Lincoln MKS — Where luxury meets EcoBoost

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

In a month gone is the gigantic Lincoln Town Car, for decades the personification of American luxury sedans. The big, comfortable cruiser is still the staple of many limousine fleets across the country, but for the family man seeking plush, soft-sprung luxury the Town Car era has passed.

Lincoln devotees today have two choices to fill the void, the large MKT crossover, a contender for the livery business and the top-line MKS sedan now in its third model year since its introduction in 2008 as a 2009 model, and the only vehicle Lincoln has to offer the traditional American large luxury sedan buyer, although it has neither the size nor the softness of ride of the Town Car.

The MKS is more in the European vane, stretching out 204 inches with a 112.9-inch wheelbase and with seating for five. The Town Car in its final iteration measures 215 inches in length with a wheelbase of 117.7 inches. Its cavernous 21-cubic-foot trunk will swallow up a foursome’s golf bags or several large roll-aboard pieces of luggage.

And if your needs are to carry six as the Town Car can, well, forget the MKS sedan and go take another peek at the MKT.

The MKS has a few endearing traits, to be sure, not the least of which is excellent rear-seat legroom and true three-across passenger space in the rear seat. There was nary a complaint from our rear-seat test dummies. And it is endowed with a rather large trunk by current standards, measuring 18.7 cubic feet, although the trunk opening is the size of a mole hole that dares you to try and put any size box through it much less those big pieces of luggage. The designers and engineers on this one must have had brain freeze.

The MKS can be purchased with a very engaging optional engine that provides satisfying traditional luxury performance and standard all-wheel drive. The twin-turbo EcoBoost 3.5-liter V-6 may sway performance-oriented consumers over to the MKS who otherwise might look elsewhere for their large sedan.

The EcoBoost engine, now showing up in several Ford products, here in the Lincoln makes 355 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque giving the big car exhilarating performance in all aspects of driving while delivering decent gas mileage of 17 mpg city and 25 mpg highway.

Performance is measured from 0 to 60 in a quick 5.4 seconds and in a quarter mile time of 14.1 seconds at 100 mph, excellent for a vehicle weighing in at about 4,300 pounds. The downside is that the EcoBoost starts at a rather hefty base price of $48,985 including destination compared to $42,325 for the base MKS.

In this case we would pay the price for the performance since the EcoBoost is such a leap over the standard 3.7-liter V-6 that generates a rather average and blah 273 horsepower. The 3.7is about two seconds slower and gas mileage is the same at 17/25 with AWD. Narrowing the difference in price between the base and the EcoBoost is AWD also available in the base model, but as an option costing $1,890.

If a mass market badge is not a big concern, you may want to consider the MKS’ platform mate, the Ford Taurus SHO, which comes with the same EcoBoost engine, but making 10 more horsepower, at a considerably less expensive $38,950. It also has standard all-wheel drive. There’s actually little difference other than styling and a handful of features between the two vehicles. Oh, and the luxury brand nameplate.

While we enjoyed the EcoBoost’s straight ahead performance, the car’s handling traits on our usual curving road “test track” proved ordinary, nothing sporting here. Because of the car’s slightly firm ride we figured that the MKS would be more exciting. Not so much. But then again who buys a large cruiser to carve up back roads on the weekend?

The exterior styling of the Lincoln is subdued — this car will not turn heads. It is conservatively handsome offering a luxury car presence. A “double wing” grille said to be inspired by the 1941 Lincoln Continental flanked by standard jeweled HID headlights makes a statement and gives the big Lincoln a measure of character.

The MKS from all angles has a well balanced look and was set off nicely in our test vehicle by optional 20-inch wheels. Nineteen inch wheels are standard on the EcoBoost.

Likewise, the interior is perhaps a bit understated as interiors go these days. But it is generally well designed with real wood, and leather from the Scottish company Bridge of Weir. If your tastes don’t include wood, the interior can be ordered with textured aluminum trim panels. Unfortunately, several areas are outfitted in hard plastic, not something usually found these days in cars in this price range.

Standard equipment is fairly generous as you would assume for a car in this price range. Some of the features include heated and cooled front seats and heated rear seats, leather upholstery, power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, adaptive xenon headlights, keyless entry/ignition, parking sensors, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone climate control, a THX-certified sound system with satellite radio, and a SYNC voice activation system that includes turn-by-turn navigation.

One neat feature on the Lincoln is the venerable touchpad entry system. But rather than setting like a sore thumb on the side of the door as in previous generations, it is embedded in the base of the B-pillar and is invisible until touched.

Safety has not been overlooked. All the modern safety features are present, and for real peace of mind it’s good to know that the MKS has received a perfect five star rating in the government crash tests for both frontal and side-impact crashes.

Our test EcoBoost edition carried a bottom line of $57,310, which factored in several options including an EcoBoost appearance package and navigation and upgraded audio.

The MKS offers luxury sedan buyers a decent option, but there are a lot of worthwhile full-sized sedans on the market from which to choose.

Base price: $42,325; as driven, $57,310
Engine: 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6
Horsepower: 355 @ 5,500 rpm
Torque: 350 foot-pounds @ 1,500 rpm
Drive: all-wheel
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 112.9 inches
Length: 204.1 inches
Curb weight: 4,305 pounds
Turning circle: 39.7 feet
Luggage capacity: 18.7 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 19 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 25 mpg highway, 17 mpg city
0-60: 5.4 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Hyundai Genesis, Toyota Avalon, Acura RL

The Good:
• Outstanding performance from EcoBoost engine
• Excellent passenger and cargo space
• Top safety scores

The Bad:
• Trunk opening is a joke

The Ugly:
• Ford Taurus SHO is nearly identical for thousands less