Lincoln has been many things over the years. In its earliest days (under the supervision of dour old Henry M. Leyland) they built stodgy but extraordinarily-well constructed luxury behemoths -- which, along with the likes of Packard, were sort of America's Rolls-Royces. After Ford acquired the Lincoln, their powerful engines made them the getaway cars of choice in Al Capone's Chicago, and by the beginning of the 1940's Lincoln became one of the epicenters of America's great design, spearheaded by its particularly invested President, Edsel Ford -- Henry's long-suffering son. Edsel (along with Ford designer, Bob Gregorie) created the seminal 1941 Lincoln Continental, a car that remains even today a template for how to meld broad-shouldered American design with restrained European detailing (something sadly lost after Edsel's premature death and the arrival of the chrome-slathered fifties'). A bit of that 'just-right' visual mix returned during the early sixties with the suicide-door Continentals. But after that, Lincoln has been pretty much adrift.
The new MKT, however, is aiming to re-moor Lincoln to its roots while simultaneously fast stepping into the automobile's technological future. Based upon the generally agreeable Flex platform, the MKT's big bargain with the design devil is its compromised 3rd row room, a necessary sacrifice to get that swoopy -- or as some have opined -- hearse-like stern. As a consequence, the third row is rendered almost useless for adults. But in instances where you have six or seven travelers, and at least two are kids, it's a solution of sorts.
Yet, while the last row is a cramped, the first two rows can be a passenger's paradise. With the optional power panoramic vista roof retracted, the optional rear frig stocked with appropriate legal beverage, and the rear foot rest propping up a couple of tired tootsies -- hey, this is the life.
The MKT's exterior design is either a) delightful return to form, b) kinda strange, or c) downright creepy, depending on your perspective. Or perhaps age. Ed Loh (age 33), said of it "Lord Vader, your minivan is here." Carlos Lago (25) offered: "Someone said the nose looks like a baleen whale, and now that's all I see." Personally, I (52) enjoyed the MKT's design from bow to stern -- that 'baleen whale' snout being a welcome reinterpretation of the '41 Continental's grill, while the notched sculpting of its rear flanks evoke those sixties classics. The stern, albeit hearse-like, earned a number of thumbs up from curious passer's by, including one really rough-looking cookie on a motorcycle. And when's the last time a Harley rider gave a Lincoln a thumbs up?
While it may be generous to call the MKT's handling simply 'indifferent', our EcoBoost-equipped version's acceleration and stopping can be described as 'exciting'. Exciting in the good sense when you drop the hammer and the twin turbo, direct injection V6 begins to unreel its 355 horsepower through the standard 6-speed transmission and AWD system. This is a quick car for two and a half tons, zipping to 60 mph in just 6.1 seconds. Ford's rollout of these EcoBoost engines (this being the first example) are all about simultaneously offering superior performance and unexpected economy through advanced technology, and this 3.5-liter flat-out delivers the goods. Realize that the EcoBoost engine offers 85 additional horsepower at a cost of one single mpg. Capone's boys would have loved this thing.