan segment.
Chief among the 2010 additions is Ford's all-new EcoBoost engine. Combined with an enlivened suspension and a goodly list of new standard conveniences, this engine makes the latest MKS vastly more than just competent. Press down the accelerator of the EcoBoost V6 and it races ahead with V8-like forcefulness, while still delivering efficient V6 fuel mileage. In fact, the new engine, at 355 horsepower, provides a massive 82 more horsepower than the older engine, yet it actually delivers better fuel mileage, at 17/25 mpg EPA City/Highway. The twin-turbocharged Ecoboost also provides a massive 350 pound-feet of torque, giving the new MKS plenty of thrust from any speed. Both engines deliver their power through a smooth, first-rate six-speed automatic transmission.
Combine this new power with the brilliantly retuned new suspension, and the 2010 MKS will devour twisting country roads with a poise and enthusiasm sorely lacking in the 2009 model. The result is a vigorous, big luxury car with a sporting heart. It delivers accurate, lively road feel that keeps the driver alert and thoroughly engaged. This improvement in handling is anything but frivolous. For buyers who have no interest in performance driving, keep in mind that the agility and control necessary in emergency collision avoidance is identical to firm controllability exhibited by a fine performance sedan. And for buyers who enjoy vigorous driving, the 2010 MKS leaves Lincoln-sedan dullness light years behind.
In other respects, the 2010 MKS continues to deliver the dignity and clout consistent with the Lincoln brand. Its muscular, long body is trimmed with chrome highlights, giving it the flash of a thoroughbred American. And the interior's class-leading roominess in the rear compartment seconds the motion. Its styling and materials, typified by elegant standard-equipment leather upholstery, confirm that this is an automobile for those accustomed to fine surroundings.
Also high on the list of MKS attractions are its advanced technology and comprehensive connectivity. Sure to appeal to younger Lincoln buyers, the MKS offers real-time, real-world onboard communications. Time is the ultimate luxury, and the MKS electronics can save goodly amounts of this precious commodity. Following on Ford's successful Sync voice-activated audio systems, the MKS goes one long step further. Its Next-Generation Navigation System with Sirius Travel Link allows the switched-on owner to control vast audio programming resources, follow threatening regional weather patterns in real time, pinpoint and avoid traffic jams ahead, keep up on the latest sports scores and find movie listings and show times.
We found the big MKS eight-inch display excellent and its systems easy to operate, which can't be said for some much more expensive German luxury cars. Personal CD photos can be loaded on the in-dash monitor. Local gas stations can be searched, arranged by nearness or price per gallon. During our time in the car, we followed the progress of a violent storm on an in-dash Doppler radar monitor, and pressing a couple of buttons displayed the five-day forecast. The system will play DVD movies with rich surround sound, and the touch-screen monitor takes running your iPod to new levels. Its voice-command system indicates this technology has moved beyond the gimmick stage.
The styling and presence of the MKS are pure Lincoln: bold, sturdy, impressive. This luxury marque has been busily searching its past design DNA for usable yesteryear styling symbols that will play well in the present. According to company stylists, the aggressive boat prow-like MKS grille recalls the classic pre-war Lincoln Continental; yet in the same gesture, they say, this stands as a symbol of the new Lincoln's aggressive thrust forward into the 21st century.
While appearing rock steady in profile, the MKS has a dynamic stance that seems ready to pounce. And viewed from the rear on the interstate, this car has the imposing presence, in scaled-down form, of an ultra-luxury sedan.
The MKS makes generous use of chrome highlighting, supported by understated side sculpting in profile view. In addition to the usual variety of paint colors, the MKS is available in a new paint finish called Tuxedo Black Metallic. This black is similar to a metallic finish, except that in place of metallic flecks in the paint, it features brilliant, tiny flecks of glass. The result is a highly reflective finish that will wow some buyers. To others, Tuxedo Black will seem an extraordinarily coarse metallic more suited to bass boats.
The MKS, with an overall length of 204.1 inches and dignified height of 61.6 inches, is a fully found luxury sedan that will earn its place in the rivalries of valet parking. However, as with many luxury sedans that aspire to sleekness (Jaguar sedans come to mind) its handsomely rounded forms leave the impression that it is smaller than it really is.
On the plus side of this undersizing, the air passing over the MKS at 70 mph flows smoothly and silently, yielding both a peaceful commute and startlingly efficient EPA Highway mileage of 25 mpg in EcoBoost trim, impressive for this full-size entry. (The non-turbocharged 3.7-liter V6 yields 24 mpg on the highway. When it's time to refuel, the MKS features a refueling receptacle that eliminates the messiness of a gas cap.
Seated in the cockpit of the MKS, its wide expanse of dashboard receding toward the windshield creates a sensation of lavish roominess. Our test car had a gleaming swath of dark wood running from one end of the dash to the other, its finish so bright indeed that we weren't sure it was real wood. It was.
The instruments were laid out handsomely, with softly cushioned surfaces and hand-stitched leather seams everywhere on the dashboard, as befits a luxury car. The steering wheel was wrapped in leather, with wood highlights, and its girth and grip felt perfect.
