Review: 2011 Lincoln MKX AWD

By Kevin Miller

I don’t watch much TV, but I read plenty plenty of automotive websites and I travel a lot. Both on those automotive sites and in national news publications such as USAToday, the Lincoln MKX is being heavily advertised. Ford is doing a great job in getting the word out about the MKX and its class-leading MyLincoln Touch system.

After spending a week in a 2011 Lincoln MKX, I came away conflicted. It has some great features, is more fun to drive than many competing five-passenger crossover vehicles, and for the most part is nicely finished.

The MyLincoln touch system (shared with the Ford Edge where it is called the MyFord Touch) is both the coolest feature of the MKX as well as its biggest disappointment. The system features a large touchscreen controller on the center and is the single, integrated tool for controlling almost everything in the MKX. Climate control, seat heating/cooling, telephone, and entertainment is all controlled through the system, with few redundant buttons located elsewhere. Capacitive touch actuators flank the screen on the center stack.

The system features a crisp display and amazing functionality, whether using the touchscreen, steering wheel controls, or voice commands. And while my iPhone doesn’t support the onscreen messaging of the SYNC/MyFord Touch system, it is a supported feature on many mobile phones.  Also, I was impressed that the system automatically adjusted the vehicle clock to the correct time over the weekend when Daylight Saving Time ended. The system also features SYNC Travel Link, which can provide weather forecast on demand. Just pressing the voice-command button and saying “weather” provided local current and 5-day forecast. That’s the kind of technology integration that I love.

Unfortunately, the operation of the system left me wanting more. I found the responsiveness of control on the touchscreen and capacitive-touch actuators to be too slow. I would press a “button” on the touchscreen and it wouldn’t “do anything”, so I touched it again, only to have it then register both button touches, meaning that I had turned the heated steering wheel on and then off again, or scrolled past my desired radio station. The lack of tactile feedback (combined with the operation lag time) makes these controls a bit difficult to use as designed. The lethargic response to control inputs was the only letdown in an otherwise very nicely-implemented system.

I did experience a handful of hiccups with the MyLincoln Touch system in my pre-production MKX. Among those were occasional radio preset soft-keys on the touchscreen whose programmed station names failed to show up, the occasional failure to recognize my connected iPod, and a Navigation System SD Card Fault. Each of these situations eventually remedied themselves on their own, although the navigation fault caused both guidance and iPod functionality to cease, at one point making me rely on my iPhone’s map to find my way to my destination in an unfamiliar part of town.

Beyond the MyLincoln Touch system, my conflict continues. There is a difference between luxury vehicles, and vehicles with luxurious features. The former posses a solidity of structure and an integration of features that can be difficult to articulate, at least in written words. The latter is merely an ordinary vehicle, tarted up with leather, chrome, and a higher price tag. While it pains me to say it, the Lincoln MKX is very close to the second category.

The dash and door tops are nice-looking grained soft plastic which from a distance looks like leather, with French-stitching details around its edges. Below the centerline of the dash and doors, hard, hollow-sounding plastic is used. Also detracting from the feeling of luxury are low-rent-looking parts-bin power window switches and a visible seat-adjustment motor and wiring loom below the driver’s seat (plainly visible from the driver’s seat when I looked straight down). The electric liftgate relies on a tacked-on-looking third strut to lift the rear hatch, which the competing XC60 and GLK350 don’t need to use.

Of course, there are plenty of features that do put the MKX clearly into luxury territory. The steering wheel is power-adjustable for rake and reach, moves out of the way when the vehicle is turned off, and is heated (a feature my always-cold fingers truly appreciate). The attractive, leather-upholstered seats are also heated front and rear, with ventilation up front. The MKX also has a large panoramic sunroof with power-retractable sunshades. Befitting a luxury vehicle, the key fob stays in your pocket for door locking, unlocking, and vehicle starting.

Inside, I really like the textured/patterned aluminum trim on the dash and doors, though the platinum-painted plastic switch bezels aren’t a good color match and look out of place situated next to the real aluminum.The steering wheel has a 4-way control with center “enter” button on each side spoke; these controls are used for operating the menus on their respective sides of the instrument cluster. The left side cluster can display trip computer, fuel economy, and vehicle setting information, whereas the right-side control and display toggles through the four functions also available on the MyLincoln Touch screen. These screens flank a large, white-illuminated speedometer.

The interior of the MKX is spacious, with plenty of storage. The glove box is huge, as are the front and rear door pockets, each of which has a built in water bottle holder. There is a very deep, large storage compartment between the front seats, and another at the bottom of the center stack where an iPod or other media device can be connected to 12 v power or USB input. The back seat has a comfortably-high seatbottom cushion, and enough legroom for my 6’4” frame to sit without knees brushing the seatback in front of me, and my two-year-old in her carseat was unable to kick the back of my seat. The cargo area is also large, usefully moreso than the Volvo XC60 and Mercedes-Benz GLK350 with which it competes by virtue of having a larger footprint in the cargo area and an upright D-pillar profile.

