- Handsome new sheetmetal
- Airy, open cockpit
- Strong turbo-6 acceleration
- Quieter and plusher inside
- Better handling than many rivals
- No hybrid for the lineup
- Gimmicky push-button shifter
- Lincoln brand lacks full luxury cachet
- Rear-seat comfort
- Fuel economy takes an AWD dive
The 2016 Lincoln MKX makes good progress in its battle for luxury credibility, with sharp acceleration and style to accompany its gulp-worthy price tag.
For nine years, the Lincoln MKX crossover SUV has been the brand's biggest success story. Even positioned against heavyweights like the Lexus RX and Audi Q5, it's sold well and performed well as a premium-featured vehicle.
But it hasn't always made its mark as a luxury vehicle. In truth, outside of Detroit, many shoppers haven't even looked at the MKX, because of its badge. That's specifically what Ford wants to fix with the second-generation MKX.
The new MKX makes a much more genuine effort at distinguishing itself from its mechanical cousin, the Ford Edge. The MKX gets a streamlined powertrain lineup, with more horsepower in top versions; a quieter, better-controlled ride; and a more "boutique" focus toward a wider range of cabin and trim choices.
For most buyers, it works. The MKX has broadened its appeal and distanced itself from the Edge. In some ways, it's legitimately a better Lexus RX, now that the RX is wandering off on the styling edge already occupied by the more polished (!) Nissan Murano.
It’s likely you won’t see any Edge in the MKX from the outside. If it’s not parked near any other vehicles for relative size, the MKX could easily, from some angles, be mistaken for the smaller MKC. Side-body sculpting is softer and more graceful and voluptuous than before, while the profile is a little more wagon-like, and the somewhat more horizontally stretched version of the brand’s split-wing grille, flanked by headlights that are, as Lincoln puts it, “blades, rather than projectors,” does bring a wider look in front. Those headlamps are full-LED on some models, and there’s a new feature that uses reflectors to add more width to the low-beam pattern at speeds up to 35 mph.
Inside, the MKX has an interface that will also be familiar to those who have seen the MKC and its revamped cabin design. The shift lever has been replaced by a push-button array, although here in the MKX it’s moved a bit lower, built into a span that bridges the instrument panel and center console. In keeping with Lincoln’s move to make its interior and trim themes a little more distinctive, there are a total of four Black Label design themes, including Modern Heritage, Indulgence, a theme inspired “by the fashion, lifestyle and art scene of 1920s Paris,” and one influenced by thoroughbred horse racing.
The 2016 Lincoln MKX offers more powertrain choice than it did last year. Although the base engine remains a 3.7-liter V-6, with 303 horsepower, an available 2.7-liter twin-turbo V-6 makes 335 hp in a lower, wider part of the rev range. It's a happy, powerful unit when coupled to the standard 6-speed automatic, capable of six-second runs to 60 mph, though adding all-wheel drive sends fuel economy below 20 mpg combined, and puts curb weight at more than 4,600 pounds.
New to the MKX is Lincoln Drive Control, which allows you to choose from Normal, Sport, and Comfort modes, at least on all-wheel-drive MKXs. Its adaptive shocks are a big reason why the MKX rides with such composure; even in Sport mode, on 20-inch wheels, it's rarely flustered from encounters with bad pavement actors. The MKX's electric power steering is also tied to that system, and it tracks cleanly and undisturbed when the highway flattens out.
The MKX remains a five-seater, but with those seats occupying nearly the space that some brands use for three-row vehicles, there’s plenty of room to spare in back, in terms of legroom and perhaps more importantly cargo space. In some versions there are excellent 22-way power front seats with an active motion feature for less fatigue on long trips; front seats also now get thigh bolsters, which deflate for easier entry and exit. Base seats are undistinguished for comfort, but heating and ventilation are offered.
The back seat of the MKX remains spacious enough for adults to go on double dates, or even longer road trips, four-up—all while allowing enough space for a large load of groceries or several suitcases. Rear-seat headroom seems skimpy when tall passengers interact with the panoramic roof. The seatbacks don't fold completely flat, but the cargo floor is reasonably low and a height-adjustable tailgate is power-operated and gesture-controlled; shake a foot under it and it opens silently.
Lots of attention has been paid to ambiance with lighting. LED running lamps brighten on approach to the vehicle with the keyfob, while door handles are illuminated and there are puddle lamps brightening the surrounding pavement. Inside, there’s illumination for the cupholders, console pass-through, door handles, map pockets, and rear doors.
Crash-test scores for the MKX are promising, but incomplete. Adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping, blind-spot monitors, and a forward-collision warning system are all available. Surround-view cameras and automatic parking assistance are available.
