The all-new Lincoln MKX takes its bourgeois origins with the Edge’s uderpinnings and produces a stellar crossover that combines utility and luxury elements
Lincoln has had a good year. In many ways, it’s the sort of year you would refer to as a vintage year. Why, you may ask? Well, in our opinion, the newest grand plan to resurrect the luxury lineage of the Ford Motor Company and take it ahead is spawning results.
We were given an early inkling of where the brand was going with its new interior design treatment that hit the floors of an infotech show in the region a couple of years ago. The biggest takeaway from that encounter was the eagerness to create a new standard for the interior, with its move of putting the electronically activated gearshift console on the dashboard and the first moves to a better interface on the console.
In the meantime, the brand has also brought about changes in the overall design of the cars. The models have all become more edgy and highly individualised and there’s been the addition of the entry size crossover in the MKC that takes the best of exterior design, the new interior idiom and Ecoboost drivetrain improvements.
Now, the next generation of the midsize compact SUV has dawned and the new MKX has brought a lot to the table.
The MKX is still built using the CD3 platform of the Ford Edge and the last generation (that’s the post 2010 model) looked very much like an Edge with a new front end tagged on to the front. That has changed dramatically. Finally the entire outer panelling has been re-skinned so that the MKX actually looks nothing like the Edge.
The main changes are around the front fascia – the headlights are designed from the outset to incorporate the LED light piping that mirrors the piping at the outer points of the lower airdam. And the assemblies incorporate either the Bi-Xenon projector lamps or the LED headlights that the higher grades offer.
The car we got for our test drive was the top of the line variant that came specced out with the 2.7-litre Ecoboost engine and some other interesting kit. Part of that kit is the 360-degree camera setup that has lenses in the pop-out logo on the fascia, under the mirrors and in the tailgate release. Another feature is the inclusion of a very large panoramic sunroof. Both of these do their bit to define the exterior impression with the roof rails offsetting the glass roof.
The tail of the car is as interesting as the front – the design now offers a small lip on top of a horizontal arrangement of the taillights across the width of the tailgate and onto the D-pillar area, where they open out like wings. The rear pane is quite large for the wedge like style lines.
The large door panels hog the profile of the car and the rear hatch seems to slope away much more aggressively than before although that effect is largely an effect of the styling around the C and D-pillars. The door panels look busier because of the ridge at the waistline of the car.
The interiors are very much modern day Lincoln. The steering wheel is larger than you would expect but it gets a four spoke arrangement that incorporates a large central boss with a whole slew of control buttons both on the two horizontal spokes as well as hanging on to the places in between the spokes. Most of these buttons are familiar from the past iterations of the vehicle. But now the level of interaction with the system is higher so you tend to use the selector buttons a lot.
The interiors are clad with a leather feel plastic and soft-feel surfaces that match with the wood and brushed aluminium elements of the panel inserts and centre console. The cabin has a distinct cockpit feel with the centre console taking pride of place.
Buttons that run down the sides of the console include the gearshift buttons on the driver’s side and buttons for automated parking, the 360-degree camera and the parking sensors along with the emergency switch.
Among all the other buttons on the console, you will also find the release for the glove compartment. By making it electronic, the valet functions are better integrated into the key fob.
The MKX is available with either the 3.7-litre Ti-VCT V6 engine for the lower two models or the 2.7-litre V6 Ecoboost engine. The difference in power output is quite significant – with 303hp for the naturally aspirated engine and 335hp for the boosted one. What’s even better is that the torque on the boosted unit rises to 380 lb-ft (515 Nm).
The transmission is a six-speed Selectshift automatic transmission and the car is provided with paddle-shift controls.
The car’s all-wheel drive arrangement is still very much in tune with the crossover nature of the SUV. There’s no elaborate locking controller or drive mode selector other than choosing the S mode over D.
The Reserve edition, the one that we were driving, comes kitted out with full-leather feel seats and the whole roof panoramic layout. The seats are very much an evolution of the American norm, with lots of padding and soft centres. Legroom and headroom is good and the cabin feels very roomy with the sliding roof covers open.
The engine is a new element to the MKX equation – we haven’t had turbocharged engines in the class before and the use of the 2.7-litre Ecoboost is being encouraged both for more power and torque and better efficiency. But this Ecoboost engine still has the typical turbocharger’s characteristics. When you get moving, the better NVH levels of the cabin filter out most sounds including road and wind noise. Even engine noise is deadened but there is a particular harmonic around the turbocharger that feeds back into the cabin. So as you speed up, the engine noise is almost a faint whistling sound against the backdrop of the class leading sound from the Revel audio system.
Gearshifting is smooth and well co ordinated with the torque band on the turbocharged unit. There’s a hint of lag at lower speeds but once you get rolling, the relatively light weight of the platform gives a seamless and linear pickup. You need to hold the gears down a notch to give the engine a real sense of urgency and if you get aggressive on the gears you can hear the engine really get communicative.
Highway driving is the forte of the MKX. Smooth, effortless acceleration, quick response to the electronic power steering and linear braking are all on offer. The handling through curves has improved too – in this case the undercarriage has improved its responses and offers continuously controlled damping too. The front suspension offers MacPherson struts with L-shaped control arms (aluminium to reduce weight) and an integral-link rear suspension that uses a sub-frame to isolate vibrations. This too uses aluminium control arms.
We took the car on to a tight handling course that it seemed very eager to conquer. Highly accurate steering feel helps, as does the fact that the body doesn’t roll significantly, nor does the tail pull out. Torque shift is smooth and you do feel the vectoring come in on hard turns.
Off road handling is fine, but don’t try to take the MKX into sand that deeper than a couple of loose inches. The torque shift is instant and imperceptible but once the non-tractive wheel gets slipping, you will dig it in.
The MKX scores high on the feeling of aspirational opulence. But it may just not have the additional off-roading tricks that allow it to compete with other premium contenders.
The question you need to ask yourself is whether you are buying a Lincoln or are trying to figure out where the MKX stands against other premium mid-segment Crossovers. For the Lincoln aficionado the equation is much clearer – you get a whole lot of crossover for the money you pay, although the price has gone up for the Reserve. It’s hard to put a price tag on the absolutely outstanding Revel audio system and the clarity from its host of speakers, but trust us when we say that if you are an audiophile you may buy the car just for that system. But then you must have a really good music library at hand.