The Lincoln MKT does not look like the crossover SUVs that have been rolling out of the design studios of every major and many minor automaker. The Lincoln MKT is a large crossover wagon with a polarizing design. Its upswept front end and its bulbous rear draws widely divergent opinions about its visual presence.
Whether that’s good or bad depends upon the point of view. Sales success for a design some love and some hate is often greater than that for a bland design that neither pleases nor offends anyone.
Introduced for the 2010 model year, the Lincoln MKT hails from a different era in the history of Ford Motor Company’s luxury brand. The MKT was a trendsetter when it first appeared, and even today the design looks audaciously daring. Though not a look that appeals to everyone’s taste, it is one that can easily be recognized a block away. Developing such a vehicle helped demonstrate the value of a big crossover wagon at a time when most were midsize or smaller. It also showed that the Lincoln name shouldn’t be taken for granted or defined too rigorously.
Updating for 2013 slimmed the bright vertical-bar grille and headlight configuration. Sales have remained sluggish, however, suggesting that not every shopper for a model in this league has taken a close look. There are no significant changes for the 2016 model year.
While the exterior is polarizing, far less arguable is this three-row crossover’s vast interior space, as well as its comfortable accommodations for a large group.
Brawny powertrains round out the picture, led by a particularly strong twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 that whips up 365 horsepower. The standard engine is a naturally aspirated 3.7-liter V6.
All-wheel drive is available, front-wheel drive is standard.
Buyers can choose either a six-passenger MKT with bucket seats in the first two rows and a two-seat bench at the rear, or a seven-passenger version with a middle-row bench. Seats in the front two rows are uncommonly supportive, and occupants get plenty of space all around. Not unlike the seats in Volvo vehicles, those in the MKT blend basic firmness with almost pillow-like comfort, ideal for a long day’s drive without minimal stress.
Access to the third row isn’t as pleasing.
A new Sync 3 infotainment interface, which is significantly easier to learn and use replaces the previous MyLincoln Touch system.
The 2016 Lincoln MKT ($43,370) comes standard with a 3.7-liter V6 and front-wheel drive, plus leather upholstery, seven-passenger seating, Sync 3 interface, heated/ventilated front seats, heated second-row seats, wood interior trim, tri-zone automatic climate control, and a rearview camera. Also standard are a fixed-panel panoramic sunroof, keyless entry pad, remote start, power liftgate, and rear parking sensors. The 10-speaker audio system includes satellite radio.
MKT 3.5 AWD EcoBoost Twin Turbo ($45,365) has all-wheel drive and the turbocharged 3.5-liter engine. Heated/cooled, powered second-row seats are optional, for six-passenger capacity. An Elite Package for the EcoBoost model adds a power-folding third-row seat, HD radio, THX II-certified audio, heated steering wheel, and voice-activated navigation
Safety features include a rearview camera, blind-spot alert, and adaptive headlights. Curtain airbags extend through all three rows. Safety options include collision warning, adaptive cruise control, active park assist, lane-keeping assist, and the Blind Spot Information System (BLIS). An available MyKey system lets parents program vehicle settings to restrain teenage drivers. Inflatable seatbelts for outboard second-row occupants also are available.
Even though its design is so distinctive, and its underpinnings so contemporary, a few hints of Lincoln’s more glorious years can be discerned. That would be the Sixties, when Continental convertible sedans held court. Appearances aside, the 2016 Lincoln MKT has a foundation that’s kin, surprisingly, to the defiantly boxy Ford Flex.
Observers who look with disfavor upon the MKT seem to be especially bothered by its tail, which definitely has a heavy look. It is reminiscent of Lincoln Continentals from the Sixties. Featuring a slim ribbon of taillights, it can also convey the impression of being somehow not quite finished. A few critics have even suggested that the rear end vaguely resembles a hearse, while the front end, viewed through fuzzy eyes, is reminiscent of the cowcatcher on an old steam locomotive.
When Lincoln freshened the MKT for 2013, special attention was paid to interior materials. What had been a veritable sea of metallic and matte-metallic surfaces turned into a cabin with a darker theme. That’s when the dashboard added the MyLincoln Touch infotainment interface, right in the center. At the same time, real knobs and switches were replaced by capacitive-touch controls for climate and audio settings. Fortunately, Sync 3 has now edged aside the troublesome MyLincoln Touch.
A broad range of adjustments for seat and steering-wheel positions helps provide a satisfying driving position. Second-row occupants enjoy plentiful legroom, while wide-opening doors make it easy to climb aboard. Despite power-folding second-row seats, reaching the third is a battle, especially for larger adults.
Cargo space approximates that of a large sedan. Folding seats down gives access to nearly 76 cubic feet of space, with a cargo floor that’s practically flat.
Performance with the 3.7-liter V6 engine, generating 303 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque, is sufficiently strong if not stimulating. The base model comes only with front-wheel drive.
All-wheel drive is standard with the optional EcoBoost 3.5-liter turbocharged V6. Developing 365 horsepower and 350 pound-feet, that’s the logical choice for drivers who like to extract the most vigorous responses from a large vehicle. Acceleration is surprisingly lusty, yet smooth, and the EcoBoost emits a slightly sporty sound. More important, it mates neatly with the 6-speed automatic transmission, which includes paddle shifters.
Ride and handling are well-balanced and appealing. In fact, the MKT is among the best large crossover vehicles for confident travel down twisting rural byways. Because of its body length, switchback turns can be challenging. On the other hand, the highly capable suspension can cope with plenty of activity on harsher pavement. EcoBoost models incorporate a three-mode, continuously controlled damping suspension, which responds rapidly to variable pavement conditions.
Fuel economy, as expected, lags behind the MKT’s merits, EPA-rated at 16/24 mpg City/Highway with the base engine and 15/21 mpg in EcoBoost guise.
Particularly suitable as executive transportation, like the Town Car of old, the MKT can also serve as a spacious, notably luxurious wagon for the family. Most buyers have been selecting the EcoBoost engine, which adds all-wheel drive as well as a better-composed suspension.
Driving impressions by Bengt Halvorson, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.