Leather is an option on the MKX, but on other fronts, it almost overcompensates with standard and available features. The MKX will be the first model in the lineup to offer Revel audio systems. In MKX Select and Reserve models there’s a 13-speaker system available, but an even better system that’s included in top Black Label and available in the MKX Reserve has what Lincoln calls home-theater sound quality. It includes 19 speakers, a new point-source architecture for tweeter and mid-range positioning, and QuantumLogic surround with three modes. And often, the better the audio system, the worse low-bitrate MP3s can sound; to remedy that, this top sound system has a special real-time reconstruction system to help them sound better.
Lincoln also offers an embedded modem and always-on data connection in the MKX, as it does in the MKC, allowing a series of features that let you communicate with your vehicle, via a smartphone app, and do things like remotely start, unlock, or locate the vehicle.
A final, expressive touch is Lincoln's suite of Black Label styling themes. The basic interior trims, with names like hazelnut and cappuccino, are merely tasty amuse-bouches here. Under the Black Label program, Lincoln fits coordinated packages of trim and gives them almost-too-much names. There's The Muse, a Parisian homage, with aluminum trim and purplish-black leather; Modern Heritage, which wears white and black leather and piano-black trim; Thoroughbred, a horse-racing mood piece with chestnut and black leather teamed with maple wood; and Indulgence, with chocolate leathers and ziricote wood. They're the automotive equivalent of Bombfell's wardrobe-in-a-box—or maybe avant-garde Garanimals?
2016 Lincoln MKX
The Lincoln MKX has evolved into a quietly distinctive vehicle, one with a handsome layer of polish in the form of Black Label trim.
Distinctive, and clearly distinct from its Ford Edge cousin, the 2016 Lincoln MKX takes a less dramatic styling turn than some rivals. Instead, it depends on the gentle turn of a line to claim its place alongside some stylish, upscale competition.
The MKX doesn't look much like the Edge at all, except in proportion, and that's a good thing. It's more in lockstep with the smaller MKC crossover, a successful recasting of Ford's Escape. There really is something evolving within Lincoln, in terms of a new styling language, that doesn't entirely hinge on the large twin-wing grille. (A good thing, since it's cast aside on the upcoming Continental sedan.) The MKX has a slimmer grille inset, a delicately curled line of LED daytime lighting on some models, and full LED headlights on the most expensive versions. It's sculpted subtly down the sides, with more grace, and looks more like a wagon than any SUV you'd draw in your mind. At the rear, the taillights are lit by LEDs, capping the light swells of the rear fenders in an understated way. The net effect is somewhere between Macan and X3, and it's flattering.
The MKX's cockpit isn't hurt one bit by the return of knobs, switches, and buttons to accompany its new infotainment interface. The cabin is unified by big, pared-down dash shapes and few cutlines that draw the eye to the center console—where those buttons and switches look like the least expensive pieces in the whole car. At least they're back, for immediate, responsive control of volume, temperature, and fan speed.
The console itself sits high, with flying buttresses opening the space below the controls in an interesting but less than accessible way. Of course, the cockpit's marked most by what's not there—instead of a shift lever, the MKX has a pushbutton transmission, cut into the center-stack frame in dull gray buttons with zero sense of occasion.
it's relieved, mostly, by a set of custom interior themes offered under Lincoln's Black Label program. They include poetically named trims like Thoroughbred, a horse-racing mood piece with chestnut and black leather teamed with maple wood; Modern Heritage, which wears white and black leather and piano-black trim; The Muse, a Parisian homage, with aluminum trim and purplish-black leather; and Indulgence, with chocolate leathers and ziricote wood. They're so fashion-forward, they all but disguise some of the big panels of mid-grade plastic trim on the MKX's door panels.
2016 Lincoln MKX
The latest MKX feels more connected to the road, but it still puts its best feet forward in ride comfort.
Lincoln's aiming for a future with a much clearer luxury image, in part through horsepower and handling. Some of that comes to fruition in the new MKX, which handles more engagingly and accelerates more rapidly than ever, when it's fitted with the right hardware.
The MKX's standard engine is the familiar 3.7-liter V-6, rated at 303 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque. We haven't had the chance to drive this engine in the MKX, but in previous applications it's been a decent motivator of even some of Ford's heftier efforts. It's coupled to a 6-speed automatic, with a choice between front- and all-wheel drive, and registers EPA combined fuel economy ratings in the 20-mpg range.
For about $2,000, the optional twin-turbocharged 2.7-liter V-6 seems like money well spent. It's also found in the F-150 pickup and in the Edge crossover, but in Lincoln trim it outpoints them with 335 hp and 380 lb-ft when it's fueled with premium gas. Coupled to the same transmission and choice of driven wheels, the 2.7-liter delivers more power at a lower part of the rev range; it's a strong performer, as some outlets have recorded 0-60 mph times of six seconds, though slower than the nearly identical Edge due to a hefty 4,600-pound curb weight. With artificial engine sounds pumped into the cabin to make up for the ones blotted out by lots of sound damping, the impression left behind is of a drivetrain that can run silent, run deep with the stronger versions of rival SUVs—GLCs and Q5s, if not twin-turbo X3s.
