- Conservatively styled
- Rippling turbo power
- A hushed cabin
- Almost everything's standard
- Cabin is understated
- Badge lacks prestige
- Feels as big as it is
- Back-seat head room is slim
- MyLincoln Touch is complex
Little has changed with the 2015 Lincoln MKS; it continues to offer understated and reserved luxury with an available high-power turbocharged engine option that spices things up somewhat, at least in a straight line.
With the retirement of Lincoln's classic Town Car, the MKS is now the largest and most luxurious sedan offered in the brand's showrooms. The MKS is a very distant relative to 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, but it's also a surprisingly strong performer--even if you'd never know it from the outside. The MKS is now in its seventh model year.
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 Q70 (nee M37), Lexus GS, and Volvo S80 compete directly, while the Audi A6, BMW 5-Series, and Mercedes-Benz E-Class sit about a half-step above as they come from full luxury brands. Compared to those rivals, the Lincoln MKS is a bit larger, providing slightly 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 somewhat high-waisted and have some thickness to them. The 2015 model gets a very slight aesthetic update in the name of usability: The decklid has been reshaped to improve access to the trunk release button. The change brings a winged trim strip across the vertical face of the trunk and has the side effect of making the MKS look a bit like a Jaguar XJ from the rear.
The MKS's interior is very restrained, especially when compared to the glitz found inside some of its rivals. The Lincoln's front seats are all-day comfortable, and the interior is supremely quiet on all kinds of surfaces with some help from an active noise cancellation system. Headroom can be a problem in the rear, as a result of the flowing shape of the roof and rear glass.
Performance is strong in the big Lincoln, but it is perhaps not dynamically on par with true sport sedans like the E-Class and 5-Series. The MKS has a strong, mature personality--it's a luxury car, first and foremost. Base models receive a 304-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 that moves the car smartly but with little excitement. The base V-6 engine can be had with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The extra-cost powertrain is an EcoBoost V-6; this twin-turbo 3.5-liter makes 365 hp and is paired with standard all-wheel drive to help put the sizable power and 350 lb-ft of torque to the ground. The EcoBoost engine provides 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.)
All powertrain combinations come with a six-speed automatic transmission. It is a smooth and well-damped companion, and we the electric power steering with a quicker ratio--and continuous damping--amounts to a slightly more eager driving personality. All MKS models come standard with Lincoln Drive Control, which lets the driver tailor suspension, steering, and powertrain settings. The suspension setup uses continuously controlled dampers at all four corners to help improve ride and handling simultaneously.
The Lincoln MKS performs well in most safety evaluations, although it has had some trouble on the newest tests. The MKS used to earn the IIHS's Top Safety Pick nod, although it no longer does as a result of a 'Poor' rating in the new small front overlap test. In the NHTSA tests, the MKS scores an excellent five-star overall rating, with its only four-star score coming in the rollover analysis. In addition to mostly top-tier occupant protection ratings, the MKS offers a set of available safety features you won't easily find elsewhere at this price. Adaptive cruise control is an option, as well as lane-keeping assist, lane-departure warning, and an active-parking system.
For 2013, 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 and heated front seats; adaptive HID headlamps; rear parking sensors; automatic climate control; and an exterior keypad entry system. Lincoln refers to the base MKS as the Premiere package.
The Elite Package adds voice-activated navigation, multicontour front seats, premium wood trim, blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, a THX II certified sound system, power-adjustable pedals with memory, and a few other extras. Additional items are available as standalone options, including a Technology package (active park assist, lane keeping, adaptive cruise), a Cold-Weather package (heated steering wheel, heated outboard rear seats), and a dual-panel moonroof. Fully loaded, an MKS can reach past the $50k mark. It's a handsome sum, but it gets you quite a collection of luxury and tech features at what might buy a rather basic German sport sedan.
Aside from the redesigned trunk lid, the 2015 MKS receives few changes beyond a handful of new available exterior colors.
2015 Lincoln MKS
The MKS avoids blingy cliches, and the exterior works; the cabin's underwhelming.
The Lincoln MKS is an attractive four-door that manages to avoid the nondescript shapes of many of its competitors in the near-luxury arena. Although the styling may not recall the brand's design heyday, the MKS looks smart, with a handsome profile at a distance, and nicely detailed appointments inside.
