With its thickly padded dash and door trim panels, the MKT's interior trumps that of an Audi Q7 4.2, which Lincoln thoughtfully provided for the first drive, at Ford Motor Company's Romeo Proving Ground in Michigan. The wrapped and stitched dash is soft and cushy where the Q7's is made of hard--though high-quality--plastic. And the fit and finish, even for preproduction MKTs, was quite good. Except for dash/instrument panel design, a dollop of real wood trim and higher quality seat leather, the Lincoln's design is much closer to the Flex inside than outside, a testament to the surprising quality of the Ford's interior.

As with the Flex, six-passenger MKTs will be available with a center-console refrigerator. Thanks to the optional sunroof and the more rakish D-pillar versus the Flex's, the MKT's third-row seat is best left to the kids or those shorter than five-and-a-half feet. First and second rows are very roomy and comfortable.

The EcoBoost engine is a worthy alternative to the V-8, able to motivate large, heavy objects along vast expanses of American highway. Powering the MKT, it feels sprightlier than the 350-horsepower, 325-pound-foot Q7 V-8. The twin turbos, each serving a bank of the vee, need a couple hundred rpm over idle to get up and go. Peak torque kicks in quickly, though, at 1500 rpm, and stays there right up to 5250. Lincoln estimates a 7.0-second 0-to-60 mph time (about 8.6 for the 3.7 Duratec). It feels quick and composed to 120 mph and beyond.

As of press time, Lincoln had no EPA fuel economy numbers, but expect 17/24 mpg for the AWD EcoBoost model, well ahead of the 800-pound-heavier Q7's 13/18 mpg and bettering the Acura MDX's 15/20 or the Buick Enclave's 16/22.

While Lincoln may try to pass off its MKT as a kind of rolling boardroom, it's really a family-size luxury wagon, a logical successor to the not-quite-logical Navigator. As a postmodern 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 those of Duratec-equipped models and retains its 32mm front/22mm rear anti-roll bars. The EcoBoost makes the MKT feel light and lively.

Keep in mind, though, 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 the need of a thirsty V-8.