- Handsome, reserved styling
- Strong V-6 engines
- Plush inside with a high degree of customizability
- Comfortable suspension and good handling
- No hybrid for the lineup
- Gimmicky push-button shifter
- Lincoln brand lacks full luxury cachet
- AWD fuel economy is so-so
Load up an MKX and you'll be over $60,000 before you know it, but this under-the-radar crossover largely feels worth the dough—if you take the time to seek it out.
The 2017 Lincoln MKX is a mid-size crossover capable of seating five passengers in leather-lined comfort.
For years, it has been the most popular model in Lincoln's lineup, a deservedly successful model that was redesigned last year and carries over into the new model year unchanged. The MKX is offered in Premiere, Select, Reserve, and Black Label trim levels, all designed to sound like the fine wines Lincoln hopes its owners will often tote home from BevMo in their new crossovers.
We rate it a 7.0 out of 10, giving it high marks for its standard and optional safety equipment, as well as its stylish and comfortable interior and its excellent road manners. It loses some ground for its average fuel economy and an exterior that can look a little droopy from some angles. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The MKX has been Lincoln's biggest success story, a model for the automaker to build on as it seeks to reboot itself for the 21st century. 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.
Lincoln MKX styling and performance
Underneath, the MKX is essentially a Ford Edge, but this generation of the automaker's premium crossover is far more distinguished than before. Side-body sculpting is softer and more graceful and voluptuous than before, while the profile is a little more wagon-like. Outside, the front fascia boasts Lincoln's latest dual grille look that debuted on the smaller MKC. At the rear, the MKC cues are again evident with tail lamps that stretch all the way across the tailgate.
The MKX's interior mostly works as well, aside from a shift lever that has been inexplicably replaced with a push-button array. 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. That sounds strange, but the interiors are actually beautifully-styled, if a little heavy on the marketing.
Underneath, the MKX comes with a base 3.7-liter V-6, with 303 horsepower, or 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.
The MKX features Lincoln Drive Control, which allows you to choose from Normal, Sport, and Comfort modes 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.
Lincoln MKX comfort, safety and features
The MKX remains a five-seater, but with those seats occupying nearly the space that some brands use for three-row vehicles, the second row and the cargo area are above average. Option up your MKX and you can eventually arrive at excellent 22-way power front seats with an active motion feature designed to quell fatigue over long distances.
Row two is acceptable for adults for road trips, all while allowing for enough room in the cargo area for several suitcases. Opt for the panoramic moonroof and you'll find limited rear seat head room. Nice features that show off a close attention to detail abound: Shake a foot under the rear bumper and the tailgate will rise to the occasion. LED running lamps brighten on approach when the key fob is in the driver's pocket. Interior lighting bathes driver and any passengers.
That's something we wouldn't have said about the MKX, let alone Lincoln, just a couple of years ago.
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 audio system has a special real-time reconstruction system to help them sound better.
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. That's all designed to resonate with luxury buyers, but it's a little over-the-top to us, even though the end result is impressive.
Moreover, the MKX has performed well in crash tests. The IIHS rates it a Top Safety Pick when ordered with automatic emergency braking and the NHTSA gives it five stars overall. Adaptive cruise control and automatic braking are bundled in a $1,650 package.
2017 Lincoln MKX
The MKX looks little like the Ford Edge outside, but maybe that's not a great thing. Inside, it's properly luxurious.
No longer looking like a Ford Edge with extra chrome, the MKX cuts a decidedly premium shadow and doesn't look out of place parked alongside its stylish and upscale competition.
We give it a 6 out of 10, providing it with an extra point for its stylish interior but refusing to budge based on some odd exterior quirks. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Lincoln's design language is evolving every day. Although the MKX looks for all the world like an inflated MKC, the large twin-wing grille found on both is about to be shelved from the rest of the Lincoln lineup. That's not a bad thing, since although the twin-wing look has worked well on some Lincolns, it comes across a little droopy on the MKX. A delicate, curled line of LED daytime running lights on some models helps accent the front fascia with a more modern look, and high-end models have full LEDs.
