Lincoln MKX – just what the doctor ordered – for now

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

The all-new MKX crossover sport utility is the right vehicle at the right time for Lincoln. And Lincoln needs an infusion of right vehicles.

As predicted the MKX and the new MKZ sedan will have respectable sales in 2007 giving Lincoln a significant increase in year-over-year numbers. In fact, YTD through July Lincoln is up a significant 12.5-percent in a down market.

Was it a bold prediction? You won't think so once you’ve driven the MKX or the MKZ.

Perhaps the biggest initial roadblock for consumers is the new alphabet soup names Lincoln has decided to use mimicking many of the other luxury brands that have gone the “ABC” route while forsaking names that used to be household words like DeVille and Riviera and Imperial.

Traditional Lincoln buyers are familiar with such monikers as Town Car, Navigator and Continental, not to mention the Mark series. But Lincoln is looking for new buyers while banking that its loyal over-60 customers continue purchasing Town Cars. And they are.

For those who want to shop Lincoln, how about a couple of pointers before entering the showroom? The MKX is pronounced simply M-K-X, not Mark X or Mark 10. Similarly, the sedan, a car previously known as Zephyr, is properly called the M-K-Z.

But enough of alphabets, today we will comment on the new crossover MKX.

A crossover vehicle is basically a high-riding station wagon, a version of the sport utility vehicle built on a car platform for better ride and fuel economy while retaining bad-weather all-wheel drive capability, but without the off-road prowess of a truck-based SUV.

Give Lexus credit for starting the luxury crossover segment nearly a decade ago with its RX 300. Today there are a myriad of examples, which means the new Lincoln is entering a crowded segment chock full of good vehicles.

We think the MKX has the goods to successfully wade into the competition, but that’s not to say that there’s no room for improvements. The MKX is not a perfect example of the genre, but it’s a good first attempt from Lincoln.

Although the MKX is spun off the all-new mid-sized Ford Edge crossover, we discovered that the MKX has a more upscale personality. It’s more refined than the Edge and is a more desirable product.

That translates into about $6,000 difference in comparably equipped vehicles. We think the MKX is worth the extra bucks, but we’re easy.

Outside, the MKX gets an unmistakably Lincoln grille — a retro Continental look — and unique lamp clusters, and different rear lamps, tailgate and rear fascia treatments. Both the Edge and the MKX have a solid and substantial look with a wide stance, standard 18-inch wheels and a high beltline.

Inside is where the Lincoln definitely shines with a unique and stylish instrument cluster, center stack and door panels. It’s a dual cockpit look reminiscent of Lincolns of the 1960s and early ’70s. And unlike many luxury brands, Lincoln has kept the switchgear user friendly.

The MKX has the feeling of refinement, perhaps because it seems quieter than the Edge, but at the same time it just misses the mark of pure luxury being a bit sterile instead of warm.

One of our frequent riders, who had developed a critical eye for things we sometimes miss, was lukewarm to the Edge, but offered up kudos for the MKX. “This is what I was looking for in the Edge, but it wasn’t there,” he noted. So maybe today’s MKX is tomorrow’s Edge, and the MKX will move forward towards a more premium vehicle taking on the RX350 head to head. Something we would or should expect from a Lincoln.

At the same time it didn't hurt that we had the excellent optional 600-watt THX audio system cranked to the rafters. Our frequent rider is a dyed-in-the-wool audiophile and he was duly impressed with the sound emanating from 14 speakers including two sub-woofers proving the MKX isn’t without some premium luxury items.

The MKX has the same 3.5-liter engine generating 265 horsepower mated to a six-speed transmission as found in the Edge. The new setup gives the crossover vehicles respectable acceleration (0-to-60 has been measured at around 7.6 seconds) and with ample power for passing and merging.

But here is where we think the Ford people could have done a better job differentiating the Lincoln from the Ford. A slight modification of the new V-6 bumping up horsepower a modest 10-to-15 ponies would have really set the MDX apart. To us this would have been a terrific selling point for Lincoln. Furthermore, they could have made all-wheel drive standard on the Lincoln.

What you don't get in either the Edge or the MDX is a third-row seat.

It’s amusing to us how many members of the automotive press wring their hands in anguish every time a new SUV or CUV arrives without a third-row seat. It seems they demand an extra seat be crammed into every vehicle regardless of size. We haven’t jumped on that bandwagon. Most of the far-back seats in mid-sized vehicles are uninhabitable by adults and are too close to the rear gate making them hazardous in rear end collisions. If you want more seats check out Lincoln’s Navigator – terrific vehicle and it has all the seats you want. And if you’re patient Ford hints that a larger crossover with a third row is in the works.

Speaking of seats, we found the front buckets comfortable and easily configured to our driving peculiarities. Back support is good. The optional heated and cooled front seats are a nice touch. A short journey nestled in a rear seat left a good impression. They recline, but don’t slide fore or aft as in some vehicles.

Lincoln has included a convenient one-touch remote seat release that folds the seatbacks into a flat load floor. This is a very good feature.

The MKX comes well equipped in just one trim level starting at $34,120 for two-wheel drive and $35,770 for all-wheel drive.

Standard features include leather seating, eight-way power front seats, dual-zone climate control, 18-inch wheels, traction and stability control, antilock brakes, side-impact and side-curtain airbags and tire-pressure monitor.

Lincoln has bundled its most popular options in two packages, the Elite Package for $4,795 and the Ultimate Package for $1,995.

The Elite includes the huge Vista Roof, which pairs a large front power sunroof with a fixed rear skylight for a truly open-air feel; the THX audio system; and voice-activated navigation system. The Ultimate Package adds 10-way power heated and cooled seats, reverse sensing system and the remote second-row seat release.

Most of the bundled items can be purchased as stand-alone options.

Our test vehicle with all-wheel drive and the two bundled options had a sticker of $42,560.

We think Lincoln can and will do better moving MKX further upscale. But for now we think the price is right and we think the MKX will be the right vehicle for many people.


Base price: $34,120; as driven: $42,560
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6
Horsepower: 265 @ 6,250 rpm
Torque: 250 pound-feet @ 4,500 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive: all-wheel
Seating: 2/3
Turning circle: 38.6 feet
Towing capacity: 3,500 pounds
Curb weight: 4,420 pounds
Wheelbase: 111.2 inches
Length: 186.5 inches
Fuel capacity: 20 gallons (regular)
EPA mileage: 24 mpg highway, 17 city
0-60: 7.6 seconds (MotorWeek)
Also consider: Lexus RX 350, BMW X3, Acura RDX, Infiniti FX35, Volvo XC90

The Good:
• Attractive styling
• Spacious cabin
• Comprehensive list of standard safety features

The Bad:
• A heavyweight with disappointing fuel economy

The Ugly:
• The luxury crossover segment is jam-packed with alluring products as good or better than the Lincoln