Just minutes after Cadillac threw down the gauntlet, challenging BMW and Mercedes Benz for SuperSedan supremacy, a solo cellist began playing the hauntingly beautiful prelude to Bach’s Cello Suite No.1 in G on the stand of the Lincoln Motor Company. The soothing tones were a sharp contrast to the pulsating rock music that blared before every other car manufacturer took the wraps off their latest creations in an attempt to manufacture excitement.
You have to give Lincoln credit, they are different. While Lexus, Cadillac, Mercedes, BMW and others stuff more and more horsepower into their top-of-the-line sedans, Lincoln was busy creating the MKX, a handsome, quiet and supremely comfortable mid-size luxury crossover with a list of features that will surprise and delight those looking for something other than horsepower.
Let’s get the performance side of the equation out of the way. There is no eye-popping, fire-breathing, over-massaged V8 producing 500+ horsepower under the hood. What you’ll find is a standard 3.7 liter V6 that makes a thoroughly adequate 300 hp and 280 lb.-ft. of torque. For those who want more than adequate, Ford has created an all new 2.7 Liter twin-turbocharged Ecoboost engine that will offer both more horsepower and improved fuel efficiency over the base engine. Whichever engine you choose, the only transmission option is the silky smooth six-speed automatic with push-button shift and SelectShift®. Front-wheel drive is standard, while all-wheel drive is, of course, optional. The MKX is afterall, a crossover.
The MKX also features a fully independent suspension with available Lincoln Drive Control, a suite of ride-enhancing technologies, that alters suspension performance based on your selected drive mode: Normal, Sport and Comfort.
Based on its specifications and the performance characteristics of the MKX’s little brother, the MKC, I don’t expect the MKX to be a car that makes your pulse quicken as you apply pressure to the accelerator. That’s not Lincoln’s mission in life. In fact, Lincoln’s design director, David Woodhouse told me that his goal was to, “Create a luxury car that generates its distinction around warmth, calm and tranquility.” That’s where the MKX really shines.
Everything about this car seems to be designed to lift the burden of driving from the driver without removing him or her from the process. The MKX is the first Lincoln to offer 360-degree camera views and active park assist to help drivers with both parallel and perpendicular parking situations as well as other maneuvers in tight spaces.
Another clever feature that will make a big difference to urban drivers who often find themselves stuck in traffic is their Auto Hold system. Instead of having to continuously hold the brake pedal, you just set Auto Hold and the car will remain stationary without holding your foot on the brake pedal until you get back on the accelerator.
All these performance and technology features are wrapped in handsome sheetmetal that is substantially better looking than the MKX it replaces. The signature split-wing grille is well proportioned with long horizontal elements adding the the car’s width. At either end of the grille you’ll find available all LED headlamps that improve visibility when accelerating from 0 to 35 mph by adding width to the low-beam pattern through the use of additional LED reflector elements.
To say the MKX is a welcoming vehicle is an understatement. When the driver gets to within about nine feet of the car, the lower LED daytime running lights gently brighten, while “welcome mat” is projected on the ground from the folded mirrors. Door handles are illuminated, too, tuned to the exterior color.
Where the MKX really shines, however, is on the inside. Once inside the MKX, it’s all about warmth, tranquility, comfort and convenience. Again, it’s the little things that make a big difference. At night, an interior lights come on softly and sequentially when you open the doors. It begins at the footwell, then illuminates the cupholders, pass-through, instrument panel, front door handles, front map pockets and rear doors allowing the driver and passengers plenty of time to get settled before the light gently fades so you can begin your journey.
The MKX employs the dual bridge center console that debuted in the MKZ, creating a cocoon like space for the driver and passenger, while offering more (and more easily accessible) storage for things you want within reach.
The MKX offers all new 22-way adjustable front seats with a massage function to help reduce muscle fatigue in the upper legs and lower back on long drives through six adjustable air bladders in the cushion and five adjustable air bladders in the lower seat back. Further adjustments can be made through the four-way power head restraint and the power thigh extender. Another nice touch is that when you open the driver and passenger doors, the outer thigh bolster deflates to make getting into the seat easier. The cushion automatically reinflates after entry to the previous setting.
When it comes to the overall experience, sound is critical in a luxury car. Not just the absence of road and wind noise, which Lincoln promises will be best in class, but also the sound that comes out of the car’s audio system. To that end Lincoln has partnered with the luxury audio experts at Revel to ensure the MKX offered home-theater quality audio to its occupants. The Revel Ultima system is standard on Lincoln Black Label editions and available on Reserve models. It features 19 speakers with point source architecture, positioning the tweeter and midrange speakers close together for superior audio quality. Further performance and refinement is provided by QuantumLogic® Surround Sound technology, which offers three listening modes – stereo, audience and on stage. Clari-Fi™ technology offers advanced, real-time music reconstruction for all compressed audio sources. And a 20-channel high-voltage hybrid amplifier delivers class-leading dynamics and optimized transparency. I was offered the opportunity to listen to the Revel Ultima system in an MKX a month ago and it delivers as promised – at least in a static application. I’m sure it will still perform brilliantly when the car is in motion, but I’ll withhold final judgment until I actually get to drive the car later this summer.
MKX will serve as a platform for two new Lincoln Black Label designer themes – One is inspired by the fashion, lifestyle and art scene of 1920s Paris, while the excitement, passion and pageantry of high-stakes thoroughbred horse racing create the vision for the second new theme. Existing themes, Modern Heritage and Indulgence also will be available on the new Lincoln MKX.
Lincoln is going after a very different kind of luxury from other competitors. One that focuses on helping you forget about the pressures and stresses of the outside world. Given that, the MKX should deliver on that promise in spades. The proof, of course, will be in the driving, and I’ve been promised a turn behind the wheel when the cars become available in late spring or early summer.