A Condensed Review of the 2014 Lincoln MKX
IN A NUTSHELL: Driving on the "Edge" of luxury....an upmarket/upscale Ford Edge.
CLOSEST AMERICAN-MARKET COMPETITORS: Cadillac SRX, Lexus RX350, Audi Q3, BMW X3, Volvo XC60, Acura MDX (RDX?), Land Rover Evoque, Land Rover LR2, Infiniti QX60, Mercedes GLK. (Lincoln's own upcoming MKC may also steal some MKC sales, and the Infiniti QX60 also probably competes with the Lincoln MKT).
I recently made the rounds at the local Washington, D.C. Auto Show, as I do every year (three or four days' worth), and got a chance to see Lincoln's new upcoming compact MKC SUV on display there, up on a turntable. IMO, it was stunning, with a superb Amythist dark-purple paint job (Tahitian Pearl), and appeared to be better-designed inside and out than other recent Lincolns, though I admittedly had only a limited view of (or contact with) from it being on the turntable. Both the Ford and Lincoln displays, at the show, were signing up interested people for Ford/Lincoln test-drives at dealerships to receive a $50 pre-paid Visa credit card (just like they did last year), so, of course, I signed up for one. I wanted to see and review the new MKC and the also-stunning, all-new 2015 Ford Mustang. But, unfortunately, neither one of those two vehicles will be released to dealerships here on the East Coast before late spring or early summer at the earliest, and the deadline for the credit-card offer, just like it was last year, is March 30. So...obviously, I had to use it on another Ford/Lincoln product...but which one? The introduction of the all-new, aluminum-paneled 2015 Ford F-150 full-size pick-up (which is also interesting and maybe worth a review) may not be in time for the deadline, either. So, as I had not (yet) done a formal review on a Lincoln MKX (which is the current-production, slightly bigger-brother to the new MKC) I chose it for the test-drive offer....and, of course, at least a condensed-review along with it. There doesn't seem to be a whole lot of CL interest in the MKX, so I'm not doing a full-length review on it.
Over the years, Lincoln has not been noted as a major or significant producer of SUVs, although the original first-generation full-size, truck-based Navigator of the late 1990s was popular with professional athletes, entertainers, and rap-musicians. Like the rival Cadillac Escalade (which was also popular with more or less the same buyers), both vehicles were luxury, redone versions of less-expensive Ford/Chevy/GMC full-size SUVS derived from truck platforms. Indeed, when I test-drove a first-generation Navigator locally back then, the salesman who got me the keys said he had personally sold Navigators to members of the Washington Redskins football team and the Washington Wizards basketball team (I won't reveal the player-names). Whether he was feeding me a line of B.S. to try and get a sale or telling the truth is hard to say......but, IMO, he was likely telling the truth. Today, though, the Navigator doesn't sell in anywhere near the numbers it once did, and, even though Lincoln, with the upcoming MKC, will have four SUVs ranging from compact to full-size, ity still is not known as a major manufacturer of that type of vehicle. I DO think the upcoming MKC will sell, though...but that is a different issue, and not one for this review.
Anyhow, back to the MDX....I don't want to drift too far off-topic. Lincoln introduced the original MKX in December 2006 as a 2007 model, at least partly in response to the brisk sales that the Lexus RX was enjoying. Lincoln didn't have to invest very much time or effort into the original MKX, as it was pretty much a cloned version of Ford's less-expensive Edge SUV. The Lincoln designers basically just took an top-level Ford Edge Limited SUV, gave it a signature buck-tooth smiling Lincoln grille, added some sound insulation underhood and inside the cabin, used some nicer woodtone interior trim, gave it some more standard and optional equipment, and, Presto.......a new mid-sized luxury (?) SUV.
Well, though the MDX didn't exactly flop in the marketplace, it certainly was not what one would call a hot-seller, and never proved to be any real threat to either the hot-selling Lexus RX or to its own rival first-generation Cadillac SRX. Almost anyone could tell that it was a quick, low-cost way of disguising an Edge as a more upscale product (the basic platform was also shared by the Mazda CX-9, but the CX-9 had a markedly different body and interior). But it wasn't really ignored, either.......annual sales, for a number of years, averaged between 20 and 30 thousand. A facelift for 2011, along with an engine upgrade from 3.5 to 3.7L, did little for sales, which pretty much continued at the same rate.
For 2014, the MKX is essentially a carryover of the 2013 model, with few significant changes. Only one trim line is offered, with a choice of FWD ($38,575) or AWD ($40,525). One engine is offered...a 3.7L V6 with 305 HP and 280 Ft-lbs. of torque. One transmission is offered.....a Sport-Shift 6-speed automatic with paddle-shifters on the steering column. Lincoln apparently feels that there is little market for a hybrid MKZ, as one was never offered like with its brother MKZ.
