Review: 2011 Lincoln MKS EcoBoost

The last time I reviewed a Lincoln product—an MKZ Hybrid—my disappointment in the car led to a relatively negative review. In fact, some folks thought I had it in for the brand. So I want to be clear here: In terms of the Big Three, I consider myself a Ford guy. While my father preferred traditional British sports cars from the likes of Lotus and Jensen-Healey while I was growing up, the family hauler was usually a Blue Oval product. We were carted around in a variety of big Fords, from a Country Squire wagon to a Galaxie 500 to a big ol’ LTD. Obviously, those cars aren’t Lincolns, but my point is I do consider that my childhood experiences left me with a rooting interest in Ford that remains today.

So I really wanted to like the EcoBoosted 2011 Lincoln MKS that FoMoCo provided me recently, along with a full tank of gas. And on paper—or even in pictures—the MKS has a fair amount going for it.

For one thing, unlike most recent Lincolns, including the current MKZ and MKX, the MKS isn’t likely to be confused with its Ford counterpart, in this case the Taurus. Leaving aside everything else for now, the lack of design differentiation between the Lincoln and Ford lineups has to be killing sales of the former—especially because you can’t leave aside everything else: As the Ford division continues to up its game with high-quality products that are loaded with premium content, there are fewer reasons left to choose a Lincoln beyond style. And with products like the MKZ and MKX looking so similar to the Fusion and Edge, even style differences have been minimized to a great extent.

But the MKS showcases a notably sleeker, less busy exterior than the Taurus, with a more graceful roofline and a more premium, almost BMW-ish treatment for the C pillar, where things get a bit (Hofmeister) kinky. In addition, while the design of the Taurus’ greenhouse gives the car an aggressive, forward-leaning stance, the MKS is sort of set back on its haunches with a coiled-up, ready-to-strike look. The back lighting units are nicely done as well, and I particularly like the way the top surface of the light case is exposed and on the same level as the top surface of the trunk and rear quarter panel. The MKS is still a bit bland from most angles, but it hides its Taurus underpinnings very well and would be quite nearly attractive if it weren’t for its current interpretation of the Lincoln “baleen whale” grille.

Although the results aren’t as bad as on the Lincoln MKT, this design cue in and of itself is likely to scare away customers. It completely overpowers the rest of the MKS’ subtle lines and creates a very challenging fit problem where the hood of the car meets the center piece between the split grille. The gap here looks huge and it’s right up front where you can’t help but notice it. I’ll also direct your attention to where the chrome roof trim meets the hood. Here, instead of some well-thought-out solution for integrating the two, it looks like designers simply gave up without even making an effort. This may seem like I’m picking nits, but remember, this is a $56,485 luxury car—I expect better, and I’m confident customers do as well.

Things were better in the MKS’ cabin, but not by enough. On the side, Lincoln added some much-needed visual interest in the car’s dashboard with a perforated metal trim piece that extends nearly the entire width of the dash. It made for a nice contrast with rivals that rely on wooden accents and trim, while avoiding the overuse of the “Piano Black” stuff that I consider just a fancy grade of plastic. The dual-pane moonroof and overall backseat comfort garnered kudos, too. On the other hand, front seat bottoms seemed shockingly short and narrow, and the car’s paddle shifters—although quite artistically designed—had a certain amount of play to them, as if they weren’t firmly attached to the steering column. And that’s just the start of the nit parade.

Look at the pictures again, specifically the ones showing the center stack. See that space just in front of the gearshift and below the climate controls, with a nice shiny “Lincoln” on it? In nearly every other vehicle I’ve driven, there would be a hidden storage bin behind it—not so in the MKS. And the leather-covered business that looks like center armrests? You might think those things lift up somehow for further storage, but again, they don’t; they do look nice, though. There’s the standard sort of large-ish bin beneath the armrests, but you don’t get the shallow tray storage that so many other automakers are able to incorporate separately on top of the bigger space.

A quick digression on the matter of space: The MKS also boasts a capacious trunk, but it’s too deep, with too high of a lift-over height, to get the most out of it.)

Of course, the biggest disappointment with the car’s interior has to do with Lincoln’s upgraded MyLincoln Touch enhancement to its standard SYNC system—or more correctly, the lack thereof in the MKS. Ford’s (and Lincoln’s) commitment to voice-activated technologies, whether you like it or not, has become a key part of the company’s metaphorical DNA. But the latest iteration is not even offered on the MKS yet, even though the Ford version is available on the Focus, which costs some $20,000 less than the Lincoln. That being said, I can discern improvements in SYNC with every new Ford product I get, and the Lincoln was no exception. Voice recognition was very good, and I found myself quickly falling into the habit of using the system whenever my hands were busy.

