2010 Lincoln MKT EcoBoost Review
By Chris Haak
I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to now sample four vehicles with Ford’s outstanding 3.5 liter EcoBoost V6 under their hoods (Flex EcoBoost, Taurus SHO, MKS EcoBoost, and now the MKT EcoBoost). In each vehicle, a blockbuster engine makes these large vehicles accelerate better in a straight line than they seemingly should be able to, while gulping down prodigious amounts of unleaded.
It was a gorgeous sunny day when the MKT was delivered for evaluation; its Cinnamon Metallic paint (a lovely metallic brown with a hint of red mixed in) sparkled in the sun, as did the large quantities of chrome found throughout the vehicle’s exterior. There’s large polished aluminum wheels, chrome at the bottom of the doors, chrome around the greenhouse, chrome on the door handles, chrome around the foglights, chrome across the taillights, and of course, the giant chrome grille.
The color scheme and the chrome work for me; the shape of the MKT, however, doesn’t really do it for me. It has a long front overhang, a bucktoothed face, and the slab-like rear hatch and the MKT’s prominent hips are a bit odd-looking. Design – and one’s appreciation for a particular design – is a subjective matter, and clearly the shape works for some. The word “whale” kept coming to mind when I looked at the MKT, and in particular, the shape of the rear hatch seems to remind me of cetaceans. Further, I’d rank the MKT’s front end treatment as the least-successful among Lincoln’s current lineup; the MKS’ is a little better, the MKZ’s better still, and the still-to-be-launched 2011 MKX has perhaps the most-attractive interpretation of Lincoln’s new corporate face.
Inside, the “Ford Flex with a Lincoln body” certainly satisfies. There’s none of the exterior’s design quirkiness when you open the door. The entire upper dash is covered in French stitched faux (but somewhat real-looking) leather and features a large navigation display with Ford’s SYNC system. The upper dash on my tester was done in charcoal-colored leather, and the lower dash was done in so-called “light stone,” which is a pale shade of gray. Between the two halves of the dash – and on the door panels – a strip of light, varnished wood provides a nice break. The top of the steering wheel is covered in the same color of fake wood, and nearly everything that comes to hand is soft-touch. Controls fall nicely to hand, though – as with nearly all newer Ford and Lincoln products – the steering wheel buttons and climate control buttons are smaller than would be ideal. In a large vehicle like the MKT, there really is no reason to cram the buttons into such a small footprint.
The leather on the MKT’s seats is better than average in terms of its softness, and those seats are heated and cooled in both first and second rows. Really, there’s very little that separates the comfort level in the second row from the first row. The second-row seats recline and can move fore-and-aft, and there’s a large center console that continues from the dashboard all the way past the second row. Inside this console is a small compressor-driven refrigerator and freezer that can hold several soft drink cans (never beer, of course!). The fridge seems to be more of a gimmick than anything; Ford charges $895 for it in the MKT as a standalone option; imagine how many portable coolers, bags of ice, and cases of beer you can buy for $895. A portable cooler is also, well, portable, which the MKT’s fridge is not. However, the factory-installed fridge doesn’t occupy valuable luggage space.
That luggage space is at somewhat disappointing, at least with the third row seats open. For anyone who claims that large crossovers are minivan substitutes in terms of space and ease of use, it’s clear they haven’t compared the two side-by-side. While a minivan has a deep cargo well behind the third-row seats, the MKT has no such well. The third row seats do fold flat, but not into much of a well. Instead, they lie down flat on the floor. It’s just as well, anyway, since the third row seats are inappropriate for adults. I’m admittedly as tall as anyone who’d ever try to sit in the third row of the MKT (six-foot-four), but my head was against the ceiling, my knees were against the second-row seatback and my chest, and my ankles were at the same height as my hips. In contrast, the 2011 Kia Sorento that I tested recently had a small third row that I still managed to fit reasonably well into.
Safety and convenience features abound. My tester was equipped with the $4,000 elite package, which added navigation, power panoramic vista roof, and acoustic side door glass. It had Active Park Assist for $595 (more on that in a moment), second-row bucket seats for $995, second-row console refrigerator for $895, and adaptive cruise control for $1,295. It also had adaptive HID headlamps, power liftgate, Sirius Satellite Radio, rear camera, 12-way power driver and front passenger seats, all wheel drive (standard on the EcoBoost model and optional on the naturally-aspirated MKT), and a touch screen with audio/climate controls (even in models without navigation). Of course, it should have all of that equipment for the asking price, which is $49,995 including destination to start (EcoBoost model) and $57,775 all-in.
