I just had the opportunity to drive a silver 2011 Lincoln MKX over the course of a week. Being a life-long fan of all vehicles and of driving, but also thinking of it in terms of a consumer, I tried to critically assess this vehicle with the time I had, looking at it from all the different angles I would look at it if I was the buyer/owner. Sorry if it’s a longer read, but this is how I live my life – I consider absolutely everything and turn it over in my mind. Hey, when you’re thinking about a vehicle, it helps – believe me!
The MKX is built in Oakville, Ontario and in broad strokes, it bears a strong resemblance to its cousin, the Ford Edge. Its outside appearance is similar, in terms of lines, to the Edge, but Lincoln has taken care to style it such that it does differentiate itself and quite strongly in some areas. The most obvious to me was the front grille which Lincoln calls a split wing grille. It’s part of their new design language, and if you’ve been paying attention, they’re putting it on a number of their vehicles. I noticed the grille got a lot of looks. It appears to be a polarizing design feature, and might fall into the love-it-or-hate-it category. I actually quite like it, and it certainly announces its presence.
Obviously there are other styling cues that set it apart – the rear end is tastefully done, although I miss the horizontal full-width tail lights from the previous generation. The new ones look great though, and perhaps a bit more grown-up. Lincoln badges are placed tastefully around the vehicle, and it has nice polished wheels that you can see a mile away. There is an appropriate amount of brightwork and chrome around the vehicle – enough to announce the presence of a luxury vehicle, not enough to look gaudy.
It has a 3.7 litre V-6, making 305 HP @ 6500 RPM and 280 lb. ft @ 4000 RPM. I’ll talk a bit about its performance later. This engine is mated to a single-clutch 6 speed automatic, which is a decent, relatively competent transmission. I felt it held a gear too long once in a while, and often took its time to shift down if you were passing on the freeway, but for the most part, the transmission and its programming suits the vehicle. The shift lever has a pivoting switch on its left side, allowing the driver to shift up and down manually. I guess it’s typical to see paddle shifters or these shift-lever based manu-matics in many vehicles nowadays. It seems a bit out of place on a luxurious vehicle with little sporting intention and I’m guessing will see limited use with most drivers.
The vehicle has a permanent all-wheel drive system which is helped along with a variety of electronic traction and stability systems to keep you from doing anything silly. Although there wasn’t much snow on the roads, I did find some and I did travel through a significant number of wet streets as well – the drivetrain seemed to be quite competent to me, although the electronic granny in the form of traction control kicked in pretty quickly on the snow as soon as anything started slipping or sliding. If you are so inclined, you can disable the traction control, but not the stability control.
Considering the ground clearance this vehicle has, the step-in height is reasonable. It was high for our younger children, but fine for adults.
Once you’re in, the inside is a very nice place to be. Lincoln has made great use of different lighting, using what they call “Lincoln White” LED lighting for map lights, and their lit logo on the side-steps. They also use a cool blue LED lighting for the front and rear footwells, door handle spaces and the main cupholders. The materials are good quality – luxurious soft plastics with what appears to be excellent fit and finish in terms of different materials mating up, gaps between panels, etc. The dash is an excellent soft rubbery material with a leather-grain appearance and the doors and console are upholstered nicely. There were some weird faux carbon fibre inserts that I didn’t think suited the vehicle, and I’m wondering if you could get wood-grain inserts instead. My wife and I felt that the interior material color choices were done very tastefully and made everything look classy, while remaining comfortable. The seats feel flat when you sit on them, but are comfortable, and well adjustable, and upholstered with perforated leather – which looks and feels fantastic! The front seats are heated and air-conditioned and have 2 memory positions for different drivers. The rear seats are heated but not adjustable in any way.
The thing that really caught my eye when I first sat in the MKX is the centre stack. There are significantly less buttons in this vehicle than you would expect, considering the wealth of tech that it offers. That’s simply because MyLincoln is employed here, which is an all-encompassing system controlling the vehicle’s climate control, audio system, phone integration and navigation system – all through a central touch-screen. The screen can be divided into 4 quadrants, allowing you to access the basics of each area, or you can zoom in on any quadrant, taking up the whole screen for that particular function. From there, the screen may change as you progress through menus, functions, etc. The basics of whatever the screen is showing can be seen in the right one of two 4″ LCD screens flanking your speedometer. For example, if you’re listening to the radio, you’ll get all the information you want and more on the main screen, but up on the dash, you’ll see the song, artist and radio station. As mentioned, there are two 4″ LCD screens flanking the speedometer. The left one has vehicle information in it – which is highly adjustable and controllable by the driver. It can handle driving range, fuel economy in a variety of ways, tachometer, gas gauge, temperature gauge, trip computers, vehicle settings, AWD read-out and controlling the driver assist systems. The content and control of both screens are handled by a four-way control pad with an OK button in the centre – one on each side of the steering wheel corresponding to each screen.