Making up to some extent for the lack of the MyLincoln Touch setup is the wealth of safety technology in the car, including adaptive cruise control, adaptive HID front lighting, a rearview camera, active park assist and very handy blind-spot mirrors. These mirrors made a huge difference in rear visibility, and would be a quick and easy—and welcome—addition to any vehicle. From a consumer standpoint, though, I imagine this commitment to safety doesn’t snag very many extra customers.

Then there’s the actual driving experience. I haven’t been on the road with the Taurus SHO, which is the closest Ford counterpart to the MKS EcoBoost, but that car has gotten a fair amount of plaudits for its performance. Thus, I was expecting the Lincoln would be be, if not fun, then at least engaging. Well, it wasn’t. The steering was noticeably light and disconnected, reminding me first and foremost of the feel of the Toyota Avalon. Now, there’s certainly something to be said for the package offered by the Avalon, but Lincoln shouldn’t be competing with Toyota.

The ride was okay, but nothing more, and it certainly wasn’t as refined as the Buick LaCrosse, or even the Chevrolet Malibu. Worse, even with 355 hp and 350 lb.-ft. of EcoBoost under its hood, the Lincoln felt distinctly “blah” under acceleration; I’ve seen reports of 0-60 times in the mid- to upper-5’s—no mean feat in a car that weighs in well north of 4,000 lbs.—but it felt about two seconds slower than that. Part of what’s going on here has to do with the car’s all-wheel-drive system and electronic driving nannies, all of which provide some amount of extra control but no amount of extra fun.

And not only did the engine seem to be lacking in “boost,” but it didn’t turn up much in the way of “eco,” either. The EPA rates the MKS as capable of 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway, yet I struggled to reach 15 mpg in combined city and highway driving, and I really wasn’t pushing the car very hard. Although it’s worth noting that when I did, the six-speed transmission didn’t sound too happy about the situation. I do have to admit that, since driving the MKS and garnering my own impressions, I went back to check reviews from a number of other sites, and they all reported much more satisfaction with the MKS’ performance. So perhaps my recent time in the much nimbler Suzuki Kizashi, which I drove just prior to the Lincoln, affected my judgement.

Overall, it’s not that the Lincoln MKS is a bad car, but being “not a bad car” isn’t enough for success in today’s luxe car segments—which probably helps explain why Lincoln sold only 828 of them in April, a number exceeded by the soon-to-be-discontinued Lincoln Town Car by over 100 units.

Author: Charles Krome

Charles Krome is a long-time automotive journalist who spent more than 10 years on the inside at General Motors and Ford, and also has corporate communications experience with Audi, Porsche and BASF Automotive Refinish. As a big motorsports fan growing up in the Detroit area, Krome was lucky enough to be able to attend numerous NASCAR, Indy car, F1 and SCCA events while still in his formative years. This, combined with a childhood that included significant (passenger) seat time in cars from Lotus and Jensen Healey, made him a car guy at an earlier age. Today, he lives in metro Detroit with his car wife, raising car kids.

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  1. Their you go again!!!!!

    Making sure we know the Lincoln is based on Taurus chasis! Was that really important??

    Just make sure the next time you do a test of a $67,000 base priced Toyota Lexus LS, that you mirror the camparsion to Toyota Camry and show all the likeness of the two!

    While the Lincoln is not perfect, it is just as perfect as the Camry based Lexus!!

  2. The Lexus LS is not related in any way to the Camry aside from coming from the same parent company.

  3. Thats what you want to think? Try looking closer like you did with the Lincoln, and also blend in the GS versions of the Lexus as well, and some of the Camry heritage will shine!

    Plus you go as far as looking at the styling of the grille,and other areas I wish you would have done a “side by side” comparsion “with pictures” to show the styling of the grilles, sides and rear of the Lexus GS and LS models verus the Lincolns! Also really digging deeping then park a Camry beside them and a Taurus beside the Lincoln and lets see which one looks more distintive!

    One thing for sure you park a Lexus GS besides a Camry and you will see more Camry than Lincoln has Taurus!!!!!!

  4. Alright, 6 counterpoints.

    1. The grill. The grill is what sold me on the car. I loved it from the very first time I saw it on the concept MKR. It was the dealbreaker for me. I HAD to have that grill. And everybody who sees it comments on how different and attractive it is. It screams LINCOLN! It says “Get out of my way or I’ll eat you up”. While at the same time maintaining all of the class that a Lincoln grill should portray. Bottom line: It’s the car’s shining moment.

