If a new MKT comes up behind you in traffic, there will be no question as to what it is; its "flying wing" grille will fill your rearview mirror. This design element now leads off the modern Lincoln lineup, save for the MKX (that facelift is about a year away) and Navigator. The latest model to receive the retro styling treatment is the MKT, a six- or seven-passenger crossover-utility vehicle that Lincoln calls its new flagship.

And despite this vehicle's size, one thing the MKT doesn't need behind its 1941 Continental-like grille is an eight-cylinder engine. Turbocharging, direct injection, and the high compression that goes with it replace two cylinders in Ford Motor Company's coming line of EcoBoost engines. The first of this new family, a 355-horsepower, 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V-6, is just the ticket to making a big, post-SUV prairie schooner like the MKT quick and efficient. Base engine is a 270-horse, 3.7-liter Duratec V-6, also standard in the 2010 MKS. Lincoln certified both engine choices on premium unleaded, though you can run either on regular without affecting the warranty. Lincoln rates the Duratec on regular at 268 horsepower. It doesn't list a regular-fuel horsepower rating for the EcoBoost. The MKT can tow up to 4500 pounds.

In the MKT, the Duratec is available with FWD or fully automatic AWD. The MKT with EcoBoost comes with AWD only. A six-speed automatic with steering column controls is standard across the board, but if you want to toggle through the gears yourself, things get a little confusing. A six-speed automatic with a paddle attached to the steering wheel uses the paddle for upshifts, thumb control for downshifts. This can be problematic at times, especially in the middle of a turn, with the controls out of place. Most owners will let the tranny shift itself, except when crossing mountain ranges.

Like General Motors with its Lambda-based large crossovers--soon to be reduced to Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia, and Buick Enclave (and the next-generation Cadillac Escalade will probably move to that platform to compete directly with the MKT)--this new Lincoln and the Ford Flex share underpinnings but no sheetmetal. While we find the boxy, upright Flex a refreshing crossover take on the modern wagon, it has been far from a sales success compared with competitors like the Traverse. The curvy, flowing MKT won't have any problems with the creased-sheetmetal averse, though comments we've received reveal a fairly even split among the love it versus hate it camps.

The Lincoln further distinguishes itself with an all-glass roof, adding weight and a kind of two-tone look. The Panoramic Vista Roof is fixed in standard form. A power sunroof is optional. The "premium innovations" list reads like a Mercedes or Lexus spec sheet, as recited by Bill Gates. EcoBoost-powered MKTs come with electric power steering, which in turn allows for the Active Parking Assist option, Lincoln's more successful take on the Lexus LS automatic-parking-for-dolts option. Lincoln says that, unlike competitors' systems, it works when parking uphill.

There's also adaptive cruise control, intelligent access with push-button start, adaptive headlamps and standard high-intensity discharge lamps, automatic high beams, rain-sensing wipers, Blind Spot Information System, Cross Traffic Alert, a reverse camera and, of course, standard Sync.

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.


2010 Lincoln MKT
GENERAL
Location of final assembly Oakville, Ontario, Canada
Body style Sport/utility vehicle
EPA size class Special purpose
Drivetrain layout Front engine, FWD/AWD
Airbags Dual front, side curtain
POWERTRAIN
Base engine 60-deg V-6, alum block/heads
Bore x stroke 3.7 x 2.4 in
Displacement 227 ci/3.7L
Compression ratio 10.3:1
Valve gear DOHC, 4 valves/cyl
SAE horsepower 268-270 hp @ 6250 rpm
SAE torque 267-270 lb-ft @ 4250 rpm
Opt engine 60-deg turbo V-6, alum block/heads
Bore x stroke 3.6 x 3.4 in
Displacement 213 ci/3.5L
Compression ratio 10.0:1
Valve gear DOHC, 4 valves/cyl
SAE horsepower 355 hp @ 5700 rpm (prem unleaded)
SAE torque 350 lb-ft @ 1500 rpm (prem unleaded)
Transmission Six-speed automatic
1st 4.48:1
2nd 2.87:1
3rd 1.84:1
4th 1.41:1
5th 1.00:1
6th 0.74:1
Reverse 2.88:1
Axle ratio 3.16:1 (Duratec FWD, EcoBoost AWD); 3.39:1 (Duratec AWD); 2.51:1 (Duratec AWD)
Final drive ratio 2.34:1 (Duratec FWD, EcoBoost AWD);
Recommended fuel Regular unleaded
DIMENSIONS/CAPACITIES
Wheelbase 117.9 in
Length 207.6 in
Width 76.0 in
Height 67.4 in
Track, f/r 65.4/65.3 in
Headroom, f/m/r 40.1/38.8/33.5 in
Legroom, f/m/r 41.3/41.8/33.0 in
Shoulder room, f/m/r 58.6/58.1/49.1 in
Cargo vol beh 1st/2nd/3rd rows 75.9/39.6/17.9 cu ft
Curb weight 4680-4924 lb
Towing capacity 4500 lb
Fuel capacity 18.6 gal
CHASSIS
Construction Unitized steel body with isolated subframe
Suspension, f/r Struts, lower control arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar/multilink, lower control arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Steering type Power rack-and-pinion
Ratio 17.1:1
Turns, lock to lock 3.15
Turning circle 40.7 ft
Brakes, f/r Ventilated disc/ventilated disc, ABS
Wheels 19-in painted alum (std); 20-in polished alum (opt)
Tires 235/55R19 all-season (std); 255/45R20 (opt)
PERFORMANCE
Acceleration, 0-60 mph 7.0-8.1 sec (mfr est)
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy 17/24 mpg (est, EcoBoost)
CO2 emissions 0.98 lb/mile (est)
PRICE
Base price range $44,995-$49,995

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