2009 Lincoln MKS AWD

Now that the nearly immortal Town Car has slipped under the waves (at least for retail customers), Lincoln needs a ship to wave the flag in the face of Cadillac, Lexus, Infiniti, and mounting luxury-class competition. Mixing the traditional size and presence of the old Town Car with a smattering of new think is the new MKS's weighty task. While there's little here for enthusiasts to admire, loyal Lincoln customers will probably be attracted to this fresh-faced four-door.

The basic platform supporting the MKS is an extension of the Ford Taurus/Mercury Sable duet, which are themselves spin-offs of a previous Volvo S80 sedan. While some makers add notable improvements when they shuffle platforms, that has not been Ford's modus operandi. Except for a larger-displacement V-6 engine, a fresh suit of clothes, and upgrades to the infotainment menu, there is nothing to elevate any buyer's blood pressure. Considering Lincoln's target customers, that's probably intentional.

A beltline that starts high and soars ever heavenward enhances the feeling of occupant security by squeezing down the space available for side glass. Extra-substantial roof pillars and sill sections complete the rolling-bank-vault impression. To admit a few rays into the interior's dark confines, dual skylights are optional.

The MKS's cabin is both roomy and comfortable. Swinging open the massive doors and climbing over the tall, wide sills is no fun, but the interior is nicely if starkly trimmed, quiet, and commodious. The most notable annoyance I experienced was a center console that intruded far enough into the back seat to impede the feet of any passenger attempting to slide across from one side to the other.

A corporate 3.7-liter V-6 engine provides 273 willing horsepower and regular-fuel operating ability. That's more than enough power to expose any driver to the risk of a speeding ticket, not to mention a preview of coming attractions. With V-8s nominated for the endangered species list, Lincoln is slightly ahead of the curve by dropping that engine configuration from its (retail) car lineup. This is not to say this two-ton-plus sedan earns any blue ribbons from EPA mileage testers. The ratings are 17 mpg in city driving, 24 on the highway and one mpg less in both venues if you opt for all-wheel drive. Traditional Lincoln customers will immediately notice that the V-6 may generate the spunk and mediocre mileage of yesterday's V-8, but it can't compare in smoothness and silence. The gritty edge and strained growl coming from this engine is palatable in a crossover SUV or a sport sedan but less welcome in a flagship luxury sedan.

While I didn't expect remarkable agility or phenomenal handling prowess, I was surprised to find how poorly this Lincoln rides. It never met a bump, crack, or pothole it failed to embellish in its detailed report to occupants. I suspect the nineteen-inch wheels have something to do with the undesirably firm damping and general stiff-leggedness I noticed.

Building a car that plays to a loyal but dwindling customer base is short-term thinking. In the medium term, buyers who prefer a big, classically outfitted Lincoln will spend their remaining days in walkers, rockers, and wheelchairs. In other words, the MKS is likely to be their final flagship. The next generation of wealthy buyers is far more likely to prefer the junior-grade MKZ.

Don Sherman, Technical Editor

New Car Research

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