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2009 Lincoln MKS AWD

The first thing I noticed when I sat in the Lincoln MKS is the brilliant satellite navigation system interface. The screen is clear, the system reacts quickly to your inputs, and the Sirius Travel Link feature is quite clever. It was nice to check the weather radar on my way to work this morning, and the fuel price listing is kind of cool. I also like how the radio portion of the system displays album art and that the MKS has a better form of SYNC compared with Ford's early systems.

The rest of the MKS is less impressive. The steering offers little feel, and the engine doesn't sound very impressive. Additionally, the interior doesn't feel that well screwed together. There were multiple rattles in our low-mileage test vehicle, and the center console and shifter both feel pretty low rent. It is interesting that Lincoln set up their manual shifting control in what I feel is the correct way - pull back for upshifts and push forward for downshifts - but it's too bad the rest of the vehicle doesn't live up to that sporty setup.

Finally, I find the new Lincoln's keyless-entry system to be slightly weird. As with similar systems on many cars, you only need to have the key in your pocket to start the MKS. But to unlock the car you either need to push the button on the key fob or move your finger over the numerical keypad on the driver's door. Most other cars will allow you either simply to pull on the door handle, whereupon the door will unlock when it detects the key on your person, or to push a little rubber button imbedded in the door handle. The Lincoln lacked these features, and the only way I could find to easily lock the MKS was to also use the key fob. I checked the owner's manual but couldn't find any other slick way to lock the doors. I recall that the early versions of the current-generation Ford Mondeo in Europe had a similar setup (though without the numerical keypad), but the Mondeo now features a more conventional setup.

Marc Noordeloos, Road Test Editor

I second Marc's observations about the keyless go system. Isn't one of the main points in the advertisements that spaceships don't need keys? Well, I guess you don't need a key to start it, but you can't get into the car without pulling out the fob and hitting unlock. Ok, so there is an "invisible" keypad on the B-pillar. As far as I'm concerned, it lives up to its name: I couldn't find it at all. And the all-black fob is impossible to decipher at night. I had to hold it under the mirror lights to see which button locked the car when I got home last night. If Lincoln is going to use this system, it needs to put a little button on the handle that allows you to lock or unlock the doors easily.

The interior of the MKS is very impressive, even more so if you've spent time behind the wheel of a Ford Taurus. The materials feel much more luxurious and the new infotainment system both looks good and works well. Still, it leaves a lot to be desired if you've spent time in any of the real luxury sedans in this class. For people just looking for a comfortable, quiet commuter, this MKS will be more than adequate.

Fuel economy is pretty depressing for a sedan. I know the car has all-wheel drive, but 16/23 mpg is nothing to brag about, especially when you have less than 300 hp. I didn't find the 3.7-liter V-6 to be very inspiring. It certainly moves the car down the road well enough, but I couldn't recommend this car to anyone until the EcoBoost engine (with turbocharging and direct injection) is available next spring. Perhaps EcoBoost won't be as great as I'm imagining, but I have a feeling all the people who rushed out to buy an MKS will wish they waited for the EcoBoost after it becomes an option next year.

Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor

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

I attended the launch of the MKS three months ago in Washington, D.C., and my feelings on the car haven't changed much. There is very little here to capture the attention of an enthusiast driver, although the arrival next spring of the EcoBoost turbocharged, direct-injected V-6 should help matters a bit. For those who just want a roomy, luxurious sedan from an American nameplate, though, there's plenty to like, as the cabin is nicely turned out, and the stereo and navigation interfaces, as my colleagues already have noted, are world-class.

As others have explained, the core compromise in this car is the fact that it's based on the previous-generation Volvo S80 platform, which dates back to the mid-1990s. Those underpinnings are good enough to serve today for the Ford Taurus (which used to be called the Five Hundred), but they have nowhere near the pedigree needed for a car that is supposed to serve as the flagship of a resurgent luxury brand.

With the Ford Motor Company's many current travails, its proposed future rear-wheel-drive car platform is in limbo, which is a shame, because Lincoln cannot and will not be a world-class competitor to Cadillac, Lexus, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, and all the usual suspects without it. This is what happens when a car company takes its eye off car development, as Ford did for more than a decade while it soaked up huge profits from trucks and SUVs. And now that it has had to spin off Jaguar to Tata in a desperate move to raise cash, Ford cannot even take the excellent new Jaguar XF sedan and reengineer and rebadge it as a Lincoln, which would not be a bad car at all.

Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor

I spent the long Labor Day weekend in the MKS, so I had plenty of time to get acquainted with Lincoln's new flagship. My destination for the weekend was about 250 miles away - pretty much all on the highway. Before I left I had to fill the gas tank, and I soon realized that the MKS is equipped with Ford's capless fuel filler system, which I first heard about last year. It was seamless to use, although the best thing about filling up the MKS was that I could use regular grade fuel rather than high octane.

Once on the road, the state of Michigan's freeway - surfaces range from broken concrete to bumpy, tar-filled patches to smooth stretches of newly paved road - tested the MKS's composure. I have to say that I wasn't that impressed with the ride, as the rough stretches of road were conveyed directly to the seat of my pants. However, the brilliance of the SYNC system distracted me enough that I wasn't particularly bothered by it.

The interior is a pleasant enough environment, although a little monochrome for my taste - perhaps it was just the all-black interior of our test car. I did like the dual sunroofs, as it lightened up the cabin.

The Town Car was known for its prodigious trunk capacity, and the MKS doesn't disappoint in that respect with a generous amount of cargo space. However, the opening isn't as wide, and the trunk lid lacks an automatic soft-closing mechanism. In our test car, it took a pretty hefty slam to get the trunk to close.

My colleagues have lamented the fact that this Lincoln will have a hard time competing with its competitors from Cadillac, Lexus, etc. However, the one thing it has going for it is its price: with a base sticker of just over $40,000, it is among the least expensive full-size luxury cars on the market. At that price, it will likely still appeal to loyal Lincoln customers.

Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor

I agree with my colleagues almost completely. The new MKS is a very nice car, but it's just not what the Lincoln flagship needs to be. Cadillac (not to mention Jaguar, Lexus, Audi, et al.) sells some pretty fantastic products these days, and the MKS is weak by comparison. Primary examples in my mind are the MKS's surprisingly distracting levels of wind/road noise and its too-harsh nineteen-inch-wheeled ride.

On the plus side, I was impressed at how well disguised this car is from its Taurus/Sable kin. When you park the MKS next to a new Taurus, its roofline, greenhouse, and overall lines are distinct enough to trick most observers into believing that these cars are completely different. Our design editor Robert Cumberford may strike me down for saying this, but I actually like the MKS's taillights, which remind me of the Maserati Quattroporte's. I think the MKS looks better in person than in photos, too, although our car's black paint probably helps this. The infotainment system, as others have noted, is awesome, as is the stereo. The touchscreen seemed too far away to me, though (and I have long arms). Adjustable pedals (not present on this car) would be a must.

Still, in this class, I'd buy a Chrysler 300C - which offers a much sportier driving experience - and spend the money I'd save on premium fuel. I might, however, recommend the Lincoln over the Chrysler to a person who was more concerned with interior features, quality of materials, and overall comfort. But that person isn't me. Moreover, the Lincoln isn't confidence inspiring at high speeds, and even this all-wheel-drive model produces a bit of torque steer. As others have noted, I have high hopes that the upcoming EcoBoost will make a much stronger case for the MKS, but what Lincoln really needs is a proper flagship in the vein of the Jaguar XF.

Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor

2009 Lincoln MKS AWD

Base Price (with destination): $40,355Price as tested: $46,070

Options:-Ultimate Package- $5715Includes: Rain Sensing Wipers, Dual Panel Moonroof, Adaptive Headlamps, Forward Sensing System, Voice Activated Navigation, Technology Package, Push Button Start, Rear Window Power Sunshade, Navigation Package, Rear View Camera, Surround Sound System, 19" Aluminum Wheels

Fuel Economy: -16 / 23 / 19 (city/hwy/combined) (from www.fueleconomy.gov)

Engine: -V6, 4 valve, DURATEC 37, VCT-Size: 3.7 L-Horsepower: 273 @ 6250 rpm-Torque: 270 lb-ft @ 4250 rpm

Transmission: -6-speed automatic with SelectShift

Weight: -4276 lb

Tire Info: -19 x 8.0 premium painted cast aluminum 10-spoke-P255/45R19 V-rated all-season