If you're hunting for a big V-8 and rear-wheel drive under the 2012 Lincoln MKT's sheetmetal, you'll be surprised not to find either. As Ford downsizes its powertrains and uprates their output with turbocharging, the MKT benefits from one of its more advanced V-6 engines and front- or all-wheel drive. The combination will wow those who have visions of Lincoln performance stuck in the Sixties.
The V-6 found in the MKT has a quieter alter ego. That 3.7-liter six won't start many stoplight drag races. It puts out 268 horsepower through a six-speed automatic, giving the 4,800-pound crossover a 0-60 mph time of about eight seconds. It's more than acceptable in its responsiveness and it's pretty muted, but add on passengers and optional all-wheel drive, and the base MKT can feel a bit leaden.
With a turbocharger strapped to it, the boosted MKT breathes out 355 horsepower, via the same automatic transmission and through either front- or all-wheel drive. This is the MKT to shake change out of the sofa for: it's quick by any measure, and power delivery fits with the big crossover's character. It's smooth and refined, with just a touch of pleasantly aggressive engine noise. The heavy-duty six-speed automatic responds accordingly, always calling up the right gear at the right time, and paddle shifters will let you choose gears on command.
Gas mileage suffers with the EcoBoost; it's 16/22 mpg, versus 17/23 mpg on the base version. Just remind everyone it carries up to seven people, so it all averages out.
If you think paddle shifters are out of touch in a big crossover like the MKT, hustle one around tight corners and sail around some big bends in one. We've tossed the MKT around the curves and crests near Pebble Beach a few days on end, and not only did it look natural in the Lodge's valet lane, it felt natural hurtling into deep 20-mph turns. It's a barrel-chested linebacker, but the capable suspension still can handle a lot of roughhousing, even if some corners are just too small for such a long car. The MKT rides and steers very well, even though its rack is electric-assisted. In fact, we've enjoyed driving it more than we liked driving Honda's sporty new CR-Z Hybrid.