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2011 Lincoln MKT Expert Reviews

Expert Reviews

2011 Lincoln MKT

New Car Test Drive
© 2011

Newly introduced, the Lincoln MKT is a large crossover sport-utility that provides full-size, three-row seating and a full list of amenities. Sleek and stylish, the Lincoln MKT offers the sharpest handling in its class, along with responsive performance from the turbocharged Ecoboost V6.

When equipped with the stellar 355-horsepower twin-turbo 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 and enhanced with all-wheel drive, the Lincoln MKT boasts the forceful performance and athleticism of all but the hottest performance sedans. The EcoBoost engine achieves decent EPA City/Highway ratings of 16/21 mpg on the Lincoln MKT AWD, while delivering responsive, turbocharged performance. The Lincoln MKT comes standard with a normally aspirated 268-hp 3.7-liter V6 with similar fuel economy (16/22 mpg) but without the turbocharged performance supplied by the more advanced Ecoboost engine.

Where the Lincoln MKT leaves the competition behind is in its over-the-road dynamics. The MKT Ecoboost we drove showed a minimum of body roll in curves, and its shock-absorber tuning and live-wire electronic rack-and-pinion steering flawlessly communicated road-surface information. Full-size competitors, including the Cadillac Escalade, Acura's MDX and the Audi Q7, all certainly and variously competent, can't hold a candle to the agility of this three-row sports car.

In addition to exhibiting excellent handling, the Lincoln MKT is a comfortable, lavishly appointed luxury crossover. Its interior is part living room on wheels, part wood-lined room at the club. It even features power second-row seats that leap forward at the touch of a button for easy access to the third row. The second row can be comfy twin buckets, yielding seating for a total of six, or a bench, making for seating for seven. You can even choose an available second-row refrigerator to keep family beverages cool and crisp.

Finally, the Lincoln MKT offers the full variety of cyber-connectivity expected from Ford products. A voice-actuated Lincoln SYNC communication and entertainment system can be combined with two separate seatback DVD screens. There will be no backseat fighting over what to watch. And Sirius Satellite and Travel Link provide entertainment and all relevant traffic, weather and local information, including full listings of regional gas stations, arranged by nearness or price per gallon.

A full inventory of airbags is standard, and the Lincoln MKT received a Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Additional safety equipment includes blind-spot warning, cross-traffic and rear alert for use in parking lots, a rearview camera, gap-sensitive adaptive cruise control with collision warning and brake support and much more.

The Lincoln MKT was launched as a 2010 model and continues into 2011 with no changes.

Model Lineup

Lincoln MKT ($44,200); MKT AWD ($46,195); MKT EcoBoost ($49,200)

Walk Around

The Lincoln MKT is a prime example of the design phenomenon that smoothly rounded styling often makes a vehicle look smaller than it is. With the debatable exception of the MKT grille, the vehicle has a graceful, attractive, and declaratively chrome-y American presence. Its toothy grille seems a bit overbearing, purportedly a latter-day restatement of the timelessly elegant 1939 Lincoln Continental prow.

In profile, the Lincoln MKT's hunchback character line at the aft side windows adds interest, though the dramatic narrowing of these third windows is fair warning that third-row headroom and space is limited.

The distinctive, somewhat bluff styling of the rear end and power hatch resembles the tail of a Chrysler PT Cruiser on growth hormones. Handsome 19- or 20-inch sport wheels and wide tires give the MKT a sportingly dynamic tone.

But make no mistake, this full-size crossover is figuratively and literally a whale of a vehicle. It's 207.6 inches long, 85.7 inches wide, and rides on a 118-inch wheelbase.

The Lincoln MKT is longer than two of its primary full-size rivals, the Acura MDX (overall length: 191.6 inches) and Audi Q7 (200.2). Wheelbase length is similar to that of the Audi, and considerably longer than that of the Acura. The MKT roofline is lower than any of these other vehicles, lending the Lincoln a handsomely modeled and noticeably sleeker stance than its competitors. The MKT is larger than the less-expensive Buick Enclave in every dimension, though the Buick has a longer wheelbase and a wider track.

