July 13, 2008
Lincoln has launched a new flagship: the 2009 MKS.
MKS joins the midsize MKZ sedan derived from the Mercury Milan, and the midsize MKX crossover derived from the Ford Edge in the MK-and-add-a-letter game of confusion.
The only Lincolns with actual names are the Town Car, introduced when Methuselah began driving, and the Navigator, a $4-a-gallon guzzler. The best years are behind both.
MKS is derived from the midsize Ford Taurus and produced in Chicago. Like Taurus, it offers front-wheel- or all-wheel-drive.
We tested the AWD version built on the same 112.9-inch wheelbase as Taurus, but it's 4 inches longer and 1.5 inches wider for more cabin room and comfort.
MKS is powered by a 3.7-liter version of the 3.5-liter Taurus V-6 with an upgrade to 273 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque from 260 h.p. and 245 pound-feet for Taurus.
Ford boasts the 3.7 was engineered to deliver quicker response leaving the light or pulling out to pass, while getting 17 m.p.g. city/23 m.p.g. highway with AWD (17/24 with FWD). The V-6 is teamed with a 6-speed automatic transmission with manual-mode shifting.
Being loaded with creature comforts and luxury amenities, MKS also is about 600 pounds heavier than Taurus, weight you feel in the wheel when accelerating or taking corners and turns. MKS doesn't float like a boat or wander like a Town Car. Though larger than Taurus, it still slips into and out of parking spaces and garage stalls. But a bit more nimble steering would reduce the weighty feel in the wheel.
More oomph is coming next spring, when the 2010 MKS will be the first beneficiary of Ford's EcoBoost system, in which turbocharging will will give V-6s the kick of a V-8 with no loss of fuel economy.
MKS, initially in AWD form only, will offer a twin-turbo EcoBoost version of the 3.5 V-6 that develops 340 h.p. and 340 pound-feet of torque and promises much quicker acceleration and more agility into and out of corners. AWD combats wheel slippage by directing torque between front and rear wheels when needed. MKS also is blessed with stability control with traction control to correct skids and anti-lock brakes and side-curtain air bags just in case.
MKS styling attracted the younger-than-40 as well as older-than-60 crowds with its double wing, thick, chrome-bar grille inspired by the 1941 Continental. A chrome band around the side windows adds a touch of class as well.
The cabin is comfy. Seats are well cushioned and side bolsters keep you from being tossed around. Rear-seat room is ample for two adults, and you can squeeze a child in between. The trunk is large and deep.
Neatest features are the ebony cabin trim of wood reclaimed from furniture makers and the capless fuel-tank filler neck that ends the fumbling to open and close and the risk of leaving it at the station. Simply stick the nozzle in and take it out. A spring-loaded flapper door does the rest.
Couple gripes: Driver/passenger center armrests slide rather than locking in place, and the forward-sensing system beeps if you pull too close to the vehicle ahead even when parking or in bumper-to-bumper traffic. And you thought rush hour was already intolerable. Duct tape the armrests in place and turn off the forward sensor the day you buy the car.
Then there are the voice-activated audio and climate controls, which aren't quite. To turn the radio on, you:
•Press the voice-control button on the steering column;
•Wait for the voice to say "Give a command,"
•Say "radio on."
It's much simpler to turn the radio on the old-fashioned way—by hitting the "on" button.
MKS starts at $37,665 with FWD, $39,555 with AWD. Amenities include seats that are heated and cooled upfront and heated in back; dual-zone climate control; push-button start; power windows/locks/(heated) mirrors; and SYNC, a voice-activated interface for cell phones and digital music players.
The test vehicle came with the $5,715 Ultimate package that pretty much says it all. It includes a Technology package with sunroof with glass over front (power) and back seats (fixed), rain-sensing wipers, adaptive headlamps that move in the direction of a turn; and a voice-activated DVD navigation package with rearview camera and THX surround sound. Adaptive cruise control that beeps and brakes to keep you at a safe distance from the vehicle ahead is a $995 option.
Lincoln expects to sell about 40,000 annually.
Read Jim Mateja Sunday in Transportation. Contact him at email@example.com.
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