The Lincoln MKS is the marque's flagship luxury sedan. The MKS is a serious performer in the luxury sedan segment following upgrades for 2010 that included a new turbocharged engine and a brilliantly retuned suspension. A full-size sedan, the Lincoln MKS offers a choice of V6 engines and front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.
The EcoBoost engine, a 3.5-liter V6 with two relatively small turbochargers that build boost very quickly, delivers 355 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque, and returns EPA-estimated fuel economy numbers of 17 mpg City and a highly commendable 25 mpg Highway. We discovered pressing down on the throttle moves the MKS with V8-like authority, with plenty of get-up-and-go from any reasonable speed, while still delivering fuel economy more in line with what would be expected of a V6.
The standard engine is a 3.7-liter V6 of 273 horsepower and EPA fuel economy figures of 17/24 mpg with front-wheel drive and 16/23 mpg with all-wheel drive. Each engine is matched with a 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters. The 3.7-liter engine is available with front drive or all-wheel drive, and the EcoBoost engine is available only with the all-wheel drive.
We found the Lincoln MKS a vigorous, big luxury car with a sporting heart. It will devour twisting country roads with poise and enthusiasm, delivering accurate, lively road feel that keeps the driver alert and thoroughly engaged.
The Lincoln MKS cuts a handsome profile. Its muscular, long body is trimmed with chrome highlights, giving it the flash of a thoroughbred American.
Inside is a roomy cabin, most notably in the rear compartment. The cabin design and quality materials, typified by elegant leather upholstery, confirm that this is an automobile for those accustomed to fine surroundings. The MKS offers the latest in technology.
The 2011 Lincoln MKS carries over largely unchanged, with only a few changes that involve technology. The available voice-activated navigation system now offers HD RadioTM technology; if a selected station is broadcasting with HD Radio technology, the system automatically picks up the signal and transitions to digital audio. And the Lincoln SYNC connectivity system, standard on the MKS, now integrates Traffic, Directions & Information with the voice-activated navigation system, giving hands-free access to personalized traffic reports, turn-by-turn driving directions, and up-to-date information on business, news, sports, and weather.
We found the big 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 presence of the MKS is 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 Lincoln 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. It makes generous use of chrome highlighting, supported by understated side sculpting in profile view.
The Lincoln 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, the air passing over the MKS at 70 mph flows smoothly and silently, contributing to both a quiet, peaceful commute and good highway fuel efficiency. When it's time to refuel, the Lincoln MKS features a refueling receptacle that eliminates the messiness of a gas cap.
Seated in the cockpit of the Lincoln 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 Lincoln 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 power 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 6-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 Lincoln 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. But the Lincoln MKS, particularly with the EcoBoost powertrain, changes this 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 to ensure immediate power delivery. These turbochargers are designed for a life cycle of 150,000 miles.
With the EcoBoost engine, 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 Lincoln MKS platform fully to life.
Another exemplary quality of the front-wheel-drive Lincoln 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 Lincoln MKS suspension delivers terrific agility and road feel. Combined with EcoBoost's standard all-wheel drive, standard, the Lincoln MKS is a comfortable, confidence-inspiring all-weather sedan with truly impressive performance.
The 2011 Lincoln MKS delivers first-rate interstate-cruising ability. It's a touring sedan that is hungry for the horizon, with the added benefit of sporty, enthusiastic feel on curvy roads. Add its first-rate creature comforts, and the 2011 Lincoln MKS is a genuinely enviable luxury vehicle.
The Lincoln MKS is a fine performance luxury car, and venturing deep into the realm of onboard connectivity gives it an interesting mix of strengths. With the EcoBoost V6 and great driving dynamics, the 2011 Lincoln MKS is a fine solution for discriminating luxury buyers.
Ted West filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com after a test drive of the MKS near Washington.