This is a very powerful system, and I think it’s a fantastic concept. But I have to qualify that by saying I don’t think the concept is quite ready for the big time. First, if that whole “controlling the whole vehicle from one big screen and two small screens” concept sounds busy, you’re right. It is. It definitely has a steep learning curve. Not that other systems don’t, and in terms of what this system is capable of doing, Ford is, without question, on the right track. But the way things happen within this framework aren’t quite as fluid or linear as I would want them to be. Of course that’s easy for me to say, because I don’t necessarily have the answer as to how to perfectly design this system myself. But let me put it this way – my 60 year old father-in-law, who isn’t very tech-savvy, wouldn’t stand a chance of getting by with this system without spending days or weeks practicing with it. Also, speaking of fluidity, I felt that the touch-screen reaction time was quite slow too – meaning that using it while you’re driving is difficult because the reaction time isn’t instant and other than the audio feedback of a beep, you can’t be sure it registered your finger’s touch. It’s not as quick as an iPad screen for example and often I’d catch myself looking at it longer than I’d expected to, to make sure it got my command.
The audio system is a THX system with separate speakers spread around the cabin, including a centre speaker and a rear subwoofer. There are plenty of adjustments you can make to the way it sounds, and it was pretty impressive overall – especially playing good digital music sources and not making them sound canned like other systems I’ve heard. Inputs are available in bulk, ranging from what the old folks used to call “CDs”, radio, Sirius satellite radio, USB, Bluetooth streaming – you name it. For rear-seat entertainment, this vehicle had two separate DVD-based LCDs installed in the front head-rests – each with their own DVD player, controls and wireless headphones. It’s a nice system, but frankly I think just getting a couple of iPads would be significantly less money and probably more versatile. I tried the navigation system, and it worked very well. The information from that is great when it’s transferred to the little screen up by the speedo. The smartphone integration is the best and most straight-forward I’ve seen, easily and quickly downloading your phone book, contacts, etc. I often used the Bluetooth connection to dial my phone, which automatically connected to the system every time I got into the MKX.
Comfort and luxury definitely show up here. When you get into the vehicle, the seat is back and easily accessible and the steering wheel is up and in, out of your way. They both return to the memorized positions once you start it up. Because it is a keyless system, it has a push-button starter. The steering wheel is nice and meaty and is electronically adjustable, tilting and telescoping with a little 4-way controller pad. One thing I’ve always enjoyed is a heated steering wheel – unfortunately this one only has two settings – OFF and CHERNOBYL. The wheel got very hot, very fast – I’d say it’s best used with gloves or not at all. The triangular centre of the steering wheel prevents you from gripping around the wheel rim at the 3 and 9 positions – that may bother some drivers. There are two sunroofs, one a huge panaramic thing and a smaller one right behind it for the rear passengers. The front one tilts up, but won’t slide open. Both have inside covers that can be electronically closed to make them disappear. There is a nifty adaptive cruise control, which allows you to set the speed AND the distance between you and the car in front of you, effectively allowing you to sleep on the highway. Seriously though, I didn’t try the adaptive part, but you sure hope that works in case you aren’t paying attention and putting your trust in the electronics. On cold mornings, I really appreciated the remote starter built right into the remote.
In terms of storage and driving convenience, this vehicle has a lot to offer. Though nothing like the current crop of minivans, there is a decent amount of storage in front – a generous center console well and a reasonable glove compartment, as well as a small compartment in the lower center stack for audio inputs and phone storage. There are cupholders in the centre console and in the doors. Rear seats get standard map pockets and cupholders in the door panels. The rear middle seat-back flips forward (headrest included) to create a strange armrest/console thing, which has two flip-up doors to create a barely-passable set of cupholders. I wasn’t a big fan of this armrest/console and preferred when it was just flipped up and into the seatback. 3 power outlets are found throughout the vehicle – in the front, rear and the cargo area. I expected more power outlets, but realistically that should cover it. The vehicle has the Homelink universal garage door opener with three different door buttons – we have this system in our own vehicle and it is fantastic. The cargo area is quite large, and can be made significantly larger by folding the second row of seats down. I don’t know what the volume of these areas is, but it is generous. The rear seats don’t quite fold flat but it’s very usable cargo floor space. They have power folding buttons in the cargo area so you don’t have to go up to the second row of doors and flip them manually. The liftgate is powered, and can be controlled from the key FOB, the driver’s area, and the rear cargo area. There are some decent metal tie-downs in the back.
Safety seems to be another area that Lincoln took very seriously. The MKX has a full complement of airbags. The headlights are very bright HID units providing great night visibility. It also has foglights. There is a front collision avoidance system, which apparently flashes a row of red LEDs on the dash and makes an alarm sound if you’re about to plow into someone. The vehicle has a back-up camera and a sensor with audio cues to help you see what you’re backing up towards and to hear when you’re getting close. The camera is a necessity as I found the rearward visibility to be pretty bad – it’s a bit tunnel-like and the rear headrests intrude into what little you can see. I found the other sightlines and views out of this vehicle to be extremely good – you can quickly see everything in front and beside you.