Big buttons on the center stack made operating the HVAC (heating/air conditioning) and audio systems easy. What felt less perfect was the switchgear, which lacked the tactile elegance and sturdiness one might have hoped for in this car. The buttons and switches and A/C ducting adjusters felt generic, as if they might be found on any Ford. Otherwise, the appearance and materials in the cabin were swank.
The MKS benefits from the luxury of fine leather seating. The front seat cushion and particularly the backrest provide steadying lateral support. Both front seats have 12-way and lumbar adjustments. The twin front seats are both heated and cooled, and the rear seats are heated. Long-range driving comfort is good and the fit and quality of the leather is excellent throughout. Visibility is similarly excellent from the driving position. The forward-leaning proximity of the headrest to the back of the head was a minor annoyance, but it is placed there for improved safety and cannot be adjusted.
The stepped gearshift controlling the SelectShift six-speed automatic is simple and straightforward, and the paddle shifters, standard in the EcoBoost, are located on each side of the steering wheel, allowing full manual shifting. Fully automatic shifting is provided normally, but for curvier roads where engine braking will heighten control, the paddle shifts are invaluable.
The HVAC system provided generous torrents of cooling or warming air.
The navigation system features a bright, eight-inch screen. We found the navigation system a good companion to our test drive through tortuous, ever-changing two-lane backcountry blacktop. Industry-leading Lincoln connectivity allowed us to monitor the local weather in real time and stay in touch with the outside world. Returning to the traffic-challenged environment of urban Washington, D.C., we were easily able to sort out the traffic jams ahead and find the least annoying route to our destination. Touching the screen on a traffic jam revealed the cause. The navigation screen operated in both three-dimensional mode and map view. The three-dimensional view is fun for impressing friends (and prospective buyers), but not particularly useful and somewhat confusing.
The premium-quality THX II sound system and satellite-radio accessibility delivers superb concert surround-sound. And using Ford's voice-activated Sync system, we were able to order changes in programming without moving our hands from the wheel. While parked, we watched clips from Star Wars crisply displayed on the screen and the fly-bys of the small, fighter ships were incredible over the 5.1 surround sound with crisp base and crystal highs. Likewise, the acoustical guitar and percussion on a live recording of the Eagles playing Hotel California was amazingly crisp and clear. These are benefits of the high quality of the system and the well sound-deadened cabin.
Second-row riders will enjoy the MKS as much as those in the front row. The rear seats offer capacious ease of entry and segment-leading spaciousness. The rear-seat cushions, while soft and comfortable, are not terribly supportive, but the rear seatbacks more than make up for this lax support. The concave, radiused seatbacks are nicely sculpted, providing plenty of lateral support. We found them very comfortable for two adults. The center position is suitable only for a child.
Cargo space is generous. The actual volume is a respectable 18.7 cubic feet, but trunk access is via a tight entryway. When fully loaded with luggage, however, the Lincoln MKS should make an excellent grand-touring machine. A pass-through is provided for skis.
With the notable exception of the spirited Lincoln LS, which the MKS replaces, Lincolns have not been valued for their sporting character. And with the merely competent 2009 MKS, this lackluster tradition continued. With the 2010 direct fuel-injection, twin-turbocharged EcoBoost line of MKTs, however, things have changed dramatically. While delivering better highway fuel mileage than its non-turbocharged stablemate, the EcoBoost delivers 355 horsepower, and accelerating from any engine speed, the 350 pound-feet of torque on hand ensures immediate, vigorous response.
Ford's EcoBoost system eliminates the least hint of turbo lag, that annoying hesitation in many turbocharged engines before they begin generating power. In the EcoBoost, small water-cooled turbochargers that can respond extremely quickly are combined with a high-pressure fuel pump, 35 times higher than conventional fuel pumps, to ensure immediate power delivery. These turbochargers are designed for a life cycle of 150,000 miles.
In the MKS EcoBoost, paddle shifters on the steering wheel allow the same degree of engine-speed control as would an old-style stick shift. However, operating the paddle shifters requires no exotic downshifting skills. Using the paddles well brings the MKS platform fully to life.
Another exemplary quality of the front-wheel-drive MKS is that it feels more like a well-balanced rear-wheel-drive sedan, with all four wheels planted and contributing firm directional guidance. The car exhibits no torque-steer, that unsettling sensation that occurs when strong acceleration causes the steering to pull left or right. The recalibration of the MKS suspension, with new front-suspension geometry, a new front subframe and enhanced stabilizer bars front and rear, results in vastly improved agility and road feel. Combined with EcoBoost's all-wheel drive, standard, the MKS is a comfortable, confidence-inspiring all-weather sedan with truly impressive performance.
As before, the 2010 MKS delivers first-rate interstate-cruising ability. It's a touring sedan that is hungry for the horizon. But the 2010 rendering's new sportiness on curvy roads gives the new Lincoln at extra dimension it formerly lacked. Add the Lincoln's first-rate creature comforts, and this becomes a genuinely enviable luxury vehicle.
Against all expectation, the big, heavy MKS has become a fine performance luxury car. And venturing deep into the realm of onboard connectivity gives it an interesting mix of strengths. With the addition of the EcoBoost V6 and new driving dynamics, the 2010 Lincoln MKS is a fine solution for discriminating luxury buyers.