Silvio Calabi: MKX Reserve is a plush, pleasant Lincoln
Possibly I’m dating myself (or Lincoln) back to Detroit’s Dinosaur Era, but the MKX is not a whale. It’s rather medium-size, at least for an American-market crossover SUV, and it drives confidently. As it should, since it’s a re-wrapped, re-badged, re-equipped and re-priced Ford Edge. Just like the Edge, the MKX is ideal for four people but can manage five, has a proportionally commodious cargo bay, and is powered by one of Ford’s universal EcoBoost engines — in this case, the 2.7-liter Six pressurized by a turbocharger on each bank of its vee.
Although considerably smaller in displacement than the MKX’s standard 3.7-liter V-6, the 2.7 is a $2,000 upgrade because, weirdly, it delivers so much more power than the bigger motor — in Lincoln tune, 335 horses and 380 pound-feet of torque.
The first taste we had of this mighty mite came in Ford’s new aluminum F-150 pickup truck, where it also performed like an efficient V-8. Here, the flood of torque can launch our 4,500-pound MKX AWD Reserve from a standstill to 60 mph in a reported 6 seconds flat, yet thanks to a synthetic sound track it’s almost inaudible from the inside. Nor does the motor ever feel overworked, even with a full load. Clearly there’s plenty of “Boost” — but, with an indicated average of 22.9 highway miles per gallon, not all that much “Eco.” A FWD-only MKX should do a bit better. And a Lincoln-specific eight-speed automatic transmission, instead of the six-speed shared with the Edge, might squeeze out another MPG or two, but, at $60,105 as equipped, our MKX is costly enough, thank you.
Lincoln calls it Quiet Luxury; our one-word description of the MKX would be “plush.” Even at speed on potholes, little commotion makes it past the active noise cancellation, acoustic glass and insulation, yet there’s very little of the Lincoln land-yacht dreaminess of yore. The variable-ratio steering is accurate and nicely weighted, and the brakes are linear. The adaptive, adjustable shock absorbers that come with all-wheel drive (a $2,495 option) can provide normal, comfort or sport settings, but changing them takes so much searching through the computer menu that we just left ours on sport. This provided a blend of comfort and competence that could only be upset by abrupt inputs to the throttle and steering. The transmission also has different personalities — normal and sport — as well as shift paddles on the steering wheel, but its claim to fame is the vertical row of buttons flanking the touchscreen: P-R-N-D-S and then, immediately below, the ignition button. It’s cool, but days later I was still dithering over which one to push. In any event, gear changes are so smooth as to be largely unnoticeable.
Other quibbles: The front armrests slant forward and down, so the window and wing-mirror controls are out of my reach unless I lean forward. The bottom of the front seat feels short, and it can only be raised or lowered, not tilted. The touchscreen seems unusually fingerprint-y. The rear seatbacks are spring-loaded to flop down at the touch of a button, but raising them again is hard manual labor. A dozen parking sensors and the 360-degree, multi-view backup camera sometimes overwhelm us with beeps, bongs and images (this isn’t limited to the MKX). Like last week’s Subaru Legacy, the MKX has an electric parking brake, which is good; but, also like the Subie, the e-brake doesn’t unlock automatically when the driver wants to go. Is this is a safety thing, a reminder to engage brain before driving off, or an oversight? Why not an e-brake that sets itself whenever the transmission is put into Park, and then disengages when the gas pedal is pressed? The MKX’s traffic auto-hold feature does just that.
Overall, it’s easy to appreciate the 2016 MKX and its many standard and optional features, from the parallel- and perpendicular-parking aids and the foot-activated power liftgate to the panoramic sunroof, which puts nearly 4 feet of glass overhead, and the well-calibrated smart cruise control. Naturally, the MKX also has rear cross-traffic alert and, as part of a $1,650 Driver Assistance Package, lane-keeping alerts and guidance, frontal collision warning, pedestrian detection and emergency braking. It just earned an overall 5-Star crash rating from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, too.
— Silvio Calabi reviews the latest from Detroit, Munich, Yokohama, Gothenburg, Crewe, Seoul and wherever else interesting cars are born. Silvio is a member of the International Motor Press Association whose automotive reviews date back to the Reagan administration. He is the former publisher of Speedway Illustrated magazine and an author. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— A wee vee as an ideal powerplant for a big SUV? Who knew?
— “Midsize luxury utility” isn’t an oxymoron
— Matthew McConaughey must be proud
— Ergonomics requires some driver reprogramming
— Sixty grand, as equipped? Really?
— EcoBoost fuel efficiency isn’t very