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, not to mention distinctive.
The MKX's cockpit isn't hurt one bit by the return of knobs, switches, and buttons to accompany its infotainment interface, Ford's new Sync 3. 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 and feel 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 hard plastic trim on the MKX's door panels.
Black Label is a classy, upscale idea, but so is its price tag. You won't get in the door for under $55,000.
2017 Lincoln MKX
With its nice ride quality and strong V-6 engines, the MKX does the luxury thing well.
Under the MKX's shapely hood sits a choice of two V-6 engines, both of which offer solid power and a suitably refined feel. Moreover, the MKX's suspension is well-controlled, and its steering remarkably accurate.
There's not a lot here to stir the soul, but that's not what the MKX's driving experience is designed to do. We rate it a 7 out of 10, adding in points for its sublime ride quality and the power offered by its strong optional twin-turbocharged V-6. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The MKX's standard engine is a familiar 3.7-liter V-6, rated at 303 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque. We've only had limited time behind the wheel with this powertrain, which is, interestingly enough, available in all four MKX trim levels. It's a decent motivator, even in the all-wheel-drive model, and it offers a slightly better fuel economy story than the optional 2.7-liter V-6.
Though it may be down on displacement, the smaller V-6's two turbochargers help out. At around $2,000, the engine feels like money well spent, with its 335 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque charting a more decidedly luxury-oriented course. 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—GLEs and Q5s, if not twin-turbo X5s.
Both engines are coupled exclusively to a 6-speed automatic transmission. It may not be a spec sheet standout, but this gearbox's gear ratios feel just right and it provides quick and clean downshifts when called upon by the throttle pedal. 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. Don't mess with a good thing, we say.
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. The optional 21-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. If anything, we're coming to appreciate the MKX's lack of desire to be sportier than it is.
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.
2017 Lincoln MKX
Comfort & Quality
Although the base MKX interior is a little stark, the Black Label models are decadent—and all are comfy for five passengers.
Though it is sized about like rivals that squeeze three rows of seats in, the MKX offers seat belts for five, which means it feels a little roomier for all invited aboard—and that even goes for their luggage.
The MKX doesn't force compromise like some rivals do, so as long as you're satisfied with a five-seater, this one scores extra points for cargo room, front seat space, and the decadence offered by its admittedly pricey Black Label trim level. We give it an 8 out of 10 for its comfort and quality. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Front seat passengers are treated to the best space and comfort, especially when they're ensconced in the optional 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. They're legitimate all-day seats. Lincoln parent Ford must have paid close attention during its brief ownership of Volvo.
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. 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. That bin isn't composed of the finest plastic you've ever seen, however.
The MKX's low ride height for a crossover means that getting in and out is cake, but the back seat isn't quite as plush as the front. The three-seat bench is basically flat, devoid of contouring like some rivals that offer sculpted seats and even a center console. It's nice that Lincoln thought to include good space for a middle passenger, but, realistically, when was the last time you drove more than 20 minutes with three adults in the back?
Moreover, the optional panoramic moonroof digs into rear seat head room. 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. Even with the seats up, there's about 37 cubes, which is above average for the class.
The luxury experience
The MKX coddles drivers and most fit and finish details are well-executed. While the Black Label interior themes are well thought-out, we're not fans of some of the brown leathers in the mid-tone range; they look entirely too close to the Naugahyde recliners of the 1970s (and the interior on your grandfather's '78 Continental). 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...or a $65,000 vehicle one you go for a full-tilt Black Label.
The MKX also gets a long list of noise-abating measures over its predecessor, 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.
2017 Lincoln MKX
Excellent crash test scores and reasonably-priced safety tech make the MKX a strong contender.
The Lincoln MKX aces both federal and independent crash tests and it is available with a wide range of safety tech.
