Lincoln MKX — Quiet Cabin, Retuned Crossover

The MKX — Lincoln’s luxury crossover utility vehicle — comes in for its mid-cycle freshening in 2011. Cousin to the Ford Edge, the latest edition of the Lincoln MKX is considerably changed from the original version, which made its debut in 2007.

From the outside, the 2011 MKX is most notably new coming and going. The front view is dominated by a split-wing grille that adds some brass to the big Lincoln’s class. The bold look divides buyers into lovers or haters, but both camps would agree that it gives the vehicle an edge (so to speak), in that it’s immediately recognizable. In the back, the 2011 MKX sports a pair of distinctive, split, horizontal tail lamps above, and dual 4-inch exhaust tips below.

Technology is the coin of the realm in luxury vehicles, and the latest MKX has a pocketful of standard and available features. The biggest news in this regard is the debut of the MyLincoln Touch system in MKX. In conjunction with SYNC, this system provides a centralized interface for audio and climate controls, as well as navigation and cellphone functions.

An 8-inch touch screen mounted high on the center stack uses “virtual buttons” in place of conventional switchgear for main access. In addition, drivers use a pair of five-way switches mounted in the steering wheel to control two, 4.2-inch LCD screens.

The information displayed on these secondary screens can be personalized to suit your preferences. In practice, using the one, central screen to access many functions makes sense. But, the virtual buttons are a small target to hit while you’re going down the highway, and I found that they often took more than one peck before the function would engage, particularly with a winter gloved hand. The workaround is learning the voice commands to access these functions, and/or using the wheel-mounted switches to drill down to the desired control.
The MKX interior rivals any luxury car. Visible stitching and soft touch materials surround the passengers, and a choice of three trims (the two woods have more eye appeal than the aluminum) are offered to dress up the dash and doors. Heated and cooled front seats are standard issue, and MKX seats five adults with no excuses. With both rows full of passengers, there’s a generous, 32.3 cubic feet of cargo space available behind the standard, power liftgate. That expands to as much as 68.6 cubic feet, if you fold the rear seats forward. MKX can be equipped to tow as much as 3,500 pounds.

Among the notable, available features are a 14-speaker sound system, HD radio with iTunes song tagging, adaptive cruise control (with collision warning), blind spot information system, a navigation system with real time traffic information, a panoramic sunroof and adaptive HID headlights.

Springs, shocks and stabilizer bars have been retuned for more responsive handling. While you wouldn’t call the MXK sporty, it is definitely stable feeling and has a comfortable ride. Surefooted, too, when equipped with all-wheel-drive. The price on the 2011 AWD-equipped MKX was $40,595. The AWD system adds a premium of about $1,850 over front-wheel-drive version. But, the payback starts the minute you set tire to pavement on a wintry day. Lincoln’s Intelligent AWD system requires no input from the driver, automatically transferring torque to the wheels with the greatest grip.

Much attention has been paid to sound deadening throughout. As result, the latest version of the Lincoln is noticeably quieter than the outgoing model. Under the hood is a 3.7-liter V-6, matched with a six-speed automatic transmission. The Duratec six is rated at 305 horsepower. That’s plus 40 hp in the power department, compared to the former V-6.
It responds with a throaty growl when prodded, and the Duratec six will usher the big Lincoln from 0-60 mph in 7.5 seconds. That’s comfortably quick, for a 4,400-pound crossover, plus it cruises quietly at highway speeds. Fuel economy is in the same, middling ballpark as its peers. The EPA rates the MKX with AWD at 17 miles per gallon in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. Front drive versions fare slightly better at an estimated 19/26 mpg.

The MKX was Lincoln’s first foray into crossovers. Things have changed considerably since it first rolled into showrooms back in 2007. With every year, more models pour into this popular category. The premium midsize 2011 MKX is quite competitive in this company, thanks to newly refined styling, and a quiet, comfortable cabin with a long, inviting option sheet. — Dan Lyons, Motor Matters
Copyright, AutoWriters Associates Inc., 2011

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