The Lincoln MKX gets a major makeover for 2011, with about 60 percent of its parts and components replaced, its first after some minor tweaks in 2009. Lincoln's five-seat midsize crossover utility vehicle was first introduced as a 2007 model.
The cosmetic facelift to the 2011 Lincoln MKX includes a new grille, hood, fenders, lamps, bumper and air intakes up front, with new individual LED taillamps replacing the full-width taillamp design, a new liftgate, wheels, and oval-shaped exhaust system outlets at the rear. Underneath, there's a redone suspension and an improved braking system.
The most direct competitors in the marketplace are the BMW X5, Cadillac SRX, Buick Enclave, and Lexus RX 350. Lincoln cites a raft of new standard or optional equipment that the competition doesn't offer, including standard leather seats, HD radio, heated steering wheel, heated and cooled front seats, remote starting, power liftgate, blind-spot information with cross-traffic alert, keyless entry, and a handful of others.
The 2011 Lincoln MKX looks much bolder and sportier than the previous model, now with the Lincoln split-wing grille instead of the original 1961-style mesh grille.
Under the hood, there is more power for 2011, more torque and improved gas mileage from its 3.7-liter V6 engine.
The Lincoln MKX comes with a choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The AWD version gets one more gallon of fuel capacity in its tank, and a slightly lower axle ratio, 3.39:1 versus 3.16:1 in the FWD version, but otherwise the two vehicles are identical in specification. The 180 pounds of extra weight of the AWD system takes away four miles per gallon of highway fuel economy, dropping from 27 mpg for the front-drive MKX to 23 mpg Highway with all-wheel drive.
We recommend getting the all-wheel drive because it is a very good computer-controlled part-time system that puts the torque where it needs to be, whether you're cornering fast in dry weather, or dealing with rain, snow, ice or mud. It's worth the bump in price the first time you get into messy conditions and every time thereafter.
The MKX offers the new MyLincoln Touch option. This system is an improvement on and companion to Lincoln's existing Sync voice-activated communications technology. It uses twin five-way thumb switches mounted on the steering wheel spokes, plus two 4.5-inch LED display screens flanking the speedometer in the instrument cluster, and an 8-inch LED display screen at the top center of the instrument panel with a four-zone color-coding system. The MKX has a unique panel of flat touch buttons and lighted slider switches below the sound system to control volume and temperature functions.
The thumb switches, and the touch screen control climate, sound system, telephone, navigation and an enormous variety of information functions including turn-by-turn directions, sports scores, local fuel prices, movie listings, dining, and even horoscopes. The system uses a new list of up to 10,000 voice commands where the previous version only understood about 300, and takes one layer of commands away, making it far easier to use. To start a search for a restaurant, for instance, all you have to do is tell the car you're hungry.
For 2011, Lincoln MKX has been given a substantial cosmetic and content makeover, with about 60 percent of its parts and components replaced. That means a new grille, hood, fenders, lamps, bumper and air intakes up front, with new handles all around, new taillamps, liftgate, wheels, and exhaust system outlets at the rear. There are four new colors in the 2011 palette. The substitution of the trademark Lincoln split-wing grille for the former eggcrate mesh grille brings the Lincoln MKX into line with all of the other Lincolns in terms of front-end signature except the aging Navigator SUV.
The Lincoln MKX gets a new interior for 2011. There is nothing much left of the previous version's interior decor. The instrument panel, seat trims, door panels and door pockets have all been redesigned for 2011 for more comfort and greater utility.
The Lincoln MKX is a crossover utility. Utility is seen in features such as the front passenger seat, which folds flat, and each half of the second seat folds flat independently to accommodate cargoes of various sizes and lengths. The rear seat reclines for passenger comfort. With this layout, the driver can haul objects up to eight feet long on the right side of the cabin, even while carrying belted passengers on the left. The seats themselves appear much richer, more comfortable, and more luxurious than any previous Lincoln CUV seats.