The good stuff is optional—and at a slightly pricey one at that—although every MKX trim level offers this important tech. It earns an 8 out of 10 on our scorecard and would do better if it had higher-rated headlights. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
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 earns "Good" scores for the major tests performed by the IIHS including the demanding small-overlap front crash test. Opt for automatic emergency braking and the IIHS calls the crossover a Top Safety Pick. Only its headlights were rated as "Poor" by the IIHS.
The MKX has a good set of safety features and options. All models come standard with a backup camera and rear parking sensors. The options list includes a $1,650 package that bundles forward-collision warnings, automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warnings, and lane-keeping assistance. A surround-view camera system that gives a bird's eye view of the crossover is an option, along with front parking sensors and automatic parking assistance and blind-spot monitors.
The MKX also offers for an extra cost an inflatable seat belt system for the outboard rear seats.
2017 Lincoln MKX
A wide array of options and trim levels make it easy to build the MKX of your dreams, especially if you opt for the pricey Black Label.
The Lincoln MKX becomes a bona fide luxury crossover once options are piled on, although its price can climb very quickly.
That's all part of a quest to differentiate this crossover from the Ford Edge, which stickers for around $10,000 less than the MKX at the bottom end—although, of course, the Ford comes with a far more sparse spec sheet.
We give the MKX an 8 out of 10, adding points for its large infotainment screen, myriad options, and the Black Label's decadent trim and after-purchase servicing. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Lincoln offers the MKX in four flavors: Premiere, Select, Reserve, and Black Label—although the automaker says that the latter is essentially a sold order-only trim level. Interestingly, all four trims are available with either the 3.7-liter or 2.7-liter V-6 engines and a choice of front- or all-wheel drive.
The Premiere comes reasonably equipped with a proximity key, automatic dual-zone climate control, parking sensors, active noise canceling, and leatherette upholstery. Ford's improved Sync 3 infotainment system made a mid-2016 appearance for the MKX, and in the Premiere, the system is mated to a nine-speaker audio system with Bluetooth.
The mid-grade MKX Select adds leather seats and wood trim, plus power adjustment for its steering wheel, 18-inch alloy wheels, ambient lighting, and a power tailgate. The Reserve model adds 20-inch alloy wheels, HID headlamps, heated and air conditioned front seats, a panoramic moonroof, blind spot monitors, and 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.
Go all in on an MKX, and you'll find 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.
Black Label is something of a lifestyle choice, Lincoln suggests, and it also includes four years or 50,000 miles of free scheduled maintenance, valet-grade pickup and delivery for service appointments, free car washes at dealers, an annual full interior and exterior detailing, and intriguingly, exclusive access to certain high-end restaurants where, supposedly, the executive chef is supposed to visit your table.
At its priciest, the MKX can sticker for a hair under $70,000, which is on par with loaded-up German rivals. Is the MKX swanky enough to merit a chef visit? Perhaps not.
2017 Lincoln MKX
The EPA says to expect a so-so 19 mpg combined regardless of engine if you opt for all-wheel drive.
If it's a fuel-efficient crossover you're after, the MKX is decidedly thirsty.
Opt for an all-wheel drive MKX and you'll see 19 mpg combined, says the EPA. We rate the MKX a 5 out of 10 for its economy. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
In base trim, the front-drive, V-6-powered MKX comes in at 17 mpg city, 26 highway, 20 combined. Those figures could probably be better with more gear ratios, which would help the MKX cruise more comfortably at higher speeds. Rivals generally come in much higher.
Go for all-wheel drive and those figures plummet to an unimpressive 16/23/19 mpg, numbers on par with bigger, body-on-frame SUVs.
The optional 2.7-liter twin-turbo V-6 is a gem of an engine, assuming you don't mind stopping at your local Shell station often. Front-drive models earn EPA ratings of 17/26/21 mpg, while all-wheel-drive versions are rated at 17/24/19 mpg. But as this engine is turbocharged, deep stabs at the throttle to spool things up will force the needle to move much quicker.