Twin turbochargers, direct injection and the high compression that goes with it replace two cylinders in Ford Motor Company's new engine philosophy. It's called EcoBoost, and in the 2010 Lincoln MKT, it's good enough to compete with (literal) giants like the V-8 Audi Q7 4.2, an example of which Ford thoughtfully provided for its new luxury crossover's debut.
The big news is this engine. It's the first EcoBoost to go public. The 3.5 EcoBoost is rated 355 horsepower at 5700 rpm on premium (Lincoln gives no regular-fuel rating, though it considers the crossover's ability to run on regular a selling point), and 350 pound-feet of torque from 1,500 to 5,250 rpm. (The standard 3.7-liter Duratec from the MKS sedan is rated 270 horsepower on premium, 268 on regular.)
The EcoBoost's numbers tops the Audi 4.2's 350 horsepower and 325 pound-feet, and the MKT is about 800 pounds lighter and is less upright. The while the MKT shares its platform with the boxy Ford Flex, its sheetmetal is curvy and looks fairly aerodynamic, and with its all-glass roof, looks as much like a tall wagon as a crossover utility vehicle. While the all-wheel-drive Q7 4.2 is rated 13/18 miles per gallon EPA, Lincoln expects 17/24 from its EcoBoost MKT (AWD will be standard with that engine, to avoid torque steer).
And the big Lincoln feels more spritely than the big Audi, particularly in 40-60 mph passing maneuvers. From a standstill, the Lincoln's acceleration is soft at tip-in, as the twin-turbos feed each bank of cylinders and need a few hundred rpm over idle to build boost. Once you hit 1500 rpm, it's off and away, smoothly and in a linear fashion. Lincoln expects a 7-second 0-60 mph time (about 8.6 for the 3.7 Duratec). It feels quick and composed to 120 mph and beyond (the drive was at Ford's Romeo Proving Grounds).
Second-biggest news is the interior, which trumps the Audi for cushy luxury. The wrapped and stitched dash is soft and cushy where the Q7's is hard, though high-quality plastic. And the fit-and-finish, even for pre-production MKTs, was quite good.
And like everything else that's new in the Ford and Lincoln lineups, the MKT is almost overloaded with standard and optional features. While the Panoramic Vista Roof is standard, a sunroof version, with power front and rear sunshades, is optional. Like the Flex, the MKT will come in six- or seven-passenger variations, including a six-passenger model with the center console refrigerator and heated, cooled and power lumbar support second-row seats.
An optional dual headrest entertainment system has twin seven-inch DVD screens. There's Active Park Assist, rain-sensing wipers, Blind Spot Information System, reverse camera ... you get the idea.
Thanks to the optional sunroof and the more rakish d-pillar versus the Flex, the MKT's third-row seat is best left to the kids or those under about five-and-a-half feet tall. First and second rows are extremely roomy and comfortable.
Still, while Lincoln may try to pass off its MKT as a kind of rolling boardroom, it's really a family-size luxury wagon, the logical successor to the not-quite-logical Navigator (which remains in production, for now). As a post-modern prairie schooner, the MKT's chassis isn't quite up to the task of meeting the engine's potential. The EcoBoost version comes with stiffer front and rear springs versus the Duratec version, although the 32mm front and 22mm rear anti-roll bars are the same.
The EcoBoost makes the MKT feel light and lively. Still, it's a traditionally cushy Lincoln. When pushed, the electric power steering feels too light, and needs corrections on crowned or bumpy roads. You'll also find the MKT's bump stops on crusty roads, although the damping rebound is excellent and keeps everything in proper control.
Lincoln benchmarked the Q7, of course, and the Acura MDX, plus the Mercedes-Benz R-Class for the MKT. That's the kind of crossover it is; somewhere between the Q7 and the R-Class, with an optional engine that will make you king of the big family vacation, able to cross the Continental Divide in a single bound and without a thirsty V-8.
|2010 Lincoln MKT |
|Base Price||$44,995-$49,995 |
|Vehicle layout||Front-engine, FWD/AWD, 6- or 7-passenger SUV|
|Engines ||3.7L/270-hp/267-lb-ft DOHC V-6; 3.5-liter/355-hp/350-lb-ft DOHC twin-turbo V-6 |
|Transmission ||6-speed automatic|
|Curb weight ||4700-4900 lb (mfr)|
|Length x width x height ||207.6 x 76.0 x 67.4 in |
|EPA city/hwy fuel econ ||17-24 mpg (mfr. est, EcoBoost)|
|CO2 emissions ||0.98 (est) |
|On sale ||Late Summer 2009|