2011 Lincoln MKX Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
June 26, 2011

You won't need any excuses to say you've chosen the 2011 Lincoln MKX; it delivers on the promise of the brand: top-notch American luxury, with some of the best luxury and tech features wrapped in.

The 2011 Lincoln MKX, which is closely related to the 2011 Ford Edge, hasn't been completely redesigned, but almost. Flaunting new sheetmetal, new powertrains, new interiors with better-quality materials, and a new suite of technology branded under the MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch umbrella, the new MKX finally appeals to top rivals from European and Japanese luxury brands, as well as Cadillac, with world-class features and interior appointments.

Depending on how you see it, the new, more distinctive Lincoln look is either an eyesore or a breathtaking departure. The twin-wing grille is for sure striking, but those grilles balance out the glass areas nearly perfectly, with good scale. The shape has been smoothed out, too. Inside, the 2011 Lincoln MKX cabin chucks whatever was left of lower-rent shapes and materials in the Ford empire. Subtracting the buttons from swoopy new instrument panel and center stack gave designers the space to lay out winged themes, and the feel and fit of interior materials has been ratcheted up several levels, with choices of metallic trim, light or dark woods. The MKX elevates the business-class aesthetic out of simple wood and leather cliches, and marries it with real haute technology—not an easy task.

The 2011 MKX is fitted with a new 305-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 that's shared with the 2011 Ford Mustang. Offered here with a six-speed SelectShift automatic transmission, there's ample performance to knock off a gentleman's B for straight-line performance—in the neighborhood of eight seconds to 60 mph, and a top speed in the 125-mph range. The engine's muted much better here than in the Mustang, of course, thanks to layers of laminated glass and acoustic damping, and it's probably everything a luxury-crossover buyer not seeking Cayenne Turbo-style thrust will want. The MKX now has electric power steering and steers fairly well, and doesn't wander much at all on decent-to-awful turnpike pavement textures. It also grabs its share of country roads with gusto—up to the point any 4000-pound crossover feels unhappy about exactly what you're doing back there.

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The cabin of the 2011 Lincoln MKX hasn't been supersized, it sticks more closely to its job detail of being able to carry five adults in comfort than last year's version. The front seats have memory functions and the best driving position is easy to ferret out, with the height of the seat and with standard power tilt/telescoping steering. The rear bench reclines a bit so the tallest colleagues won't get bent out of shape on a lunch run. Cargo space in back is a bit shy of some larger five-passenger crossovers, though the Lincoln's add-ons will dazzle anyone who starts asking impolite questions about overall cubic feet.

MyLincoln Touch is the star of the MKX cabin; it marries Ford's SYNC and its Bluetooth-controlled, voice-activated technology with a pair of LCD screens flanking the speedometer, a big LCD touchscreen in the middle of the dash, and a pair of swipe-touch bars. The dozens of buttons you'd find on another car's audio, navigation and climate controls are simply gone, replaced by the touch-sensitive functions on the screen and by dueling sets of steering-wheel-mounted buttons and those winged bars. It's a revolutionary feature, allowing a host of navigation and media functions, too, such as finding the closest Starbucks with your voice, or tagging you music and syncing with iTunes.

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2011 Lincoln MKX

Styling

Lincoln has given the 2011 MKX a striking new front end that not everyone will agree with, but the stylish, business-class interior upgrade speaks luxury to all.

Depending on how you see it, the new, more distinctive Lincoln look is either an eyesore or a breathtaking departure. The twin-wing grille is for sure striking, but those grilles balance out the glass areas nearly perfectly, with good scale and none of the beavertooth syndrome that afflicts, say, the Acura MDX or the old VW Touareg. It's the only outre touch on the otherwise smoothed-out shape, since the creased wheelhouses and LED taillamps are all but standard across the flanks of Germany's crossovers—and since the glass outlines are essentially carried over from the first-gen MKX.

The 2011 Lincoln MKX cabin chucks whatever was left of lower-rent shapes and materials in the Ford empire. Like the cockpit in the MKT, the MKX's dash gives off the overachieving air that VW and Audi have been inching away from, cabin by cabin. White lighting glows to accent the digital gauge panel and the big LCD screen in the middle of the stack—but it's all softened beautifully with gradual curves that sweep up and out from the center console. Subtracting the buttons from the center stack gave designers the space to lay out winged themes that should have been this well-executed in the Cadillac CTS lineup, which reaches for the same effect and falls shy. And like every recent interior from Ford, the feel and fit of interior materials has been ratcheted up several levels, with choices of metallic trim, light or dark woods. The MKX elevates the business-class aesthetic out of simple wood and leather cliches, and marries it with real haute technology—not an easy task.

8

2011 Lincoln MKX

Performance

The 2011 Lincoln MKX isn't that quick, even with a new, more powerful engine, but whether you frequent country roads or Interstates you'll probably be pleased with the handling.

For performance, the MKX is fitted with a new 305-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 that's shared with the 2011 Ford Mustang. Offered here with a six-speed SelectShift automatic transmission, there's ample performance to knock off a gentleman's B for straight-line performance—in the neighborhood of eight seconds to 60 mph, and a top speed in the 125-mph range. The engine's muted much better here than in the Mustang, of course, thanks to layers of laminated glass and acoustic damping, and it's probably everything a luxury-crossover buyer not seeking Cayenne Turbo-style thrust will want. The shift paddles enable shift-it-yourself thinking after you've put the MKX into the proper gear slot—or maybe the low mode, which you'll probably do inadvertently at least once, since it's a straight pull back on the lever, through the normal Drive position.

