2009 Lincoln MKX AWD Review
By Kevin Gordon
In today’s automotive landscape midsize SUVs/crossovers have become commonplace. Almost every manufacturer makes one or more, and their variety in size, power, amenities, and capabilities is only matched by the variety of personalities owning the vehicles. You can have yours bare-bones with cloth interiors and simple drive trains, or, fully-loaded with leather, voice activated navigation, power operated lift gates, and full time all-wheel drive. Lincoln defines the 2009 MKX as falling into the luxury crossover segment, meaning it slots into the latter of that equation. Over the past week I had the opportunity to spend a week with this luxury crossover and I was sad to see my time with it end.
The Lincoln MKX shares the same platform as the Ford Edge and Mazda CX-9 and is based off of the underpinnings of the Ford Fusion/Mazda 6. The MKX was introduced in 2007 as a replacement to the Explorer based Aviator. The car-based architecture changed the ride characteristics from a frame and ladder truck-type ride to a much more sedan-like experience. This change has paid dividends as the MKX rides very nicely. There is some weight (4600+ lbs) to the ride, but it is well controlled. This tester was fitted with beautiful 20” chrome wheels (18” are standard) and I was surprised by how well the large wheels with lower profile tires smoothed rough roads and expansion joints in concrete. It made me wonder if the MKX with the 18s would have too much float and roll. Potholes were met with a well-muted thud with limited shudder through the structure of the SUV. Handling, while not sports car crisp, was confident with moderate body roll, some dive while braking and limited squat under hard acceleration.
Part of that lack of squat under acceleration may be due to the power available at a push of the go pedal. The MKX is powered by a 3.5 liter DOHC V-6 and power is routed through a six speed automatic transmission. This engine is rated 265 Hp and 250 lb. ft, returning a rated 15 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway and runs on regular fuel. Power is routed through a smooth 6-speed automatic transmission. This amount of power in a more than two-ton car provides only adequate motivation. During the week I never found it under-powered, but also never found myself impressed by acceleration. The 6-speed is smooth, but does have the tendency to hold the engine at high RPM for an extended second after letting off the throttle during hard acceleration. This gave the feeling of an over-rev situation and it did not blend with the image of comfort and smoothness. This SUV is an excellent highway cruiser. During an extended trip the MKX made highway miles melt away and in everyday city/stop and go traffic, the MKX provided calm confidence as it moved from stoplight-to-stoplight. For my two fill-ups I saw miles per gallon of 17.1 and 19.0 which falls into the expected range of the car and most other crossovers.
The MKX is a handsome car inside and out. One of the things that does not come across in pictures is how large the MKX is in real life. Compared to my family’s Acura RDX and BMW X3 the MKX truly came across as a size larger in scale. Listed at 186.5 inches long and 75.8 inches wide the MKX is only a few inches smaller than an Acura MDX. (I use the MDX as an example because Honda had a bit of an issue with the name of the Lincoln, but was unsuccessful in court to do anything about it.) The grill is robust, but I can’t say it is an improvement over the Ford Edge. If anything, it toes the corporate line for Lincoln, but leaves a bit of a cross-eyed design. The MKX carries a high belt line, wide shoulders and with its short overhangs it does look athletic. With the 20” optional wheels filling the fenders the entire package is something that you can proudly pull up to the valet at your local nightspot.
Night is a friend to the MKX. It’s chrome grill and wheels look even better under artificial light (especially painted in my tester’s Dark Ink Blue) and the exterior lighting package is impressive. Every car makes an impression, and sometimes it is the littlest thing that really strikes you. In the MKX the two most impressive features were the 600 watt THX stereo (more on this in a bit) and the backup lights. You read correctly, backup lights. The MKX has the brightest, most brilliant backup lighting I have ever seen on a car. It almost makes you understand why they did not put a backup camera on the car (it did have sonar sensors). If they had put a backup camera in the infotainment system I am reasonably confident you could drive this car in reverse at local road speeds. They have accomplished this in the same way Audi has distinguished their more recent models’ headlights, by putting 16 high intensity light-emitting diodes on the rear of the car. It is a great addition and something that more manufactures should consider.
The interior was surprisingly high quality. A first look finds dark leather piped with tan accents and light wood on the dash and steering wheel. This piping was commented on by many people who saw the car. The center stack is a little busy, but easy to navigate without reading the manual. The only thing that had me fooled for the first few days was the information center in between the gauges. I have become used to the buttons for changing from trip A to trip B, or displaying MPG to either be on a button near the gauges or on the steering wheel. On the MKX (and most Ford products) these functions are controlled by three buttons on the center stack. If you are an experienced Ford driver, I am sure this has become common, but for the inexperienced, it caught me out. The gauge pack was bit plain for my tastes. Many manufacturers have found a way to make this information center a bit more visually appealing and in the Lincoln it was a simple dot matrix headed by idiot lights. The leather in my 5000-mile tester was supple and still smelled great. All seats where perforated and did not show any signs of significant wear. The center console/arm rest opens to a very large space. This is similar to the Acura RDX, it is a large enough space to hold a small laptop. Also in this space are a 12 volt DC power outlet, USB and Aux line for SYNC, and a well-made shelf system for separating the large space.