For the review, I chose a silver AWD MKX with a light gray interior and the optional wood-trim package (the package, IMO, is probably worth the money). MKXs, though not ignored, don't sell very briskly, and, even at this huge Ford/Lincoln shop (one of the largest on the East Coast), they only had a few of them in stock.
MODEL REVIEWED: 2014 Lincoln MKX AWD
BASE PRICE: $41,525
(Strangely, the Lincoln web site shows $40,525 as the base price for the AWD, but the sticker on this vehicle showed $1000 more. The difference is not explained by the $895 freight-charge. There must have been a recent $1000 price increase, or the expiration of a rebate, not yet updated on the site).
Wood-Tone Package: $495
LIST PRICE AS REVIEWED: $42,915
DRIVETRAIN: AWD, Transversely-mounted 3.7L V6, 305 HP @ 6500 RPM, Torque 280 Ft-lbs. @ 4000 RPM, 6-speed Sportshift automatic transmission.
EPA MILEAGE RATING:
18 City/ 26 Hwy/ 21 Combined (FWD)
17 City/ 23 Hwy/ 19 Combined (AWD)
EXTERIOR COLOR: Ingot Silver Metallic
INTERIOR: Light Stone Leather Buckets
Fairly good power from the 3.7L V6.
Good underhood layout for a V6 luxury vehicle.
Decent ride comfort on base-level wheels/tires.
Generally good visibility out the sides and rear.
Nicely done paint job.
Fairly comfortable lower front seat cushions.
Nice-feeling seat-leather grade even on the base model.
Nice color-graphics on the Ford MYTOUCH system...but complex to operate.
Very plush carpeting in the cargo area.
Standard power hatch-liftgate even on the base model.
Nice interior wood-trim option.
Good headroom in front and adequate in rear for tall people.
Generous 6 year/70,000 mile Roadside Assistance Program.
Ho-Hum handling/steering response typical of mid-sized SUVs.
Somewhat jumpy throttle from rest.
Road/wind noise level OK, but, for this class, could be better.
Poorly located brake pedal for large feet/shoes.
Complex Ford MYTOUCH system.
Finger-slide volume/fan controls take some getting used to.
Slippery upper front seat cushion.
Stereo sound quality OK but not outstanding for this class.
Rear legroom a little short for tall people.
No body side moldings for parking lot protection.
Underhood manual prop-rod instead of struts (On a LINCOLN)?
Temporary spare tire.
Overly-dull paint colors (IMO) except for for red and Sunset burnt-orange.
Overall, not really a whole lot different from its cheaper Ford Edge twin.
Lincoln dealer network much sparser than Ford.
There are no surprises at all to the MKX's exterior. As I mentioned in the opening section above, it is pretty much a Ford Edge with a little more chrome and the typical Lincoln buck-tooth grille, which, IMO, looks like a grinning teen-ager showing off a new set of braces (the new, smaller, upcoming Lincoln MKC eschews this look for a new horizontal-bar grille). The sheet metal seems of decent solidness, though the hood had a somewhat tinny sound as it shut. The rather conservative body/roof design and C/D pillars allows relatively good visibility out the back and sides. The paint jobs are relatively well-done, though I find most of the available colors a little dull, with the red and Sunset (Burnt) Orange two nice exceptions. As is usual nowadays, there are no body side moldings for parking lot protection...and the chrome/body-color moldings on the lower-body are much too low to serve that purpose.
Opening the hood is a less-than-pleasant experience. The secondary hood-catch lever is in an awkward place, much further to the left than is usual, and takes some time to find it by feel until you are used to it. Then, on a 42K Lincoln (talk about cost-cutting), you must fumble with a manual hood prop-rod....taken, of course, right off the less-expensive Ford Edge. Underneath, though, is a proper insulation-pad, and the general underhood layout is quite good by the usual luxury-car standards. The transversely-mounted 3.7L V6 fits in fairly tightly, and the usual plastic cover blocks much of the top-engine access, but there is at least some room to reach components down on the sides of the block. The battery, to the rear right, is (thankfully) totally uncovered, with both terminals readily accessable, and all of the dipsticks, filler-caps, and fluid reservoirs are easy to see and access.
