2011 Lincoln MKX
Base price: $39,145 – $40,995
As tested: $48,090
MPG: 19 city/26 highway (front-wheel drive); 17 city/23 highway (all-wheel drive)
- Gorgeous new styling inside and out
- Premium materials and build quality a Lincoln should have
- Excellent safety features, crash test scores
- Baffling, overly tech-heavy controls
- Disappointing ride quality, painful seats
- Reward the designers, fire the engineers
By Jim Prueter
Extreme makeover for MKX is gorgeous but numerous flaws spoil the pleasure
For 2011 the midsize Lincoln MKX receives a mid-cycle update that’s more of an extreme makeover rather than the usual freshening manufacturers give their models to keep them competitive. MKX is a sister vehicle to the Ford Edge.
While Ford, the parent company for the upscale Lincoln brand, uses the same platform for the MKX, they went beyond the traditional minor sheet metal changes and extensively updated both the exterior and interior, along with making significant engineering and technology enhancements. Ford needed the changes to better compete against other luxury crossovers like the Cadillac SRX, Lexus RX, BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLK350 and Infiniti FX.
Visually the most noticeable styling changes to the exterior are up front where designers added what Lincoln calls its “split-wing grille.” The look is quickly becoming the signature DNA for all Lincoln products, including the full-size luxury MKS sedan, mid-sized MKZ sedan and larger MKT crossover.
There are significant changes to the rear styling including an updated taillamp treatment, which is now two distinct pieces that employ an indirect LED system versus the single full body-wide taillamp from the previous model. Eighteen-inch wheels are now standard, however, our test MKX included the optional 20-inch rims.
Inside the five-passenger MKX is an all-new soft-touch dashboard, along with new leather seats, door panels and nice upscale attention to detail including “Tuxedo-stripe” stitching that’s genuine rather than molded, and seven ambient-lighting colors with five levels of intensity.
There are two available wood accents – Olive Ash and Walnut Swirl – on the steering wheel, dashboard and doors to replace the standard aluminum accents. A power tilt/telescoping steering column and a heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel are available.
Overall interior fit, finish and materials befit a luxury brand and are a significant improvement over the previous generation MKX.
But the most noteworthy change is the debut of what Lincoln calls “MyLincoln Touch” interface for audio volume and HVAC fan speed controls that replaces conventional buttons and knobs with touch-sensitive (think iPod, iPhone or IPad) controls that theoretically work by sliding one’s finger across them.
I say “theoretically” because after a week behind the wheel and over 1,000 miles of driving, we deemed them as frustrating and absurd as BMW’s iDrive control system. Touch system displays information using two 4.2-inch LCD screens flanking an analog speedometer and an 8-inch touch-screen LCD at the top of the center stack. A very confusing unmarked five-way switch on each side of the steering wheel crossbar controls the information displayed on the corresponding instrument panel screens. That is if you are able to figure out how it works. It’s simply ridiculous how difficult it is to adjust the desired volume level or fan speed using the touch-sensitive bars. Lincoln says you can simply touch anywhere along the slider to get a corresponding increase in volume or fan speed, but most often it either didn’t work at all or it adjusted far beyond the desired level. Thankfully there is a manually operated audio volume control button on the steering wheel, which is much more accurate and easier to use.
Adjusting screen brightness, clock changes, navigation system, heated/cooled seats requires the operator to continually touch the 8-inch screen through a menu. Information is difficult to find, and getting to where you want to go and operating the corresponding control is best case more luck than intent.
Also new on the 2011 Lincoln MKX is the world’s first use of iTunes® Tagging in an available factory-installed HD Radio™ receiver. iTunes Tagging provides customers with the ability to “capture” a song they hear on the HD Radio receiver for later purchase from iTunes. With a simple push of the “TAG” button on the touch-screen display, the song information will be stored in the radio’s memory.
Once a song is tagged and customers dock their iPod to the SYNC system, the tagged song information will transfer to that iPod. Up to 100 tags on SYNC can be stored until the iPod is connected. When the iPod is then synced to iTunes, a playlist of tagged songs will appear. Customers then can preview, and if they desire, purchase and download tagged songs from the iTunes Store.
There’s generous space for passengers in both rows of seats, and it was easy to find a good driving position. Too often we test cars in which automakers seem unable to achieve a proper relationship between wheel, pedals and seat. MKX does an excellent job here.
However, the front seats were less than comfortable and both front seat occupants felt achy seat fatigue within the first hour of a long trip.
MKX is offered as just one five-passenger model available with front or all-wheel drive. There’s a new 305-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 that teams with a six-speed automatic transmission. The engine and transmission called no attention to itself, shifting effortlessly with ample power while returning just over 21 MPG on primarily highway travel.
Brakes were excellent, steering straight with little wheel tweaking necessary to keep in a straight line. Handling cornered flat around tight corners, no tippy feeling here. We were much less impressed with the ride quality and MKX’s inability to dampen or minimize road imperfections, minor potholes or drainage channels. The ride always felt unsettled, jiggly and reminiscent of an economy-car. If Lincoln expects to compete in the highly competitive mid-size luxury class crossover market, they will either need to improve the ride or discourage test drives.
Our tester included the optional adaptive cruise control that allows the driver to set the vehicle’s cruising speed using radar technology to monitor the vehicle ahead for measured integral distance. The system automatically slows the vehicle to adapt to traffic conditions and maintain the preset distance between vehicles. Once traffic clears, the set speed returns. Gap distances can be customized from four predetermined options. We thought it worked well.
We especially like vehicles with the blind spot information system (BLIS), a feature that can help detect vehicles in blind spots through an amber warning light imbedded in each of the two outside rearview mirrors. MKX takes BLIS a step further and actually detects if a vehicle is approaching from the sides when backing out of parking spots. There’s also a helpful rear-view camera with a green, yellow and red distance grid to aid with parking.
Among the safety features offered in the new MKX are Trailer Sway Control and Hill Start Assist, in addition to electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes. Hydraulic Brake Assist helps with panic stops. Also available are adaptive cruise control and a Collision Warning with Brake Support system. Standard safety features include front, side and curtain airbags. The 2011 MKX earned the highest “Good” rating for front and side impact crash test results from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Overall we found the newly freshened MKX to be much more distinctive, luxurious and aesthetically irresistible, but undercut by senseless and frustrating technology, fussy ride quality and achy seats. There’s a strange Manichaeism in its beauty and operational flaws that we find incompatible.
The MKX is built in Ontario, Canada and comes with a 4YR/50,000 bumper-to-bumper warranty, and 6YR/70,000 mile powertrain warranty.