The Lincoln MKX is a big crossover SUV. Based on the superb Ford Edge, the luxurious MKX offers features of pricier crossovers from Acura, BMW, Infiniti, and Lexus. The MKX is a crossover utility vehicle, meaning it has the roominess and cargo capacity of an SUV but is built like a car for improved fuel economy, a smoother ride and better handling.
The MKX seats five in spacious comfort with room left over for baggage. Rather than offering a third row, the MKX offers stretch-out room for two rows of seats. It was designed for adults. It offers heated seats, a glass moonroof, DVD rear-seat entertainment, and other luxury features. It's perfect for realtors and other professionals who need a vehicle for ferrying clients that's easy to get in and out and offers passengers good visibility. The MKX turns tighter than many sedans, making it easier to maneuver in crowded parking lots and other tight areas.
The MKX shows Lincoln heritage in ease of use. One doesn't have to climb in, familiarization with operating controls is quick, and driving characteristics are predictable. For many, the MKX is just the right blend between a luxury sedan and a full-size luxury SUV such as the Navigator.
Introduced for the 2007 model year, the Lincoln MKX has mostly added new convenience features since then. 2008 brought Sync, a system developed with Microsoft to integrate cell phones and media players through Bluetooth technology and a USB interface.
For 2009, Lincoln MKX adds 911 Assist to Sync, which can directly contact local emergency personnel if an airbag deploys or if the fuel shutoff is activated; and Vehicle Health Report (VHR), which allows customers to monitor more than two dozen vehicle systems and, when appropriate, schedule service on-line. Also new for 2009 is a next-generation navigation system that includes Sirius Travel Link and THX II Certified Audio.
The Lincoln MKX comes with front-wheel drive (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD). MKX AWD also comes with slightly quicker gearing and larger front brakes.
The Lincoln MKX is based on the Ford Edge and shares its basic structure with the Ford Fusion sedan as well as the Mazda CX-9 crossover.
MKX presents a stylish profile with its short overhangs and big wheel arches, not unlike some futuristic flying people mover concepts of 20th-century animators. The short hood and raked windscreen give it a modern appearance.
The chrome eggcrate grille offers bling, with more shiny stuff on the mirrors, wheel covers, around the rear lamps and windows, the exhaust tips, and badges. Door handles are paint-matched, but chromed on the Limited Edition model.
The Panoramic Vista Roof is all black. This dual sunroof gives an airy feeling thanks to the large main sunroof and the additional fixed glass panel behind it. It leads to a black rear spoiler and trim below the rear glass, making the window appear larger than it is. Underneath the hatch glass is a full-width taillight like Lincoln Mark VIII of old, only this one is lit by LEDs.
In total, the MKX is clean and distinctive, neither overdone nor generic jelly bean.
The MKX cabin blends traditional Lincoln shapes with contemporary materials and colors. The soft-touch dash uses complementary color cues, dark wood trim right out of a Chicago chophouse, and pewter-colored trim pieces that carry over to the steering wheel and door switch panels. The bright plastic center panel on the dash looks a little out of place to us. The lower door panels are also obviously plastic, but that just makes it easier to clean off shoe scuffs and mud. Overall, the ambience is upscale, but it doesn't impart the feeling of quality you'll get in a Lexus, BMW, Mercedes, Audi, or Acura.
The wood-and-leather steering wheel tilts and telescopes and features redundant controls for sound and climate functions; many of those can be done through the intuitive navigation and thundering THX-certified audio system, but the steering wheel controls are sometimes easier to use when driving.
The new ambient lighting feature, which comes with the Ultimate Package, offers seven lighting color options to illuminate foot wells and cupholders.
The Sync communications and entertainment system can recognize Bluetooth-enabled cell phones, access their phonebooks, and play calls and read text messages through the speakers. It also has a USB interface to connect with iPods and other MP3 players (it will charge an iPod). Voice commands and/or steering wheel buttons can be used to control all functions. It's even possible to tell the system to play a specific artist, album or track stored on your MP3 player. While this system is nicely integrated, it takes some time to learn the voice commands.
Sync adds new features for 2009, including 911 Assist, which can contact local emergency personnel should an airbag deploy or if the fuel shut-off is activated. It also allows calls to be placed directly to the local 911 operator. There is no additional monthly fee for this service since, once set up, it uses your existing mobile phone.
