By Mark Maynard
I was about 5 years old when a new 1958 Lincoln Continental Mark III rumbled past, gleaming in black paint and acres of chrome. It was a stop-and-stare moment.
Its massive features commanded attention — and I just knew that driving a Lincoln meant success.
Five decades later, Lincoln is back with another punch to the senses. The 2010 Lincoln MKT is a big, swaggering wagon that is unmistakably a design flagship.
As a six- to seven-passenger crossover, it is completely in your face with presence and power. The design is “polarizing” — love it or hate it — but it generates a reaction, which is necessary for a luxury brand to be recognized among a sea of similarities.
Taking some ribs from the architecture of the Ford Flex, the MKT shares little in appearance. But it does share the worldly powertrain of a six-speed SelectShift automatic, front- or all-wheel drive and two lean V-6 engines, including a twin-turbocharged, direct-injection V-6 that pulls with the power of a V-8.
MKT is sold in two versions, in front- or all-wheel drive. The base model with 268-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 starts at $44,995; add $1,995 for AWD. The EcoBoost — turbocharged — model, with 355-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 and standard all-wheel drive starts at $49,995. The EcoBoost test vehicle was almost $58,000 with options. It was configured as a six-passenger, executive-class grand tourer with second-row bucket seats separated by a long console with storage, cup holders and a refrigerated bin.
As the luxury brand for Ford Motor Co., there is generally good overall quality to the MKT’s assembly and materials. The interior design is clean with a minimalist treatment, though some of the buttons, such as for fan speed, may be too minimal for those with large hands and blunt fingers. And the variety of buttons can be distracting at first, but each is connected to a standard feature, such as adjustable pedals, lights to dim the touch screen for audio and climate inputs, tailgate, etc.
The center shifter console is a design focal point, but it could use an open tray or cubby to drop a cell phone or parking stub. There is some open storage low and out of sight where the console meets the instrument panel.
Perforated leather seats are robust, heated and cooled. The front foot wells are somewhat narrow and may be restrictive to some. An electric park brake, rather than a foot pumper, would free up some space. Sightlines are good over the shoulder but tight through the narrow tailgate glass. I thought the small opening would be a problem, but with properly adjusted side mirrors and the rearview camera, it was a not a problem.
MKT does not overwhelm users with its applications of technology. Options include adaptive cruise control with collision avoidance ($1,295), which is a good choice for those who travel a busy daily commute. Acoustic side glass, part of the $4,000 Elite package, helps calm the cabin.
Active Park Assist, just $595, will park the MKT in a parallel spot that I’d be chicken to try. And it’s fast — faster than I normally parallel park. The process requires trust between driver and machine that it really will not hit the car behind. I did not yet have that trust, so I touched the brake, which cancels the action. At that point, even I could finish the job. The last self-parking system I tried on the Lexus LX 460 sedan was frustratingly slow and timid. And the parking spot was so large that any parking-phobe could have done it. The Ford system is an advancement and could be a selling point.
The driving experience is American made. The driver is engaged, not isolated from the road. There is texture to the well-boosted steering, which helps diminish the width of a 40.7 turning circle. Braking is confident. EcoBoost acceleration is brisk and without turbo delay. AWD is standard with this engine, Ford says, because channeling 350 foot-pounds of torque “through just the front wheels would not provide the best solution for our customers.”
Think of the third row as on-demand seating that folds flat into the floor with a tug and a pull on a couple of release straps. Or get the power option, $595.
Among those who didn’t rave about the MKT was Consumer Reports. In a recent comparison test of sport-utility vehicles, the magazine rated the Acura MDX, Audi Q7, Land Rover LR3 and Lincoln MKT. The Acura MDX came out on top as a well-rounded vehicle that has good handling. The Lincoln MKT was criticized for its handling.
The differences between the two vehicles are significant. The MDX is wound tight for a sport-tuned driving experience. The MKT is a large car.
The MKT rides on a wheelbase that is 9.6 inches longer than the MDX, it is 16-inches longer overall, 7.2 inches wider and weighs 350 pounds more. While slinging around the MKT, I never felt that it would lunge out of control. And the Lincoln gets no recognition from the magazine for having more power and better fuel economy.
With no direct competition for now, Lincoln has a flagship on a unique course.
2010 Lincoln MKT EcoBoost
Body style: six- or seven-passenger crossover vehicle with all-wheel drive
Engine: aluminum, twin-turbocharged, DOHC 3.5-liter V-6 EcoBoost with direction injection and intake variable camshaft timing
Horsepower: 355 at 5,700 rpm
Torque: 350 foot-pounds at 3,500 rpm
Transmission: six-speed SelectShift automatic with steering-wheel shifters
EPA estimated fuel mileage: 16 mpg city, 22 highway; 91 octane recommended for peak power
Wheelbase/length/width: 117.9/207.6/85.7 inches
Front head/leg/shoulder room: 40/41/3/58.6 inches
Second row head/leg/shoulder room: 38.8/41.8/58.1 inches
Curb weight: 4,924 pounds
Cargo capacity: 17.9 cubic feet behind third row, 39.6 with second row folded
Turning circle: 40.7 feet
Safety equipment: six air bags (including side-impact curtains), AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control, four-wheel-vented disc brakes with four-channel ABS
MKT EcoBoost: $49,995, including $795 freight charge; price as tested, $57,970
Options on test car: Elite package includes voice-activated navigation, panoramic vista roof, acoustic side-door glass, $4,000; second-row console with refrigeration, $895; adaptive cruise control, $1,295; active park assist, $595; woven metal appearance trim, $195; second row bucket seats, $995
Where assembled: Ontario, Canada
Mark Maynard is driving in cyberspace at Mark.Maynard@uniontrib.com.
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