At 4,899 pounds in EcoBoost all-wheel-drive form, the Lincoln MKT is slightly heavier than the MDX but a massive 500 pounds lighter than the heavy Audi Q7.

The prospect of parallel parking all this bulk in a normal parking space might seem an intimidating chore. For those who need help for parallel parking, and we all do, Lincoln offers an active park-assist option, which will handle all the backing and turning automatically, only asking the driver to operate the brakes. We've tried it and it works well.


From the moment you climb into the Lincoln MKT, you are struck by the bright atmosphere of its interior. Light colors, leather and bright blonde wood surround you, and the wood is real.

The steering wheel is trimmed with wood and contains all the expected buttons for cruise control and audio adjustment. The audio is powerful, excellent and easy to use. The audio system is tuned with genuine, old-fashioned, functional radial knobs. The substantial chrome-and-leather shifter fills your palm, but for those who want to control their 6-speed transmission more actively, paddle shifters behind the steering wheel allow manual shifting.

To the driver's right in the center stack of the console is a touch-screen monitor, delivering all the countless cyber-communication virtues of navigation, weather information and so on included in Lincoln's SYNC. With available voice-activation, you can select whatever function you need without removing your hands from the wheel.

The leather-upholstered driver and passenger seats are extremely comfortable, and both feature 12-way adjustment and lumbar support. Your passenger has no grounds for complaining of second-class service. Both heating and cooling are available, and the front seating is an excellent blend of alert lateral support and well-tailored comfort.

Hand-stitched leather covers the surfaces not already covered in blond wood; this interior is deluxe. Two indispensable cupholders are provided for each of the Lincoln MKT's three rows, and the second row seats are provided with a separate climate-control system.

An available power folding mechanism for the second-row seats flops them forward at the touch of a button to allow third-row riders easy access, though as mentioned, the dimensions of the third-row compartment are tight and best suited to mid-sized or smaller children. Yet even with all three rows full, there is still a small but serviceable stowage space aft of the third seat.

Generous interior courtesy lighting is provided, welcoming all passengers. The very roomy second row features available massive twin bucket seats, with adjustable lumbar support. Power takeoffs are distributed throughout the interior for operating personal electronics.

Driving Impressions

The Lincoln MKT offers many pleasant surprises, but none can match its driving experience. First of all, consider the top-of-the-line EcoBoost model's 355 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque. The MKT is a family SUV, but power figures like that sound like they belong in a sports car.

Given the burden of the Lincoln MKT's nearly 5,000-pound weight, however, these power figures are well suited to delivering a full-size luxury SUV that has enough performance to match the luxury sedans around it. The MKT may not be a muscle car, but it's no truck, either.

In fact, driven vigorously, it blends smoothly with other competent luxury vehicles, and does so in the most surprising of ways. The Lincoln MKT engineering staff is outright boastful about the handling of the MKT, and just for once, we buy every word of it. On back roads, this crossover exhibits extremely accomplished cornering and over-the-road controllability. Its excellent wheel control means the wheels follow the terrain of the road surface with a minimum of bounce, maintaining smooth, constant contact. Its steering is remarkably alive, feeding to the driver constant information about the road being traversed and how much traction is available. And entering a corner, the MKT has almost no roll or lean as it turns in. This encourages an undisturbed, calmly analytic state of mind in the driver.

Pushed harder through a corner, the Lincoln MKT's front wheels grip tenaciously, closely following the steering wheel's turn commands, a characteristic lacking in most big SUVs. The value of this heightened cornering ability is, if you have to swerve out of someone's way very suddenly in an emergency, the MKT will do a better job of following your commands than some of its most prestigious competitors, including those from Acura and Audi. This crossover SUV's agility and predictability make driving it both very safe and honestly exhilarating. In fact, against all expectation, we found this Lincoln to be the best-handling large SUV we've driven.

The Lincoln MKT is a lavishly equipped full-size luxury crossover of the first order. It offers enormous interior capacity and comfort and a long list of deluxe standard and optional equipment. Driven in real-world conditions, this Lincoln is exceptional; a powerful, poised sports car of an SUV with agility and handling unmatched in its class.

Ted West filed this report after his test drive of the MKT.

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