The most recent design update came to the MKS for the 2013 model year, with the front and rear heavily massaged but the overall proportions left alone. The MKS is a classically sleek car, with a large winged grille calling attention to itself a little more insistently than anything else on the car. That grille now has a fine pattern of slats, and the lower air dam is a little more chiseled than it was before; meanwhile the hood was lowered and given a strong middle spine. All of those changes made the car look a bit lower and wider from the front.
Styling at the rear was cleaned up as well, with the trunkline following different contours and the license plate mount moving to the bumper. The 2015 model gets a very slight aesthetic update in the name of usability: The decklid has been reshaped to improve access to the trunk release button. The change brings a winged trim strip across the vertical face of the trunk and has the side effect of making the MKS look a bit like a Jaguar XJ from the rear—certainly a welcome, if unintended, consequence. The Lincoln star badge was also removed from the rear, replaced by the brand's name spelled out across the trunklid above the new trim piece.
Although the MKS is a distant cousin of the Volvo S80 and closely related to the Ford Taurus sedan, it doesn't look like either car. About the only thing the MKS does have in common with its Ford sibling are 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, there is lots to like, with a linear, spare theme to the cabin design. White-lit electroluminescent gauges glow softly at night off the leather and wood trim, and the overall interior has noticeably better attention to detail than has been seen in Lincolns past. Stitched leather panels replaced a few remaining harder surfaces for 2013, and MyLincoln Touch was subbed into the interior to handle infotainment duties. Unfortunately, that means a set of capacitive sliders for volume and climate-control functions as well, something that is being phased out of the newest and recently updated Lincoln models.
2015 Lincoln MKS
Edgy handling is low on the list of priorities, but the MKS is very quick and rides very well.
The 2015 Lincoln MKS isn't really an aggressive performer, but it does offer a powerful turbocharged V-6 that rivals the optional sixes and eights in other models. That said, it's not a rear-wheel-drive performance car like some of its competitors and near-rivals; front-wheel drive is standard with the less-powerful engine, while all-wheel drive can be added. Regardless of the powertrain, however, the MKS feels mature and willing, with a real focus on luxury over all-out performance.
Shoppers considering the MKS are likely to have some wide-ranging ideas of how the car should drive, so Lincoln has tried to balance the MKS's ride and handling with an adjustable active damper system. Three modes provide a range between comfortable and sport-oriented, while the Lincoln Drive Control system also coordinates steering, transmission, throttle, and stability control responses, and there's a standalone Sport mode that can be activated when desired.
Base models come with a 304-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6. It can be paired with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive as a standalone option. Go with the base engine, and you'll get an enthusiastic enough performer. Based on our time with this powertrain in the Ford Taurus, this engine provides good 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 if anything dramatic is happening.
In the EcoBoost edition, the MKS is powered by a twin-turbo, 3.5-liter V-6 that makes 365 hp; all-wheel drive is mandatory, lest this torquey engine roast the front tires all day long. Its 350 pound-feet of torque provide 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 3.7-liter model.
A six-speed automatic is standard with either engine. The automatic is equipped with paddle shifters in all models. At first thought, the paddles might seem unnecessary in a car of this size, but a quick turn in the MKS proves they're more useful than you might think. The gearbox does an excellent job of keeping the big Lincoln in the right gear at the right time—just what an automatic transmission should do.
The brakes were also upgraded for 2013. This was in part to account for the horsepower increases that came to both engines that year and in response to complaints that the brakes were prone to fade in previous model years.
2015 Lincoln MKS
Comfort & Quality
The MKS' rear seats inspire claustrophobia, but space and seat comfort are actually quite good and the trunk is enormous.
The 2015 Lincoln MKS is big on the outside, which would lead you to believe the interior is spacious. It is, but not for all passengers all the time. The MKS plays the big-car role well, with a quiet, comfortable interior that's a perfect place to spend time on long drives. It's also supportive for drivers who crave the occasional spirited jaunt–putting Lincoln's reputation for floaty, boat-like sedans aside.
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. Multicontour seats with added adjustability are available as part of an upgrade package. The seats are heated, too, and ventilated, which almost makes up for the nagging active headrests that sit too far forward for our tastes, pushing the back of the head and neck away from the seat. It would also be nice if the MKS's steering column were able to telescope out a few more inches, since it can force bigger drivers into a closer seating position than they'd like.
The MKS's back seats tend to be a bit claustrophobic, as they're limited in headroom. Like the front buckets, they're also very supportive, and heating is available here. Seating three across is not much of a problem, and two adults can be sit with plenty of distance between them.