I am a bit demanding when it comes to seats in cars and trucks. In the past I have made purchasing decisions based on the quality, comfort, and fit of seats. I may be three inches shorter than our editor in chief, but I found the bottom seat cushion in the MKX to be too short for my tastes and the seat also lacked any significant bolstering. I always felt like I was going to fall out of seat towards the door. The 10-way power seats helped as I was able to tilt the bottom back, but I never found a perfect driving position. This problem could have been easily solved by an adjustable thigh bolster, but this type of seat is generally reserved for sport seats. The MKX’s seat design may be a result of market research by Ford/Lincoln, the average Lincoln buyer may want a bit of a flatter bottomed seat and they may not be 6’ 1”. This was the biggest disappointment of the car for me. With that said, the padding and materials of the seat were high quality and I spent five hours on a road trip in the seat without anything going numb. Front passenger comfort is also helped by multi-stage heat and cooling.
Even the rear seats had optional seat heaters. The rear seats can be manually reclined and power folded using a button in the lift gate area. Using the patent-pending Haak method of sitting behind myself, I found that I had plenty of leg and head room in the rear seats and found them extremely comfortable. Behind the second row of seats there is 32.3 cubic feet of storage space with an under floor organizer. The MKX does not offer third row seating, but as a result there is a low flat floor for storage of your whole foods groceries. When you decide to load your recent shopping trip the MKX now provides a standard power liftgate.
If you are a fan of carbonated beverages, you may want to keep the volume low on your way home from shopping. The THX II-Certified 600 watt stereo in the MKX is very impressive and could easily over stimulate your bottles of flavored seltzer. It manages to be clear, crisp, and very powerful at the same time, something that is often lost on factory installed systems. It favors clean audio signals (SIRIUS is still to low bandwidth to show off a stereo), so high bitrate MP3s or “classic” CDs (DVD-Audio format is not supported and appears to be dying in the marketplace) provide the most entertainment. Highs and mids have excellent separation and vocals and simple guitar tracks come through with exceptional clarity and depth. The THX functionality does a good job of providing a 360-degree experience from stereo sources. This ability is something that some systems, such as Acura’s ELS, do not always display. The ability to set a listening mode for driver, front seats, or all seats did not strike me as extremely useful or provide meaningful differentiation. Again, the thing that was really striking was the raw power available. This is the kind of stereo that you can catch yourself listening to at sound pollution levels. The amount of bottom end can be heard and felt outside of the car, even with the windows up. The only other factory system that had this kind of raw bass (that I have experienced) are late model mustangs with the shaker 1000 system, and the two systems cannot be compared when it comes to clarity.
Other infotainment and navigation is provided by Microsoft’s SYNC (which is still Ford exclusive). The system in the MKX is a generation old, which means that you get a smaller screen for navigation, but the software in the system is as recent as the systems tested in the 2009 Ford F-150. New this year, SYNC includes 911 Assist, which can directly emergency services if the system detects an airbag deployment or fuel shutoff. In this writer’s opinion, SYNC is the best there is in infotainment in the market today. While others may have prettier navigation screens, no other system comes close to the abilities and simplicity of SYNC incorporated into a navigation system. Bluetooth phone pairing is simple and the ability to actively manage multiple paired phones works better than could be expected. Also, call quality is as good or better than talking on a headset, especially when paired with the very quiet interior of the MKX. SIRIUS Travel Link provides excellent traffic, weather, fuel options, sports scores, and movie listings. If someone has something better, I would love to test and evaluate it head-to-head.
I have the benefit of working in information technology and writing for for an automotive website. Which means that at every party or family gathering, I get cornered on one of two issues. Either someone cannot figure out how to get the wireless to work on their laptop or they are thinking about buying a new car. When it comes to the car conversation they always want to be told what to buy. After a little discovery, I am always happy to recommend a few cars to look at or test drive. In this crowded marketplace, if someone had asked me a month ago I would not have had the MKX on my list. Now, if I knew they they wanted a luxury crossover, I would have to tell them to take a look at the MKX. To make an even more bold statement, if they were looking at comparison shopping a Lexus RX 350, I would now recommend them buying an MKX instead of the Lexus.
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