It’s a tricky thing, re-selling a mainstream model as a luxury model. Audi and Acura are two who do it pretty well. So does Cadillac.
The key to success is not just slapping a “premium” badge on the same basic ride… along with a premium price tag.
It’s ok if car A is related to car B.
So long as they’re cousins — not brothers.
Like the Audi A6 and the VW Passat, for instance. And the Acura ILX and the Honda Civic. Or the Cadillac XTS and the Chevy Impala.
Related, but not siblings.
How about this MKX? Is it DNA-distant enough from the Ford Edge?
Or just an Edge in Lincoln livery …with a Lincoln MSRP?
WHAT IT IS
The MKX is Lincoln’s mid-sized luxury crossover SUV. It is based on the five-passenger/two-row Ford Edge — but differs in several significant ways that go beyond the merely cosmetic (and the price).
For instance, it comes standard with a six-cylinder engine (one not available in the Edge) while the Ford comes with a four as its standard engine.
The MKX’s available twin-turbo V6 is also more powerful than the Edge’s version of the same engine — and it’s available as an optional upgrade in all trims.
The Edge’s less powerful version of the turbo’d 2.7 V6 is available in one trim only (Sport).
Also, you can get 22-way seats with “Active Motion” massagers, an ultra-premium Revel audio rig with 19 speakers, 12 channel amp and surround sound and other such amenities in the Lincoln that aren’t available in the lesser-status Ford.
The base FWD premier trim with 303 hp 3.7 liter V6 lists for $38,100. You can option this trim (and all the other trims) with the 335 hp twin-turbo 2.7 liter V6 for an additional $2,000.
All-wheel-drive is also available with all MKX trims — and with either engine.
The range-topping MKX Black label with AWD and the 2.7 twin-turbo V6 lists for $55,810.
Cross-shops include other medium-sized/two-row and FWD/AWD luxury crossovers such as the Lexus RX (base price $41,900) and Cadillac SRX (base price $37,605.)
And of course, the Ford Edge… if you’re looking for the same basic thing in a brown paper bag.
The MKX (which was last updated in 2011) gets a compete makeover for the 2016 model year.
Very quick with optional 2.7 twin turbo V6 (6.4 seconds to 60, vs. a sluggish-for-the-money 7.7 for the Lexus RX, which doesn’t offer an optional engine).
Not slow with its standard engine (which still has more power than the RX’s only-available engine).
More second row legroom than the RX (and twice the cargo room behind the second row).
Reclining rear seats (and they’re standard).
Massaging front seats (they’re not available in rivals… including the Edge).
WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD
Recondite MyFordTouch (whoops! MyLincolnTouch) infotainment interface (2016 Edge gets a newer/better Sync3 interface).
Center console’s rococo storage areas (and power point) hard to see and get to.
UNDER THE HOOD
The old MKX came with just one engine — take it or leave it — just like its two main rivals still do. The 2016 offers a choice of two.
Standard equipment is a 3.7 liter V6 with dual overhead cams and variable cam timing (VCT) that produces an advertised 303 hp and a 278 ft.-lbs. of torque. A six-speed automatic is paired with this engine and you can choose front-wheel-drive (standard) or Lincoln’s “Intelligent” all-wheel-drive system (optional).
The step-up engine is a higher-performance of the twin-turbocharged 2.7 liter V6 that made its debut last year in the then-new Ford Edge. To put some distance between the Edge and the MKX, Lincoln upped the rated output from the Ford’s 315 to 335 and (unlike the Edge) offers it in every MKX trim.
As in the Edge, you can go with either FWD or the optional AWD system.
The twice-turbo’d MKX is a Hot Rod Lincoln — capable of blasting to 60 in just 6.4 seconds. There aren’t many — if any — FWD/AWD crossovers in this segment that are quicker and while Lincoln prospects may not care so much about stoplight-to-stoplight jousting matches, the twin-turbo’s swell of torque (380 ft.-lbs. peaking at just 3,000 RPM, comparable to the output of a 5 liter-ish V8) wafts the big Lincoln forward with grace and ease its rivals can’t match.
Ford’s styles the 2.7 liter engine an “EcoBoost” engine because it delivers boosted power (on demand) but also reasonable fuel economy — 17 city, 26 highway for the FWD version; 17/24 with AWD — when the turbo’s not boosting.
This is troof.
Both the Lexus RX and the Cadillac SRX drink about the same — or more — gas with their much-less-powerful standard (and only available) engines.
Both the Lincoln’s engines are regular fuel (87 octane) engines, too.
The MKX can pull up to 3,500 lbs. with either engine.
ON THE ROAD
About a year ago, Ford hauled me out to Phoenix to test drive the then-new Edge, which is the starting point for the now-new MKX. I was not particularly impressed with the performance of the Edge Sport — the only version of the Edge that comes with the 2.7 liter V6.
Perhaps because they only had AWD-equipped versions available for us to hot-shoe around in. The system ups the curb weight by several hundred pounds — and the same’s true here. The FWD MKX with 2.7 engine weighs 4,258 pounds vs. 4,447 for the same ride with AWD.
If you want speed, stick with the FWD version — and not just because it’s lighter. It feels quicker because the tires skitter — and chirp! — when you punch it.
All-wheel-drive is a menace to Good Times. There is such a thing as too much control. Ask the people living in prison.
Being able to bust loose a little sometimes is what makes driving fun. And without fun, what’s the point of driving? If it’s just getting there, might as well be a passenger.
