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2011 Lincoln MKX AWD Review

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2011 Lincoln MKX AWD Review

The American luxury car has been converging with its European counterpart in recent years, to better attract a new generation of customers. This has meant smaller cars, especially as SUVs and crossovers have taken the place of the large sedan, and better suspension tunings, ones that provide both an appropriate of ride comfort and a near-sports sedan level of handling and response. Greater engine efficiency, required by government emissions regulations, has, perhaps surprisingly, also resulted in increased power and performance.

Lincoln's current sedans, the mid-size MKZ and larger MKS, exemplify those changes very well. So, for something a bit larger inside, does the newest iteration of the MKX crossover.

Luxury-sports crossover? Why not? The luxury-sports wagon has been a successful niche in Europe, and Americans love wagons as long as they don't quite look like, and aren't called, wagons. Hence crossovers. The five-passenger MKX, based on the Ford Edge platform, was the initial Lincoln crossover back in 2007, with interior space to replace both a full-size sedan or mid-size SUV in a more-efficient package. When the seven-place MKT debuted for model year 2010, with the New Lincoln look and all of the latest high-tech features, it was a foregone conclusion that a new MKX would soon appear.

Which it did for 2011, with the toothy Lincoln heritage grille highlighting a revised exterior and innovative and useful application of electronic technology highlighting the all-new interior. The new 3.7-liter V6 makes 305 horsepower, 40 more than the previous powerplant, on slightly less fuel and driving either the front, or, optionally, all four wheels.

As good as the styling, drivetrain, and suspension are, the most important feature of the 2011 MKX is MyLincoln Touch™, the best information and entertainment interface I've yet seen in a car. Based on the SYNC« communications interface developed jointly by Ford and Microsoft, MyLincoln Touch brings the aviation-style "glass cockpit" to mainstream automobiles. Inspiration from laptop and tablet computers, smartphones, and personal audio players means that joysticks, multi-function knobs, and even traditional knobs and switches have been replaced by soft-touch and touch-sensitive sliders on the center stack and five-way thumb switches on the steering wheel spokes. Context-sensitive information is displayed on bright 4.2-inch LCD screens that flank the speedometer.

I had a short introduction to the new MKX at a local press event last fall. There was ample time to discuss the car with some of Lincoln's engineers; driving time was limited to around the block in San Francisco traffic. Not wanting to test the safety systems courtesy of some red light-runner, I declined to drive at the time, to spend more time investigating MyLincoln Touch. Driving time came last week, in a all-wheel drive model, and no disappointment. The 2011 MKX shares only the Lincoln name with your uncle's Town Car or your grandfather's Continental. With its ultra-modern interface, spacious and versatile Euro-luxury interior, and ride quality that befits its contemporary luxury status allied with road manners that belie its size, the new Lincoln MKX is a surprising alternative to a large luxury sedan or midsize luxury SUV.

APPEARANCE: Other manufacturers have used their design heritage, so why not Lincoln? In its newest offerings, Art Deco meets the 21st Century. The bold chrome "split wing" grille harkens back to Lincolns of the late 1930s, and the crease in the center of the hood and arched front fenders would have worked well in that era as well. But the rounded two-box crossover profile, with wheels moved to the corners for maximum space efficiency and faired projector-beam headlights and LED taillights are contemporary, as are the oversize wheels with low-profile tires. Retro is not the theme at all.

COMFORT: The exterior gets looks, and the interior gets smiles from all passenger positions. There is no nostalgia to be found, only good contemporary design with high-quality materials, first-rate fit and finish, and the innovative MyLincoln Touch "user interface". It should age well, as there are no garish stylistic gimmicks. As expected at its price point, leather seating (heated and cooled in front), leather and soft-touch stitched material with wood trim on the doors and ditto on the instrument panel and power just about everything that can be power-assisted are standard. The available panoramic moonroof has a tilt-and-slide front panel and fixed rear, and brightens the interior considerably. Seat comfort is very good, and good visibility (and safety) is enhanced by the optional blind-spot system. With the MKT taking extended-wheelbase, seven-passenger duty there is no attempt at a third row in the MKX, so rear passengers have good leg and excellent headroom and a 60/40 split seatback that can recline almost 45║ or fold flat forward for versatility. All doors have bottle holders and storage space, and an an available power liftgate adds convenience.

