2014 Lincoln MKS Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
June 14, 2014

The 2014 Lincoln MKS doesn't fly in the same business class with the best German luxosedans, but it's a quiet, capable alternative in the second tier of big, upscale sedans.

Perhaps at last the 2014 Lincoln MKS will be able to emerge from the shadows of its ancestors now that the gigantic, ancient Town Car has been gone from showrooms for a couple of years. The MKS is far from that ancient land barge; it's a husky four-door premium sedan built for American-sized people that is actually something of a sleeper. It piles on the luxury features, with a generous dose of advanced technology for a car now in its sixth model year, but it's also a surprisingly stronger performer--even if you'd never know it from the outside.

The crowded segment of mid-size to large sedans in the near-luxury class includes a number of worthy competitors to the MKS. The Infiniti TK (nee M37), Lexus GS, and Volvo S80 compete directly, though the Audi A6, BMW 5-Series, and Mercedes-Benz E-Class are all full luxury brands. Against that set of vehicles, the Lincoln MKS is a bit larger, with that much more shoulder room inside--especially in front. The high beltline and short, abbreviated roofline arch impinge on backseat space, but the handsome stance works well from the outside even if its proportions are think and somewhat high-waisted.

Inside, at least in the front seat, quiet, classy styling is a big contrast with the glitzy showmanship you'll find inside some of these rivals. Front seats are all-day comfortable, and the MKS interior is supremely quiet on all kinds of surfaces (there's active noise cancellation, too).

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The MKS' performance is quick and strong, but perhaps not dynamically on par with true sport sedans like the better E-Class and 5-Series four-doors. It has a strong, mature personality--it's a luxury car, first and foremost. In the EcoBoost edition.a twin-turbo, 3.5-liter V-6 now makes 365 hp, and all-wheel drive is mandatory; the base version works with a 304-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6.

You can order the non-turbo version with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Go with the base engine, and you'll get a reasonably enthusiastic performer. Opt for the turbocharged MKS model, with its 350 pound-feet of torque, and you get impressive V-8-like pull, plus more of a ripe, baritone exhaust note--and a fuel-economy rating just 1 mpg lower than the base engine paired with AWD. (We should note, however, that some EcoBoost engines prove to return real-world numbers considerably below their ratings.) The six-speed automatic is a smooth and well-damped companion, and we anticipate that the new electric power steering with a quicker ratio--and continuous damping--will amount to a more eager-driving personality, although we haven't yet driven an MKS with this update.

If you're concerned about safety, the Lincoln MKS is one of the best choices you can make. In addition to top-tier occupant protection ratings, the MKS offers a set of available safety features you won't easily find elsewhere at this price. Top Safety Pick status and an excellent five-star overall rating make this a model that protects better than most; and with with adaptive cruise control an option, as well as lane-keeping assist, lane-departure warning, and an active-parking system, this is a model for those who want the most technology and security with their luxury.

Last year, Lincoln cut out the matte-metallics and gave the interior an understated makeover, also subbing in the MyLincoln Touch infotainment system and a new reconfigurable gauge cluster. The capacitive-slider controls can be fidgety; MyLincoln Touch can be complex to learn, but it has extensive control over the car's functions, so it's essentially sink or swim. Standard equipment includes ventilated front seats; heated front and rear seats; adaptive HID headlamps; rear parking sensors; automatic climate control; and an exterior keypad entry system.

With a Premium Package, you get a heated steering wheel, power-adjustable pedals, navigation, premium audio, a power rear sunshade, and blind-spot and cross traffic alert systems; while the Elite Package adds Active Park Assist, Lane Keeping, premium wood trim, and a few other extras. Altogether, you can load an MKS just past the $50k mark--but then you get quite the collection of luxury and tech features, at what might also buy a rather basic German sport sedan.

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2014 Lincoln MKS

Styling

Quietly handsome, the Lincoln MKS doesn't fall into blingy cliches to deliver upscale appeal.