Lincoln has also promised a Vehicle Health Report (VHR) function, which will allow you to monitor more than two dozen vehicle systems, receive maintenance reports and, when appropriate, schedule service on-line.
Also new for 2009, the optional voice-activated navigation system includes Sirius Travel Link, which offers coast-to-coast coverage of real-time traffic and weather (including ski resort conditions), fuel options from more than 120,000 stations (sorted by price or distance), professional and college sports reports, and movie listings from 4,500 theaters. A six-month introductory subscription is included in the price of the system.
The navigation system also comes with new THX II Certified Audio, with 600 watts and 12 speakers, including two subwoofers, plus Radio Data Broadcasting System (RDBS) and high-tech processing capabilities that can shape the sound for the driver alone, both front seats, or all seats.
The ten-way power-adjustable seats help the MKX comfortably accommodate drivers of all sizes, and a memory feature is standard for the driver's seat. The perforated leather seats are both heated and cooled, the latter good for a 1-2 notch reduction in air conditioning use.
The glovebox is a decent size and will hold much more than the owner's manual, something many vehicles can't claim. And the center console is so big it has a divider to keep a laptop separate from other debris. If we have a nit to pick it would be the position of the fuse box, which impinges on left foot room and moves the parking brake pedal far from the door; occasionally when we engaged the parking brake we disengaged the fuse box cover. The coat hooks are large enough to handle thick plastic hangars, very useful when picking up the dry cleaning.
Back-seat riders should be happy because their seats offer essentially the same dimensions as those in the front. The rear seats recline, have optional seat heaters, and offer reading lights and a glass roof with power shade. A third back-seat rider will cut the comfort level slightly but not be slighted on safety; there is an adjustable center headrest and shoulder belt.
Cargo space is generous. Cargo capacity can be doubled merely by pressing a lever on the side that folds the split rear seat sections flat; no mucking about with headrests or guessing which lever does what. With the second-row seats folded, the MKX offers 68.6 cubic feet of cargo room, and there is a healthy 32.3 cubic feet with all seats deployed. Not only is this a fair amount of space, but the cargo compartment is a useful shape. These figures are right in line with most vehicles in this class, though the upcoming 2010 Lexus RX will offer more than 80 cubic feet, and the current Volvo XC90 has about 85. Loading cargo into the MKX will require lifting it above the knees. Tire storage is under the floor. The power liftgate housing intrudes on left side space slightly, and there is a dearth of tie-down points to secure any heavy items.
The Lincoln MKX is about relaxation, comfort, and style. We found the MKX brings all the cornering grip and stability most drivers need while riding smoothly enough to keep from spilling coffee on the morning commute.
The 3.5-liter four-cam V6 has enough oomph for easy merging onto busy freeways or to carry a full load to the slopes. We found the six-speed automatic reluctant to downshift unless we flattened the carpet under the gas pedal. It doesn't offer the manual controls found in other transmissions, limiting the driver to Park, Reverse, and Drive; then again, those are the selections we usually make.
The suspension is tuned for ride comfort. As a result, the handling isn't as crisp as that of some other vehicles in this class, but nor is it as isolated and rubbery as others. It doesn't roll over and squeal its tires in protest. It is controlled and competent, neither fast nor slow, and won't upset anyone with bad manners like wallowing or weaving. The MKX handles potholed pavement better than more firmly sprung SUVs with low-profile tires.
We tested an MKX with 20-inch wheels on potholed Chicago streets in the winter and found it rolled over bumps and ruts without upsetting occupants.
Road noise is suppressed, no doubt aided by having the wheels at the corners and away from occupants' feet and backsides. Wind noise isn't an issue, either.
Visibility is quite good despite the proper fitment of three rear head restraints. On the downside, some will find the central door pillar blocks their over-the-shoulder view. Also, we thought the rear wiper could clear more of the glass.
The Lincoln MKX serves its purpose well. It is nicely balanced all around, a worthy addition to the midsize luxury crossover utility class. It offers a smooth ride for drivers who commute on rough streets. It's easy to operate, roomy, comfortable, and quiet. And it's loaded with technology.
New Car Test Drive correspondent G.R. Whale filed this report from Los Angeles with Kirk Bell reporting from Chicago.