2011 Lincoln MKX Preview

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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Published on February 15, 2010

Goodbye light bar, hello classy rear end design. (Photo: Lincoln)

Published on February 15, 2010

Now that's a whole lot better! (Photo: Lincoln)

Published on February 15, 2010

Everything Lincoln is doing gets better and better, especially their interiors. (Photo: Lincoln)

Published on February 15, 2010

Packed with top-tier goodies, the MKX is a technology leader. (Photo: Lincoln)

Published on February 15, 2010

A nice big infotainment screen. (Photo: Lincoln)

Published on February 15, 2010

Controls look slick and leather-like trim is seriously upscale. (Photo: Lincoln)

Published on February 15, 2010

Blind spot warning is just one of many high-tech offerings in the new MKX. (Photo: Lincoln)

Published on February 15, 2010

A high-tech keyfob that connects to proximity sensing access and push-button start. (Photo: Lincoln)

Published on February 15, 2010

A bold new look, new features and stronger performance is more evidence of an all-new Lincoln. (Photo: Lincoln)

Published on February 15, 2010

Published on February 15, 2010

Published on February 15, 2010

Published on February 15, 2010

Published on February 15, 2010

Published on February 15, 2010

Published on February 15, 2010

Published on February 15, 2010

Published on February 15, 2010

Published on February 15, 2010

Published on February 15, 2010

Published on February 15, 2010

Published on February 15, 2010

Published on February 15, 2010

Published on February 15, 2010

Published on February 15, 2010

Published on February 15, 2010

Published on February 15, 2010

Published on February 15, 2010

Published on February 15, 2010

Published on February 15, 2010

Published on February 15, 2010

Published on February 15, 2010

Published on February 15, 2010

Published on February 15, 2010

Published on February 15, 2010

Published on February 15, 2010

Published on February 15, 2010

Published on February 15, 2010

Published on February 15, 2010

Published on February 15, 2010

Published on February 15, 2010

Published on February 15, 2010

Published on February 15, 2010

I first saw the MKX in New York during the Zephyr launch, a car now called MKZ. I liked the classic chrome '60s grille interpretation, but must admit was a bit turned off by the old-school light bar that spanned its hind end. It's strange how some retro design elements are naturally classic and how others just look dated, but to my eyes and many others, according to comments made on blogs and forums, taillight bars are definitely not cool anymore.

I suppose the question should be, were they ever cool? Sure, Porsche made the look stylish on its 911, but that was a rarity and if it was really such a design highlight it would have made its way back on newer models, but thankfully it hasn't. Looking back, the '73 911 was dimensionally perfect and the '74 kind'a lost it (the big black bumpers didn't help the cause either). Now Porsche makes an SUV, as do many others that we would have never expected to do so back when big Broncos and K5 Blazers ruled the back roads, and Lincoln's MKX, while not a true off-roader, has what it takes to do what the majority of people use SUVs for most of the time.

The MKX has been given some new retro upgrades for 2011 and dropped some others, for a look that, like it or not, fits in with Lincoln's new design language. The new split-wing grille is pulled from the past but modernized to give the Lincoln brand strong character and excellent aerodynamics, and I happen to like the look, although I know that it's a design that polarizes opinions. The MKX interpretation might be the best yet, as its waterfall strakes run long and deep, flanked at each side by MKS-styled headlight, indicator and side marker clusters. A new lower grille opening and fog light housing is wrapped in chrome trim that mimics the grille and headlights above for a uniform appearance that's both clean and attractive, not to mention efficiently aerodynamic for a vehicle in this class.

Move rearward and bulging front fenders, a la Mitsubishi Montero, add muscle to a design that previously incorporated purposefully flat shoulder lines to conjure up emotive memories of '60s Continentals. As mentioned earlier, changes to the rear end design are as dramatic as those up front, but rather for their understatement. The previous light-bar might have been originally added to visually separate the previous MKX from its blue oval cousin, Ford's Edge, but the new gracefully independent lights with their attractive LED pattern and chrome brightwork won't be mistaken for anything Ford is offering right now, and wow do they make a difference!

The other move away from retro to modern functionality is the new MKX interior, which is not only one of the quietest in the industry with preliminary data showing that its "quieter than Lexus or Audi competitors," says Lincoln, but it now sports more conventional curves where squares and rectangles once paid tribute to Lincolns of the past. The 2011 MKX pulls design cues and materials supply from the new MKT, a new full-size crossover that features one of the nicest interiors in the business. Leather surfaces with exposed stitching cover the MKX dash and centre console, while much higher grade switchgear atop real aluminum surfaces improves that same centre stack, the dash, steering wheel spokes and door panels, although the large power lock switches remain. The woodgrain trim is real in this Lincoln as well, and a choice of Olive Ash or Walnut Swirl will enhance the steering wheel, dashboard and door panels. Beautiful, high-quality leathers cover each power adjustable seat, and yes it still seats a maximum of five, leaving the aforementioned MKT or the even larger Navigator for those needing room for more.