The MyLincoln Touch instrument panel and the touch-sensitive audio and climate system controls on the center stack are the MKX's distinguishing features. The central speedometer always is displayed. Vehicle system and trip information display to its left is controlled by a five-way switch on the left steering wheel spoke, while entertainment, phone, navigation, and climate-control systems displayed to the right are accessed via an identical control on the right spoke. If you've ever used an audio player or smartphone, use will be second nature.

SAFETY:The new Lincoln MKX has all of the safety equipment and technology expected in a luxury car, and then some. The AdvanceTrac« with RSC«ácomprehensive stability control system, the Personal Safety System™, LATCH child seat anchors, the SecuriLock« anti-theft system and a perimeter alarm, SOS Post-Crash Alert System™, and a tire-pressure monitoring system are all standard, as are strong four-wheel antilock disc brakes. The available Blind Spot Monitoring System not only detects vehicles approaching the rear-quarter blind spots, it can also detect vehicles approaching from the sides when backing from a parking space.

RIDE AND HANDLING: If not as large as a 90s SUV, the MKX is still larger and higher than a sedan. At around 4500 lbs in AWD trim, it's no lightweight, and a useful 7.9 inches of clearance and 67-plus inches of height mean the center of gravity is up there. So one would expect an insecure, tippy ride, especially if one remembers Lincoln SUVs of the past. One would be wrong. Careful attention to the design and tuning of the fully-independent MacPherson strut front, multilink rear suspension results in a moderately firm but supple, well-damped ride, with minimal body roll even on twisting backroads. It feels very European, and much smaller than it looks. Brakes are very good, and steering is not over-assisted.

PERFORMANCE: The 2011 MKX's 3.7-liter V6 is a contemporary aluminum alloy design with dual overhead cams, 24 valves, and the "twin independent variable camshaft timing" (Ti-VCT) system, which varies cam phasing on all camshafts for optimum efficiency and minimum emissions. Careful attention to internal details further enhances power and efficiency. Maximum horsepower is 305, at 6500 rpm; maximum torque is 280 lb-ft at 4000 rpm. A six-speed automatic transmission further improves both performance and efficiency, and the engine's good low- and mid-range torque means that D works well enough that manual-shift mode (via a switch on the shift lever, last seen over at GM) is never really necessary. Even under heavy throttle, soundproofing is such that the MKX is as quiet as expected of a luxury vehicle. EPA fuel economy for the AWD version is 17/23; my short week was spent mostly in town and on secondary roads so the 17 mpg I saw was no surprise.

CONCLUSIONS: The 2011 Lincoln MKX blends crossover space and versatility, Lincoln luxury, and surprisingly good handling and performance.

2011 Lincoln MKX AWDN

Base Price			$ 40,995
Price As Tested			$ 51,135
Engine Type			dohc aluminum alloy V6 with
				 variable cam phasing
Engine Size			3.7 liters / 227 cu. in.
Horsepower			305 @ 6500 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			280 @ 4000 rpm
Transmission			6-speed automatic
Wheelbase / Length		111.2 in. / 186.7 in.
Curb Weight			4429 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		14.5
Fuel Capacity			20 gal.
Fuel Requirement		87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires				245/50 HR20 Pirelli Scorpion
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc, ABS,
				 AdvanceTrac« with RSC« standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent MacPherson strut /
				  independent multilink
Ground clearance		7.9 inches
Drivetrain			transverse front engine, 
				  all-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		17 / 23 / 17
0 to 60 mph				6.5  sec
Towing capacity			3500 lbs with towing package

Rapid Spec 102A-AWD - includes:
  Premium Package, ambient lighting, rear-view camera,
  adaptive HID headlamps, Elite Package, voice-activated
  navigation system, panoramic vista roof, Blind Spot
  Monitoring System, THX II-certified audio system,
  20" chrome-clad aluminum wheels			$ 7,500
Adaptive Cruise Control With Collision Warning		$ 1,295
Wood Package                     				$   495
Destination charge					$   850


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