2011 Lincoln MKS
Base price: $41,270 – $48,160
As tested: $57,905
MPG: 17 city/25 highway
- Spacious, loaded with class-leading technology and standard equipment
- Top safety ratings
- EcoBoost a plus, available all-wheel drive
- Disappointing interior materials and quality
- Odd combination of comfortable ride and sloppy handling
- Expensive for what you get and compared to others in class
By Jim Prueter
Lincoln Flagship MKS has plenty of style but too many flaws spoil the ride
Lincoln first introduced its flagship MKS for the 2009 model year to compete with cars such as the Cadillac STS, Acura RL, Lexus GS, Infiniti M and Mercedes-Benz E Class.
This is the first time we have been provided the MKS for testing, but the vehicle is virtually unchanged since its introduction with the exception of the optional “EcoBoost” twin-turbocharged V-6 engine for 2010, a considerable improvement over the base standard V-6. The EcoBoost model also gets standard all-wheel drive.
MKS is built on the same platform as the midsize Ford Taurus and, like Taurus, it offers front-wheel or all-wheel drive.
Our 2011 MKS was a very well equipped all-wheel drive version built on the same 112.9-inch wheelbase as Taurus, but its four inches longer and 1.5 inches wider for more cabin room and comfort.
The Lincoln MKS can seat up to four passengers comfortably (five, if one is a child) in supple leather seats. The starship cabin is replete with metallic, wood, leather, plastic and charming ambient lighting. And therein lies a major misstep; the various materials used to construct the interior are poorly executed.
The dash material for example, is some combination of rubber and vinyl trying to pass itself off as leather, and wouldn’t fool a ten year old. Even the color, a chocolate brown Lincoln calls Sienna, mismatched the dash, seats and door panels — each a shade or two different. There was also too much cheap looking plastic and use of Ford parts bin switchgear. The overall quality fell short of Lincoln MKT and MKX, which we recently tested.
Still, the MKS is generally a comfortable, pleasing sedan loaded with standard features and delivering smooth, quiet ride while returning respectable fuel economy for a larger vehicle.>
The most distinguishing feature is the massive face of the thing. As a percentage of space used, the audacious split “angel-wing” look of the grille goes well beyond an aperture for allowing airflow to cool the engine. Not surprising since that clear DNA evidence is also found on Lincoln’s MKX, MKT, and MKZ product offerings; this is the new look of Lincoln. I can’t help but compare its maw to a baleen whale ready to filter-feed an ocean of krill.
Enough for the physiognomy, trying to determine the face of the MKS, how does the back look? Well, it hasn’t received nearly as much attention and appears to have taken styling cues from the latest Cadillac CTS and Maserati Quattroporte sedan. Overall, the back of the car isn’t nearly as Lincoln or as finished looking as the front.
Both front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive trim levels share the same engine, a 3.7-liter V-6 matched to a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control and paddle shifters. This engine generates 273 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque with regular 87 octane, but Lincoln says filling up with a higher octane can boost power by a couple horses.
The all-wheel-drive EcoBoost model comes with a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6 that makes 355 horsepower and 350 pound feet of torque. The EcoBoost is considerably quicker without exacting a penalty in fuel economy. At a Ford-estimated 17 mpg city and 25 mpg highway, it gets essentially the same mileage as the non-turbocharged models (17/24 for FWD, 16/23 for AWD). Note, however, that premium fuel is recommended.
Base price for our MKS EcoBoost is $48,160, not including the $825 delivery charge. A rapid spec package on the test car added voice activated navigation, audio upgrade, a rearview camera and dual-panel moonroof ($3500). An appearance package includes 20-inch wheels, special floor mats and interior trim, and a leather-coated steering wheel ($2995). Active park assist, which automatically parallel parks the car, costs $535. Adaptive cruise control with collision warning adds $1295, while the white platinum paint costs $595, bringing the price as tested to $57,905.
Two MKS trim levels are offered for 2011: base MKS ($41,270) powered by the 3.7-liter V-6 and the MKS EcoBoost ($48,160), powered by the twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6. In addition to its looks, and comfortable, roomy interior, the other thing going for the MKS is the feature-packed technology center. Most of this comes at extra cost. However, the Sync voice activated system found in other Ford Motor Company products comes standard, along with satellite radio and THX II certified audio system.
Add navigation and the price shoots up $3500, but also includes rearview backup camera, a dual pane moonroof, and an upgraded audio system. We’ve tested the Sync system and find it to be one of the simplest, most useful technology features available on the market. It’s all voice activated. Just hit a button on the steering wheel, say “Black Eyed Peas” and you get that music on the audio system. Say “weather” or “traffic” and guess what happens? You get an update on road construction in your driving area. Say “movie times” and a number of theaters are instantly listed. Add a screen that is simple to use and easy to read graphics and Sync is nearly impossible to go without.
On the road, the MKS drives less like an all-out luxury sedan and more like its sibling the Ford Taurus, only nicer. Still, with a price nearing $58,000, Lincoln will need to do much better to attract and retain buyers.
It’s an unusual combination we found with the MKS. While the seats are comfortable, the ride on the soft side, the handling is disappointing with a floaty feeling and less sure of itself on curves and uneven pavement. Even the cabin was noisy compared to other vehicles we’ve driven in this class.
Standard and available 2011 Lincoln MKS safety features include: AdvanceTrac® Electronic Stability Control with Brake Actuated Traction Control, Dual front airbags, front seat-mounted side airbags and side-curtain airbags, and Safety Canopy® (an exclusive side-impact protection system employing side curtain airbags to help protect front and outboard rear passengers in both rollover and side-impact crashes).
Collision Warning with Brake Support warns drivers of slower-moving traffic ahead. If the driver doesn’t respond, the system will pre-charge the brakes to prepare the vehicle for a more aggressive stop. SOS Post-Crash Alert System flashes signal lights and sounds the horn in the event of an accident.
The MKS earned highest possible “Good” rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Overall, there is plenty to like about the MKS. But there are too many unrefined pieces to render MKS outclassed by better and less expensive choices in this price class vehicle.