Lincoln MKT EcoBoost – Technology that works

 By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

One of Ford’s bright ideas back in the late ’90s was to build a luxury version of its full-sized Ford Expedition sport utility. It was called the Lincoln Navigator and was such a huge success and such a profit generator that General Motors, caught flat-footed, threw some luxury knickknacks and a Cadillac grille on the Chevrolet Tahoe and began selling it under the name Escalade. The tarted-up Tahoe was almost as successful as the Navigator.

But those heady days of big body-on-frame luxury SUVs are over. Granted, you can still buy a Navigator. It was substantially upgraded in 2007, but in 2009 less than 8,000 units left dealer showrooms. Compare that to calendar year 2000 when nearly 38,000 units were sold; the obvious question, why bother? The answer is there are still some buyers who desire rugged high-riding seven-passenger vehicles.

But the real volume comes from more refined and more fuel-efficient car-based crossovers. In this instance a more refined crossover with adequate towing credentials, available all-wheel drive, and decent fuel economy.

That ticket for Lincoln is the 2010 MKT.

It comes in two flavors, one with a standard 3.7-liter V-6 making an adequate 268 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque, and for those who desire more performance or who have large weekend toys to tow, a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6 — known in Ford parlance as EcoBoost — generating a massive 355 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque. Outfitted correctly, the EcoBoost can tow 4,500 pounds. And it comes with all-wheel drive as standard equipment.

The MKT is a luxury version of the boxy, but engaging Ford Flex. The lines and corners have been softened, the roof flows down into a shapely rear, and a huge rendition of the current Lincoln grille has been affixed to the front end to give the MKT a distinctive look. We like the boldness of Flex, but we also very much like the shapely contours of the MKT, which evokes a more luxury persona.

The MKT styling gives Lincoln an air of distinctiveness, something missing in recent designs, a return — if ever so slightly — to the elegant styling of the long past. But as in many design exercises, there is a price to pay. And the price in this case is compromised third-row space. The sloping roof makes headroom painfully limited for anyone over about five-foot tall.

Getting to the third row is easy due to the power folding second-row chairs. It’s a perfect place to stick a couple of children, and with the rear seats folded flat, storage behind the second-row seats is a healthy 39.6 cubic feet. There’s a useable 17.9 cubic feet behind the third row that we discovered easily swallowed up four roll-aboard pilot cases.

While the third row has its downsides, the second-row — especially with bucket seats and a center console that includes a real honest-to-goodness refrigerator — is a spacious paradise for two people. The passenger area comes complete with foot rests and can be equipped with a power panoramic vista roof that can be retracted for fresh-air lovers. Nice touches are the rocker panels that have been integrated into the doors reducing the width of the door sill for improved entry and exit.

We were impressed with the Lincoln’s quiet cabin and compliant ride. Also impressive is the dashboard layout that includes attractive gauges with chrome accents and a wide, flowing, handsome center console with storage behind that begins with an eight-inch touch-screen interface.

After driving the Flex EcoBoost and now the MKT version, we are still amazed at the performance the new engine provides for a 5,000-pound vehicle. The new direct injection turbo technology makes a V-6 feel like a V-8 with the gas mileage of a V-6, Ford says. And for the most part Ford is right. It’s not just hype.

In addition to the healthy towing capacity, the MKT can finish off a 0-to-60 run in just over six seconds according to several auto magazine tests and complete a quarter mile in 14.6 seconds at 97 mph. This incredible performance comes with mileage measured by the EPA at 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway. Ford recommends using premium fuel, but regular is OK.

Here’s the thing. The standard MKT — the trim level we feel a majority of customers will purchase — comes with a very capable 3.5-liter 268-horsepower V-6 AWD at a savings of $3,000 over the EcoBoost. If you opt for front-wheel drive, the standard MKT comes in at a savings of $4,800. We think the standard V-6, with almost identical fuel economy of 15/23, will get the job done quite well.

While considerable equipment is standard across the lineup there are a number of interesting options to tempt the luxury buyer including a voice-activated hard-drive navigation system with a 14-speaker THX II Surround Audio System, dual headrest family entertainment system, adaptive cruise control, heated and cooled rear seats, and a second-row console with that five-quart capacity refrigerator.
And for good measure a new active park assist, which, like the Lexus LS 460 and other vehicles, will automatically guide the big Lincoln while trying to accomplish tricky parallel parking maneuvers.

We discovered how much easier and faster it is to park the new Lincoln than the Lexus when performing back-to-back tests, attributed to the excellent sensors on the big CUV. While we think this is a frivolous option — drivers should be skilled enough to accomplish it — it is relatively inexpensive at $595, and it works.

Our easy to live with well-equipped EcoBoost test vehicle was loaded up with several options bringing the bottom line to $57,775 for the full-sized crossover.

Base price, $46,990; as driven, $57,775
Engine: 3.5-liter direct injection twin turbo V-6
Horsepower: 355 @ 5,700 rpm
Torque: 350 foot-pounds @ 3,500
Drive: all-wheel
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Seating: 2/2/3
Wheelbase: 117.9 inches
Length: 207.6 inches
Curb weight: 5,018 pounds
Turning circle: 40.7 feet
Luggage capacity: 17.9 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 76 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 18.6 gallons (premium)
EPA: 16 mpg city; 22 mpg highway
0-60: 6.1 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Buick Enclave, Acura MDX, Audi Q7

The Good:
• Powerful turbocharged engine
• Quiet interior
• Long list of standard features

The Bad:
• Third-row headroom

The Ugly:
• Finding its way to a luxury buyer’s shopping list