For nine years, the Lincoln MKX crossover SUV has been the brand’s biggest success story. Even positioned against heavyweights like the Lexus RX and Audi Q5, it’s sold well and performed well as a premium-featured vehicle.
But it hasn’t always made its mark as a luxury vehicle. In truth, outside of Detroit, many shoppers haven’t even looked at the MKX, because of its badge. That’s specifically what Ford wants to fix with the second-generation MKX.
The new MKX makes a much more genuine effort at distinguishing itself from its mechanical cousin, the Ford Edge. The MKX gets a streamlined powertrain lineup, with more horsepower in top versions; a quieter, better-controlled ride; and a more “boutique” focus toward a wider range of cabin and trim choices.
For most buyers, it works. The MKX has broadened its appeal and distanced itself from the Edge. In some ways, it’s legitimately a better Lexus RX, now that the RX is wandering off on the styling edge already occupied by the more polished (!) Nissan Murano.
It’s likely you won’t see any Edge in the MKX from the outside. If it’s not parked near any other vehicles for relative size, the MKX could easily, from some angles, be mistaken for the smaller MKC. Side-body sculpting is softer and more graceful and voluptuous than before, while the profile is a little more wagon-like, and the somewhat more horizontally stretched version of the brand’s split-wing grille, flanked by headlights that are, as Lincoln puts it, “blades, rather than projectors,” does bring a wider look in front. Those headlamps are full-LED on some models, and there’s a new feature that uses reflectors to add more width to the low-beam pattern at speeds up to 35 mph.
Inside, the MKX has an interface that will also be familiar to those who have seen the MKC and its revamped cabin design. The shift lever has been replaced by a push-button array, although here in the MKX it’s moved a bit lower, built into a span that bridges the instrument panel and center console. In keeping with Lincoln’s move to make its interior and trim themes a little more distinctive, there are a total of four Black Label design themes, including Modern Heritage, Indulgence, a theme inspired “by the fashion, lifestyle and art scene of 1920s Paris,” and one influenced by thoroughbred horse racing.
The 2016 Lincoln MKX offers more powertrain choice than it did last year. Although the base engine remains a 3.7-liter V-6, with 303 horsepower, an available 2.7-liter twin-turbo V-6 makes 335 hp in a lower, wider part of the rev range. It’s a happy, powerful unit when coupled to the standard 6-speed automatic, capable of six-second runs to 60 mph, though adding all-wheel drive sends fuel economy below 20 mpg combined, and puts curb weight at more than 4,600 pounds.
New to the MKX is Lincoln Drive Control, which allows you to choose from Normal, Sport, and Comfort modes, at least on all-wheel-drive MKXs. Its adaptive shocks are a big reason why the MKX rides with such composure; even in Sport mode, on 20-inch wheels, it’s rarely flustered from encounters with bad pavement actors. The MKX’s electric power steering is also tied to that system, and it tracks cleanly and undisturbed when the highway flattens out.
The MKX remains a five-seater, but with those seats occupying nearly the space that some brands use for three-row vehicles, there’s plenty of room to spare in back, in terms of legroom and perhaps more importantly cargo space. In some versions there are excellent 22-way power front seats with an active motion feature for less fatigue on long trips; front seats also now get thigh bolsters, which deflate for easier entry and exit. Base seats are undistinguished for comfort, but heating and ventilation are offered.
The back seat of the MKX remains spacious enough for adults to go on double dates, or even longer road trips, four-up—all while allowing enough space for a large load of groceries or several suitcases. Rear-seat headroom seems skimpy when tall passengers interact with the panoramic roof. The seatbacks don’t fold completely flat, but the cargo floor is reasonably low and a height-adjustable tailgate is power-operated and gesture-controlled; shake a foot under it and it opens silently.
Lots of attention has been paid to ambiance with lighting. LED running lamps brighten on approach to the vehicle with the keyfob, while door handles are illuminated and there are puddle lamps brightening the surrounding pavement. Inside, there’s illumination for the cupholders, console pass-through, door handles, map pockets, and rear doors.
Crash-test scores for the MKX are promising, but incomplete. Adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping, blind-spot monitors, and a forward-collision warning system are all available. Surround-view cameras and automatic parking assistance are available.
Leather is an option on the MKX, but on other fronts, it almost overcompensates with standard and available features. The MKX will be the first model in the lineup to offer Revel audio systems. In MKX Select and Reserve models there’s a 13-speaker system available, but an even better system that’s included in top Black Label and available in the MKX Reserve has what Lincoln calls home-theater sound quality. It includes 19 speakers, a new point-source architecture for tweeter and mid-range positioning, and QuantumLogic surround with three modes. And often, the better the audio system, the worse low-bitrate MP3s can sound; to remedy that, this top sound system has a special real-time reconstruction system to help them sound better.
Lincoln also offers an embedded modem and always-on data connection in the MKX, as it does in the MKC, allowing a series of features that let you communicate with your vehicle, via a smartphone app, and do things like remotely start, unlock, or locate the vehicle.