Car-based, ‘crossover’ utility vehicles are the future of SUVs – any observer of the automotive world can see that. They offer better performance and economy than traditional truck-based SUVs, and Japanese manufacturers have been mining car-based gold for years.
Detroit has finally turned its sights on this lucrative market segment, and this year there are a slew of new offerings from American manufacturers. The Lincoln MKX is the much-anticipated offering from Ford Motor Company’s luxury division, powered by Ford’s all-new corporate V6 and sharing its underpinnings with the new Edge crossover.
The staff here at Roadfly loved the Edge. Lincolns are typically more refined and luxurious than their Ford counterparts, but seldom have they been more exciting. But things are changing now. The Lincoln Navigator is truly one of the wildest, glitziest vehicles on the road, outshining (literally) its little brother, the Ford Expedition, in every way. The MKX performs a similar upstaging on the Edge.
Compared with its blue-oval sibling, the MKX has turned the bling meter up to eleven. The first thing we noticed was its tail lamp assembly, which gives the MKX one of the sexiest butts on the road today. It is swathed in light, and must be seen at night to be truly appreciated. There is a massive amount of light-emitting diodes (LEDs), creating an image of red-hot heating coils strapped to the MKX’s rear end. We said that the Edge was like a concept car on the inside, but the MKX looks the part on the outside too. It came in a deep purple color called “dark amethyst,” which contrasted well with its red-hot tail lamps and expansive chrome grille.
Our MKX had a sticker on the visor that read “Pre-production,” which means that small details could change. One thing we hope to see on the final version is the frisky powertrain from our test vehicle. For some reason, this car felt much sportier than the Edge we tested. We were especially impressed at how quickly this crossover ute ripped through the gears of its 6-speed automatic. The tranny would upshift at slightly north of 6,000rpm, then fall back only to 5,000rpm before continuing to plow through the next gear. Sadly, as in the Edge, there is no manual shift option. We think this is a mistake on FoMoCo’s part, as it would be great fun to shift the gears on this excellent 3.5-liter V6, with its 265hp and 250 lb.-ft. of torque, on your own.
Like the Edge, the MKX should run to sixty in around eight seconds, which is really quite speedy for a car this size. Handling is another strong suit for the MKX. As far as crossover utes go, we hear a lot of marketing talk about car-like ride and handling. Most of it is embellished to say the least, but the MKX really walks the walk. The ride is comparable with a larger sedan, and the MKX goes where it’s pointed with moderately heavy steering effort. Despite its crossover roots, our MKX was still pretty tall, and heavy at 4XXX lbs. So we can forgive the occasional clopping over bumps or potholes. There is very little body roll in normal, everyday cornering situations, and the MKX negotiates highway cloverleafs at speeds that would have traditional SUVs howling in protest.
There was one episode in particular that made the MKX stand out to this correspondent. Driving enthusiasts around Washington D.C. will know that the Leesburg Pike off the Capital Beltway is a challenging corner, a rare opportunity on the congested roads of the metro area. Exit the highway and you are immediately enclosed in a two-lane straightaway with great visibility and decently smooth pavement. It is rare to find much traffic there except at peak times, and it leads into a tight yet roomy 270-degree cloverleaf.
The MKX charged through its gears, and inspired confidence, if not amazement, under braking. Showing its shared roots with Mazda’s 6 sports sedan, this crossover was easy to set up for the corner, transmitting enough feedback to allow the driver to minimize mid-corner corrections. But the true test of the MKX’s suspension tuning comes at the end of the corner, where a treacherous bump waits unseen.
Clearing this bump at anything over 25mph in a sports car is asking for a very rude awakening. This correspondent drives a limited-production Honda intended for the racetrack, and it positively smashes itself on this deceiving pavement undulation if that speed threshold is exceeded. However, the MKX sailed over said bump at 50mph with nary a bounce – not even a hiccup. Then and there, we decided that the MKX’s suspension tuning was something special indeed.
