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New in the 2009 model year, and back for 2012 with only minor changes, the Lincoln MKS sedan is a bit of a sleeper. It's not the kind of high-performance, high-strung performance sedan that passes for luxury in some quarters--but it's also no Town Car, falling over itself just to navigate a shallow arc in the road. It's a husky, American-sized four-door that strikes a performance median while it angles for supremacy in safety and technology, where it really scores.
Competing against the likes of the Acura RL, Lexus GS, Volvo S80 and Infiniti M37, the MKS has a handsome stance that only the Infiniti outfoxes. It's distinctive without being too showy, though the batwing grille is bound to strike you differently from the BMW buyer next door. Its thick proportions are the result of the platform underneath, derived from Volvo's XC90--but judge for yourself if the subtle wedge, substantial roofline and high decklid work better than its close cousin, the Volvo S80. Inside, it's no contest: the MKS' quiet, classy styling is a big contrast with the glitzy showmanship you'll find inside the Infiniti, or even the Cadillac CTS. Fit and finish hit new heights for Ford, with just the prevalence of black plastic on the center stack needing some attention.
Performance simmers with the stock 3.7-liter V-6. It's smooth, but at 274 horsepower, its acceleration is solidly average in a car as long and hefty as this. A 0-60 mph run happens in 7.5 fuss-free seconds, while this MKS earns an EPA-certified fuel economy of 17/24 mpg as a front-driver, or 16/23 mpg when equipped with all-wheel drive. Up for more of a thrill, and you'll opt for the turbocharged EcoBoost MKS. Forced induction works wonders for the big Lincoln's attitude here: with 82 hp more, the 355-hp MKS shoots to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds, and reaches a top speed of 135 mph to a ripe, mellow exhaust soundtrack. It also outguns the base engine on fuel economy, hitting 17/25 mpg.
Outright speed can match the best competitors, but the MKS' handling falls short of those proto-Euro driving experiences. The MKS plays up its traditional angle with a very well-damped ride that doesn't give in to Lincoln's floppy past. Steering is quick enough, and while it's not exactly nimble, the MKS still responds to quick inputs well enough to carve a distinct niche out of the field of large luxury sedans.
Good looks match up with a very spacious cabin, especially in back, and with a large trunk throttled by a small lid. Size doesn't cramp the MKS here at all--it has plenty of room for front and rear passengers. In front, cozy and wide seats seem to have taken a lesson from Volvo (maybe they were designed by Volvo, back when Ford owned the Swedish brand). Ford still needs to work on the placement of its active headrests; they push too far forward, and can feel uncomfortable to taller drivers. The make-good: standard heating and ventilation. The driving position is okay, but the wheel should telescope more, we think. The MKS's big trunk is hampered by a small opening that sits up high off the bumper, too.The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) hasn't yet re-scored the MKS for crash safety, but the insurance-industry-funded IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) calls it a Top Safety Pick. All versions come with curtain airbags and stability control, as well as a rearview camera, Bluetooth, and blind-spot monitors with new-for-2012 cross-traffic alerts.
Gadgeteers will approve of the MKS' first-rate audio and telematics systems, and will geek out on Ford’s SYNC entertainment and phone controller. Standard equipment includes an AM/FM/Sirius/CD changer stereo; SYNC; cruise control; automatic climate control; ventilated front seats; heated front and rear seats; and HID headlamps. Adding all-wheel drive boosts the price a few thousand dollars. The MKS doesn't yet have Ford's touchy MyLincoln Touch screen-and-voice-driven system, but it's scheduled for a 2013 model-year appearance, along with revised styling.
- Subtle, handsome looks
- Turbo EcoBoost power
- Controlled, quiet ride
- Huge standard-features list
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- Lacks snob appeal
- Drives big
- Active headrests intrude on comfort
- Trunk opening is small, high