On any version, Ford's 6-speed automatic is down a couple of cogs to its showiest competitors, but performance isn't affected—if anything, the MKX doesn't dither through lots of closely spaced gears in search of the best one. Downshifts are quick and clean, and in Sport mode, the MKX's transmission will let you paddle-shift down a couple of gears without bucking or halting or taking a second to gather its thoughts, something we've noticed in other SUVs with 8- and 9-speed automatics.
With a taut new body structure and a redesigned front-strut and rear-multilink independent suspension, as well as a set of adaptive shocks, the MKX has an unruffled composure as it builds speed in corners. Body control is quite good, and the variable dampers let the MKX deliver an absorbent ride, even with the big 20-inch wheels on our test vehicle. (Twenty-one inchers might be different, but we haven't seen them on an MKX yet.)
Front-drive MKXs set the damping themselves, but on all-wheel-drive models, the driver can tweak settings through a configuration screen and choose ride quality for Drive and Sport modes. There's no steering-wheel or dash switch for instant gratification—more a sense that Lincoln would rather you set and forget the driving feel and focus on the swank accoutrements.
The MKX also has an optional variable-ratio steering rack that can alter the amount of assist based on the speed with which the wheel is turned. It's also tuned through a configuration screen—when it's dialed into comfort mode, the low-speed steering work gets extra assist and takes fewer turns to slide into parking spots, for example. The steering boost lowers at higher speeds, leaving a good sense of stability and good highway tracking that matches up well with the MKX's quick-to-bite brakes.
2016 Lincoln MKX
Comfort & Quality
Front-seat comfort excels with optional seats; the back seat's more of a mixed bag.
With the MKX, Lincoln's clearly more focused on adult comfort, less on cargo flexibility. That's a fine compromise, but in some ways, the MKX falls short of rivals when it comes to back-seat accommodations.
The MKX isn't so different from last year's model in terms of packaging. It's still a two-row, five-passenger crossover SUV. The switch to an architecture shared with the Ford Fusion has netted it a few more inches in overall length, a bit more height, and about an inch more in wheelbase. That improves the ultimate interior space specifications, but with some caveats.
In front, the MKX excels in spread-out space. The driving position is high, though the overall seating position isn't SUV-lofty—it's right in the crossover sweet spot. The standard seats are neatly tailored, but a little shy on sculpting and bottom-cushion length.
That's why we'd always opt for the available 22-way power seats. They can be tweaked and custom-fitted for a wide range of body types. Inflatable bladders tailor the bolstering up and down the back, at the sides and front of the bottom cushion, even at the headrest height. After six hours of driving in our test vehicle, the properly set-up seat would have been good for another six hours.
Taller drivers will find that the seat can't be lowered quite enough to see the tops of the gauges. But the power-adjustable headrest keeps it from pushing the driver's head too far forward, a Ford failing in nearly all its crossover SUVs of late. There's a good deal of storage between the front passengers, in a covered bin where the shifter normally would be (the MKX has pushbutton transmission switches), under the console, and in the short but deep console.
Getting in and out of the MKX is easy, even in the back seat, but that back seat is less supportive and sculpted than we'd like. The three-seat bench is barely more than flat; it could use a lot more contouring, as some luxury rivals even offer four-seat models with a center console in back. The available panoramic roof cuts into taller passengers' head room. And while the seatback folds for more cargo space, it doesn't fold flat, and the handle that flips it down is wedged between the seat and the seatbelt mount. With the back seats down, cargo space is pretty expansive, at more than 73 cubic feet.
The MKX pays attention to coddling drivers, and most fit and finish details are well-executed. While the Black Label interior themes can be quite lovely, we're not fans of some of the brown leathers in the mid-tone range; they look discomfitingly close to the Naugahyde recliners of the 1970s. Most of the finishes are soft-touch or low-gloss, but we wish there were more of a sense of occasion to the start button, which is buried low on the console like an afterthought when it's really the handshake to the driving experience. Above the waist, the textures and eye appeal is substantial; some panels below that line are hard, open-grain plastic, which should be banished, especially in a $50,000 vehicle.
The MKX also gets a long list of new noise-abating measures, including better sealing, more insulation, wheel well liners, acoustic underbody panels, and acoustic glass, which help dull drivetrain noise to a low-key, background affair.
2016 Lincoln MKX
The 2016 Lincoln MKX has impressive safety scores from the IIHS and federal testers.
Now that the MKX and the related Ford Edge share some crash structure with the Fusion sedan, crash-test scores have risen.