What I like about the new MKX is that it doesn't shortchange buyers looking for high quality detailing and top-tier features despite wanting a smaller sized vehicle. With respect to the latter, Lincoln packs so much in the MKX that I hardly know where to begin and don't have enough space to cover it all. First, there's Sync, of course, Ford's much-lauded connectivity system that's so easy to use pretty well everything else seems antiquated. Sync, dubbed Lincoln Sync in its top-level application, powers MyLincoln Touch, which, along with MyFord is another industry-first. Basically it replaces the traditional buttons and switches we've all become used to with a full-colour 8-inch touchscreen LCD on the centre stack, two 4.2-inch screens flanking the analog speedometer, and steering wheel-mounted five-way buttons "like those found on cell phones and MP3 players," says Lincoln. This allows for personalization, something cars haven't been very good at achieving up to this point, and that personalization can be set up via a button click, voice command or touchscreen tap. Nice! Lincoln manages to get rid of buttons for modulating volume and fan speed on the audio and climate systems respectively, which they say is a first for this type of system. Sounds like a user-friendly iDrive interface. What a concept! 

 You think that's cool? What about the world's first implementation of iTunes Tagging in an OEM HD radio? By using the optional Voice-Activated Navigation System through Sync, iTunes Tagging lets you "capture" a song you heard on HD radio for a later purchase through iTunes. All you have to do is push the "TAG" button on the display and the song info will be stored in the radio's memory. So, if you want the latest cultureDef tune like "Slowly" or "Chrysalis," just tag away and you'll be hooked up with the newest, coolest music. Once you tag a song, all you have to do is hook up your iPod, iTouch or iPhone and the info will automatically transfer so that the next time you hook your device to your computer it will prompt you to purchase through the iTunes Store. Yeah, I know! That's seriously cool.

Ever since using Adaptive Cruise Control on a trip last summer I fell head over heals for the technology, and it comes packaged with Collision Warning with Brake Support in the MKX, and similar technologies in other premium vehicles. Other technologically advanced features include Lincoln's Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) with Cross Traffic Alert pulled from Ford's Volvo relationship, a little payback from the money-losing Swedish brand, while MyKey, which limits top speed and audio volume, should be a dealmaker for concerned parents of over-exuberant teen drivers. Like all new Ford and Lincoln vehicles these days the MKX gets the Easy Fuel Capless Fuel-Filler System, more convenient and emissions friendly. AdvanceTrac traction control with RSC (Roll Stability Control) anti-skid or stability control is also standard, and the MKX gets SecuriCode keyless entry too, although I don't like the raised exterior buttons in this application as much as the way they hid the system in the black B-pillar of the MKS and Taurus.

Oddly, features like a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel with power tilt and telescopic functionality won't be standard, or at least Lincoln's press release states that they "are available," which normally means optional. Likely the leather wrap is standard as is the tilt and telescopic functionality, but possibly the heat and power is optional. We'll have to wait to find out.

Heat and power under the hood is standard, mind you, and comes by way of a revised 3.7-litre Duratec V6 that makes a best-in-class 305-hp and 280 lb-ft of torque thanks to Twin Independent Variable Camshaft Timing (Ti-VCT), while a six-speed automatic dubbed SelectShift provides strong performance with efficient benefits to fuel economy equaling an estimated 9.4L/100km on the highway, on regular fuel no less. There's more to it than that, however, as this transmission also won't upshift automatically when hitting redline. How refreshing!

Despite the performance upgrade the MKX powertrain is more refined with a reduction in overall NVH levels, thanks to a better insulated engine cover, retuned intake and exhaust systems and a "tighter" torque converter that reduces engines revs and therefore noise during takeoff and tip-in.

The extra get-up-and-go meets a retuned suspension system with reworked springs, shocks and stabilizer bars, plus new larger wheels get wrapped in 18-inch tires with improved grip, while 20-inch wheels and tires will be optional.

Those four wheels frame upgraded disc brakes with steel pistons, larger rear rotors, updated brake friction materials, reworked booster gain and revised pedal ratios, resulting in greater "initial bite" and "a firmer, more confident feel." 

Brake-related features include Hill Start Assist, Trailer Sway Control, Hydraulic Brake Assist, and the aforementioned optional Adaptive Cruise Control and Collision Warning with Brake Support.

The new MKX is appears to be a solid improvement over the first generation model, which was already a strong competitor in the luxury market. The fact that it's made right here in Canada, at Ford's Oakville Assembly Plant, is also a great way to support our national economy. Yes, it certainly looks like Lincoln is becoming a brand worthy of premium consideration.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Crossover, Lincoln, 2010, MKX, $40,000 - $49,999,

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