2012 Lincoln MKX Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
January 16, 2012

The 2012 Lincoln MKX lives up to the promise of top-notch American luxury, with some of the newest luxury and tech features as its controversial showpieces.

Closely related to the Ford Edge, the 2012 Lincoln MKX is the upscale brand's five-seat crossover vehicle. Like the Edge, it was redesigned for the 2011 model year, and it carries over this year with no changes.

With new sheetmetal and powertrains, a new interior and a new suite of technology branded MyLincoln Touch, the MKX stakes a claim to the growing luxury-crossover market, alongside some tough rivals from Europe and Japan. It succeeds on its own merits, which include world-class features and interior appointments.

Some see it as an eyesore, but we see the more distinctive Lincoln front-end look as a breathtaking departure. It's a striking bit of style, and the twin-wing grille is balanced out by a tall front end and large glass areas. It goes a long way to cure the MKX's relative anonymity down the rest of its plain but handsome body. Inside the cockpit, Lincoln's ditched the lower-rent shapes and materials of the past, and has removed most of the buttons and knobs from the dash, replacing them with a swoopy new instrument panel and center stack implanted with big LCD screens. The combination could come off forced, but it doesn't. The fit and finish has risen to import standards, and wood, metal and leather trim blend together beautifully. It's a business-class aesthetic that evades cliches, while it folds in the very latest technology.

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In its 2011 remake, the MKX gained a more powerful V-6 engine--a 305-horsepower, 3.7-liter shared with the latest Ford Mustang. The improved output isn't entirely noticeable. Shunted through a sweet-shifting six-speed automatic, those horsepower earn the MKX a gentleman's B for straight-line performance, somewhere in the neighborhood of 8.0 seconds to 60 mph, and a top speed in the 125-mph range. Performance is muted, in the aural sense, much better than in the Mustang, and the MKX's laminated glass and acoustic damping keep it well quieted when revs hit 5000 rpm and above. Electric power steering continues Ford's track record for decent feedback and feel. For its size, more than 4000 pounds, the MKX digs into its share of country roads with gusto. All-wheel drive is an option on the already chunky crossover, so we'd give it a pass unless you spend more than half the year in mucky driving conditions.

With the Navigator still hanging around, the MKX doesn't have to supersize itself to flesh out the Lincoln lineup. It's designed to tote five adults in comfort, and it hits that mark well. Its front seats have good support and with the tilt/telescoping steering, make finding a good driving position easy. Heating, even ventilation, are offered up front, while the second-row seat can also be heated. It's suitable for grown-ups, even three across, and has good head room. The MKX is a bit shy on cargo space, compared to some five-passenger crossovers, but the console, door panels and glovebox offer useful additional storage.

Safety scores have moderated a bit, but the MKX is still one of the safest vehicles you can buy. The NHTSA gives it four stars overall; the IIHS calls it a Top Safety Pick. Stability control and curtain airbags are standard, as are blind-spot monitors, a rearview camera, and Bluetooth.

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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2012 Lincoln MKX

Styling

Haters unite! The 2012 Lincoln MKX knows you're talking about its nose, and frankly, it doesn't care. Who would, with a cockpit like this?

Is the 2012 Lincoln MKX a jumbo-jet-sized departure from the luxury norm, or is it way overdone? Ford's tussled with the latest styling theme on a range of Lincolns for the past few years. The winged-grille theme seems like it's here to stay, but from what we've seen, few future Lincolns will get front ends as big and hypersized as this one. At least on the MKX, the size of the grille wings is balanced out by slimmed-down headlamps and tall glass areas--it's not so comically out of touch, like the brownstone-sized radiator on the MKT crossover. For all the chatter we've read about the grille, the rest of the MKX is remarkably tasteful and handsome, a deft piece of work compared to the frumpy Lexus RX or spartan-looking Acura MDX, which has grille issues of its own.

In last year's redo, the MKX cabin chucked what was left of the inexpensive-looking materials and shapes that remained after the transition from Ford Edge took place. 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.

Finally, say what you want about MyLincoln Touch, but 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. That car reaches for the same visual impact and falls shy, thanks to a myriad of buttons and switches. As with 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.

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2012 Lincoln MKX

Performance

The 2012 Lincoln MKX has upped its own tempo: we wouldn't call it sporty, but it's quick, and handles well for its size and height.

For the 2011 model year, Ford revamped the MKX quite substantially, upgrading its drivetrain along with the sheetmetal and interior, while it beefed up its body structure. Compared back to back with the first-generation MKX, it's more adept at tackling curves and feels more engaged in the act of driving, though we wouldn't call it sporty.

The sole engine in the MKX is now a 3.7-liter V-6, shared with the latest Mustang, making 305 horsepower in the Lincoln application. Hooked up with a paddle-shifted six-speed automatic, the drivetrain gets a solid B for straight-line performance and responsiveness, and maybe a B minus when a few hundred pounds of all-wheel-drive hardware are strapped on its haunches. More muted here than in the pony car, the big V-6 has been damped out with thicker glass and more acoustic blocking, and it's lost some of its wallflower waltz. It can feel genuinely quick in mid-range passing, probably the most demanding situation for its most frequent drivers. There's no Porsche Cayenne Turbo-style thrust on tap, but it's accommodating to a heavy foot on the gas.