The MKX I tested was equipped with Ford’s color-changeable interior ambient lighting, which my daughter often requested me to alter. Additionally, interior illumination when the doors are opened is provided by white LEDs. While the LED produces a nice white light, not enough interior illumination is provided to sufficiently illuminate the interior at night, especially in the back seat and the cargo area.

The Lincoln’s 3.7 liter, 305 HP V6 provides plenty of thrust, and as revs build so does forward momentum. I was impressed by the linear power delivery and the amount of power available at any speed. It is mated to the vehicle’s “intelligent AWD” system through a six-speed automatic transmission that delivers, quick, smooth shifts, whether they are manually or automatically commanded. The suspension lets you know what is going on, though doesn’t allow harshness to be transmitted into the cabin. It is not as communicative as the Volvo XC60, but at the same time I liked it.

As in most crossovers, visibility for reversing isn’t great (though forward and lateral visibility was otherwise fine, and was aided by a blind-spot sensing system). The MKX I tested was equipped with a rear view camera that displays on the dash-mounted touchscreen display (with fixed reversing grid guidelines) and an ultrasonic parking sensor, which also provides “cross-traffic alert” to warn if a vehicle is approaching as you reverse out of a parking spot. I found that system to be a useful tool, even if it did warn of an approaching vehicle which was only a woman pushing a shopping cart.

Lincoln’s current exterior styling trend with “winged” front grill drew mixed opinions from onlookers. I personally find the look distinctive, though the crease down the front of the MKX was quite scuffed at the front bumper by previous journalists’ parking misadventures; this would be quite noticeable on a lighter-colored car.

Luxury CUVs with which the MKX competes include the Audi Q5, Volvo XC60, Cadillac SRX, Lexus RX, and Mercedes-Benz GLK350. Among this competitive set, the XC60 is one of my favorites, but the MKX is a great alternative. Both are attractive and nicely equipped, though they are stylistically very different from one another, both inside and out. Where the XC60 carries a very Swedish style, the Lincoln is very much “American Lux.”

Because of a serious error with the MyLincoln touch system, my review time with the MKX was split over parts of two weeks, with repair time between, so I have two partial fuel economy ratings to report. The first half of my test covered about 200 miles with a fuel economy on the trip computer of 16.9 MPG; with an even split between city and highway driving. My second stint with the MKX saw me covering 175 miles with a return of 15.8 MPG, with most of the driving on city streets. Advertisements for the MKX claim that it returns best-in-class fuel economy; the window sticker shows a 17/23 MPG (19 combined) rating on regular unleaded fuel.

The 2011 Lincoln MKX AWD starts at $40,995, and was $49,345 as tested. That as tested price includes $850 destination fee, Premium Package (18” polished aluminum wheels, adaptive HID headlamps, ambient interior lighting, illuminated front scuff plates, premium leather seats with tuxedo stripe and piping, heated second-row outboard seating surfaces, rear view camera, rain sensing wipers, heated steering wheel, and power tilt/telescope steering column with memory) and Elite Package (Voice-activated navigation system  with single CD/MP3 player, SD card for map and POI storage and integrated SIRIUS Travel Link, BLIS (Blind Spot Information System) with cross-traffic alert, THX II Certified Audio system with HD Radio, Panoramic Vista Roof with dual power sunshades, and 20” chrome-clad wheels.

While a few of the details, such as the non-responsiveness of MyLincoln Touch, so-so fuel economy, and non-premium interior materials, detract from its upscale veneer, the updates given to the 2011 Lincoln MKX keep this competitive vehicle fresh and relevant entrant in the mid-price luxury crossover segment.  In a field crowded with five-passenger luxury crossovers, the MKX’s distinctive looks, sophisticated control interface, satisfying performing powertrain, and adequate passenger space, make it a worthy contender.

Author: Kevin Miller

As Autosavant’s resident Swedophile, Kevin has an acute affinity for Saabs, with a mild case of Volvo-itis as well. Aside from covering most Saab-related news for Autosavant, Kevin also reviews cars and covers industry news. His “Great Drive” series, with maps and directions included, is a reader favorite.

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1 Comment

  1. The MKX is, finally, an American alternative to the foreign competition, which, in many cases, try to ride their boutique names alone to sales success. My only quibble is with the name: I tire of the automotive industry’s fascination with alphabet soup names that leave the potential buyer cold.

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