The numbers are in for the Lincoln MKX and it's very good. Federal testers have given it five stars overall, with five-star ratings in front and side tests and a four-star rating for rollover resistance.
The MKX also earns "Good" scores for the major tests performed by the IIHS including the difficult small-overlap front crash test. The combination of top scores and "Superior" optional front crash avoidance technology earned the MKX a Top Safety Pick+ designation by the IIHS.
The MKX has a leading-edge set of safety features and options. All versions come with a standard rearview camera and rear parking sensors. The options list includes a package that bundles forward-collision warnings, automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warnings, and lane-keeping assistance. A surround-view camera system is an option, along with front parking sensors and automatic parking assistance and blind-spot monitors.
The MKX also offers a rear-seat inflatable seat belt, though the center seating position is not fitted with the inflatable belts.
2016 Lincoln MKX
MyLincoln Touch is a disappearing blemish; the MKX's wardrobe stylist gets a free hand with some very handsome Black Label editions.
The MKX piles on luxury gear in its quest to differentiate itself from the Ford Edge.
Base V-6 models are priced from $39,025, including destination; it's $41,680 with all-wheel drive. Opt into the turbocharged V-6 and the price rises to $41,185, or $43,680 with all-wheel drive.
Base models come with power windows, locks, and mirrors; dual-zone automatic climate control; keyless ignition and proximity entry; a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio and phone controls; tilt/telescoping steering; remote start; leatherette upholstery; active noise control for the powertrain; LED taillights; a rearview camera; and rear parking sensors.
The standard infotainment system uses the outgoing, outdated MyLincoln Touch interface, though midway through the model year it will be replaced by the much cleaner, more intuitive Sync 3 system. Both are backed by an AM/FM/XM/CD player with nine speakers, two USB ports, an auxiliary jack and an SD card reader; and Bluetooth with audio streaming.
Options come in bundles, with base models referred to as Premiere. The mid-grade MKX Select gets leather seats; wood trim; a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel; 18-inch wheels; ambient lighting; a hands-free power tailgate.
The top Reserve group adds 20-inch wheels; HID headlamps; heated and ventilated front seats; in-car data services; a panoramic sunroof; blind-spot monitors; and voice-activated navigation.
Stand-alone options include a 19-speaker Revel Ultima audio system. It's $4,400 when bundled with LED headlamps. It's a major improvement on base sound systems, but can seem a bit sharp, thanks to the Harman Clari-Fi sound processing that aims to restore depth of digital data to incoming music files, whether they're streamed from high-quality smartphone files or rescued from the low-resolution mud of satellite radio.
There are other packages, including a $595 cold-weather package with heated rear seats and steering wheel, and automatic headlights; a $1,650 package with forward-collision warnings, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and lane-departure warnings; a $1,720 package with front parking sensors, parking assistance, and surround-view cameras with crisp high-resolution output and a high point of view generated from hemispherical exterior cameras; a trailer-tow package for pulling up to 3,500 pounds; and 21-inch wheels. Those 22-way power seats are $1,500, and come highly recommended.
Interior trim with names like hazelnut and cappuccino are just the tasty amuse-bouches here. At peak MKX, there are four Black Label editions, pre-styled bundles of trim that are the automotive equivalent of Bombfell's wardrobe-in-a-box. There's The Muse, a Parisian homage, with aluminum trim and purplish-black leather; Thoroughbred, a horse-racing mood piece with chestnut and black leather teamed with maple wood; Modern Heritage, which wears white and black leather and piano-black trim; and Indulgence, with chocolate leathers and ziricote wood.
In its priciest versions, the MKX stickers at a breathtaking $68,120—before minor accessories are added to the tab. That's a cognac-grade bar tab, one that's on par with the Germans (short of their AMG and M Sport editions, at least).
2016 Lincoln MKX
All-wheel drive exacts a fairly big fuel-economy penalty in the Lincoln MKX, and there's no hybrid offering.
The Lincoln MKX takes a powerful, heavy swing at the road—and doesn't give much of a nod to gas mileage.
In base trim, the front-drive, V-6-powered MKX is rated by the EPA at 17 mpg city, 26 highway, 20 combined. The numbers aren't impressive, but are understandable, considering its 300-plus horsepower and 4,600-pound-plus curb weight, and the fact that its sole transmission is a 6-speed automatic.
Rivals like the Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLC, and Lexus RX offer more gears and even hybrids, with much higher fuel-economy ratings.
With all-wheel drive, the base MKX sees its numbers plummet to 16/23/19 mpg, figures you'd find in the seven-seat Flex crossover just across the showroom.
Opt into the smaller-displacement, higher-output 2.7-liter V-6 and the numbers improve somewhat. Front-drive models earn EPA ratings of 17/26/21 mpg, while all-wheel-drive versions are rated at 17/24/19 mpg.