It might seem strange that Lincoln added a vehicle with three-row seating to its line-up when it already offers the Navigator SUV, but Lincoln is undergoing many changes, revamping its cars and image for the 21st century. Thus, the 2010 Lincoln MKT joins the line-up, and would probably completely replace the Navigator if that older SUV didn't still have significant sales.
As a next-generation vehicle for Lincoln, the MKT is a crossover with ample interior space for passengers and cargo. Unlike the Navigator, which has body-on-frame construction, the MKT has a fully independent suspension, giving it a more carlike ride. And though some might mistake it for a minivan, it fights off that classification by using hinged, rather than sliding, side doors, following in the footsteps of the Mercedes-Benz R-class.
Like the Mercedes-Benz, Lincoln aims for luxury with the MKT, fitting the cabin with comfortable and attractive materials while making available a variety of tech features. Rear seat refrigerator? Check. Head rest-mounted rear seat DVD monitors? Check. Panoramic sunroof? Check. Heated and cooled seats? Check.
This next-generation Lincoln certainly makes its mark in style. The wing-shaped grilles, first seen on the MKS sedan, take on ridiculous proportions on the front of the MKT. These large grilles thoroughly ventilate the engine while sucking in sparrows and other small birds. But the rear of the MKT is even more striking, a big slab of back-end cut across by the tail light jewelry, with a minimal rear window evocative of 1940s touring cars. The rear visibility is limited, although a rearview camera prevents it from being unsafe. We just wish the style of the rear went with the rest of the vehicle.
As the newest vehicle in Lincoln's line-up, the MKT gets Lincoln's latest engine, the Ecoboost twin turbo direct injected 3.5-liter V-6. We saw this engine in the Ford Taurus SHO and Ford Flex, demonstrating its versatility.
With an output of 355 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque, the Ecoboost engine gets the MKT moving remarkably fast, despite the vehicle's near 5,000 pounds of mass. Stepping on the gas, we reveled in the acceleration. It's the kind of engine that gives you plenty of confidence to make passing maneuvers on two lane highways, or show off to your friends that this big vehicle is much more than a luxury wagon, especially when the engine is making its sonorous growl above 3,000rpm.
The Ecoboost MKT, the top-of-the-model-line, only comes in all-wheel-drive format. Lesser models are available with Lincoln's 3.7-liter Duratec V-6 and can be had in front- or all-wheel-drive. Although we had quite a bit of fun with the Ecoboost engine, the MKT's mileage was a sobering reminder of what happens when you combine big power and mass. The EPA puts the MKT's fuel economy at 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway. We never saw the trip computer rise above 20 mpg, and turned in a final average of 17.3 mpg. As testament to the Ecoboost engine's technology, the Duratec front-wheel-drive MKT only gets 1 mpg better, and significantly less power.
Unlike the lesser models, the Ecoboost model also gets an electric power steering unit, helping the fuel economy a bit. And the six-speed automatic transmission doesn't hurt, either, providing a tall gear to keep the engine rotations low at freeway speeds. Somewhat inappropriate for the big MKT, paddle shifters were mounted to the steering wheel. But then again, those paddles are the only way to select gears when using the transmission's manual mode.
We found the Lincoln MKT particularly comfortable to drive, so much that we didn't want our various journeys to end. It handled well enough for its size, but the big draws were the effort-saving gadgets. Our MKT came equipped with adaptive cruise control, which is still novel enough that we marvel at its capability to match our speed with the car ahead.
The blind spot warning system also provides a little extra confidence when changing lanes, and is extra useful in the MKT considering its high sides. It lights up a warning in the side mirrors when a vehicle is in the lane over, and generally works well. Bright sun behind the car did tend to wash out the warning light, making it difficult to read.
Cruising along at night, we were taken with the ambient lighting around the footwells in the MKT, and were further impressed by the automatic high beams function. With no cars around on a coastal highway, we briefly switched on the high beams, activating this automatic feature. After some traffic passed by us in the opposite direction, the high-beams came on, blasting the road with high intensity discharge light. But as headlights showed up in the distance, or we caught up with traffic going our direction, those headlights quickly snapped back to low beams.