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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2012 Lincoln MKX

Comfort & Quality

A well-conceived cabin has lots of room for adults and a fair amount of cargo--and the 2012 MKX's MyLincoln Touch gives the impression of high-tech quality.

The 2012 Lincoln MKX suits four adults very well, and the five-seat cabin has good cargo space that makes it a versatile daily driver.

The MKX's swanky interior doesn't differ that much in its dimensions from the Ford Edge, and those are points in its favor. Both crossovers have the kind of head, leg and knee room that buyers expect from an adult-oriented crossover--though Range Rover's Evoque is changing that idea. The MKX fits a supple pair of front bucket seats with heating and ventilation, our latest favorite feature, and they also have memory functions that capture the ideal driving position for a pair of drivers--down to the power tilt/telescoping wheel position and mirror adjustments.

In the rear seat, the seatbacks are reclined a few degrees for exceptional comfort. The seats don't slide on a track, which would expand the somewhat small cargo area, but it's all a matter of a cubic foot or two--not many owners will complain about the expansive room available when the back seats are folded down nearly flat.

We do have a few complaints about the interior. The doors are curved under the side sills, and it's easy to feel them flex if you push on them with a foot. The MKX's power tailgate is slow to open and close, and it makes a fair amount of noise.

Then there's MyLincoln Touch. We'll discuss it more in the Features section, but in terms of the MKX's quality and functionality, it's a sharp left turn into the future. The steering-wheel controls, LCD screens and voice controls mean that whole racks of buttons and switches have been removed from the center console, with just a pair of swipe bars for volume and fan controls. No matter how you feel about the ease of use, there's no doubt that MyLincoln Touch reduces the clutter on the dash, and tips the MKX off as a technology leader--one of the new ways customers look at quality, regardless of execution.

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2012 Lincoln MKX

Safety

The overall crash-test picture is more cloudy, but the 2012 Lincoln MKX is laden with most of the latest tech safety gear.

Crossovers seem to imply safety, with their beef and bulk, but the latest round of crash tests from the federal government and the insurance industry have clouded the picture for the MKX.

According to those new tests, the MKX has lost some of the stars on its crash-test report card. While it's still a Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the MKX is now rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) at four stars overall, with a three-star score for front impacts and five stars for side impacts.

With the usual array of airbags and stability controls, the MKX goes out of its way to stuff in all sorts of cutting-edge safety technology. The electronics include trailer-sway control and hill start assist, and on the options list, adaptive cruise control, frontal-collision warning, and blind-spot monitors.

A rearview camera is standard, but the MKX already does well for itself in outward visibility. The high driving position allows for a clear view of the road ahead, and the thick rear roof pillars don't obscure that view too badly.

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2012 Lincoln MKX

Features

MyLincoln Touch has its fans and its detractors--make sure where you stand before stepping into the 2012 Lincoln MKX.

The 2012 Lincoln MKX has a raft of well-conceived luxury and entertainment touches, everything from leather to panoramic sunroof to HD radio, but wary buyers will want to spend some time with MyLincoln Touch before they're sold on the complex voice-controlled system.

MyLincoln Touch is Ford's way of tying together navigation, phone, climate and entertainment features with voice control--though steering-wheel controls and a touchscreen LCD also get in on the action. MyLincoln Touch, and its sister in gigabytes, MyFord Touch, have drawn complaints over their information-packed displays, and in the confusing depth of control they deliver without a spray of buttons and levers.

A few examples show the system's breathtaking reach and the potential for frustration. To set a destination, the driver can either press a steering-wheel button and speak the destination; MyLincoln Touch searches and returns results, which the driver chooses or discards if they're not relevant. Enjoying a song on the MKX's radio? A tap on the LCD touchscreen cues MyLincoln Touch to bookmark the track on a portable music player for downloading later, at a desktop. Want to change the height of the power-opening tailgate in cargo-loading mode? That's also driven by the screen, though it's also possible to cycle through those same screens with the steering-wheel buttons. Whew.

MyLincoln Touch will be revised in the 2013 model year, but Ford is promising those updates will also be available to all users as a firmware download. Until then, it's simply having to spend more time teaching dealers and customers how to use the system--a big leap of faith for a brand that's facing the newly connected car in a completely different way than established luxury players, most of which have their own aggravating solutions in place (COMAND, iDrive, MMI, and Remote Touch).

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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2012 Lincoln MKX

Fuel Economy

Gas mileage is good for a crossover--at least when you order the 2012 MKX as a front-driver.

Fuel economy isn't always the proudest moment for crossovers, but the 2012 Lincoln MKX acquits itself fairly well, so long as you stay on track with front-drive models.

According to the EPA, the 2012 MKX checks in with gas mileage of 19/26 mpg, at least in front-drive form. Ford uses some technical tricks to extract those numbers from the big V-6 and six-speed automatic. Variable valve timing measures fuel more carefully depending on the power needs; the fuel injectors also turn off completely during deceleration, cutting down consumption even more. Ford claims this delivers a significantly higher mileage rating than some of the MKX's competitors.

However, the edge vanishes when all-wheel drive is specified. The EPA rates this version at 17/23 mpg--something worth noting if you don't regularly encounter winter weather.

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