New Cars for 2010: The United States of America

David Zenlea Automobile Magazine Staff
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John Roe
New Cars for 2010: The United States of America

Although Deft Financial footwork allowed Ford to weather the economic crisis, it still comes down to products. Fortunately, the recently launched Fusion is performing well in the marketplace. This year, Ford's fate rides heavily on the revitalized Taurus - but notice there's no Mercury Sable. Lincoln hopes to pick up defecting Navigator customers with the new MKT crossover. Add to that the EcoBoost-powered MKS flagship sedan and face-lifted MKZ, and Lincoln has its most coherent lineup.

First Drive: 2010 Lincoln MKT
All the brains, if not the beauty, needed to revive Lincoln.
By David Zenlea

Ford's premium brand strategy has long been best described as Anything But Lincoln. For years, Ford poured money into Jaguar, Land Rover, Volvo, Aston Martin, and even Merkur (remember Merkur?), while treating Lincoln to hasty rebadges and the occasional Town Car update. But now, all those brands are dead, sold, or on the chopping block. If Ford wants to continue competing for luxury buyers, it will need to do so with its long-neglected domestic marque. Which brings us to the MKT crossover, the most credible Lincoln in recent memory.

Built on the same platform as the Ford Flex, the MKT is far better differentiated from its progenitor than Lincoln's other offerings, including the Edge-based MKX. The all-original sheetmetal trades the Flex's hipster clothes for the boldest interpretation yet of the design themes that Lincoln introduced on the 2007 MKR concept. It's not exactly pretty, and some people might be put off by the enormous, split-wing front grille. But much like Cadillac's polarizing "Art and Science" vehicles, the MKT convincingly reinterprets classic Lincoln cues into a modern look that might actually garner attention.

The MKT interior is a bit more conventional, but a stitched dash, real walnut trim, and a panoramic sunroof create a suitably expensive feel. Small gaffes that keep it out of Audi territory include somewhat flimsy door pulls and cheap-feeling radio and HVAC controls, the latter of which seem sourced from the same parts bin that serves the Focus.

Technology has been a Ford specialty of late, and the MKT is no exception. Its neatest party trick is its ability to parallel park itself. Just work the throttle, and the system does the rest, whirling the steering wheel around and telling you when to brake and change directions. Unlike the Lexus system, this one actually does its job.

The MKT's technological centerpiece, though, is its EcoBoost engine, which also appears in the MKS for 2010. The direct-injected, twin-turbo V-6 lives up to its considerable hype, moving the 4924-pound all-wheel-drive vehicle with a level of authority you won't find in a Buick Enclave and even outmuscling the V-8-powered Audi Q7. At the same time, it returns an EPA-estimated 18 mpg combined, matching the Enclave and beating the Acura MDX. Otherwise, the Lincoln is hardly sporty, as it's tuned for a slightly softer ride than the already compliant Flex. Nevertheless, it's composed, quiet, and comfortable, benefiting from light, accurate steering that makes it easy to maneuver despite its bulk.

With a base price of $44,995 for a front-wheel-drive, 3.7-liter V-6 model and nearly $50,000 for EcoBoost and four-wheel drive, the MKT hardly undercuts import rivals and commands a near $10,000 premium over a similarly equipped Flex. Whether Lincoln will be able to compete at this level remains to be seen, but we're glad that it's finally trying.

ON SALE: Now
BASE PRICE: $44,995/$49,995 (3.7/EcoBoost)
SPECS:
3.7L V-6, 268 hp, 267 lb-ft;
3.5L twin-turbo V-6, 355 hp, 350 lb-ft;
front- or 4-wheel

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