Lusty Lincoln: 2010 MKTNovember 6, 2009: 1:10 PM ET
Are better times coming? Ford seems to think so, based on the design and features of the new Lincoln MKT.
When you want to take the psychic temperature of the Ford Motor Co., all you have to do is look at the latest offerings from Lincoln.
When times are tough, the company makes little effort to distinguish luxury-pretender Lincoln from its homelier Ford origins. A new grille here, redesigned tail lamps there, and you have summarized the major differences between, say, the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX.
But when better times are coming, Ford digs deeper into its product development budget to more fully differentiate Lincoln and add more luxury features.
Cue the 2010 MKT. While it's based on the utilitarian Ford Flex people-mover, the MKT looks nothing like it, with a new body panels and unique design flourishes like the upswept kink in the rear fenders. For proof, park the MKT in your driveway and you won't find anybody whispering "poor relation." At 17 ¼ feet long and weighing nearly 5,000 pounds, MKT is an imposing piece of automotive iron -- half a foot longer and 350 pounds heavier than the Flex.
Evaluating design is a subjective matter. I like the MKT's split waterfall grille, but found the tailgate-wide rear insignia/taillight treatment a bit extravagant.
Inside, the interior is a masterful combination of luxury and utility, marred only by retro-styled instruments that are hard to read. And watch out for the Collision Warning with Brake Support system. Pull up too close to the car in front of you and a dozen LED lights start flashing in the windshield while the radio signal is damped and alarms blare. You'd think you were at Three Mile Island during a meltdown.
Reviewers have praised the performance of the MKT -- and with good reason. The optional EcoBoost V-6 engine with twin turbochargers lights up quickly with the push of a button and gets the car underway so smoothly you would swear you are driving a V-8. Another plus: There is no turbo lag and no turbo whine. An additional EcoBoost payoff comes from fuel economy: The MKT with all-wheel-drive gets 16 mpg city/22 mpg highway, about the same as a Flex AWD with a standard V-6 that produces only 265 hp. I confirmed the highway figure during a 100-mile run.
All that technology, performance, and carrying capacity for seven carries a significant price tag. The MKT's base price is $49,995 (including delivery), making it the second most expensive vehicle in the Lincoln lineup after the Navigator. My optioned-up test vehicle was listed at a stiff $57,180.
At least you likely won't see yourself coming and going. Lincoln is still a low-volume brand and Edmund's reports that MKT sales are off to a slow start.
Yet it is good to see Lincoln acting like a real luxury car contender, and better still to know that Ford sees bluer skies ahead.