The rear seats offer two LATCH set-ups, allowing you to anchor two infant/baby/child seats that way. The rear middle seat is only for well-behaved dogs, and no rear end the size of mine would stand a chance of fitting in it. One thing I really liked was MyKey – this allows you to program keys with maximum speed and volume settings, if you want to ensure your kids don’t exceed either while they’re borrowing your Lincoln for the evening. One of my vehicular pet peeves is wipers that suck – I was very impressed by the windshield wipers on this vehicle, and especially the rear wiper, because it’s rare to find one that is any good at all.
The MKX made a good impression on me on the road. This is a heavy vehicle (over 4400 lbs) and it does have decent ground clearance, leaning a little more towards SUV in the crossover market. I thought the acceleration was quite “luxurious” – it’s definitely not in a hurry to get somewhere and doesn’t have neck-snapping get up and go. That’s not a bad thing, because in my opinion, that wouldn’t suit this kind of vehicle. It starts off smooth, and if you’re stepping on it, it comes alive around 3000 RPM and you’ll get what you’re looking for as it picks up the pace nicely. This car says luxury and style, much more so than it says sporty and I think the drive complies with that statement. The handling is excellent – there is some body roll but it’s minimal considering what you’re driving. I found the MKX loves long, sweeping curves like on and off ramps for the freeway. Handling around town is excellent. The turning circle is about average – not unusual for a vehicle like this. While parking this vehicle, I was a bit surprised at how heavy the steering felt at slower speeds. I actually liked it, as I had to interact with it. I much prefer this to the completely overboosted steering I’ve come across in some luxo barges. The ride is quite isolated, allowing it to soak up our streets and potholes quite well – I never felt something banging through the chassis. Any kind of obstacle or imperfection resulted in a muted thud or a bump, which was appreciated. Regarding the engine sound – it’s a V-6 and they’re not noted for a particularly pleasing sound but this one sounded pretty darn good – it’s a quiet vehicle at lower engine speeds and does get a bit of a sporty, throaty rasp to it when you step on it which I liked. It’s no V-8 rumble, but it works for me.
I did find some things that just didn’t work for me with this vehicle, whether it was preference or something else. I appreciate the swipe-bar concept of controlling the stereo volume and the temperature, but I didn’t find it worked intuitively – for me at least. I still prefer dials or buttons. I would have thought a vehicle in this price range would have rear temperature controls. It’s not a huge interior so whatever you’re adjusting for the front works well for the back, but to separate it would bring another level of luxury to the MKX – I guess it was a bit surprising since you get that standard on something like a $19,000 Dodge Caravan. Though the outside mirrors are apparently automatically heated, they don’t offer power folding mechanisms and that is an oversight, in my opinion. I did have a couple of opportunities to take this vehicle on short highway drives and was shocked to hear substantial wind noise coming from the leading edge of the front sunroof. I’m not sure if this particular example wasn’t sealed properly or that’s the norm, but when I hit 120 km/h, you could hear it and it was very irritating. Surprising, because otherwise I thought the cabin was nicely insulated and the sound dampening was done very well.
Fuel economy is probably about what you expect – 17 mpg city, 23 mpg highway, 19 mpg combined cycle for the all-wheel drive model. I can’t imagine why anyone in Canada would buy a front-wheel drive one, and I’m not sure if it’s even available here. With that said, you’ll gain 1-2 mpg with the front-wheel drive version. Those numbers for our metric folks are 13.8 l/100 km city, 10.2 l/100 km highway and 12.4 l/100 km combined cycle. Nothing astounding, but not horrifying considering what you’re driving. Ford would probably do well to consider offering this in a hybrid – I’ve had the opportunity to drive 2 of their great hybrid drivetrains and I think, properly tuned, would suit this vehicle – they could probably allow it to maintain its performance and do measurably better at the pump for those who want that and are willing to pay a bit more for it.
Ford Canada included the invoice on this exact vehicle, and it stickers at CDN $56,950. Few options are to be had beyond this level, and I can’t imagine anyone needing more than what this particular model offered.
One final detail: the THX system has a demo button which will allow you to play that cool THX sound from the theatres in your car. Any time you want. That alone is almost worth the price of admission.
I had a great time driving this vehicle, and when my wife asked me if I would actually want this vehicle, I didn’t have to think about it – my answer is yes. It would be an excellent commuter as well a great road-trip vehicle. It’s comfortable, competent and capable. It can handle any variety of weather or road condition, it performs well, and achieves reasonable fuel economy. Lincoln has set apart the styling sufficiently from its Ford cousin – enough to be instantly noticeable, and different – on top of that, I like the styling! I definitely enjoyed my time with the Lincoln MKX and am going to begrudgingly give up the keys. Or rather the keyless key. I’d give this vehicle an 8.5 out of 10 in my opinion, and the WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) on this was very high. My wife said it would look better if it stayed in our garage, rather than having to return it.
If you enjoyed this review, feel free to check out my other vehicle reviews under the car reviews tab at the top of my blog.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Ford.