The instrument panel, center stack, switches and controls have all been redesigned for the 2011 models, to accommodate a new electronic function and control system called MyLincoln Touch.
MyLincoln Touch is an advance on Lincoln's existing Sync voice-activated communications technology that uses two five-way thumb switches mounted on the steering wheel spokes, two 4.5-inch LED display screens on either side of the big speedometer in the instrument cluster, an 8-inch LED display screen at the top center of the instrument panel with a four-zone color-coding system, and a panel of flat touch buttons below it. With MyLincoln Touch, the thumb switches and the screen combine to control climate, sound system, telephone, navigation and an enormous variety of information functions including turn-by-turn directions, sports scores, fuel prices, movie listings, dining, and even horoscopes, using a new list of up to 10,000 voice commands.
The Lincoln MKX we drove offered an amazing variety of in-car entertainment options from DVD movies (viewable only in Park) to DVD and CD music, USB music, and iPod music. The HD radio and the THX II certified sound system were nothing short of spectacular in their sound power and distortion-free reproduction.
Cargo capacity of the Lincoln MKX remains the same, 32.2 cubic feet behind the second seat, 68.6 cubic feet with the second seat folded flat.
The 2011 Lincoln MKX comes with a 3.7-liter V6. Based on the same architecture as the smaller 3.5-liter V6, the 3.7-liter V6 is rated at 305 horsepower and 285 foot-pounds of torque (an increase of 40 horsepower over the previous-generation). It uses twin independent variable camshaft timing on both intake and exhaust valves to provide low emissions and big torque at low rpm, and good highway fuel economy when the engine is cruising.
The 6-speed automatic transmission comes with a SelectShift manual-control shifter. Electronically controlled part-time all-wheel-drive, which adds torque to the rear tires as needed, is optional on all models.
We drove the all-wheel-drive version of the 2011 Lincoln MKX, a well-equipped, heavily optioned version. The additional horsepower and torque of the revised 3.7-liter V6 engine, and the speed of the 6-speed transmission's shifting show up from the first minute. The engine accelerates the Lincoln MKX very quickly, and the engine sounds strong for a V6.
While highway cruising, the cabin is very, very quiet, and speech intelligibility around the cabin is excellent. Lincoln engineers have used acoustic windshield glass, thick side glass, shapelier mirror housings, and lots of other measures to keep the MKX as quiet as possible, and it certainly shows when carrying on a conversation with rear-seat passengers at 80 mph on an Interstate highway.
The steering is sharper and more communicative than before, and the combination of front struts and rear trailing arms in the suspension system impart a nice, smooth ride with good cornering behavior. Everything in the braking system has been replaced with heavier-duty and better quality components, and the pedal feel and pedal attack are greatly improved. Now deceleration starts much earlier in the pedal's travel, and the braking force is stronger and more linear. All models come with ABS, brake assist, electronic brake force distribution, traction control, yaw control, rollover mitigation software, and tire-pressure monitoring on top of the all-wheel-drive system.
Lincoln's standard front-drive and all-wheel-drive system has new control software for 2011, and now incorporates a Hill-Hold feature that allows the driver to push the foot brake down once and release it to keep from rolling backwards on a hill. Electronic trailer sway control is tied into the traction and yaw control systems, and the MKX is rated for towing up to 3500 pounds when the trailer tow package is ordered.
The Lincoln MKX is a very pleasant truck, easy to drive, convenient to use, possessed of an excellent and comprehensive safety package, and nice to look at, especially inside. Lincoln has done a very good job up updating what was already a very good, modern and tech-laden crossover SUV. The quality of interior materials and workmanship took a step up. The four-zone color-coded MyLincoln Touch system is not only fun to use and fun to play with, it's safer to use. The Lincoln MKX accelerates quicker with those 40 additional horsepower. It now brakes more authoritatively and more progressively. It rides much quieter on the highway than the previous version. Its wide array of onboard electronics and entertainment systems are clearly among the best in the industry in terms of capability and ease of use.
Jim McCraw filed this New Car Test Drive report from Washington, D.C.