In Lincoln’s heyday, crossovers were not yet even a glint in the industry’s eye.
Much has changed in the past half-century, though, and now it appears a crossover could lead the brand back to relevance. The second-generation 2016 MKX launched last fall and immediately became Lincoln’s best seller.
The three-row MKX ($38,260, including transportation) is fully made-over. There are new bends in the sheet metal, a restyled cabin and newly available safety and driver-assistance features. A new 335-horsepower six-cylinder EcoBoost engine debuts and a focus on refinement produces a supremely quiet cabin.
Adaptive shock damping (driver-adjustable on AWD models) smooths out the ride and firms in the corners for confident handling. Steering is accurate and well weighted and, underway, the MKX feels lighter and nimbler than its size suggests.
The crossover grows slightly this year and debuts a refinement initiative called Quiet Luxury, “ … a new standard that combines thoughtful and elegant design with a safe, effortless ride and a warm, tailored experience.”
At night, the “experience” begins with the driver’s approach. At 9 feet out, exterior lighting gradually illuminates. Cabin lighting also comes on sequentially; from bottom to top and front to rear.
When backing, a 360-degree camera reveals objects within a 7-foot radius. The camera also enables an automatic parking function, which works in both parallel and perpendicular spaces.
The MKX is well equipped right out of the box. Highlights of a long standard-features list include automatic xenon headlights, keyless entry and ignition, remote engine start, rear parking sensors, active noise cancellation and a reclining, 60/40-split second-row seat with power-folding seatbacks.
Standard tech includes Bluetooth phone and audio, the voice-activated MyLincoln Touch infotainment system (with configurable 8-inch touchscreen) and a fully configured 10-speaker audio system. An optional Driver Assistance package adds lane-departure warning, lane-departure intervention, forward-collision warning, forward-collision mitigation with automatic braking (with pedestrian detection) and a driver drowsiness monitor.
The base engine is a 3.7-liter V-6 that makes 303 hp and 278 pound-feet of torque. The new up-level choice is a turbocharged 2.7-liter V-6 rated at 335 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque. Both are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. A properly equipped MKX can tow up to 3,500 pounds.
Big-budget add-ons include 22-way multi-contour front seats with massage and a pair of up-level surround-sound Revel audio systems, one with 13 speakers, the other with 19.
There are missteps, of course. The dead pedal is useless, the plastics used on the console and on the push-button shifter look and feel low-budget and instead of Ford’s new Sync 3 infotainment system, the MKX is saddled with the final generation of MyLincoln Touch. In its defense, the incremental addition of knobs and buttons has made the system more user friendly by a wide margin.
In the final analysis, the MKX mines its own heritage for inspiration, rather than aping the performance-focused Europeans. It’s the Lincoln Lincoln would have built in 1970, if it could have.
2016 Lincoln MKX AWD
Vehicle base price: $38,260
Trim level base price: $47,650
As tested: $61,760
Options included 2.7-liter Ecoboost engine; cargo utility package and tonneau cover; lane-keeping system; adaptive cruise control; active braking; adaptive LED headlights; Revel Ultima audio; second-row inflatable seatbelt; 22-way power driver’s seat; enhanced security.
Tow rating: 3,500 pounds
EPA rating: 19 combined/17 city/24 highway
Regular unleaded fuel specified