Lincoln is something of an American tragedy. Its long and complicated history is like an automotive version of the dust bowl or perhaps even an attempted presidential assassination.
Engine: 2.7-liter twin-turbocharged V6; 335 horsepower, 380 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel Economy: 17 miles per gallon city, 24 highway, 19 MPG combined
As-Tested Price: $57,710 including $925 in delivery fees
Many years ago, this luxury carmaker was known for its powerful engines and avant-garde design, but in more recent decades, rampant platform sharing with parent company Ford, uninspired styling and no clear-cut position in the market cost this once-glorious marque dearly. By the 21st century, Lincoln had devolved into little more than a blue-oval trim line and nearly faded away because of this.
Fortunately, it didn’t go the way of Oldsmobile or Plymouth, surviving to live another day, if only just. Today, the folks in Dearborn are hard at work atoning for past sins by introducing competent and appealing new products, something that hasn’t happened in recent memory. One vehicle that’s leading this renaissance is the fresh-faced MKX crossover, an appealing luxury utility with the style, grace and performance to do this brand proud.
Like past versions, this model is once again based on the Ford Edge, which isn’t necessarily as big a downside as it might sound. This crossover handles itself well and offers the refinement and opulence to compete with rivals like the Acura MDX and Lexus’ popular RX range.
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Setting the MKX apart from its blue-oval cousin is a more muscular optional engine and a swankier interior, among many other changes. Of course, it’s also dressed like a Lincoln, with subtle, sophisticated styling, though curiously, it does not wear the brand’s latest face. That gaping, mesh-filled grille is reserved for the 2017 MKZ sedan and all-new Continental, at least for the time being.
One area where the MKX is clearly differentiated from its plebian cousin is inside. I have nothing against the Ford’s cabin, but this Lincoln is quite a bit more stylish and premium.
Our test car’s interior was particularly well appointed. Cut-and-sewn materials covered its dashboard and doors, the seats were dressed in soft leather, and all of its switchgear had a quality feel – exactly what’s expected in a luxury car. However, if you want something even better, the company offers unique Black Label interiors, which are exceptionally nice.
These themed cabins feature higher quality appointments, unique color combinations and even come with special perks. Customers who opt for a Black Label Lincoln are also treated to free car washes, annual vehicle detailing and many other niceties.
Appropriately, this vehicle’s front seats are all-day comfortable, striking a nice balance between softness and support, though taller drivers will wish the lower cushion was slightly longer. For an extra $1,500, you can get 22-way adjustable buckets, which is crazy, though they’re noting in comparison to the upcoming Continental’s front seats; they move in a whopping 30 different directions!
Regrettably, things aren’t quite as hospitable in the MKX’s back row. Headroom comes up short … literally. At six-feet tall, my noggin grazed the roof, though if I angled the backrest slightly, it alleviated this issue somewhat.
Ensuring a concert-quality listening experience are available Revel audio systems, which are some of the best in the car business. The setup in our test car was crystal clear even with the volume cranked, and it wasn’t even the range-topping 19-speaker unit.
Overall, the MKX’s interior is luxurious and elegant, though I do have a couple minor complaints. For instance, the gauges are too small and look plainer than a Mennonite’s wardrobe. Also, the test car’s black-on-black cockpit was gloomier than Dick Cheney’s soul. Some contrasting color would be appreciated, which is probably a good reason to opt for the Black Label treatment. Also, there were some minor fit and finish anomalies on the dashboard near the windshield’s base, which is pretty unacceptable in a luxury vehicle.
What’s Under the Hood?
Up front, tucked behind the Lincoln star emblem, is a camera. When deployed, it feeds video to the MKX’s 360-degree parking assist system, a handy feature to be sure. But behind this camera are the parts that really matter.
Drivers have two engines to choose from. The base unit is a naturally aspirated 3.7-liter V6 that’s good for 303 horses, 278 lb-ft of torque and more coarseness than a trainload of gravel. Ford’s larger Duratec six-shooters have never been particularly smooth.
But that doesn’t matter here because the engine you really want is the MKX’s EcoBoost option. It gives up a liter of displacement to the base unit, but gains twin turbochargers and direct injection.
This little dynamo puts out 335 horsepower! But even more impressive than that is the torque, which clocks in at 380 lb-ft. A button-controlled six-speed automatic is the only gearbox available, though you can opt for either front- or all-wheel drive. Mercifully, our EcoBoosted test model was equipped with four-corner traction. Sending that much twist to just the front wheels is a recipe for a buffet’s worth of torque steer and, ultimately, depression.
Fuel economy for this model is advertised at 17 miles per gallon city, 24 highway and 19 in mixed driving. According to the computer, we averaged around 22 mpg in abusively heavy-footed motoring, which is more than respectable for a crossover that weighs nearly 4,500 pounds.
As you might have suspected, in traditional Lincoln fashion, the MKX is quite soft underway. Its suppleness will probably draw the ire of enthusiasts, but guess what? I think smooth and quiet is the right strategy for this company.
Cadillac, Acura and even Lexus are chasing BMW, trying to build hard-edged vehicles for car nuts. The market doesn’t need another luxury brand doing this, so kudos to Lincoln for not chasing the crowd. There’s definitely a place in the market for smooth, quiet, comfortable vehicles.
Accordingly, the MKX is softly sprung, which results in a fair bit of body roll while changing directions, and when you nail the accelerator, its nose pitches upward like the barrel of a battleship’s main gun aiming at a target on the horizon. There’s quite a lot of movement.
But this softness is great when driving on roads that have been bombed to bits, like practically every stretch of pavement in Michigan. The MKX brushes off gigantic pot holes with ease, never perturbing its passengers.
Likewise, this Lincoln’s steering is light to the touch but not overly sloppy. It’s appropriately weighted and matches the ride quality quite nicely for laid-back boulevard cruising.
But if there’s one thing about the MKX that might actually appeal to enthusiasts it’s the engine. Ford’s 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 is an absolute gem. It’s incredibly powerful and refined, pulling like a freight train. It provides TONS of torque across the rev range, making the MKX one seriously quick crossover. It’s also impressively refined, putting its larger six-cylinder sibling to shame. This engine is a winner.
The Verdict: 2016 Lincoln MKX Review
The 2016 Lincoln MKX is powerful, quiet and exceptionally smooth. It should appeal to myriad luxury-crossover buyers, some of whom aren’t even on Social Security yet.
But for folks who are on a fixed income, an entry-level model can be had for about 40 grand; load it up with every option and you can push the sticker into the mid 60s. The model we sampled split the difference with an out-the-door price of $57,710, which included niceties like that EcoBoost engine, a driver assistance package and Revel audio system.
The new MKX may not be best in class, but it’s not at the bottom, either. It’s comfortable, quiet and speedy, but beyond all of this, it’s also a legitimate option in the luxury crossover class. If nothing else, it demonstrates that Lincoln is at least pointed in the right direction, which is a tremendous improvement.
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