Besides which, there’s this. All-wheel-drive is marketed and sold as a handling advantage. Which it is, if you’re operating at the car’s limits. Which — FWD or AWD — are extremely high in any modern car — and involve extremely illegal speeds. At say 75 percent of those speeds (well within the orbit of the car’s limits) the differences in lateral grip — how hard you can push it in a curve without reaching Unglued — are negligible. The chief everyday advantage of AWD is low-speed/straight-line traction when it’s snowing. And the truth is that even that advantage is often negated by the fitting of 20 or 21 inch gnomesayin’ wheels with short sidewall “sport” tires that simply suck in snow. A FWD vehicle with tires made to deal with snow is often the better ride in snow.
Besides which, a couple hundred pounds less deadweight to haul around when it’s not snowing … which in most places is most of the time.
The MKX has a pushbutton gear selector panel mounted to the right of the main instrument cluster — rather than the usual center console-mounted gear shifter (as in the Edge) you move forward and back to access the various ranges. The upside to the Lincoln’s layout is it frees up space on the topside of the center console for larger storage cubbies and cupholders. The downside is it takes slightly more time to push the button for Park, say, than it does to just shove a console-mounted shifter into Park.
On the other hand, most high-end cars are using some type of electronic shifter now anyhow — and it’s the riptide of the future that we’ll all be pulled along by — like it or not.
The MKX has outstanding LED headlights — with “smart” high beams that sense other cars’ headlights coming and revert to low beam until they pass. Then reverting to high again, blazing away the darkness ahead of you. The lights are also auto-leveling, meaning they adjust to the car’s movement as it moves. If you have trouble seeing where you’re going at night in the MKX, see the eye doctor.
Another mention-worthy feature is the Lincoln’s available ActiveMotion seats. The seat cushions auto-adjust to relieve pressure points in your back as you drive. I can vouch for these being top drawer — and one of the things that make buying a luxury brand car worth the price.
The headrests, too, are outstanding.
You can actually rest your head on them. And passengers will appreciate the reclining back seats on long road trips. This latter is an uncommon feature — and it’s standard in the MKX.
AT THE CURB
Here’s the toughie.
Putting enough visual (and so, perceptual) separation between the Lincoln … and the, uh, Ford.
Lexus (and Cadillac) have no such worries because there isn’t a direct Toyota (or Chevy) analog) of the RX350 or the SRX. These models share many parts (such as their engines) with their lesser-badged corporate kin. The RX350’s V6, for example, is the same V6 (basically) that’s under the hood of Camrys. And the SRX’s engine is shared with Camaros and Impalas.
Lincoln’s got a tougher row to hoe. Because the MKX is an Edge.
A nicer Edge, to be sure.
It comes standard with more features and it offers things you can’t get in the Edge (e.g., the massaging seats and the 19-speaker Revel audio rig, etc).
But park the two side by side…
Not that there’s anything objectionable about the Ford’s looks. The problem is simply that the Lincoln’s looks may be too close to the Ford’s for buyers contemplating a premium-brand (and priced) purchase.
On the other hand, the MKS is objectively superior in several ways to the Lexus RX and the Caddy SRX. Neither of them are as roomy — especially in the second row. The Lincoln’s advantage here is not merely legroom (though it has a best-in-class 39.6 inches vs. 36.3 for the SRX and 38 for the RX350) but also because of the versatility of the three-across bench seats that seat three adults comfortably (vs. two realistically, plus a teenager or small kid riding the hump in the middle) and which also tilt backward as well as forward.
The MKX is a sleeper car — just the ticket for snoozing away the miles.
Or sleeping it off.
And it’s got more room behind the second row, too: 37.2 cubic feet vs. 18.4 in the Lexus and 29.8 in the Cadillac. With the second row down, the MKX’s cargo capacity opens up to 68.8 cubic feet — easily the most of the three.
Finally — and getting back to the Looks Thing — the new RX looks awfully busy. Lexus took a real risk with it by going gape-mouthed and bone-lined with it.
Especially since it’s slow — for the class and generally.
The previous RX was a great success in part because it was classy rather than flashy.
The Lincoln’s ahead on that count now. The MKX is — as the marketing guys tout it — “warm” and “tailored.”
Plus, it’s quicker. Which ought to embarrass Lexus.
An oddity about the 2016 MKX is that it comes with the same infotainment access system (MyLincolnTouch) as used in last year’s Edge (MyFordTouch). Everyone — just about — hates this system. The buttons are too small (three tiny icons at the bottom for Home, Settings and Info) and negotiating the various menus while the car’s moving while paying attention to where it’s moving isn’t easy.
Ford tacitly concedes the point — having updated the 2016 Edge to the new Sync3 system, which is much better. But why doesn’t the 2016 MKX get what the 2016 Edge gets?
Compliments: The MKX (like all Lincolns) comes standard with a unique keypad entry system (in addition to the usual fob) mounted on the driver’s door pillar. You can use this to unlock/access the car without the key fob — which is handy in the event you misplaced the fob or locked it inside the car.
The MKX still comes with a CD slot — in addition to the usual Bluetoothed ways of piping music into the car. CD players are going the way of ashtrays; they’re getting hard to find in new cars. But they’re nice to have if you still have CDs — or haven’t had the time yet to transfer all your CD audio to digital media.
The center console has large cupholders that are mounted in the ideal place (in the center) because the console-mounted gear selector has been moved to the center stack. As a result, there’s also room for an additional storage cubby — which also houses one of several USB ports.
Unfortunately, the 12V power point is awkwardly located underneath the console — or rather — in the middle of it. There are two “trays” — an upper and a lower — and they look airy and modern but it’s hard to see the power point (upper tray) and you have to plug in your accessory by feel.
These are relatively small gripes — excepting the MyLincolnTouch (which we can safely assume will be updated to Sync3 next year and maybe even sooner than that).
THE BOTTOM LINE
The big issue is whether the MKX is Lincoln enough … or too much Ford.
*** Photo courtesy of Caricos