At one time an SUV from an American luxury automaker would have been unheard of. But Cadillac's truck-based Escalade opened the door to the U.S. luxury SUV market several years ago as the country went SUV crazy, and Lincoln soon followed suit with its Navigator. With truck-based SUV sales plummeting, Lincoln now offers its car-like MKX sport-utility vehicle.
New for 2007 and scarcely changed for 2008, the midsize MKX is based on the Ford Edge, which uses Mazda's versatile Mazda6 platform. This same platform also underpins the Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan and Lincoln MKZ midsize sedan - no wonder Ford shows no interest in selling its substantial interest in Mazda.
The MKX comes in one well-equipped trim level, as a four-door SUV with front- or all-wheel drive and 18-inch wheels. A new $1,095 Limited Edition Package has 20-inch chrome alloy wheels, upgraded leather upholstery and unique interior and exterior trim.
Under the Hood
The MKX is a more handsome, quieter and upscale version of the Edge, but provides the same sophisticated dual-overhead-camshaft 3.5-liter V6. The engine kicks out 265-horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque, spread across a wide engine rev band. Too bad the heavy hood is held open with a prop rod, instead of more convenient hydraulic struts you'd expect in a premium vehicle, although fluid filler areas can be easily reached.
The MKX has a responsive 6-speed automatic transmission. There's no manual-shift feature, but it's not really needed for a luxury vehicle with all those transmission speeds.
It's fairly easy to slide in and out of the MKX's exceptionally quiet, upscale interior, which is roomy for four tall occupants (five if they're slim). They sit high in an airy cabin, which has leather-upholstered seats and wood trim.
The stylish gauges can easily be read whatever the outside lighting conditions. Controls are well-marked, although drivers with shorter arms may have to stretch to reach the navigation system's touch screen controls, which also activate most audio system functions.
The MKX is loaded with standard comfort and convenience items, including previously optional heated/cooled power front bucket seats and a memory system for the driver's seat and mirrors. Also newly standard are a rear-obstacle detection system (but no rearview camera) and Ford's voice-activated SYNC system to control cell phones and MP3 players.
This Lincoln has all the power accessories expected in a luxury vehicle, including dual-zone automatic climate controls, cruise control, four power points, and an AM/FM radio with an in-dash 5-disc CD changer and six speakers.
The front seats are outstanding. No third-row seat is available, although such a seat is offered by many midsize rivals. However, the backs of the all-day-comfortable split-folding rear seat, which has an armrest, can be flipped forward to enlarge the cargo area. Cupholders are placed to avoid spills and there's decent interior storage space.
Those who want to splurge can get the $4,595 Elite Package, which contains a power panoramic sunroof, voice-activated navigation system and THX sound system. Heated rear seats are $295, and a $1,295 Ultimate package features a power liftgate and adaptive headlights that swivel for cornering. The DVD entertainment system is $1,295 but isn't available with the power panoramic sunroof.
Standard safety items include front, side and side-curtain airbags with rollover deployment, anti-lock brakes and a stability control system with rollover sensors.
On the Road
The MKX rides, handles and stops like a well-mannered midsize sedan, thanks partly to its all-independent suspension. It's no sports SUV, despite such visual cues as dual chrome-tipped exhausts. Steering is slightly numb and some body lean and understeer occur in brisk cornering, but the MKX can be comfortably driven fairly quickly. It's a great highway cruiser, partly because wheels are at the far corners of the crisply styled body for better stability. The brake pedal has a linear action that allows consistently smooth stops with the anti-lock brakes. The ride is stable and supple.
Thanks to the nice torque curve, acceleration is strong both in town and on the freeway. The MKX is rather heavy at 4350-4550 pounds, but estimated fuel economy is an acceptable (for this type vehicle) 16/24 mpg (city/hwy) with front-wheel-drive and 15/22 with all-wheel drive. A plus: only regular-grade fuel is needed.
The all-wheel-drive system adds stability. It's mainly designed for use on slippery roads and keeps the MKX in more-economical front-drive mode unless the front wheels lose all or some traction.
Right for You?
You might like the MKX if you don't mind folks who ask why you didn't get a German or Japanese premium midsize SUV. But this Lincoln's base pricing undercuts some rivals at $35,605 for the front-wheel-drive version and $37,355 for the all-wheel-drive trim level, and has the style, power, size and equipment to be competitive with them. The MKX was Lincoln's No. 2 seller in this year's first quarter, closely behind its MKZ sedan, so you may not be the neighborhood's only MKX owner.