There's also electronic power steering, which shows Ford's progress on the learning curve of delivering decent feel and feedback without the natural pressure of a hydraulic pump. The MKX steers fairly well, and doesn't wander much at all on decent-to-awful turnpike pavement textures. It also grabs its share of country roads with gusto—up to the point any 4000-pound crossover feels unhappy about exactly what you're doing back there. The front- or all-wheel-drive MKX understeers all day long when you try to provoke it, but on the obverse, it also has a touch better ride than before, even with big, blingy 20-inch wheels strapped to its axles.

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2011 Lincoln MKX

Comfort & Quality

The 2011 Lincoln MKX isn't large, but its well-designed interior and swank materials make the most of it for five adults; MyLincoln Touch cleans up the instrument-panel layout, too.

The cabin of the 2011 Lincoln MKX hasn't been supersized, it sticks more closely to its job detail of being able to carry five adults in comfort than last year's version. Its swank seating feels more comfortable, though, and the standard ventilated front seats are a sign from above that no one should have to go through this lifetime with sweaty buns. The front seats have memory functions and the best driving position is easy to ferret out, with the height of the seat and with standard power tilt/telescoping steering. The rear bench reclines a bit so the tallest colleagues won't get bent out of shape on a lunch run. Cargo space in back is a bit shy of some larger five-passenger crossovers, though the Lincoln's add-ons will dazzle anyone who starts asking impolite questions about overall cubic feet.

There are a few nits to pick about the interior, though; when you open a front door, it's too easy to press a foot on the turned-under plastic affixed to the bottom edge of the door panel. It smooths out the MKX's aerodynamics, we're sure, but it also begs to be snapped off by a klutzy foot. Ford's power tailgate also seems to run a bit more slowly than some other brands, though it's one of the vehicle operations you can customize through MyLincoln Touch, a truly astounding package of LCD touchscreens and voice-activated controls that pretty much signs the death certificate of roller-controller systems like iDrive, COMAND and MMI.

In brief, the MyLincoln Touch system marries Ford's SYNC and its Bluetooth-controlled, voice-activated technology with a pair of LCD screens flanking the speedometer, a big LCD touchscreen in the middle of the dash, and a pair of swipe-touch bars. The dozens of buttons you'd find on another car's audio, navigation and climate controls are simply gone, replaced by the touch-sensitive functions on the screen and by dueling sets of steering-wheel-mounted buttons and those winged bars. To turn on the audio system, for example, you press a power "button" on the center stack; you swipe a bar left or right to adjust volume, swipe the other to control the climate control's fan speed. Otherwise, it's a combination of touchscreen gestures, steering-wheel button clicks, or even voice commands, to run the MKX's ancillary functions.

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2011 Lincoln MKX

Safety

While test results out so far aren't perfect, the 2011 Lincoln MKX promises a lot of high-tech safety features that might help you avoid an accident in the first place.

The 2011 MKX has given top 'good' ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and models made after February 2011 have been retested to earn top 'good' results in the Institute's roof strength test (earlier models were rated just 'acceptable'). In federal tests, the MKX achieved an overall score of four stars, including three stars for frontal impact, but it wasn't tested for side impact.

For safety performance the MKX now sports Trailer Sway Control and Hill Start Assist, in addition to electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes and Brake Assist. Front side and side-curtain airbags are also included. Also available are adaptive cruise control and a Collision Warning with Brake Support system. Other safety-related tech features available on the 2011 Lincoln MKX include adaptive cruise control, a blind-spot information system, and a collision warning system.

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2011 Lincoln MKX

Features

MyLincoln Touch and a host of bundled-in technology headline a show of truly useful tech features in the 2011 Lincoln MKX.

The star of the 2011 Lincoln MKX interior—and the star of its features list—is MyLincoln Touch. It allows control over everything from the nav system to the sound system and other vehicle functions like how the tailgate opens, all in one touch-and-voice interface. To choose a new destination, for instance, you can click the voice button and then say, "destination: Starbucks," and the SYNC and navigation systems will plot the route to the nearest caffeine well. Like that song on the MKX's available HD Radio? Tap the touchscreen and the song is tagged to your device, which then can be synced to Apple's iTunes, which then lets you choose to purchase and download the song, or not.

Above and beyond a dizzying array of services, the MKX also sports a media hub with two USB ports, a set of composite jacks and an SD card slot. Instead of fitting a CD changer, Ford thinks this module will let it stay ahead of in-car electronics and user needs. Unfortunately, in this case, the media hub is slotted behind the shifter and it's hard to plug in your USB cable. There's also a plastic lip that makes putting anything flat—like an SD card—in that bin a very difficult exercise in extraction.

There's so much more technology bundled in, like THX II audio, MyKey and Intelligent Access, it's difficult to picture any luxury crossover leaping ahead of the MKX's state of the art tech features. Those features alone are enough to put the MKX on the radar for anyone thinking of Touaregs, FX50s or X5s. The 2011 MKX isn't quite as advanced as these vehicle in every way, but it might just have the single feature every driver really wants, if you asked them in a weak moment: a way to play music and talk while sitting in traffic, without getting in trouble with the law.

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2011 Lincoln MKX

Fuel Economy

The 2011 Lincoln MKX has fuel economy ratings that don't look very green on their own, but it's actually a step more frugal than other vehicles in this class.

Ford claims great fuel economy, and gets an EPA-rated 19/26 mpg (with front-wheel drive) with a handful of tricks and ploys. Variable valve timing is one; programming the V-6's fuel delivery to shut down under deceleration is another. Against the other big names shopped against the MKX, Ford says the Lincoln crossover has a 1-mpg to 5-mpg advantage against the likes of the Lexus RX 350 and the Cadillac SRX.
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8.2
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Styling 8.0
Performance 8.0
Comfort & Quality 8.0
Safety 8.0
Features 9.0
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