This crossover is also much more civil on the highway than a truck-based SUV, with no shimmying, wandering, or otherwise annoying compromises. We’ve always thought that driving a big, body-on-frame SUV above 80 miles per hour took equal helpings of bravery and stupidity, but an MKX driver won’t need either one. High-speed cruising is all in a day’s work for this able crossover, and we wouldn’t hesitate to pile in for a long trip.
Braking is not fantastic, but the MKX makes up for it in pedal feel, which is important to a crossover with sporty aspirations. It does weigh upwards of 4400 lbs., so don’t expect to outbrake any M3s into Turn 1. Gas mileage is decent for a two-ton utility vehicle, at an EPA rating of 17 city/24 highway for our AWD model. Our observed mileage was a bit less than that, but we dare anyone to drive this car with a light foot. Happily, unlike most of its competitors, the MKX doesn’t need premium fuel.
Our MKX was very well equipped, true to Lincoln’s mission. As far as standard equipment goes, our AWD tester came with 8-way adjustable leather seats up front, heated mirrors, and a litany of safety and electronic features. Like the Navigator that Roadfly reviewed, our MKX was also equipped with Lincoln’s Elite and Ultimate Packages.
The Elite Package consists of the irresistible “Vista Roof,” Ford’s excellent DVD navigation system, THX audio, and 6 months of Sirius satellite radio. The Ultimate adds a heating and cooling function to the front seats, as well as heating for the rear seats (a welcome feature for the folks in the rear since the Vista Roof was frequently open), 18″ chrome wheels, and a handy “reverse sensing” system. This sounds pretty self-explanatory – a series of beeps tells you how close you are to whatever you’re backing up to. It is a bit overzealous, and gets pretty panicky even with a foot to go. But it will help those drivers that don’t want to be burdened by craning their necks the old-fashioned way.
Now, a bit about the Vista Roof. If we were buying an MKX and could only have one option, this would be it. This option replaces most of the sheet metal on the Edge’s roof with glass, and from the inside it appears as two glass panels. The panel for the rear seat is fixed and does not open, as in most novelty roofs of this sort. However, the front panel does open, and it is monstrous. It’s easily twice as long as a conventional moonroof, and the combination of its sheer size and the high beltline of the Edge’s windows give it the feel of a targa-top sports car.
The Vista Roof has three possible configurations: fully closed (glass panels and sunshades fully clamped), which we never used; sunshades open (used mostly when the MKX was parked), and fully open (what we used during most of our seat time). This roof so transforms the driving experience that we can’t imagine life without it. It has a one-touch opening, thankfully, since being twice as large as a conventional roof makes it twice as time-consuming to open. However, the button must be held down to close the roof all the way. However, that could (hopefully) change once they hit showrooms.
Despite the Vista Roof’s huge size, there are few penalties in terms of noise or turbulence. There is a stout windscreen, and zipping along Virginia’s highways with the roof opened on a 40-degree night required only moderate usage of the car’s heating system. At $1,395, the Vista Roof is about 40% more expensive than a standard moonroof, but the benefits far outweigh the costs. The MKX is more than twice as luxurious when equipped with this option, so we think that’s a pretty good return on your dollar.
You can also view the 2007 Lincoln MKX AWD car view video and other reviews on YouTube.
This is a car for a different kind of Lincoln buyer, a younger sort who would never have even set foot in a Lincoln dealership back in the days of the Continental. In our week with the MKX, it saw a lot of after-hours duty. A rotation of urban twentysomethings being shuttled between venues filled this fresh crossover to capacity on many occasions. This crowd universally commended the MKX for its appointments, and even in this day of jaded luxury consumption, the Vista Roof drew enthusiastic plaudits from all.
The MKX offers a pretty good bargain as far as luxury utility vehicles are concerned. With a base MSRP of $35,770, you can get into this crossover pretty easily. Equipped with the Elite Package ($1,995) and the Ultimate Package ($4,795), our MKX hit the upper limit of the model range at $43,890. Considering all that this car offers, that’s still a pretty smokin’ deal. We think a new breed of Lincoln buyers will see it the same way.