There once was a time - and not all that long ago - when buyers who wanted a luxury crossover simply headed down to their local Lexus dealer to pick up a shiny new RX. There wasn't much else competitive in the segment and the RX was backed by Lexus' impeccable reputation for quality and safety.
However, a lot has changed over the last few years, and a plethora of new luxury CUVs mean the segment's buyers no longer have to pick between buying the RX or walking.
In its first iteration, the Lincoln MKX
was a nice vehicle, but by no means had the chops to contend with vehicles like the RX. Its styling was only so-so and its interior didn't live up to the perceived luxury pretensions of the Lincoln badge. Still, the MKX managed to average about 25,000 sales per year, but good enough just isn't good enough for the new Ford.
More of the same?
Admittedly, after recently spending some time behind the wheel
of the 2011 Ford Edge
- a sister vehicle to the 2011 Lincoln MKX - we were quite worried about the materials we'd find in Lincoln's newest crossover. We quite liked the overall design of the Edge's interior, but were let down by its entry-level plastics and cheap-feeling leather. So, would we find more of the same in the upscale Lincoln?
Thankfully, Lincoln did the MKX right, using far better materials befit of a luxury brand.
Overall, the MKX's design isn't that much different than the one you'll find in the 2011 Edge. Slide into the driver's seat and you'll be greeted by essentially the same steering wheel and dashboard found in the Ford. But Lincoln designers were granted access to far better materials, and it really shows.
Unlike the Edge, the Lincoln is covered in soft-touch materials - from the doors to the dash to the center console. Moreover, most of those soft-touch bits are accented with stitching - such as along the edges of the dash - giving the MKX that much more of the upscale feel absolutely essential to the segment.
But as much as we liked the quality of materials used throughout the MKX's cabin, the CUV's seats win our gold star award. Not only are the front buckets comfortable and supportive, but they look great. It's hard not to love contrasting piping, and Lincoln has a knack for using only top-notch leather.
The MKX's technology adds to its air of luxury, coming standard with a center stack-mounted touch screen display, Ford's second-generation Sync technology and twin gauge-mounted LCD screens. For audiophiles, a THX-certified sound system is also on offer.
The 2011 MKX also marks the launch of Lincoln's new MyLincoln Touch center stack. Similar in concept to the MyFord Touch system, MyLincoln Touch replaces the usual cluster of static switches with capacitive buttons. As we found with MyFord Touch, we liked the futuristic feel of MyLincoln Touch, but missed the function of a good old volume knob. MyLincoln Touch replaces the volume knob with a slider bar, which we found to be less than ideal for situations when you need to quickly reduce the volume level.
An Edge with lipstick?
Although there is a clear familial link between the interiors of Edge and the MKX, there is a fair bit of distinction when it comes to exterior styling. True the CUVs share the same basic shape, but there are enough design details to set the two apart.
Like all recent Lincoln products, the MKX features the brand's distinctive front grille. Some may be put off by the grinning whale look, but the Lincoln grille looks more at home on the MKX than any other Lincoln product to date. A creased hood and accented wheel arches add the MKX's bold look.
The sides of the MKX are essentially unchanged from last year's model - save for new 18- and 20-inch wheel designs - but the 2011 MKX does gain a new rear-end. No more wraparound treatment here - the MKX now sports two distinctive rear lights that mimic those found on the MKZ sedan.
Town Car or sports car
With the two extremes to choose from, Lincoln engineers pretty much split the difference, landing just on this side of sporty. You won't soon confuse the MKX with a crossover wearing the BMW badge, but you also won't mistake it for the soft driving experience of the Lexus RX.
Consider the MKX as a softer Edge and you're right on track. The MKX's steering isn't quite as weighted as in the Edge and the MKX's extra sound deadening materials ensure you're a little more isolated from the outside world. Body roll isn't a huge issue in the MKX, but hustle it into a tight corner and you'll soon remember you're piloting a heavy crossover.
Equipped with the same 305 horsepower 3.7-liter V6 found under the hood of the 2011 Ford Mustang
, the 2011 MKX delivers decent performance, but its curb weight of 4,200 pounds (add a few more if you opt for all-wheel drive) ensures it won't win many red light races. However, the MKX is more than class competitive and we doubt many buyers will be left wanting for more power.
But while MKX buyers may be satisfied with the crossover's performance, they may be a little disappointed when it comes to fuel economy. The front-wheel drive MKX delivers a very respectable 19/26mpg, but the AWD version drops those figures to 17/23mpg - about on par with General Motors' larger three-row Lambda vehicles ( GMC Acadia
, Buick Enclave
). Lincoln openly admits that buyers - even in the luxury segment - are making the switch to more fuel efficient vehicles, which seems like the perfect reason to offer a more fuel-efficient EcoBoost option in the MKX. However, no such model is in the pipeline, so those wanting better economy will have to stick with the two-wheel drive model.
At least its fuel economy is class competitive; you won't find much difference between the MKX and a Lexus RX350 or a Cadillac SRX
Leftlane's bottom line
Lexus, watch out - Lincoln has a serious contender on its hands with the 2011 MKX. We found very few faults with the latest MKX, proving Lincoln really did its homework for 2011 model, even if it is technically a mid-cycle refresh. The MKX's combination of quality materials, technical features and distinctive looks are hard to beat, ensuring luxury buyers will take notice. Those shopping a fully-load Edge Limited should seriously consider the MKX as it offers far better materials at a relatively small premium.
Our only major concern for would-be buyers of the 2011 MKX is Lincoln's dealer network. Luxury buyers have become accustomed to shopping at stand-alone dealerships that typically offer greater personal attention. But if potential MKX buyers can ignore the Ford Focus for sale in the adjoining showroom, Lincoln should have a hit on its hands with the 2011 MKX.
Words and photos by Drew Johnson.