The MDX's interior is somewhat more different from that of the Edge than the exterior, and, to an extent, reflects its generally higher price. The gauge-panel is the generic (and colorful) design seen on some other mid-sized Fords and Lincolns. The steering wheel's entire outer edge is wood-toned (with the inner-rim being softer material), but I didn't find the wheel particularly comfortable-feeling. The interior hardware was a decent-grade...about that of the Edge. The seat-leather, even on the base-leather model (there are upmarket-leather options), had a nice feel, and the lower-front cushions were generally comfortable, but the upper-front cushions let your torso slide around on them a bit. The sun-visors and headliner are fabric-covered, but the fabric didn't have the plush feel on some vehicles in this class. The stereo sound quality was OK, but not what I've usually experienced in this class. Headroom was OK in front for tall persons, and generally OK in the rear. Legroom in back was OK except for tall people. The rear seats, in general, were more comfortable than in several Ford SUVs. The MKX version of the Ford MYTOUCH video-display does have sharp, nicely-done graphics/colors, but is rather complex and confusing to get used to.....it has, of course, been the subject of numerous customer complaints. The lower-dash/upper console, like on the Lincoln MKZ, has the electronic slide-bar strips for radio volume and climate fan-speed.....opinions differ on them, but I'm generally not a fan of that type of design (Cadillac is also using them in its latest models). Probably the nicest feature inside, IMO, was the optional ($495) wood-trim package which replaces the standard fiber-pattern metallic trim-inserts. There's nothing wrong, of course, with the metallic trim, but, IMO, the wood package is nicely-done, nicely-applied, and worth the money. Go for it....especially since you're already spending 40K+ for this car.
The liftgate is power-operated, even on the base MKX without options, although it lacks the unique and clever feature on the smaller Ford Escape which lifts the gate, when your arms are full of packages, simply by sticking one of your feet under the rear bumper. The (generally) conservative roof/rear-body design allows a good amount of cargo room and the ability to carry fairly tall items, though there is still some rake to the roofline. Inside, there is only cheap plastic on the side walls of the cargo area, but some VERY nice, plush-feeling carpet on the trunk floor (the bean-counters sure didn't strike there). The split-rear seat power-folds down for added space, but you must manually pull it back up again. Underneath the floor is a temporary spare tire instead of a real one....the Ford/Lincoln people there said that future versions will probably come with just a Fix-a-Flat bottle of compressed air.
ON THE ROAD:
Start up the 3.7L V6 with an engine START/STOP button (pretty much standard for this class), and the engine comes to life fairly refined, but not quite to the standards of its competitors....especially the Lexus V6s. Still, as expected, it is smoother and quieter than the average in-line four. On the road, there is a decent amount of power, but again, it's not the quietest engine in its class....and the drive-by-wire throttle can be jumpy starting out from rest. The 6-speed Sport-shift automatic transmission generally shifts smoothly, has a nice fore/aft shift lever instead of annoying zig-zags, and the "S" Sport function uses shift-paddles on the steering column.
However, this is definitely not a driver's car, even by SUV standards. Handling and steering response are Ho-Hum at best, with slow response, noticeable body roll, and more or less dead road feel. Ride comfort is decent by SUV standards, helped by the relatively tall-profile tires (several different-size larger wheels and lower-profiles are available as options). Wind/road/engine noise though, while generally low and better than the average econobox, aren't quite up to some of the competition, especially the Lexus RX350. The relatively poorly-located brake pedal is a couple of stories above the gas pedal, causing by big size-15 NBA-grade shoes to hang up on the underside of it...some care had to be taken going from the gas pedal to the brake.
By now, most of you have probably guessed what my overall verdict of this vehicle is. And you're right....in general, I'm not terribly impressed. With the MKX, Lincoln is essentially selling a top-level Ford Edge Limited dressed up in a tuxedo suit...and a not-too-terribly-well-done tux at that. But that's not to say that it doesn't have its assets. The conservative body style pays dividends in both outward visibility and cargo-room....something that is generally getting harder and harder to find in recent SUVs. The standard wheels/tires/suspension, though not enthusiast-oriented in handling, give decent ride comfort. The drivetrain, though not Buick/Lexus-quiet, except for the jumpy start-ups, is reasonably refined and powerful. The ride is generally quiet, though again, not to Buick Enclave or Lexus standards. And the 6-year Roadside Assistance Program is quite generous....which, to some extent, helps make up for the rather sparse dealer-network (many Ford dealerships do not sell or handle Lincolns).
But....would I spend 40K, take one home, and put it in my driveway? No. For the (roughly) same amount of money, I'd spring for a Lexus RX350...IMO, the standard-bearer for this class of SUV.
And, Lincoln......hurry up and release that nice MKC. I can't wait to review it.
As always......Happy car-shopping.