Thumbs Up: Stellar interior, great content for the price.
Thumbs Down: Vague, over-boosted steering.
Buy This Car If: You want a domestic luxury alternative to the Cadillac SRX.
Like Rodney Dangerfield, Lincoln can’t get any respect. Ford’s luxury brand spent years mired in mediocrity, and now that it’s stepped up its game no one seems to know about it. Perhaps it spent too many years living in the shadow of now defunct Mercury, or perhaps it’s trapped in a time warp between its traditional (and aging) customer base and the younger luxury buyers it hopes to attract. Quirky styling aside, the Lincoln products I’ve driven offer a solid build quality and a surprising amount of content for the price.
Take the 2011 Lincoln MKX crossover for example. It’s got just about every luxury amenity you could hope for, including heated and cooled front seats, a voice-command navigation and infotainment system, a premium audio system, leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power liftgate and more. If safety is your thing, the MKX comes with a reverse sensing system, Ford’s Advance Trac stability control system, a plethora of airbags and available blind spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control. Despite these features and available options, you rarely see a Lincoln MKX on the road.
As for style, there’s no denying that Lincoln goes its own way. Its trademark waterfall grill has caught a lot of flack in recent years, and there’s no denying that it creates a polarizing front end on Lincoln vehicles. Lincoln’s designers have done what they could to soften the look, but it’s still not going to be mainstream. In a way, that’s an advantage for Lincoln, because you’ll never confuse your Lincoln vehicle for another Ford product in a parking lot.
For 2011, the Lincoln MKX received a rather thorough refresh, which included the wing-shaped waterfall grille seen on other Lincoln models, as well as restyled front fenders with a much bolder look. The net result is that the MKX no longer looks like a Ford Edge with a Lincoln badge, but that distinction comes at a price; the old MKX was bland, but its looks were hardly controversial. The new MKX may draw some buyers into Lincoln dealers on looks alone, but it will also turn some away, too. The trick for Lincoln’s designers is attracting the right kinds of buyers, in the quantities needed to grow the brand.
Inside, the Lincoln tones down its style for a more contemporary take on luxury. Proving that wood (or worse, faux wood) isn’t always required in an upscale vehicle, Lincoln buyers can choose textured aluminum instead. I’m a big fan, since wood and plastic wood in all its variations are beyond played out, and the textured metal trim makes Lincoln products a bit more distinctive. The dash is wrapped in stitched, leather-look vinyl, and titanium plastic is used to trim the center stack and doors. I’d call the look “modern luxury,” as opposed to the “traditional luxury” that so many automakers seem to embrace.
As you’d expect, the Lincoln MKX comes with the Sync MyLincoln touch infotainment system. Despite getting bad reviews from customers not properly trained on its use, I find Ford’s infotainment system to be the best, most user friendly system on the market today. It’s divided into four color-coded main menu areas: yellow is for Bluetooth-linked phone commands, red is for audio system functions, blue is climate control and green is for navigation. You can easily call up any of these sub-menus from the touch screen in the center stack, or you can access each area from steering wheel mounted controls and a display to the right of the speedometer. Spend some time getting used to the system, and I think you’ll agree that it’s the easiest one in the industry to master.
Front seats are wrapped in thick leather, ventilated on seat bottom and seat back. The wide seats are definitely on the firm side, which some may find objectionable for long-distance comfort. Front seats are both heated and cooled (not just ventilated), ensuring that both driver and passenger stay comfortable no matter what the outside weather conditions are.
Rear seats are also covered in ventilated leather, and get heat for winter comfort. Like the front seats, the rears aren’t nearly as soft as those found in vehicles from the competition (namely, Chrysler). Personally, I find firm seats more comfortable on long trips than soft ones, but your opinion may vary. If you like your seats on the soft side, you’d best take a long test drive in the MKX before signing the paperwork to buy one.
Like any Ford product equipped with Sync and MyFord or MyLincoln Touch, the MKX has an instrument cluster that can be configured by the driver. The center features a large speedometer and gear shift indicator, flanked by variable information displays on the left and right. The left side can be configured to show engine speed and fuel level, trip information, engine temperature or any combination of these. The right side can be configured to show phone, audio, navigation or climate settings. Get used to the system, and you’ll quickly find yourself wondering why other automaker don’t adopt such a simple but functional interface.
Under the MKX’s hood lies a vastly improved V-6 engine. Gone is the old 3.5-liter used until 2010, replaced by a 3.7-liter that’s good for 305 horsepower. That’s 40 more horsepower than the V-6 it replaces, yet the 2011 MKX even does slightly better in fuel economy. The 2011 MKX is rated at 19 mpg city and 26 mpg highway, which is one mpg better in both areas than the vehicle it replaces. Acceleration is sufficient, although getting the power to the ground can be a problem with FWD MKX models; if you live where snow and ice are a fact of life, you’ll probably be happier with the AWD version.
On the road, the MKX delivers a comfortable, quiet ride. If I had a complaint at all, it would be the steering, which was just a bit light and numb for my own tastes. Granted, the MKX is a luxury crossover and not a sport sedan, but I still like a bit more information from the front tires than the MKX delivered. I suspect that the optional 20-inch wheels on my Lincoln-supplied press-fleet tester may have had something to do with this, and buyers who opt for the base 18-inch wheels may be rewarded with better road feel. Despite the MKX’s high center of gravity and plush ride, it handled well for a crossover and won’t disappoint (or surprise) the average driver. Even after five hours behind the wheel, the MKX didn’t wear me out, and gets my stamp of approval for a long-distance road trip vehicle.
Base price on my front-wheel-drive Lincoln MKX tester was $39,995, including a destination charge of $850. Options included the $7,500 Premium Package (ambient lighting, rearview camera, adaptive HID headlamps, voice activated navigation system, THX II certified audio, panoramic vista roof, blind spot monitoring system, 20-inch chrome wheels) and the $1,295 Adaptive Cruise Control / Collision Warning System for a total sticker price of $48,790.
For comparison, a similarly equipped Cadillac SRX Premium would sticker for $47,345 (but doesn’t include adaptive cruise control or a blind spot warning system), while a comparable Lexus RX 350 would list at $50,885.