The Lincoln MKS is a good-looking sedan, so it comes as a surprise that it's been such a slow seller. Granted, the brand may have a foggy (at best) identity, but the MKS is well-designed, with handsome styling at a distance, and nicely detailed appointments inside.

The MKS is a classically sleek car, in the Lexus mold, with a large winged grille calling attention to itself a little more insistently than the rest of the car. Visually, Lincoln has made a number of minor changes to the exterior for 2013, and they add to 'suggest' something more significant, even if the proportions haven't changes. The MKS grille has a fine pattern of slats, and the lower airdam is a little more chiseled; meanwhile the hood has been lowered but given a strong middle spine--all of which makes the car look a bit lower and wider from the front. Styling at the rear has been cleaned up as well, with the trunkline following different contours this year.

Although the MKS is basically a cousin of the Volvo S80 and pretty closely related to the Ford Taurus, it doesn't look that way. About the only thing it does have in common with the Taurus is its rather short, arched roofline and somewhat high beltline, with a little more overhang in front and in back than is now typical for the class.

Inside, we see lots to like, with a linear, spare theme to the cabin design. White-lit electroluminescent gauges glow softly at night off its leather and wood trim, with noticeably closer attention to detail. Stitched leather panels replaced a few remaining harder surfaces for 2013, and MyLincoln Touch has been subbed into the interior. Unfortunately, that means a set of capacitive sliders for volume and climate-control functions as well.

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2014 Lincoln MKS

Performance

Turbocharged MKS sedans are blazingly fast, but edgy handling isn't so much a priority.

The 2014 Lincoln MKS isn't really an aggressive performer. It's not rear-wheel drive; there's no overpowered V-8 under the hood. Instead, it feels mature and willing, with a real focus on the car's luxury–but that doesn't make it a slouch.

Shoppers who consider the MKS are going to have some wide-ranging ideas of how it should respond, and roll over the pavement, so Lincoln has tried to make good on the MKS's ride and handling with the introduction of a new active damper system. Three modes give you a range between comfort and sport, while there's a new Lincoln Drive Control system that coordinates steering, transmission, throttle, and stability control responses to a Sport mode when desired.

Go with the base engine, and you'll get an enthusiastic performer. Based on our time with this powertrain in the Ford Taurus, this engine gets even better passing power without giving up any off-the-line oomph. Everything that's happening with the engine and transmission is carefully damped, though, so you don't get notice that much dramatic is happening.

In the EcoBoost edition–a twin-turbo, 3.5-liter V-6 now makes 365 hp, and all-wheel drive is mandatory; while models with the base 3.7-liter V-6 come with a 304-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 (31 more than for 2012). You can get the non-turbo version with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.

Opt for the EcoBoost model, with its 350 pound-feet of torque, and you get impressive V-8-like pull, with a little more of a ripe, baritone exhaust note--and combined fuel economy that's only down 1 mpg against the base engine with AWD and 2 mpg versus the front-wheel-drive model.

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.

Finally, brakes were upgraded last year--not just for the higher horsepower, but in response to complaints in previous model years that the brakes were fade-prone.

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2014 Lincoln MKS

Comfort & Quality

The interior--especially the back seat--feel claustrophobic, but the seats are very comfortable and available space is quite good, even in the trunk.

The 2014 Lincoln MKS is big, even for large sedans–and you'd think that would translate with the interior, too. And it does, to an extent. It plays the big-car role well, with a quiet, comfortable interior for long drives. It's also supportive for drivers who crave the occasional spirited jaunt–putting Lincoln's reputation for floaty, boat-like sedans aside. However, the interior feels much smaller than the exterior looks.

Although we haven't yet driven the MKS with the new system, we expect the addition of continuous damping (with three modes) to make a significant contribution to ride quality over rough surfaces. There's also active noise control to help keep the cabin quiet.

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, and Lincoln has made its opening larger, with a lower lip for easier lifting in the 2014.

