Review: 2013 Lincoln MKT EcoBoost AWD

Lincoln's MKT gets a light refresh for 2013. We don our shades and check it out.

We're not sure that the Lincoln MKT has settled in as the rightful successor to the now cold-as-a-corpse Lincoln Town Car. But that doesn't mean this burly beast isn't up to the task.

Slowly gaining traction in the market, the MKT is a re-think of a family hauler (not quite a traditional crossover and certainly not an SUV or wagon), while at the same time doing double duty as the darling of the fleet and limo set.

We loaded it with passengers of the still-alive variety to find out how this luxo-laden ride performs.

What is it?
The MKT is probably one of the more important vehicles in the mature but still evolving Lincoln division of Ford Motor Company. With an all-hands-on-deck approach to growing the company, Lincoln needs to sell every car built. And, realistically, it needs to build a lot more cars, too.

The Town Car, along with its Mercury Gran Marquis and Ford Crown Victoria cousins, was amortized years ago through police, fleet and livery sales, but it became the bread and butter vehicle of the brand. For all intents and purposes, this MKT is set to occupy that same niche in some ways while venturing into the family market in others.

The MKT is a six or seven-passenger crossover based on the Ford D4 platform that is shared by the Ford Flex and Explorer. In itself, the D4 is a revision of the D3 platform that forms the basis of the Lincoln MKS, as well the old Volvo S80. Our model, as equipped, accommodates six passengers.

Power comes from a revised, direct injection, twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 engine. One of the brand's most successful marketing efforts to date, the EcoBoost features power which has increased by 10 ponies to 365 horsepower at 5,700 rpm, while 350 lb-ft of torque is available across the powerband from a barely-alive 1,500 all the way to 5,250 rpm. Power is delivered to the pavement by a full-time all-wheel-drive system, which motivates the front wheels under normal speed and conditions and also sends power to the rear when slippage is indicated, sometimes in as little as 16 milliseconds.

For those not in need of quite as much engine, a 303-horsepower, 278 lb-ft. version of Ford's 3.7-liter V6 with front-wheel-drive is available.

Fully adaptable dampers include Lincoln's Drive Control adjustment, which transforms the MKT's steering, suspension and throttle mapping to equal a comfort or sport setting, as the driver sees fit.

What's it up against?
The MKT counts among its competition, some of Europe's best. The BMW X5 and Audi Q7, if optioned correctly, arrive at nearly the same price point. Your mileage and wallet thickness may vary according to your needs and wants.

Other players include the Infiniti JX35 and the recently refreshed Buick Enclave.

How does it look?
Most of the MKT is carryover from the 2012 model with the exception of a new grill. The wing-like shapes on the Lincoln MKT are some of its most distinctive and recognizable features, along with the gun sight logo, of course. The looks have evolved from the vertically mounted, widely spaced waterfall design to a closer spacing that resembles the gill structures on a freshwater bass. But that look doesn't carry throughout the Lincoln line. With a variation on a theme, the new MKZ features horizontally staged pieces that actually give the impression of flowing outward.

At least as far as the grill is concerned, the Lincoln brand seems to be suffering a bit of an identity crisis.

Finished in Tuxedo Black Metallic with chrome accents, the MKT does not look out of place at a formal function, nor during a weekend run to the local "big box" store. The upward-stepping beltline along the door helps to break up the visual mass, while the sloping D-pillar helps to create a sense of urgency.

A T-bar shaped brake light assembly with chrome accents joins the silver-tipped exhaust finishers and 20-inch ten-spoke chromed aluminum wheels to complete the formal look. At 117.9-inches, it shares the same wheelbase with the Ford Flex. With an overall length of 207.6-inches, it is nearly six-inches longer.

From certain angles, the MKT can look like a hearse. In fact, we have seen some Professional Car coachbuilders have added landau roofs and S-curves to the sides so that the dearly departed will be styling during their ultimate roadtrip.

And on the inside?
The interior of the MKT has undergone a wholesale do-over resulting in a finish that is much above the standing of the previous model. Featuring some of Lincoln's, and Ford's, by extension, best leather to date, our MKT was blacked-out with single needle stitching and new touch controls for nearly every function. But not all is right in the design world.

