Will the new 2016 MKX strike the same note as the smaller 2015 MKC did?
That luxury-compact wagon has become a solid hit with a little help from actor Matthew McConaughey and his oddly compelling deep-thoughts commercials. Waiting in the wings is the revitalized mid-size MKX, which is essentially an up-level offshoot of Ford’s Edge.
For Lincoln to climb back into contention as a significant luxury brand is no simple task. Just look at Cadillac. For the past few years that marque has been getting its styling and performance act together, one model at a time, as it attempts to become a stronger alternative to German, British and Asian luxury marques.
For its third iteration, the MKX receives a mildly altered body with more curves and creases and a restyled taillight bar that runs the full width of the liftgate. But by far the most noticeable change is displayed in Lincoln’s signature winged grille — similar to the MKC’s — that swaps out its fang-like vertical bars for a set of more elegant horizontal blades. If the adaptive-headlight option is specified, the grille is flanked by a set of jewel-like LED headlights that pivot as the MKX changes direction. The headlights are matched with a pair of very cool LED running lights.
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The sheetmetal is attached to the same-sized platform as before, although Lincoln has stiffened the chassis, upgraded the suspension and added more sound insulation (including an acoustic windshield and front side glass), in an effort to provide drivers and passengers with an environment that’s in keeping with the vehicle’s premium aspirations.
That theme carries into an interior that receives reshaped leather-covered front seats with four-way adjustable headrests. Likewise, the control panel is a much classier-looking unit, although the increase in switchgear — where other luxury models are cutting back — seems incongruous. Conversely, the gearshift lever has been replaced by pushbutton controls located beside the touch-screen display.
Base models come with a carry-over 3.7-liter V6 that generates 300 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. A new option for 2016 is a twin-turbocharged 2.7-liter V6 with 330 horsepower and an impressive 370 pound-feet of torque. No wonder this powerplant can also be specified in Ford’s F-150 pickup.
Both engines are hooked up to six-speed automatic transmissions that can be set up for Drive or Sport modes. The latter allows the engine to rev higher between shifts and also lets the driver manually control the downshifts that are matched to engine revs.
The MKX of course continues to offer all-wheel-drive. The system directs 100 percent of the engine torque to the front tires under normal operating conditions, but can also send up to 100 percent to the rear tires if the front wheels start to slip.
Appropriate for a luxury whip, the $39,000 (with destination charges) MKX arrives with 10-way heated front seats, power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, power liftgate, 10-speaker audio system and 18-inch wheels.
On the lengthy list of options is a panoramic “Vista Roof,” navigation system, heated and cooled front and rear seats and steering wheel, a 19-speaker sound package and 20 or 21-inch wheels.
Lincoln also makes available nearly all of the latest in collision-avoidance and intervention technologies that help keep you from wandering outside your lane, warn if you start to nod off at the wheel, and intervene if you begin closing too rapidly to the vehicle in front. There’s also a blind-spot detection warning and cross-traffic alert (the latter is handy when backing out of parking spots or your driveway) and a parking-assist feature that employs a 360-degree camera to help with parallel parking and general reversing maneuvers.
Although subtle at first glance, the improvements to the Lincoln MKX provide a fresh outlook and enhanced content that buyers expect to find (and brag about) in a luxury ride, even if they never use them.