Pros: Luxurious interior; cool high-tech audio and communication features; EcoBoost V6
Cons: Handling is on the soft side; dash design is somewhat dated; exterior styling is polarizing
Lincoln's seven-passenger MKT is Lincoln's luxury-SUV answer to the Audi Q7, the Volvo XC90 and the Mercedes-Benz GL. Not nearly as gargantuan as the Lincoln Navigator, the MKT is suitable for carrying crews of five to seven, with amenities at every seating position to pamper the privileged few who get to ride along.
From the outside, the MKT is distinctive, if not universally good-looking. The design is on the edge of avant-garde, with an exaggerated rendition of Lincoln's signature double-winged grille, a fluid window line that abruptly breaks upward once past the rear door and a huge red tail lens that runs the width of the rear liftgate and wraps around the car's wide rear quarter-panels. Distinctive indeed.
But the MKT is more than just another exercise in clever styling; it's a full-fledged luxury SUV with a technological roster so complete that it makes the competition look downright primitive.
Comfort & Utility
Since this is a Lincoln, it goes without saying that the seating is soft and comfortable, the interior materials first-rate and the cabin sufficiently isolated from outside road and wind noise. But the MKT goes a few steps further, offering an available set of captain's chair seats that can be heated or cooled and are separated by a full-length console that includes a refrigerated bin. Overhead, the huge twin-panel Vista Roof allows sunlight to fill the cabin, while an available THX-certified sound system delights the ears.
With the standard 60/40 split bench seat, the MKT is a more practical vehicle, providing space for three passengers or a level load floor for hauling items too big for a conventional trunk with seats folded flat. The power-folding third row of seats disappears into the floor, a nice feature for those who may have difficulty reaching and pulling to get the seats in and out of position.
Standard amenities in the Lincoln MKT include the Vista Glass panoramic sunroof, a rear-view camera, Intelligent Access with push-button start, tri-zone automatic temperature control with rear seat controls, a power liftgate, an eight-inch touchscreen with SYNC phone and iPod connectivity, power adjustable foot pedals, rear door sunshades and a power tilting and telescoping steering wheel.
The 2012 Lincoln MKT is loaded with advanced technology, including the SYNC information and entertainment system, adaptive front headlights, adaptive cruise control, push-button start, Intelligent AWD, blind spot detection system and active park assist.
SYNC is Ford's voice-controlled system that allows for hands-free calling on a Bluetooth-enabled phone as well as the ability to call up music by song or genre from a portable device such as an iPod. When combined with the available navigation system, voice controls can be used to find a destination or locate nearby restaurants or gas stations. And with the subscription-based SIRIUS TravelLink, you'll get up-to-the-minute traffic, weather, sports scores, movie times and gasoline prices.
The MKT's adaptive cruise control system not only maintains a constant speed, it actually regulates the speed to help keep a safe distance from the traffic ahead. There's also an advanced collision warning system that alerts you to an impending frontal collision by flashing a red warning light that displays on the windshield. Another adaptive feature of note is that the front headlamps turn in the direction of the vehicle, helping to light corners that would otherwise remain dark.
One of our favorite high-tech features is Lincoln's touchpad locking and unlocking system. Unlike older versions that featured an exposed key pad attached to the door, the MKT's pad uses touch-sensitive keys hidden behind the door, integrated into the black plastic window frame. A swipe of the finger brings the pad to life, and the correct five-digit passcode unlocks the doors.
Performance & Fuel Economy
The 2012 Lincoln MKT offers two engine choices. Standard on the front-wheel-drive version is a 3.7-liter V6, producing 268 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque. Mated to a six-speed automatic, this engine delivers good power but somewhat poor fuel economy of 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway.
The better choice is the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6, which employs twin turbochargers to deliver an impressive 355 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. It comes with the added benefit of full-time Intelligent AWD. Despite its V8-like power, the EcoBoost engine returns fuel economy not far from that of the 3.7-liter V6. The EcoBoost engine is rated by the EPA at 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway.
The MKT has a full array of standard safety measures including front and front side impact airbags and full-length side curtain airbags covering all three rows. At the wheels, standard ABS is joined by electronic traction control and electronic stability control. In the event of an impending accident, the SOS Post Crash Alert System will honk the horn and flash the hazard lights.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 2012 Lincoln MKT high marks in all of its crash tests and named it a Top Safety Pick.
The MKT isn't an athletic SUV, but its ride and handling are more than adequate for how this vehicle is likely to be used-on the freeway and around town. The steering is nicely weighted but also a bit overassisted. The MKT's ride is exceptionally smooth and the cabin near whisper quiet. Although the 3.7-liter V6 doesn't strain to move the MKT, it doesn't exactly inspire, either. The EcoBoost V6 with its 355 hp is the right engine for this vehicle, especially with four or more passengers on board.
Other Cars to Consider
Audi Q7 -The Q7 has a more luxurious interior and more advanced optional equipment, plus it can be equipped with a diesel engine. But the Q7 will cost you thousands more.
Mercedes Benz GL-Class - The GL can be equipped with a diesel engine as well as a potent V8, and its resale value far exceeds that of the MKT. But you'll pay for the prestige of the Mercedes name, in some cases nearly twice the MKT's base price.
Volvo XC90 - The XC90 isn't as roomy inside as the MKT, nor is it as powerful. But the XC90 costs less than the MKT, and the two vehicles share the same middle-of-the-road resale value.
Given that the difference in price between the front-wheel-drive V6 and the AWD EcoBoost V6 is a mere $2,000, we would definitely go with the EcoBoost/AWD option and load it with every possible option. After all, if you're going to spring for a luxury car, you might as well do it right.