    2. You drove one with the Ecoboost Appearence Package. Thus the aluminum strip across the dash. I prefer mine with the real olive ash wood package with the light camel interior.

    3. The front seats are extremely comfortable and supportive. I’m recently back from a 2500 mile round trip to South Florida and never once became fatigued in the seat. Very comfy and condusive to driving.

    4. You say the ride is okay? OKAY!!!??? The ride is classic LINCOLN. Smooth and quiet as a tomb. A pleasure to ride in. Solid. No rattles. Secure. Confident. And again smooth like a cloud. And oh so whisper quiet. Love it.

    5. Make no mistake, it’s fast. Torque to spare. 0 to 60 is definetley in the mid 5s. The power is instantly available with no lag as those two turbos spool up. Instant gratification.

    6. I got 24.9 MPG highway on my trip to Florida and other long trips I’ve taken with car. My everyday average is 18 combined. Sometimes closer to 19.

  5. Paul: I do appreciate your input, and it shows how subjective some of this stuff is.

    Take your counterpoint No. 4: I would say you’re exactly right that the MKS rides like a classic Lincoln, right down to the “smooth like a cloud” business. It’s just that I happen to prefer something that feels more connected to the road.

    And I think that also affected my take on the car’s acceleration. The trip from 0-60 is no doubt a short one, but it wasn’t very exciting.

    I’d even agree with you that an MKS is an excellent choice for a round-trip drive to Florida. But I remain firm in my belief that today’s luxe customers are looking for more than that.

    As regards the Taurus v. MKS stuff, my initial point, and I thought it was pretty clear, was that the Lincoln is a GOOD example of how platform sharing doesn’t have to mean you end up with two vehicles that are virtually indistinguishable from each other.

  6. Charles Krome

    I disagree with you asscessment that what todays luxury customers want is a better handling car instead of h luxury in which is what Lincoln and Cadiliac represent!

    These owners are not looking for Corvette handling in a Luxury Car!!!!

    They are usually older owners who have “out grown”all the thrills of trying to negotiate a turn on the highway at a high rate of speed!Their market is tilted toward style and smooth ride,h interior, low road noise etc!

    When a base Lincoln starts at $41,000 even though you can option it up higher for the money I think for its market it is a better value when you really look at big picture!

    I have been in many of the foreign luxury cars, even Mercedes and I for the life of me cannot see how they get all the positive press!Most have bland interiors cost in most cases 20% more and not to mention all the cost of ownership as far a maintence goes! Just log a Mercedes in a service dept verus the Lincoln and see all the cost involved after the sale!

  7. this will be a good car for the limo and blue hair crowd. Not many others will find it appealing.

  8. Reading your review made me want to share my opinion about the Lincoln MKS Ecoboost that I bought a month ago.

    First I want to say that journalist are talking highly of BMW and Mercedes and they are particulary nit pick on American cars and they are probably rights to some points.

    But for myself I own a 2009 BMW 335i xdrive and a 2011 Mercedes C300 4Matic they are very nice car and fun to drive.

    But to make my point simple, if I would have to choose to keep One car, the choice would the Lincoln without any second thought.

    I enjoy this car pretty much in all aspect (power, smooth, comfort and fun). Believe or not I am a car fan.

    The only thing else I have to say is Bravo Ford to have made a car like this and it is made in North America.

  9. I bought a 2011 MKS ecoboost and love it. I traded in my BMW 535i. Great feature and great ride with nice pick up.

  10. I don’t know what you are talking about with this MKS feeling two seconds slower and some of the “other” stuff you are talking about??!! Look, I’m a moterhead. I was the Art Director for NHRA back in ’74. I had a 1966 brand new 442 when I was 16. I owned a brand new 1969 XKE Jaguar convertible. My dad had a Ford Dealership in ’71…had a 1971 350 horsepower really tricked Pinto (4 banger!!). Had a 1974 Lincoln MKIV. Had a 1964 tricked out Corvair Spyder. Had a brand new 1988 ASC (475 horse) McClaren Mustang covertible. I just traded my 1989 Jaguar XJ6 (which I LOVED!) for a super deal 2011 Ford Demo (not a dealer demo and only 13,000 miles with an 8 year, bumper to bumper warranty) Lincoln MKS AWD EcoBoost and everything on it. BEST car I’ve ever owned and is incredibly wonderful to drive!!! COMPLETE “living room” comfort. I just blew off a new Camero REALLY bad! 0-60 in this rocket IS 5.1! No mean feat for a “boat”. Your article is VERY slanted. Just Google 6 VS 8 and be amazed.

