2009 Lincoln MKS Review
2009 LINCOLN MKS
A New Flagship for FoMoCo’s Premium Brand
By Steve Purdy
The newest entry in the full-size luxury sedan class held up well under the close scrutiny of the motoring press near the nation’s capitol this week as we put it through its paces in the rolling green Virginia countryside. Upon our return to the city we put them away in upscale Georgetown. The well-oiled Lincoln PR staff put on a good show to emphasize the new flagship MKS as the embodiment of Lincoln brand philosophy – that is, a modern design with leading technology in an understated, luxurious package - an aspirational vehicle, they say, with which an owner rewards him/herself rather than using it as a personal statement of status as do some luxury sedan owners.
Developed from the competent, sturdy and safe platform used for the Taurus, Volvo XC90 and many other products this Lincoln MKS differentiates itself well from its cousins. If we look closely with a bit of imagination we can see the overall shape of the Taurus but it is noticeably bigger and really presents itself as a Lincoln. Though a bit longer and wider than Taurus, MKS shares the same wheel base.
From the front I’m struck by the beautiful “split-wing” grille inspired by the distinctive ’41 Lincoln Continental. The wings are separated by a few inches and that space is adorned with the Lincoln badge. HID headlights wrap around gracefully and integrate into the grille for a contiguous graphical shape. The high crease along the side arches subtly over the rear wheel arch making a substantial base for the bold, gradually thickening C-pillar. Side windows are trimmed with an accent strip of polished stainless steel that widens as it flows rearward. Vertical LED taillights integrated with backup lights, a forward-sloping deck lid with horizontal polished stainless steel trim including another Lincoln badge and chromed dual exhausts adorn the rear. Overall, a lovely design, I’d say, with not a hint of garishness.
There is nothing ostentatious about the MKS outside or in. And, while there is more technology than I need (remember, I’m a bit older and lower tech than most of y’all) none appeared to be superfluous, like some of the Germans tend to be. Ford’s popular SYNC voice activated entertainment and nav system codesigned with MicroSoft is standard. The premium sound is from a THX® Certified 5.1 Surround Sound system.
The interior is gracious and understated as well. Generous seating in soft double-stitched leather, heated and cooled in front with 12-way adjustment and heated in the rear, is all standard. The British leather supplier, by the way, is the same one that supplied the classic ’41 Continental and they’re using the same eco-friendly leather treatment process used for making baby shoes. A rich band of wood (liberated from old furniture) extends across the dash. The optional “next-generation” navigation system’s screen (an information screen in the cars without nav) sits boldly at the top of the center stack. The surface of the dash is done in rich-looking, eco-friendly leatherette that is double-stitched as well. They’re going for “guilt-free luxury” here using recycled and recyclable materials as much as possible. The leather-wrapped steering wheel has a wood insert at the top and brushed metal trim in the center. My only criticism here is that any car in the luxury realm, in my view, ought to have a nice analog clock in the center of the dash. MKS does not.
We climb into the rear seat through the largest rear door in its class, so they claim. They also insist that the MKS has the largest interior volume at 105 cubic-feet, and the largest trunk at 18.4 cubic-feet. The trunk opening appears a bit restricted by the stylish rear lid but it does look cavernous inside.
After our tech briefing we headed out to the parking lot where a line of gleaming MKSs were begging to be driven. Peter Horbury, executive director of design, pointed out the exceptional paint job on the black one. The sparkle was amazing. Rather than metal-flake or metallic paint this one is infused with finely ground glass, resulting in a deep black paint with reflections of many colors when in the sunshine, and just silver in the shade. They call it “tuxedo black.”
Time to get in and drive.
Integrated into the drivers-side B-pillar we find the familiar keyless entry numerical pads though vertical and updated using technology similar to MP3 player controls. We can continue to leave the fob in our pocket since we also have keyless, push button start. We can’t tell the car is running at idle, as we would expect with any luxury car.
Out on the road it takes about 20 miles to get out of the suburban congestion. But, of course, that gives us some time to evaluate its city manners. Behind the wheel the MKS does not feel overly big or cumbersome. Steering is relatively soft but provides a precise enough feel. This is not a sport sedan, remember. It also does not have the over-dampened ride of some luxury competitors. The new multi-link rear suspension features vertical shocks mounted as far outboard toward the wheels as possible allowing for more suspension travel and therefore more flexibility in suspension tuning. That design contributes to the integration of the optional 20-inch wheels and tires. Front suspension travel is maximized as well with a McPherson strut design featuring a rear-facing, L-shaped lower control arm. Judging from our ride and drive of about 160 miles of varied conditions I’d give the chassis and suspension good marks for balanced and sophisticated ride and handling character.
We were treated to lots of miles of rolling, twisting two-lanes headed out toward the foothills of the Shenandoah Range. Looking out over the hood we can see the shapely edges of the front fenders. Visibility is quite good all around. Though DC area roads are certainly not as rough as ours here in the frost-plagued upper Midwest it took the bumpy sections (mostly construction areas) in stride while remaining quiet as a sleeping cat inside. Even on heavy throttle unpleasant exterior sounds do not encroach.
The MKS comes with only one engine/transmission combination for now. This 3.7-liter normally aspirated V-6 is a derivative of the award-winning 3.5-liter that powers Edge, MKZ and other Ford products. Mated with a smooth 6-speed automatic with manual mode this combo makes 275 horsepower and 276 pound-feet of torque. We have plenty of power to do the job and enough efficiency to make it respectable. The rev limiter kicks in sharply right at 6,500 rpm. Fuel mileage (using regular unleaded) will be in the range of 18-highway and 24-city. The good folks at Lincoln promise to offer next year the 3.5-liter V6 in twin turbo livery making about 340 horsepower.
In terms of safety the MKS keeps up with the pack. Six air bags, including side curtain bags, protect everyone in the car. An Occupant Classification System senses the size of a front seat occupant to determine air bag deployment strength. Adaptive Collapsible Steering Column varies in collapsibility depending on the size and belted status of the driver. And of course all the chassis dynamics are standard, like ABS, stability control and all that stuff.
Another neat feature comes on the MKS is an industry-first capless fuel filler with a spring loaded flap that falls away when the gas nozzle is inserted, and snaps shut when it’s pulled away, disallowing the escape of fumes.
The new MKS starts at about $39,000 with front-wheel drive, no nav and 18-inch wheels, but otherwise very well equipped. It tops out with everything at around $48,000. That’s probably about 5-grand less than a comparably equipped Cadillac STS. Built at the Chicago plant along side Taurus and Taurus X the MKS goes on sale this summer (late June or early July of ’08).
The timing of this release – that is, introducing a big, luxury sedan during a gas-price spike – may be problematic but with fuel mileage over 20 and an understated, classy design without a hint of ostentation, I think it has a chance. I hope it succeeds. Ford needs it and deserves it. And I like it.
© Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved