Compared: 2010 Lincoln MKT Vs. Acura MDX

August 24, 2009

Big seven-seat crossovers with near-luxury nameplates: who can keep track of them all?

TheCarConnection.com, that's who. In the past few weeks, we've spent time in nearly all the vehicles in this niche promising lots of personal space, lots of longing stares and lots of passenger-distracting gadgets. There's the Volvo XC90, the Buick Enclave, the Audi Q7, and the latest edition of the 2010 Acura MDX--one of TheCarConnection's favorite big crossover utes, this year freshened with new features and a new grille, which we reviewed for you last week.

Sidling up to all of them is the voluptuous 2010 Lincoln MKT, a sensual remix of the ultimate two-box carryall, the Ford Flex. With the Flex's strengths in passenger room and all-wheel drive intact, the new 2010 MKT ladles on glamorous, engaging sheetmetal and even more techno-geeky features along with a new turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6 with 355 horsepower. At its core, the MKT is a Flex for those less attracted to the GE Monogram aesthetic.

It's upgraded, for sure, but is the MKT upgraded enough to carry the Flex's top ranking to the top of the luxury crossover class? Or does the refreshed Acura MDX have the momentum to walk away from the pack again?

That's our cue at TheCarConnection.com to compare cars, and let you know which one tops our numeric rankings.

But first, the basics:

2010 Acura MDX

2010 Acura MDX

2010 Acura MDX

The basics: A 300-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 engine coupled to a new six-speed automatic with paddle shifters and standard all-wheel drive

Price: $44,000 and up

Fuel economy: 16/21 mpg

Rating: 8.6 out of 10

The 2010 Acura MDX has plenty to recommend, from its big, strong V-6 engine and six-speed paddle-shifted automatic transmission to its "super-handling" all-wheel drive system. The drivetrain has a lightness and quickness that's not matched in this class. The same holds true for handling--the MDX's road behavior is more carlike and makes it feel smaller than the MKT and others. Its subdued looks are highlighted by a dashing walnut dash and ambient lighting this year. Passenger room and comfort remains a strong selling point, along with five-star safety and a reputation for durability. The MDX's sound system now indexes music and responds to voice controls, too.

However, the MDX's downsides--it's a bit smaller overall, with an less accessible third-row seat--are paired with some unwelcome changes. Its vaguely Toyota RAV4-ish looks get a new grille that reminds editors of a bottle opener. The cabin's adorned with lots of buttons that control lots of complex features like navigation and stability control. The MDX demands premium unleaded gasoline and still lags behind in fuel economy. And the updates for 2010 have turned its steering loose and overly light. A USB port for MP3 coupling is unavailable on the base model, a stupid omission for a brand that leverages a tech-friendly image.

TheCarConnection's Bottom Line? The 2010 Acura MDX has found ways to improve—though the new grille, steering feel, and USB/Bluetooth omissions are out of character.

2010 lincoln mkt 039

2010 lincoln mkt 039

2010 Lincoln MKT

The basics: 3.7-liter V-6 with 255 horsepower, or turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6 with 355 hp; six-speed automatic; front- or all-wheel drive

Price: $44,000 and up

Fuel economy: 17/23 mpg (front-drive V-6) to 16/22 mpg (AWD and turbo MKTs)

Rating: 9 out of 10

The new 2010 Lincoln MKT is close kin to the Ford Flex, but you'd never be able to tell without a DNA test. It's all suave curves and chromed details, while the Flex boxes it out with those Monogram appliances for hip squareness. The vast interior space inside gives second-row adults even more leg room than front-seat passengers, and it's not out of the question for smaller adults to ride in the third-row seat. With the EcoBoost turbo V-6, the MKT's an athletic accelerator, and ride quality is wonderfully settled without the use of electronics or air shocks. All the essential gadgets from the Flex carry over, including SYNC and the second-row refrigerator, but the luxe Lincoln adds on a parking-assist option, wood or aluminum trim, and adaptive cruise control.

Where the MKT leaves questions in its trail are in styling--is it too polarizing?--and the ultimate utility of that third-row seat. Easy enough--fold it down and the cargo area more than compensates. The headrests on the front seats still sit a little too forward for our liking. While ride quality is great, ultimate handling gets hairy at the high-speed edges, where the MKT's 4800-pound curb weight and long wheelbase give up long before its EcoBoost six does. Finally, we're not SYNC converts--it's hit or miss in detecting artist names and song titles, and a string of three voice commands to perform a one-button action doesn't strike us as more effective.

TheCarConnection.com's Bottom Line? Supremely spacious and stunning from some angles, the 2010 Lincoln MKT gets truly arresting with its EcoBoost turbo V-6.

The Winner: 2010 Lincoln MKT

It's all about the mission statement: the 2010 Acura MDX has superior dynamics, but the limousine-like 2010 Lincoln MKT scores all the people-carrying points, has 55 more horsepower, uses regular unleaded gas and still it gets better gas mileage. The MKT's unique look is far more upscale, and its gadgets more complete, from SYNC to the in-car refrigerator. Its enormous cabin doesn't intrude as much on the driving experience as you'd think, so long as you choose the $49,995 EcoBoost model--and by the time you option the MDX with the must-have features, you're in the same price range. Ford's reputation for quality and reliability has risen to the levels of Honda, Acura and Toyota, leaving no qualms about buying this new crossover.

The Competition

The 2010 Acura MDX and 2010 Lincoln MKT are among TheCarConnection.com’s top-ranked large crossovers. Contenders include the handsome Buick Enclave, with great safety and sex appeal, as well as a pretty interior with a piece or two of less-appealing plastic trim. The Volvo XC90 has three rows of seats, but seating anyone in the third row is an awkward exercise, fuel economy is relatively poor, and initial quality has been less than exemplary. The Audi Q7 carries a competitive base price, but adding on diesels or V-8s or third-row seats balloons its price into the stratosphere. You'll pay for the most refined driving feel in the bunch.

Compare Cars

You can compare cars of your own choosing at TheCarConnection.com. Just stop at our car comparison page, select your choices for vehicle type, price range, model year, and brands, and then choose up to three to compare on a single page.

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