The steering wheel has undergone a transformation from four spokes to three, and thankfully omitted the silly little Chiclets paddle shift buttons. In their place are improved paddle levers, still made of plastic, but with a more functional style and placement. The black plastic five-point touchpads on the wheel belie the quality that exists in this crossover/SUV/wagon, and help to drag down an otherwise nicely appointed interior.

The menu-intensive MyLincoln Touch joins the MKT for improved driver interaction including the use of a central speedometer flanked by a pair of 4.2-inch LCD screens that allow operation of the vehicle systems, the THX audio system and the Bluetooth functionality of the car. Redundancy of most of the operations can be performed directly by touching the eight-inch display in the center stack. Although leagues ahead of Ford's first infotainment effort, the system still lags (often literally) some rivals. We found the slide-rule volume control to be a novelty, although one that we got used to fairly quickly.

The seating offered all-day comfort, which would be just the thing were we a limo driver. Our MKT was equipped with the available second-row refrigerator console to keep the water bottles or juice boxes cool. The downside to keeping things chill is the need for second-row bucket seats, which make this crossover into a six- instead of seven- seater. Despite that, our tester was equipped with three-zone climate controls so people in the "way back" could master their own domain, at least as far as climate is concern.

Finally, to keep things light and airy, our vehicle was equipped with the optional large power panoramic vista roof, which went a long way to relieving our tester's dark feel.

But does it go?
The 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine offers fine grunt for the MKT and enables it to achieve terminal velocity in short order. Not a hot-rod by any stretch, it still manages a 0-60 mph sprint in 6.3-seconds, acting like a small block V8, rather than the six-pot engine it really is. Making 365 horsepower here, the same engine in the Ford Flex sister-ship produces 355 ponies.

Shifting from the six-speed automatic was flawless without hunting for gears while in city driving situations. A new sport mode takes over where the manual mode was found on last year's model, and gives the driver, by doing nothing, the ability to just remap the system for quicker shift points and longer gear holding or for the ability to row it yourself with the steering wheel-mounted shift levers. We found sure and quick shifts throughout its range.

Handling is tighter than we have seen in the Flex, but from a center of gravity standpoint, we think it rides a bit higher than that vehicle, though not in a manner that's unnerving. Two hands on the wheel and whipping through the turns, it still tracks very flat, thanks to the electric power-assisted steering and the continuously controlled damping system. We found that the brakes provided competent stopping ability in every situation.

Weighing in at 4,942 lbs., a properly rigged MKT can nearly pull its own weight, topping out at 4,500-pounds. Mileage has seen a minor improvement, jumping from 15 to 16 mpg city, and from 21 to 23 highway. During our outings in the nearly 5,000 lbs. MKT, we observed combined fuel mileage of 16.7 mpg, which is still a touch short of the EPA combined average of 18 mpg.

We really wanted to trust the much-ballyhooed parallel parking assistant, even going so far as to letting the system find, and then approve a parking spot. It was only at the last second that we grabbed the wheel, stopping the computer from doing its job. Some things will never change, including our ability to trust a computer.

Remember HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey, anyone?

Why you would buy it:
The big box look of an Escalade is just not your style, nor is tooling around in a Lexus or an Infiniti.

Why you wouldn't:
The only time you'd like to be seen in one is during your last ride.

Leftlane's bottom line
Lincoln steps up their game, offering a myriad of improvements to the venerable MKT.

Looking as though it has a long life ahead of itself in both limousine and professional car applications, sales to the general public would simply be icing on the cake. But we're not sure that a vehicle aimed at both segments is likely to catch on.

2013 Lincoln MKT EcoBoost AWD base price, $47,280. As tested, $58,045.
Package 201A, $3,500; Technology Package, $2,000; Second row buckets, $995; Power moonroof, $980; Refrigerator, $895; Inflatable rear seatbelts, $190; Polished alloy wheels, $1,350; Destination, $895.

Words and photos by Mark Elias.