2012 Lincoln MKS Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
January 16, 2012

The 2012 Lincoln MKS writes its own definition of luxury with great straight-line performance, quiet good looks, and a spacious interior.

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.

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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.

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2012 Lincoln MKS

Styling

Graceful and sleek, the 2012 Lincoln MKS sets a new tone for full-size Ford luxury sedans.

Maybe it looks too handsome, too well-tailored? Whatever the case, the MKS has been a slow seller, and it could be that it represents such a dramatic break from the baroque Lincolns of just a few years ago.

No dusty homage, the handsome, well-executed MKS is basically a cousin to the Volvo S80, penned in tandem when Ford owned both brands. The MKS' cockpit and panels are completely different, and more compelling than the very conservative Volvo. The MKS is a classically handsome car, in the Lexus mold, with a large winged grille calling attention to itself a little more insistently than the rest of the car. Elsewhere, the MKS wears simple, wide bands of metallic trim to outline its glass areas, and to bring the tail to a point, a cue that's been on Lincolns for generations. It all knits together very well, and it's one of a handful of cars that read better in very dark colors. More like this one, please.

The quiet, classy styling inside and out is a marked counterpoint to Cadillac’s brash CTS—and the MKS’s fit and interior finishes are a step beyond the Caddy’s pieces, too. The cabin sports a linear, spare theme that Lincoln has been evolving all decade. There’s a wide dash wearing thin ribs of metallic trim, a callback to the Lincolns of the Sixties. White-lit electroluminescent gauges glow softly at night off its leather and wood trim, with noticeably closer attention to detail. It’s fine enough, and we’d pit it against the likes of the Audi A6, which has gotten more plasticky over time. The MKS would win, too.

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2012 Lincoln MKS

Performance

It's always a soothing cruiser, but with turbocharging, the 2012 Lincoln MKS reels off sportscar-like acceleration.

If you're looking for V-8 power in a big Lincoln sedan, the MKS will disappoint. But that's where the gloom ends, because the basic MKS and its solid performance gets an eight-cylinder equivalent with turbocharging in the EcoBoost edition.

The standard 274-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 is a smooth performer, almost enthusiastic at the chore in front of it--moving a roughly 4000-pound sedan like a German engine would. Lincoln commits to a 0-60 mph time of about 7.5 seconds for this version, and there's not much reason to doubt it, though the careful damping of engine noise and the car's bulk don't let on that anything dramatic is happening. It's not sedate, but it acts as if it is, and it pushes the MKS down the road in an affable, fuss-free way.

It's in the turbocharged EcoBoost edition where the power gets heady, and here the 3.5-liter MKS spins out enthusiastic, ersatz V-8 power to go with its composed chassis. The turbo MKS punches out an additional 82 hp, for 355 hp in all, and 350 lb-ft of torque. Zero to 60 mph times fall to about 6.5 seconds, and top speed rises to 135 mph. For a V-6, the EcoBoost has a refined and ripe exhaust note All the while, it delivers a suitably ripe, refined exhaust sound--and better fuel economy than the base engine, earning 17/25 mpg.

A six-speed automatic is standard with either engine. The automatic gets paddle shifters in the EcoBoost MKS, and at first glance, the paddles might seem kitschy in a car of this size. That’s at first blush; a quick turn in the MKS proves the paddles are more useful than you might think. The gearbox does an excellent job of keeping the Lincoln in the right gear at the right time—just what an automatic transmission should do.

The turbo power carries the hint of European influence, but the MKS handles with a typically American feel--qualified as “American, circa 2012.” There’s nothing at all wrong with the MKS’s pleasantly damped ride and responsive steering, though the electric steering on EcoBoost models feels artificial. It’s just a larger sedan that manages to drive a bit smaller than it is, not too soft and not too hard, even with the optional 20-inch wheels.

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2012 Lincoln MKS

Comfort & Quality

This is no Continental: the Lincoln MKS has big-car interior room, sure, but the cabin's awash in high-dollar trim and the seats are hours-long comfortable.

You'd expect the MKS to turn its big exterior dimensions into something extremely cozy for the long haul--and you'd be right.

Like few Lincolns before it, the MKS plays the big-car role convincingly, but it also provides the support drivers want for sporty driving and highway slogs alike. There's hardly a flat seat cushion to be found here, and none of them are tufted.

A linebacker of a four-door, the MKS has a long wheelbase that translates into lots of leg room for both front and rear-seat passengers. Those in front get bucket seats that take the best lessons from Volvo; they can coddle with a top layer of softness, and stand firm underneath as the hours and miles pile on. The seats are heated, too, and ventilated, which almost makes up for the nagging active headrests that sit too far forward for our tastes. In tandem with the headrests, we think the MKS' steering column should telescope out a few more inches, since it can force bigger drivers into a closer seating position than they'd like.