  11. I totally agree with Sageseteve, I own a 2011 MK (red) S Ecoboost AWD with, not a chrome bar across the dash, but a carbon fiber bar across the dash. Apparently the writer doesn’t know the difference. My daughter and her husband both own Camaro SS’s, they can’t compete with my MKS. I live in a suburb of Detroit, 95% of my driving is surface streets, my average mileage is 17.6 and 25.4 on expressway.averaging a very comfortable 80mph. Also the BEST car I’ve ever owned. I can’t wait to get my 2013 MKS Ecoboost AWD.

  12. I currently own a 2010 MKS AWD Ecoboost which has the beautiful candy apple red metallic color…at least 2x/month I have someone approach me saying how they love the look/styling of my MKS…they then often will ask me about the cars dependability/reliability…the age of these people commenting to me ranges from 30-60 years old and is evenly mixed male/female & black/white.
    It is important for me to note…the MKS Ecoboost feels somewhat non-sporty & non-exciting to drive for the first 3-4 wks (I INDEED FELT THIS WAY)… it is sooooo smooth in its power delivery through torque mgmt, gearing, the seats/driving position, hp/tq curves and suspension that you think that the car is lacking…also the AWD system negates the body jolting back in the seat abruptly as with FWD/RWD cars during WOT/full acceleration…but watch the speedometer gauge & you will clearly see how fast the MPHs climb…lastly, the MKS would be perceived as faster & more exciting to drive if the engine & exhaust were 50% louder.
    After a month driving an MKS you begin to appreciate the car much more…loud gets old real quick…and even more so getting old (and annoying) is a Non-turbo car jumping back & forth constantly between 4th/5th/6th gears while climbing a grade for 3-5 miles due to it having relatively no power at 1500-1800 rpms. The MKS Ecoboost has no O/D (overdrive) button for a reason… you don’t need it…it will climb most grades in 6th gear (top gear) avoiding the back & further crap between gears.
    It is all-around the best car I have ever driven (priced under $60,000)…I did valet parking back in Grad School (less than 10 years ago)…so I have driven many nice cars…and currently I have many friends with many nice cars for comparison.

    Don’t forget the Lincoln MKS ECOBOOST ran the MT figure 8 in 26.1 seconds…that is pretty fast. But please do check for yourself as Motor Trend did a comparison of 8 different cars being model years 2009-2010 “Executive Privileges: Luxury Sport Sedan Comparison”…the 2010 MKS Ecoboost was not invited because it would have taken 1st place by out performing all of the other 8 cars (honestly 2nd place at worst – those biased judges).

    My MKS Ecoboost is now 5 years old…still looks perfect…still runs perfect…still is perfect!!!

    Lastly, if you invest ~$750 for a Tune/Chip (running 93 octane), Lowering Springs, 3Bar MAP Sensor + Colder Plugs Gapped @ .30 you will get the MKS Ecoboost to ~430-440 HP/~450-460 TQ (flywheel HP/TQ equiv. by calculations) = A SERIOUS BEAST OF A LUXURY PERFORMANCE SEDAN capable of 0-60 mph in ~ 4.1-4.4 sec, will run the 1/4 mile in 12.6-13.0 sec and will power its turbos into/through turns cornering on rails…Especially with my BF Goodrich g-Force Sport COMP-2 tires (WOW, they grip like glue). TRUST ME THE $750 was well worth it…I HAVE BEAT MANY “FAST CARS” ON THE TRACK DRAG RACING ON TEST & TUNE NIGHTS…THIS IS THE ULTIMATE “SLEEPER CAR” WITH MANY VICTIMS.

    Don’t be fooled by the foolish,
    Jay F.

  13. I have a 2011 MKS Ecoboost that I purchased used. The only thing I agree with in the article is the lack of a center bin in front of the gearshift lever. IMO, styling, handling, and performance is great. No turbo lag. My combined mileage is 22 mpg (mostly around town). Great headroom in front and back (I’m 6’4″). The black paint on the ecoboost emblem on the trunk has pealed off (ford doesn’t seem to make good emblems) and replacement would cost $27 (ouch). Sync works fine. Love the way navigation provides advance notice of turns. I wish font size on clock was adjustable though.

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