Road Test

FIRST DRIVE: 2016 Lincoln MKX exudes quiet luxury

The 2016 MKX is the latest example of Lincoln’s return to real luxury vehicles

MONTREAL, QC – As a critical part of its resurrection, Lincoln has set out to re-educate dealer personnel selling Ford’s luxury brand. The aim is to upgrade the experience of shopping for a Lincoln, making it a more personal session and pleasant.

Lincoln knows it is going head to head with some of the most successful brands in the industry, many with a lengthy history and established reputation. They are all good vehicles, offering similar features.

To stand out, Lincoln figures the difference can start in the showroom. It has lured some senior executives from the travel and hotel industries to visit and train Lincoln sales staff in the area of enhancing customer service.

That experience might be the first thing potential customers notice at a Lincoln store. But the next will probably be the 2016 MKX – the latest example of Lincoln’s return to providing real luxury vehicles.

Shouts LUXURY

While the 2016 MKX shares most of its underpinnings with the new Ford Edge, you would have to take it apart piece by piece to find the Ford commonality.

The 2016 MKX has been crafted from top to bottom and end-to-end to shout LUXURY. From the latest iteration of the brand’s split-wing grille to the hidden camera at the rear the MKX is new.

The front-end features adaptive LED headlights, each of which has 32 individual lights. These trick headlights cast a wider low beam at speeds below 57 km/h that shines brighter in the turns and  become more focussed straight ahead as speeds increase.

The side view displays pronounced hips and shoulders over the big alloy wheels while at the rear LED lights play another prominent role. The unique antenna incorporated in the rear spoiler includes the GPS unit, which gains a full metre in location accuracy from this new position.

Interior a delight

The interior is a delight, a space obviously crafted with materials meant to separate this crossover from its siblings wearing the Blue Oval. Craftsmanship is evident throughout from the supple “Bridge of Weir” leather through a variety of wood and aluminum trim pieces.

But the new and very luxurious impression starts with “welcome lighting” that comes to life sequentially throughout the interior when you enter and fades slowly.

The gigantic flow-through console pits pertinent information and controls closer to eye level at the front and provides oodles of storage space as you move towards the rear. There are plenty of locations to charge your phone, music player etc.

Storage space also abounds in the cargo area where the new MKX has 15% more of it than the outgoing model.

Extra effort went into the front seats. The driver can adjust that one in 22 ways, including thigh extenders and four-way head restraint positions! There is also a massage function to stimulate those tired nerve endings.

All of this can be accomplished from the usual switch location beside your hip or via the large touchscreen. That same screen displays the 360-degree view offered by a quartet of cameras, one in the tailgate, one in each side mirror and one hidden behind the Lincoln star badge in the grille.

Focus on infotainment

There is a new Lincoln app for your smart phone allowing you to lock, unlock, start or schedule a remote start so the vehicle will be warm or cooled off by the time you get to it, whichever is needed.

Audio has also come in for some special attention as research shows luxury car buyers not only expect, but use high-end audio systems. The new MKX is the first outcome of a new relationship with Revel, Harmon Kardon’s premium speaker brand.

The standard setup includes 13 speakers and a 12-channel amplifier. The folks at Revel not only designed and provided the speakers, they consulted in the placement for maximum clarity and accuracy.

One feature of the new system is the ability to position yourself “on stage” or in the audience. Sounds a bit hokey, but it truly works if you can find a quality source, one where the music has not been compressed too heavily.

 The audio can be as loud as you can stand, but road and wind noise have been all but outlawed. This is a very quiet car on the road thanks to extensive insulation, an acoustic glass windshield, aerodynamic side mirrors and active noise cancellation that uses microphones to identify errant sounds and an amplifier to produce countermanding waves.

Quiet and competent

Engine noise is all but absent as well. The standard engine is a 300-horsepower, normally-aspirated 3.7-litre V-6 with a 2.7-litre, 335-horsepower twin turbo V-6 producing a hefty 380 lb- ft of torque from 3,000 rpm optional. All come with a six speed automatic and all-wheel-drive.

I spent the majority of my time here and in the eastern townships during the reveal with the boosted engine. It has enough urge to get the MKX up to speed and out of the way readily. This is a heavy vehicle so it won’t top the class in terms of outright performance, but neither will the driver be embarrassed by a lack of suds.

There is more than a little feedback from the electric power steering thanks to a new system that places the electric motor at the steering wheel instead of on the rack. The system requires less effort and fewer turns at low speeds such as in parking lots, but responds more quickly and with more feedback at higher speeds.

As should be obvious, the emphasis here is on quiet luxury. The MKX is no canyon carver or back road bandit. It behaves itself in corners with understeer setting in early. But this is a luxury vehicle and very few people will drive it in a manner that will have them wishing to trade some comfort for more speed in the corners.

Competitive safety features

A full array of active and passive safety features is standard or available, including adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist with cross-traffic alert and a new feature – auto hold. Push a button when you come to a stop and you can remove your foot from the brake. Touch the brake or accelerator pedal and the system releases.

A collision mitigation system uses a combination of cameras and lasers to gauge closing speed with objects in front; if the closing rate is deemed unsafe, it will automatically apply the brakes.

Two trim levels

The 2016 Lincoln MKX is available in two trim levels, Select and Reserve. The standard engine is a 303-horsepower, 3.7-litre V-6. The turbocharged V-6 is a $2,950 option. All come with AWD and the six-speed automatic. The Select gets 18-inch alloys and the Reserve 20-inch rolling stock.

While the base price of $53,490 for the top-line Reserve trim level is competitive, it can get expensive very quickly since many of the features on my test vehicle are extra-cost options, including the more powerful engine, heated steering wheel, active park assist, 360-degree camera, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, collision avoidance system, 22-way driver seat and even a cargo cover!

If Lincoln dealers can get people into the showroom, and the new way they are to be treated results in a test-drive, the MKX is destined for many new customers.

SPECIFICATIONS:

Model: 2016 Lincoln MKX

Price: $45,890 base (3.7); $53,490 base (2.7); $68,000 as tested including freight.

Engine: 3.7-litre V-6, 303 horsepower, 278 lb-ft of torque; or 2.7-litre turbocharged V-6, 335 horsepower, 380 lb-ft of torque

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Fuel Consumption (city/highway) – 3.7-litre -14.4/10.3 L/100 km; 2.7-litre - 14.1/9.7 L/100 km

Length: 4,826 mm

Width: 2,186 mm

Wheelbase: 2,850 mm

Competitors: Acura MDX, Audi Q7, Cadillac SRX, Infiniti QX60, Lexus RX, Mercedes-Benz M-Class

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