The rear seats don't give up much other than control over the radio. They're also very supportive, and heated too, and the seatbacks are angled ideally for catnaps. You'll honestly wonder how the same company that built Town Cars with their bolt-upright backrests came so far. Three across is not much of a problem, and two adults can be as distant as they might be after a couple of decades of marriage.

Small-item storage is all over the place. Ford fits enough niches to hide iPhones and netbooks in the MKS, with cup holders for every seating position and a couple of spare water-bottle slots in the doors. The trunk’s large, but caution on its opening—it’s shaped somewhat awkwardly, which limits its utility.

We’ve noted in the Styling section at the marvelous look of the MKS cabin and dash. We’ll reiterate here that this interior is among the best executed by Ford, period.

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2012 Lincoln MKS

Safety

According to the insurance industry, the 2012 Lincoln MKS is one of the safest sedans on the road.

The Lincoln MKS has performed well in crash tests in years past, but like some other vehicles, there's now missing data.

In the 2011 model year, both the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) changed their safety methodology, incorporating new tests and breaking comparative ratings with years past. The NHTSA still has yet to catch up with the MKS, and hasn't issued any new crash-test rankings.

The IIHS, meanwhile, has reupped on the MKS, giving it the Top Safety Pick designation, which means the MKS has aced that agency’s crash tests, while it also meets a new roof-crush standard and has standard stability control.

Along with those high crash-test figures, the MKS brings out all the standard safety gear you’d expect in a pricier German-built sedan. The big Lincoln has dual front, side, and curtain airbags standard, along with anti-lock brakes and traction and stability control. A rearview camera, automatic wipers and front parking sensors also are standard, while adaptive cruise control is an option.

Techno fans will also want to order the optional Active Park Assist. It uses sensors and cameras to determine the optimal steering angle, and with the help of the driver on the gas and brake, it “parks” the car. It’s available only on the turbo MKS, since it’s the version with the necessary electric power steering.

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2012 Lincoln MKS

Features

There's no MyLincoln Touch just yet, but the 2012 MKS still leads the luxury field with SYNC.

Only a few pricey sedans can rival the Lincoln MKS’ rack of high-end tech gear. It's not easy to find all this electronic gadgetry in sedans that double its $50,000 asking price--and that's even before the MKS adds on the voice-driven MyLincoln Touch system for the 2013 model year.

This year, it gets by with a mere battalion of transistors. Even in the base model, for about $42,000, the MKS comes with satellite and HD radio; ventilated front seats; heated front and rear seats; HID headlamps; automatic climate control; and SYNC, the Bluetooth-driven system that uses voice to control audio and phone functions. For a few thousand dollars, all-wheel drive sends some power to the rear wheels when traction slips up front.

Above the $50,000 price point, the turbocharge MKS piles on more equipment. There's MyKey, which lets owners set things like speed limiters, volume control and seatbelt reminders for other drivers (think teenagers). There's also pushbutton start; ambient lighting and automatic high beams; and active park assist, which uses sensors and the electric power steering to guide the MKS into a parallel parking spot, while the driver maintains control over the brakes and gas.

The MKS has a few options to tempt. There’s a big dual-pane sunroof; handsome wood trim; an EcoBoost appearance package; adaptive cruise control; a simple, easy-to-use SYNC or touchscreen DVD navigation system; awesome THX-certified audio; and snazzy 20-inch wheels. Last year SYNC added the ability to dispense turn-by-turn navigation with real-time traffic and personalized directions.

Next year's MyLincoln Touch is a discussion for another day, but with SYNC, you'll get a taste of what's coming. As it stands, SYNC works far better in some cases than the wonky roller-controller systems from BMW, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz. Give us a touchscreen over any of these—and we’ll also take SYNC’s clear Bluetooth connections, though we recommend you test out your phone’s pairing with SYNC, just to make sure you’re able to connect to all its features.
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2012 Lincoln MKS

Fuel Economy

Fuel economy is disappointing in the 2012 Lincoln MKS, and all-wheel drive takes a greater toll.

Big luxury sedans often disappoint in gas mileage, and the Lincoln MKS isn't any stranger to the fill-up.

The base versions of the MKS earn EPA ratings of 17/25 mpg. That's a low figure for a modern V-6-powered sedan, with even the bigger six-cylinder Buicks and Chryslers getting up to 30 mpg on the highway. Add on all-wheel drive, and fuel economy dips to 16/23 mpg.

Adding on turbocharging in EcoBoost models doesn't cut down fuel economy, however. The very quick MKS EcoBoost checks in with gas mileage of 17/25 mpg, about what you might find in a full-size, V-8-powered sedan. Ford does say the EcoBoost's performance rivals that of V-8 competitors, and in that context, it's more competitive--while still low.

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October 6, 2016
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Really like my AWD 2012 Lincoln MKS

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I own a 2012 Lincoln MKS AWD and I really like the handling,the looks and the craftmanship that went into this vehicle. As yet no problems. I have read that others do not like this vehicle. I realize the gas... + More »
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