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2009 Lincoln MKS Review

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FIND: Lincoln Specs, Prices and Comparisons-Lincoln Buyers Guide

One Week With 2009 Lincoln MKS
By Thom Cannell
Senior Editor
Detroit Bureau
The Auto Channel

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Lincoln’s MKS flagship is aimed directly at Generation X buyers, folks who can afford mid-luxury and expect both comfort and cutting edge technology.

Loosely based on a highly evolved Volvo S80 platform, MKS seats four or five with, according to Lincoln, Best In Class rear seat room. And yes, they did benchmark competitors Cadillac CTS and Lexus GS for ride, handling, and luxury.

The MKS platform uses significantly revised and re-engineered front and rear suspensions compared to its S80 and Taurus ancestors. Its engine is a 3.7-liter version of the 3.5-liter Duratec V6 and MKS will be among the first to get Ford’s Turbocharged, Direct Gasoline Injection engine that it calls EcoBoost.

More to the point for younger buyers, it has the most advanced technology suite available in a Ford vehicle. MKS prices start at $38,465 for front wheel drive versions and $40,355 for all wheel drive vehicles like the one we tested and Lincoln thinks 62% will add on the $5,995 Ultimate package of high technology, double-panel moonroof, next generation navigation, and more elegant inset suede seat center panel that we had.

I don’t go off into speculation (in print) too often, but here goes. I think that, more than any other company, Ford understands the lure of technology to younger buyers. Sure, a few are gear heads like their parents, more are seduced by elegance and an iPod—GameBoy—WideScreen driving experience. MKS has all the cool toys, better thought out and better evolved, than others. SYNC, iPod navigation and selection, hard drive juke box, streaming BlueTooth audi and mobile phone. And it operates naturally and seamlessly, from voice commands, touch screen controls, and direct single action controls. You can easily turn things on, change channels or temperature, or call anyone in your phone book while listening to any music you’ve brought into the vehicle.

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Luxury technology features include SIRIUS Travel Link’s satellite-delivered content like real time traffic, weather, fuel prices, and sports scores displayed on an optional 8” touch-screen and voice activated navigation system that, at $2,995 includes THX II audio system ($645 stand alone) and rearview camera. Also available is a radar-based Adaptive Cruise control with four distance settings, adaptive headlamps with auto high beam, forward sensing, and radio frequency keyless entry system with push-button starting. Ford’s “Intelligent Access” system uses receivers in the trunk, car, and a dedicated short-range transponder in the glove box; its close coupling prevents external RF interference and make automatic recognition and door unlocking perfect. My experience? I had to use the remote, not just grab a door handle as I can with other systems.

I really like Lexus’ Mark Levinson sound system. That said, THX II (it is a certification by Lucas, not a manufacturer) offers a distinctly different aural experience; both are simply amazing and better than most home audio systems by far.

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Interiors are as luxurious as any in its class and better than many. Embossing-free leather, hand stitching, and a glove box with single exposed shut line create the most handsome Lincoln interior in recent memory. Leather seats by Bridge of Weir, Scotland, use chromium-free tanning and are the softest ever used in a Lincoln. Wood or aluminum surfaces are natural products, and from recycled sources where possible. For instance, the ebony used in some models is reclaimed.

Standard passenger and driver seats are 12-way adjustable and both heated and cooled; rear seats are heated. Sill plates and rocker panels are recessed to reduce likelihood a passenger or driver will dirty trousers or skirt entering or departing.

Exterior styling is derived from the MKR and MKT concepts, and its “split wing” waterfall grille claims heritage from the 1941 Lincoln, according to design chief Peter Horbury. The waterfall “may evolve into other patterns, …bounded by the twin rounded rectangles within a few models,” but “the split wing kidney’s uninterrupted flow into headlamp assemblies will remain,” Peter Horbury, Ford’s just-departed chief designer told me.

Flanks are smooth, a single accent line leads from headlight to tail lamp and the rear quarter is muscular, particularly strong over rear wheel arches.

I honestly doubt a majority of buyers will care much that MKS is powered by a 3.7-liter engine based on the die-cast aluminum block four-valve Duratec to produce 273 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque on regular grade fuel (on recommended premium, 275 hp and 276 lb-ft of torque.) Equipped with variable valve timing, the engine achieves over 25 mpg in real world freeway driving, according to chief engineer Mike Celentino, and uses a two-speed fuel pump that runs in a low energy state whenever possible. It also uses what Ford calls Aggressive Deceleration Fuel Shut-Off (ADFSO) to totally eliminate fuel flow to injectors when the driver lifts completely off the throttle, as in exiting a freeway, if in fifth or sixth gear. In 2009, MKS will receive the first EcoBoost engine. That 3.5-liter twin turbocharged, direct injection engine is expected to produce 340 horsepower and 340+ lb-ft of torque.

The SelectShift six-speed automatic co-developed with GM debuted on MKS. It incorporates manual gear selection and a stiffer torque converter. The wide ratio transmission uses tighter spacing in first, second, and third gears with wider overdrive gears for fuel economy estimated at 17/24 for FWD or 16/23 for AWD cars. The optional AWD system can switch up to 100% of torque to front or rear wheels.

Suspension uses MacPherson struts with dampers mounted vertically at the outboard end of rear-facing lower control arms. Damping rate is higher and spring rates are lower than was typical for Lincoln. Wheel and tire packages range from standard 18”, to two 19” cast aluminum wheels, and 11-spoke 20” polished aluminum.

Engineers say 35 individual actions were undertaken to produce a quiet ride including use of 6 mm-thick acoustic glass for the windscreen and front windows and an injection-molded rubber dash panel fitted beneath the carpet up to the dash top and back over the cowl to block wind and powertrain noise. A similar panel is used inside rear wheel wells. All that means is this is a very quiet ride indeed.

Standard MKS features include 18” machined and painted cast aluminum wheels, leather seats, SIRIUS satellite radio, new LED-illuminated SecuriCode hidden push-button door unlock, memory for seats, steering wheel, mirrors and temperature control, HID headlamps, SecuriCode keypad, and the first use of Ford’s EasyFuel capless fuel filler.

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Good things abound:

  • The capless filler works like a NASCAR pit crew’s dream and the car is amazingly quiet and solid, absorbing wretched Michigan pavement debris with absolute calm.

  • MKS’ suite of electronics alone will draw many buyers into a high-tech nirvana unlike anything offered by others because it simply works.

  • Automatic switching of high-beams on / off in response to traffic works surprisingly well, even in urban locations and the instrument panel is reminiscent of Lexus without the expense.

Room for improvement:

  • Better fuel economy than mid-20s would be nice and should arrive with EcoBoost. So should a bit more power, though MKS has its share.

  • Door openings need to be wider for entry of older or handicapped persons and the narrow and deep trunk opening limits wheelchair storage.
This is a great time to buy a car, if you can. I think Ford and Lincoln provide non-enthusiast drivers with a value alternative to Cadillac, Lexus, Infinity and others that will actually stun newcomers to the Lincoln showroom. Style, grace, usefulness, comfort—MKS offers all of those in a package that will do a better job of easing long commutes than its competition.

Author’s Note: No attempt at completeness, simply comments on one week’s driving experience—balanced against decades of experience and hundreds of comparisons.

FIND: Lincoln Specs, Prices and Comparisons-Lincoln Buyers Guide