Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2016 Lincoln MKX

AutoTrader SCORE
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car

Eastern Townships, Quebec - So what is a Lincoln, anyway? For a brand whose name dates back to 1917, you’d think that would be an easy question to answer. But after so many years, the identity of a brand can change to the point that what it represents becomes either obscure or inaccurate.

Using the resources of a dedicated Lincoln design studio, MKX shares the same appealing lines and surfaces as the MKC.

That’s where Ford may now be with Lincoln, its luxury division. But this also offers an opportunity for revitalization, which for Lincoln began last year with the introduction of the MKC compact crossover.

Following the MKC, the MKX is Lincoln’s mid-size, all-wheel drive two-row crossover that’s built on the same global platform that underpins the Ford Edge (Edge and MKX, by the way, are built in Oakville, Ontario).

All-new for 2016, the Lincoln MKX is lower and longer than the outgoing model, and now arrives with an expanded array of standard and optional features. An integral-link rear suspension, along with upgrades to body structure and chassis components improve handling, ride and interior comfort in comparison to the outgoing model, according to Lincoln. Using the resources of a dedicated Lincoln design studio, MKX shares the same appealing lines and surfaces as the MKC: understated yet eye-catching, its distinctive split-wing grille yet further refined.

A choice of two engines is now offered, with a starting price of $45,890 for the 3.7L V6 that makes 303 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 268 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm, and $53,940 for the 2.7L twin-turbocharged V6 “Ecoboost” engine that makes 335 hp at 5,500 rpm and 380 lb-ft of torque at 3,000 rpm.

Both engines require regular grade fuel, are mated to the same six-speed automatic transmission and are predicted to return 14.4/10.3 L/100km city/highway and 14.1/9.7 L/100km city/highway respectively. Our test cars were equipped with the Ecoboost engine and all the options, pushing the price into the $65,000 range.

Dressed in a particularly rich palette of colours (although our Ruby Red example added $700 to the price), MKX includes some very desirable features hitherto found almost exclusively on top-level German competitors. Adaptive LED lighting, for instance, adjusts the spread of the headlight beams as speed increases. The 22-way power adjustable front seats feature available massage functions for both driver and passenger (the intensity and location of the massage can be micro-managed via controls on the central display).

The competition: 2016 Audi Q7, 2015 BMW X5, 2016 Lexus RX, 2015 Mercedes-Benz GL

Pre-collision Assist and Brake Assist allow the MKX to automatically respond to obstacles in its path, bringing it to a full stop in emergency situations if required. A 360-degree display aids with parking and maneuvering in tight conditions and lane departure warning and assist help keep you between the lines on the highway. New this year is an Auto Hold feature that obviates the need to continually press the brake in stop-and-go traffic.

Active noise cancellation contributes to a quiet cabin in which the full range of the high-end Revel Audio system can be appreciated, and, of course, this vehicle parks itself should you wish to avoid parallel parking chores. Twelve sensors enable the full range of Park Assist features including front-sensing, rear-sensing, side-sensing, perpendicular, parallel and park-out assist. We tried it; it works a treat.

Approaching the MKX, a “welcome mat” illuminates by the door and interior lights glow sequentially on and off upon entry. Behind the wheel, the driver encounters an impressively designed dashboard and centre stack, the latter sloping gently into the console. Fitted with the latest Sync system, the controls are logically organized and easy to master. And like with many vehicles especially in the luxury segment, there’s a lot that the driver can do besides driving. The audio system is finely tunable, as are the heated and cooled front seats; the climate control, navigation system and vehicle settings all feature multiple menus most of which should be adjusted before pressing the start button.

Built in connectivity is provided via an available modem that enables owners to start, lock, unlock and locate the vehicle, as well as schedule a remote start using the MyLincoln smartphone app.

Visibility all-round is good, and controls fall easily to hand. The gearshift is a vertical stack of buttons to the left of the large touchscreen display, with the start button at the bottom. It’s a bit gimmicky, I think, but it works well enough. The button for the four-way flasher is poorly located at the bottom of an equivalent stack row of buttons on the other side of the display. It should be top centre and better identified.

The centre armrest contains sufficient space for carryables and a smaller compartment in front is useful for sundry items. An array of red and blue-lit buttons for climate are cheerful if a bit busy. The seats are wide and well bolstered and space in all dimensions is more than adequate for even generously proportioned people.

Rear seat passengers are greeted by doors with a wide opening angle permitting superior ease of entry and exit. There’s lots of room back there, with heated seats available. This is three-passenger seating that can accommodate three adults.

No third row seating in the MKX, just to be clear. But cargo capacity is above 900L behind the rear seat so there’s lots of room for luggage. The standard power liftgate is appreciated, and is conveniently height adjustable

Once underway, the driver will find that what appears to be a large vehicle shrinks down to compact size. It drives small, in other words, is light on its feet, responsive to throttle and steering and stops smartly when asked.

Speaking of steering, the MKX can arrive with adaptive steering that changes the ratio depending on speed. This doesn’t only mean it gets lighter and heavier (many vehicles have this feature), but it is also is quicker in confined areas; very helpful when wheeling into a parking sport, for instance, as it requires less turning of the steering wheel.

Acceleration is nothing if not robust. With so much torque available a low engine speeds, the MKX will easily press you into your seat despite its 2,021-kilogram (4,447 pound) weight. There is a towing package, by the way, including a Class 2 hitch that enables the MKX to haul trailers weighing up to 3,500 lb.

The ride is stable and quiet, with no abrupt responses from the suspension on uneven pavement, and undetectable body roll in corners at posted speeds. The massaging seats are amazing. They really massage and are adjustable to the smallest degree. In fact, they’re so adjustable that you’ll need to make sure you keep your eyes on the road and not on the touchscreen display when adjusting: a bit more to the left thigh, a bit less to the right shoulder – ah!

So what is a Lincoln? It’s a luxury option for people who want a particular kind of vehicle with must-have features but who aren’t wedded to a specific brand. Lincoln says it’s for “adventurers,” in the sense that it’s for people who by nature choose the less popular, more unexpected option. I get that: you try it, you like it, you buy it, without necessarily having your decisions moderated by what others may think you should do.

What would I like to see? A head-up display instead of the small display between the major gauges; better positioning of some controls (emergency flasher, trip odometer); a version of Honda’s LaneWatch; less gimmicky features (sequential lighting, maybe Auto Hold, push button gearshift, welcome mat). And, dare I say it, the MKX offers the driver so much to do other than driving that one thinks the autonomous vehicle can’t come soon enough.

However, I do think that whatever Lincoln was, it’s now a genuine contender for men and women looking for some originality in this segment. It’s got the quality; it’s got the design; it’s got the performance and the clever technology. It’s the provocative choice, perhaps.

4 years/80,000 km; 6 years/110,000 km powertrain; 5 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 6 years/110,000 km roadside assistance

Acura MDX
Audi Q7
Ford Edge
Infiniti QX60
Lexus RX 350
Mercedes-Benz GL 350 (GLS 350)

Model Tested 2016 Lincoln MKX 2.7 EcoBoost
Base Price $53,940
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,900
Price as Tested $66,715
Optional Equipment