The long wheelbase does translate 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.

Back seats tend to be a bit claustrophobic, as well as limited in headroom, but they're also very supportive, and heated too. 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.

About the only other thing we aren't big fans of is the absurdly wide center console in front, as well as the new (and mandatory) capacitive sliders for climate control and volume. To everyone but the designers, we ask: What was wrong with knobs?

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2014 Lincoln MKS

Safety

The Lincoln MKS is simply one of the safest vehicles on the road today.

If safety is one of your concerns, the Lincoln MKS was a very good choice during most of its model life. It offers a long list of active and passive safety features, and it's rated well for occupant protection. But safety standards have gotten higher, and with new and more challenging crash tests, the big Lincoln sedan no longer rates as high as it used to.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the MKS its highest rating of "Good" on its moderate-overlap front crash, side crash, roof strength, and seat and headrest tests. But it has not tested the MKS, which is approaching the end of the current generation's model life, for the new and tougher small-overlap front crash--and the MKS no longer receives the coveted Top Safety Pick status. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the MKS its top rating of five stars overall, with five stars for frontal and side crashes and four stars for rollover safety.

The MKS also brings out much of the safety gear you’d expect as standard 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 are all standard, while adaptive cruise control is an option.

As of last year, Lincoln has added lane-keeping assist and lane-departure warning, as well as stronger brakes. Active Park Assist is another safety-related option; 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.

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2014 Lincoln MKS

Features

The MKS has more standard luxury features than are available as options on other luxury sedans; it just lacks the image.

It's hard to beat the level of technology available in the 2014 Lincoln MKS–especially when you look at price, which is drastically lower than the competitive German models on the market.

The MKS has a few options to tempt. With the Premium Package, you get a heated steering wheel, power-adjustable pedals, navigation, premium audio, a power rear sunshade, and blind-spot and cross traffic alert systems; while the Elite Package adds Active Park Assist, Lane Keeping, premium wood trim, and a few other extras. Altogether, you can load an EcoBoost MKS just past the $50k mark--but then you get quite the collection of luxury and tech features, at what might also buy a rather basic German sport sedan.

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; adaptive HID headlamps; rear parking sensors; automatic climate control; and an exterior keypad entry system, among many other features.

Last year, Lincoln updated the dash somewhat, and added a new reconfigurable gauge cluster, plus MyLincoln Touch, which integrates Bluetooth phone connectivity, audio-streaming, media controls, and even climate controls and navigation. While some will love this system, we're still in a love-hate relationship over how heavy-handed it can be, and we do quite despite the capacitive sliders it brings to climate control and audio volume controls.

Go with the turbocharged MKS EcoBoost, and you add larger 20-inch wheels in addition to all-wheel drive. There's also MyKey, which lets owners set things like speed limiters, volume control and seatbelt reminders for other drivers (think teenagers).

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2014 Lincoln MKS

Fuel Economy

It's no gas-mileage gem, but the Lincoln MKS earns acceptable fuel economy ratings.

The fuel economy for the 2014 Lincoln MKS is average to middling for the segment, ranging from 20 to 22 mpg combined--despite some new fuel-saving technologies added to the big luxury sedan.

The most efficient model is the base front-wheel-drive sedan, which comes with a 3.7-liter V-6 and is rated at 22 mpg combined (19 mpg city, 28 mpg highway). Add all-wheel drive to that model and the ratings fall slightly, to 21 mpg combined (18 mpg city, 26 mpg highway). Finally, the performance option pairs a more powerful turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 with all-wheel drive; it's rated at 20 mpg combined (17 mpg city, 25 mpg highway).

Active grille shutters--now standard on the 3.7-liter versions of the MKS--smartly open only when more cooling is needed, reducing aerodynamic drag and improving fuel economy on the highway. Also new for the MKS is a smart battery management system that puts a higher priority on battery charging when coasting or decelerating.

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