First Tests

2016 Lincoln MKX AWD First Test Review

Honestly Able: Its prestige may not yet be presidential, but its performance is close.

Honestly Able: Its prestige may not yet be presidential, but its performance is close.

Lincoln‘s second bid at a Lexus RX fighter significantly ups the ante in both style and substance. Its curvy sheetmetal no longer resembles the Ford Edge that amortizes their common underpinnings, and the design enlarges the themes that we praised on last year’s Escape-based MKC. Inside, the news is even better; Its fresh look evokes an American- luxury tone that isn’t trying to copy anyone. Of course it helps that our Reserve model, optioned up to a Black Label price point, was swathed in authentic leathers, woods, and metal finishes.

Another point of pride for the Lincoln team is the MKX’s ride/handling balance, which delivers American-grade smooth, supple cushioning of major bumps and ruts while tensing up just enough to deliver laudable body-motion control when the road gets curvy and the brawny 2.7-liter, twin-turbo EcoBoost V-6 starts connecting those curves quickly. Our tester’s 245/50R20 Hankook Ventus tires even seemed happy operating at their 0.83g limit of lateral grip in stoic silence. The ride quality and lack of drama give the MKX a refreshing stealth agility that may take drivers by surprise. Much of the credit goes to the continuously variable damping system that Lincoln bundles with AWD on any MKX (so your results may vary if you save $2,495 and get a front-wheeler).

That 0.83g grip number and the 27.0-second, 0.68-average-g figure-eight performance fall a little short of the numbers posted by the MKX’s Ford Edge Sport sibling, which runs the same engine, detuned from 335 to 315 hp and from 380 to 350 lb-ft. Even with less power and no adaptive damping, the Edge registers 0.87 g and 26.2 seconds at 0.72 average g. But drive the two vehicles back-to-back on the same road, and believe it or not, the Lincoln is the more satisfying driver’s car. The Edge’s stability control gets mighty pushy when you approach its higher limits, the ride is considerably flintier, and if you go for the bigger 21-inch tires, they even make more noise at their higher limits.

Considered against CUVs in its peer group, few competitors can match the 2.7-liter MKX AWD’s lateral grip, and only the sportiest variants (Audi SQ5 and BMW X5) are quicker around our figure eight. Straight-line performance is a bit more mid-pack in the class, with 0-60 mph flashing by in 6.4 seconds and the quarter-mile lights tripping in 14.7 seconds at 94.0 mph. That’s safely quicker than market stalwarts such as the current Lexus RX, Cadillac SRX, Infiniti QX60, and the base Mercedes ML/GLE-Class, but it trails the sportier versions of the latter, the BMW X5, Audi Q5, and Volvo XC60. We do wonder, however, whether our Lincoln’s performance was totally up to spec. Its weight-to-power ratio is slightly better than that of the Edge Sport (13.8 to 14.0 lb/hp), and its gearing is 6.8 percent shorter, which makes it tricky to explain the 0.4-second/1.9-mph drop in quarter-mile performance relative to the Ford.

Of course, nobody buys these vehicles for track days. They buy them to pamper themselves. An MKX equipped with the optional $1,500 USD 22-way adjustable massaging front seats and the 19-speaker Revel Ultima audio system (part of a $4,400 USD luxury package or standard on Black Label models) do an amazing job on the pampering front. In fact, those two systems might trump the seats and stereos in any like-priced competitor in terms of sheer comfort and sound quality.

Alas, the Lincoln is not perfect. Although our loaded example included practically every imaginable bell and whistle, they weren’t all benchmark brilliant in their operation. Staffers were vexed by the MyLincoln Touch system. It frequently required extra taps before a touchscreen input was recognized, and it crashed to a black screen on two occasions. The lane keeping assist system does a drunken-sailor imitation, sashaying from lane marker to lane marker, and the active cruise control often jabs the brake when it notices a car ahead instead of gently slowing. The six-speed automatic comes up short on ratios and responsiveness, frequently delaying or denying paddle-shift requests. Two editors also managed to overheat the all-wheel-drive system while flogging the MKX on the twisty bits. Perhaps the biggest letdown was an abundance of poor exterior panel fits unbecoming a $63,275 USD vehicle.

That price may be the MKX’s biggest negative. For 63 large, you can get a BMW X5 xDrive35i or Mercedes-Benz GLE350 with options (and better body panel alignment) that will get more attention from the neighbors and valet staff. Go easier on the options—maybe a Reserve-level 2.7-liter AWD with just the 22-way seats and the almost-as-nice 13-speaker Revel setup, and you’re at $53,230 USD—and you’ll enjoy equal or better performance, comfier seats, and a jamming stereo for less than an AWD Bimmer or Merc.

2016 Lincoln MKX AWD (Reserve)
BASE PRICE $48,575
PRICE AS TESTED $63,275
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 2.7L/335-hp/380-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6
TRANSMISSION 6-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 4,630 lb (58/42%)
WHEELBASE 112.2 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 190.0 x 76.1 x 66.2 in
0-60 MPH 6.4 sec
QUARTER MILE 14.7 sec @ 94.0 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 118 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.83 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 27.0 sec @ 0.68 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 17/24/19 mpg
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY 198/140 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.99 lb/mile