Friday, November 6, 2009

Lincoln MKT is a luxurious, smooth highway cruiser

Sacramento, California – When I first saw the all-new 2010 Lincoln MKT for the first time, I thought it was a hearse.

Wait, that’s not a bad thing. It’s just that my tester was painted serious black, had plenty of chrome and a long wheelbase (118 inches). The configuration looked like, well, it wouldn’t be too difficult to fit a body in the back.

This is where you have to get over that whole first impressions hang-up. It’s a good thing, too, because after a week in the MKT, I was impressed with its standing as an excellent long-road-trip vehicle. I was likewise impressed that it enhances Lincoln’s long-standing reputation for luxury and class.

Alas, I had to wonder why Lincoln chose now to introduce a 4,500-pound SUV with fuel-mileage ratings of 17 miles per gallon in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. And keep in mind that my front-driving MKT was the cheapest of three trim levels at a hefty starting price of $44,200.

Those aren’t exactly recession-buster numbers.

I came to the conclusion that it boiled down to the simple fact that this was a Lincoln – the undeniable luxury line of Ford. Lincoln has been producing pricey luxury models through boom and bust times. No reason to stop now. And according to Ford Motor Co.’s third quarter profits of nearly a billion bucks, who am I to argue?

Back on point: The MKT is big, and it feels big when you’re driving it. It’s a challenge to wheel around a tight parking lot, and you want to make sure you have clearance when you’re whipping the MKT around in crowded city traffic.

The good news is that the MKT has a rock-solid feel on the open road. It was as smooth as butter on the interstates. Seventy miles per hour felt like about 50 mph in the MKT, with nary a wiggle. The interior cabin was bank vault-quiet even on rough road surfaces. Kudos to Lincoln engineers on this vehicle’s highway capabilities.

With seating for up to seven, plenty of cargo room and plentiful in-vehicle entertainment features, the MKT is the prototype vehicle for the family road trip. Where was the MKT when I was a young father, for crying out loud?

From the driver’s cockpit, the MKT oozes class and expensive-looking materials. And yet the center stack of controls is not a confusing jumble of knobs and buttons. It’s easily managed by driver or front passenger. Interior seating room is decidedly generous.

High-tech goodies on the tested MKT included adaptive cruise control, collision warning system, braking enhancement system, active park-assist and Ford’s Blind Spot Information System (BLIS for short). BLIS comes in handy with the MKT, because cars on either side of the vehicle can disappear into that long wheelbase. The BLIS system includes warning lights in the exterior mirrors to let you know you have company on your flanks. It’s a nice security blanket to have during a heavy commute.

The tester’s 3.7-liter V-6 with 268 horsepower does a good job of driving the MKT, but it’s not a road-burner on hard acceleration. Likewise, it whines a bit on uphill climbs. If you can afford it, you might opt for the turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6 EcoBoost engine that puts out 355 horses. That should be able to handle about anything.

Just so you know, an all-wheel drive MKT with the EcoBoost power plant starts at $49,200.

I noticed that Lincoln bills its new MKT as a full-size luxury crossover vehicle, but I think that stretches the point. For my money, it’s a luxury SUV … a nice one, to be sure.

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