The addition of three-mode continuous damping (which arrived with the 2013 model) makes a significant improvement to ride quality over rough surfaces. There's also active noise control to help keep the cabin quiet.
Small-item storage is found all over the place inside the MKS. Lincoln fits enough niches to hide iPhones and netbooks in the sedan, with cup holders for every seating position and a couple of spare water-bottle slots in the doors. The trunk is large, and Lincoln made its opening larger for 2014, with a lower lip for easier lifting.
About the only other thing we aren't big fans of is the absurdly wide center console in front, as well as the MyLincoln Touch's capacitive sliders for climate control and audio volume. Newer versions of MyLincoln Touch do away with the sliders and bring back normal knobs and buttons, but the MKS hasn't yet been treated to those retro touches.
2015 Lincoln MKS
The Lincoln MKS has performed well in crash tests in the past, but the newest IIHS test is a sore spot.
The Lincoln MKS performs well in most safety evaluations, although it hasn't fared as well on the newest tests. In addition to mostly top-tier occupant protection ratings, the MKS offers a set of available safety features you won't easily find elsewhere at this price.
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 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 in recent tests of the MKS, which is approaching the end of the current generation's model life, it did not fare well in the new and tougher small-overlap front crash. Because of its "Poor" rating in that test, the MKS no longer receives the agency's coveted Top Safety Pick status.
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 parking sensors are all standard, while adaptive cruise control is an option.
Lincoln has also added lane-keeping assist and lane-departure warning, along with 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 handles steering to “park” the car.
2015 Lincoln MKS
The MKS doesn't score as well as it used to here, as better infotainment and plusher cabins have become available in less expensive sedans.
It's hard to beat the level of technology available in the 2015 Lincoln MKS. It's priced much lower than the German near-competitors that sit above it, and with a stronger complement of standard equipment.
The base MKS, which Lincoln now calls Premiere, starts at about $39,000 with the 3.7-liter V-6 and front-wheel drive and $43,000 for the AWD EcoBoost. Standard features include ventilated and heated front seats; adaptive HID headlamps; rear parking sensors; automatic climate control; and an exterior keypad entry system, among many other features.
Stepping up to the Elite trim level (about $46k for a 3.7, $50k for the EcoBoost variant) brings voice-activated navigation, multicontour front seats, premium wood trim, blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, a THX II certified sound system, power-adjustable pedals with memory, and a few other extras.
Additional items are available as standalone options, including a Technology package (active park assist, lane keeping, adaptive cruise), a Cold-Weather package (heated steering wheel, heated outboard rear seats), and a dual-panel moonroof. On the 3.7-liter model, all-wheel drive is a $1,995 option. Go with the turbocharged MKS EcoBoost, and you add larger 20-inch wheels in addition to all-wheel drive. Another style of 20-inch wheels is available on non-turbo models, as well. There's also MyKey, which lets owners set things like speed limiters, volume control and seatbelt reminders for other drivers (think teenagers).
On the technology front, all MKS models include a reconfigurable gauge cluster, as well as MyLincoln Touch, which integrates Bluetooth phone connectivity, audio streaming, media controls, and even climate controls and navigation (when equipped). While some will love this system, we're still in a love-hate relationship with it as a result of how heavy-handed it can be, and we do quite despise the capacitive sliders it brings to climate control and audio volume controls.
2015 Lincoln MKS
Gas mileage is acceptable, but not great, in the MKS.
The MKS does not offer outstanding fuel economy when compared to its competitive set. Combined EPA numbers range from 20 to 22 mpg, despite some fuel-saving technologies that were recently added to the big luxury sedan.
Not surprisingly, the most efficient MKS variant is the base front-wheel-drive sedan equipped with the 3.7-liter V-6; it's rated at 22 mpg combined (19 mpg city, 28 highway). Add all-wheel drive to that engine and the mileage falls slightly to 21 mpg combined (18 mpg city, 26 highway). 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). It should be noted that Ford's EcoBoost engines often fare worse in real-world use than they do in EPA testing, a common outcome with modern turbocharged engines.
Active grille shutters--standard on 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. The MKS also features a smart battery management system that puts a higher priority on battery charging when coasting or decelerating through use of a special alternator. Beyond that, the MKS lacks any kind of engine stop-start function or cylinder deactivation system which would further help reduce fuel use.