Automobile Magazine has just driven the new, crossover, and although it’s not the first Ford vehicle we’ve driven with the new EcoBoost powertrain, it’s the first one we can tell you about (check back here on July 22 for our take on the new SHO with EcoBoost). The MKT, of course, is the all-new production vehicle based on the similar 2008 MKT concept from the 2008 Detroit auto show. It’s based on the same Volvo-derived platform as the and the flagship sedan, but it has a completely different interior and exterior from the Flex. It goes on sale late this summer starting at about $45,000.
Radical styling statement
Lincoln‘s now-signature double-wing chrome grille is used to good effect here. The bustle-back rear harkens to prewar American grand touring cars, and the full-width taillamp strip quickly identifies the car as a Lincoln. Whether you like the overall styling of the MKT (we do), it’s nice that 1) it doesn’t look even remotely like the Ford Flex; and 2) it looks completely different from all the other three-row crossover vehicles on the road.
Making a big statement inside
The MKT’s elegant cabin is well-designed and equipped. Pleasing shades of two-tone leather, good finish quality, and a long list of available equipment ought to satisfy most sybarites. The THX stereo and navigation screen interface are superb, SYNC is available, and even the second-row bucket seats can be heated and cooled. If you choose that seating arrangement, a full-length center console ends in a refrigerator box accessible to both second- and third-row passengers that fits seven beverage cans. Alternately, you can choose a second-row bench seat which increases seating capacity to seven but unfortunately lacks a fold-down center armrest. Fold-and-tumble access to the two third-row seats is easy enough, but those seats are for only occasional use by adults due to a lack of headroom.
The rear hatch opens electrically but exposes a load lip that’s too deep for easy access to the cargo area. The third-row seats fold forward or completely flat with ease; power operation will be available later this year.
EcoBoost: The Ford Motor Company’s Rallying Cry
The is available with a normally aspirated, 3.7-liter V-6, but the real story here is the optional EcoBoost powertrain, which uses direct injection and twin turbocharging to transform Ford’s 3.5-liter V-6 into a 355-hp powerhouse that effectively competes with a V-8 engine but with, Ford claims, the fuel economy of a V-6. It’s mated to a new, six-speed SelectShift automatic transmission with paddle shift.
We were allowed a few laps of Ford’s high-speed, five-mile-long track at the Michigan Proving Ground. The EcoBoost V-6 provides plenty of power and torque to propel the 5000-lb MKT with poise, and it even sounds pretty good when you leg it, although of course it lacks the satisfying throatiness of a V-8. There’s virtually no turbo lag, just a steady, linear stream of power. Peak torque arrives early, at only 1500 rpm, and the torque plateau continues well past 5000 rpm. Acceleration from 35 mph to 60 mph is immediate and rapid, and the MKT keeps on keeping on for the 60-to-100-mph sprint. We can’t imagine anyone ever calling this vehicle underpowered. Although you can put the gear selector in M for manual mode and then use the paddles to shift, in our brief experience we didn’t find them particularly easy or intuitive to use. And with all this power and torque just a tap of your toe away, why shift for yourself, anyway?
On the road
The MKT is pretty quiet inside but it suffers from some wind noise at the A-pillars (admittedly, it was very windy during our drive). Ride comfort is commendable, and the vehicle gracefully handled a variety of small, medium, and large bumps, dips, and other intentional road-surface imperfections built into Ford’s durability test track, with no undue axle hop or lateral chassis movements. There’s a decent amount of steering feel, although no one will mistake the MKT for a , and while body roll is reasonably well-suppressed, the MKT suffers from a bit of fore-and-aft bobbing when you really push it on rough roads. Additionally, the brake pedal is too spongy for our tastes, an affliction the MKT shares with its MKS sibling.
A highly credible crossover
Not considering its powertrain, the MKT is itself an admirable effort from Lincoln: distinctively designed, opulently appointed, and brimming with the features that luxury buyers expect. Add in the new EcoBoost powertrain, and the MKT is even more attractive, as it boasts V-8-like power but should return V-6-style fuel economy, up to 22 mpg on the highway. These merits add a desirable new model to the Lincoln stable and should put the MKT on the shopping list of anyone looking for a luxury, seven-passenger crossover.
Base price range (estimated): $45,000-$55,000
Engine: Twin-turbocharged, 3.5-liter DOHC 24-valve V-6
Horsepower: 355 hp @ 5700 rpm
Torque: 350 lb-ft @ 1500 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive: Front- or all-wheel
L x W x H: 207.6 x 85.7 x 67.4 in
Legroom F/M/R: 41.3/41.8/33.0 in
Headroom F/M/R: 40.1/38.8/33.5 in
Cargo capacity (behind third/middle/front seats): 17.9/39.6/75.9 cu ft
Curb Weight: 4924 lb
Estimated EPA Rating (city/highway): 16/22 mpg