Ford’s Active Park Assist was amazing and lots of fun to play with. That being said, I probably wouldn’t fork over my own $595 for it, although one self-parking mishap with another car could easily eat up that $595 and then some. It’s far easier to use than the automatic parallel parking system in the Lexus LS 600hL because it’s all automatic. To use it, just push the little “P” button on the console in front of the gearshift and drive slowly along the street. If you activate your turn signal, you’ll give the system a hint as to which side of the street it should look for, but otherwise it looks on both sides of a one-way street. Once it finds a space, it beeps and displays a message on the instrument panel that a space has been found and that you should pull forward slowly. After you’re far enough forward, a it tells you to stop, shift into reverse, and remove your hands from the steering wheel. Release the brake, and the MKT’s steering wheel turns itself crazy-fast, first to the right, then to the left, as the vehicle backs into a parallel parking space. Depending upon circumstances, it may ask you to pull forward, and possibly back and forth again, but eventually, you’re told that the parking maneuver is complete.
In my first test of Active Park Assist, I was amazed at how easy it was to use and how well it worked. The MKT was deposited about three inches from the curb. The second time I tried it, I was entertaining my preschool-age sons with the self-turning steering wheel, again with a successful maneuver. The third test was on a more-crowded street with my wife along to bear witness. I was paying more attention to the surroundings than to the instrument panel, and believe that I was supposed to have stopped and didn’t, so tagged the (fortunately low) curb with the right-rear tire. I also played with the feature an additional two times, for five attempts in all, and came away impressed on each occasion. It does take a leap of faith to let the MKT judge where its right-front corner is (there is a sonar parking sensor on each side of the front bumper to help with parking maneuvers), and each time, the MKT seemed to turn the wheel back to the left a few feet before my instincts told me it should. Of course, it never touched a parked car, though.
The powerful EcoBoost V6 displaces 3.5 liters and produces 355 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque on regular gasoline. In spite of the MKT’s significant heft (its curb weight is a porky 4,924 pounds, or two and a half tons), it can scoot from a standing start in a straight line. The body is just too large, however, to even think about attempting any kind of canyon carving in the MKT. You’re always aware of the width of the vehicle when you drive the MKT, and every time I sample one of the large Fords with this engine, I daydream about a group of renegade engineers in Dearborn shoehorning this engine under the hood of a smaller vehicle – even a Fusion would be a great start, or a Mustang.
My tester was equipped with adaptive cruise control, and I wasn’t terribly impressed by Ford’s system. The most effective adaptive cruise control systems I’ve used have been in Infiniti and Acura models. Toyotas I’ve driven with ACC have done a good job of following safely, but tend to stomp on the accelerator pedal to get back to speed after having slowed down for a car in front of you. The MKT’s cruise control, on both sunny days and some with light rain, had trouble maintaining a safe following distance, in spite of being set to maintain the longest distance between cars. I’d find myself manually intervening as the MKT kept going too close for comfort to the car in front of me. Toyota doesn’t allow you to use their system (at least the on in my wife’s 2008 Sienna) with the wipers on anything faster than intermittent wipers. That might not be a bad idea to help the system that Ford installs add additional safety margins.
The EPA says the MKT EcoBoost should return 16 miles per gallon in the city and 22 miles per gallon on the highway. My experience in a week of mixed driving was right on par with that, with my average around 20 mpg after a highway trip, then dipping into the 17s after a few days of city- and local-only miles. My experience with the EcoBoost (and actually, all boosted engines) is that the fuel economy they return (or lack of) is very much dependent upon driving style. Use those 355 horsepower, and you’ll see economy in the 14/15 mile per gallon range. Drive with a light foot, and you’ll see numbers closer what’s printed on the Monroney.
The ride/handling balance in the MKT is tilted toward the “floaty” side of the spectrum. Although the ride was floaty, the brakes were spongy and not confidence-inspiring, and the electric power steering did not transmit a lot of road feel through the MKT’s large, thin steering wheel, that’s probably OK in a vehicle like this. It’s not confidence-inspiring, but it is comfortable. The seats seemed to have decent comfort for longer trips, and with the second-row seats adjusted to their rearmost position, little kid legs in convertible car seats cannot kick the front seatbacks.
So, the MKT’s interior wowed me, and the technology impressed. It has a great engine. But it’s big, heavy, looks a little weird, and doesn’t have the interior utility of its Ford Flex cousin, much less that of a minivan. Yet perhaps Lincoln has successfully captured the essence of what an American luxury vehicle is: a large, comfortable, powerful vehicle capable of moving four passengers long distances in near-complete isolation. The MKT is the Lincoln of large crossovers; it’s not the Cadillac, it’s not the BMW – it’s the Lincoln. And kudos to Ford for realizing what Lincoln stands for when creating the MKT. Now, will these ever replace the aging Town Car “black cars” used in New York and other large cities for airport and executive transportation? Perhaps not, but perhaps they should.