Since Ford Motor Company announced intensions to discontinue the historic Mercury brand by the end of 2010, Ford's upscale Lincoln division has gained renewed importance. As Mercury fades into permanent retirement, Lincoln needs to ride with renewed vigor, especially since parent company Ford recently jettisoned Volvo, Land Rover and Volvo from its corporate portfolio. Most Lincolns fall between the $35,000 to $55,000 price range.
This sets the stage for the 2011 Lincoln MKS
. The spacious MKS is based on the sixth-generation Ford Taurus sedan platform which came online in 2010. Changes from the 2010 to 2011 model year are minimal. Both MKS and Taurus are built here in the Windy City at one of the best-kept secrets in the Chicago area; Ford Motor Company's sprawling Chicago Assembly Plant along Torrence Avenue on the south side. It's been operational since 1924 and once assembled the Model T. It's also now the production home of the all-new, car-based 2011 Ford Explorer.
With the long-running, V-8-powered, rear-drive Town Car finally retiring, MKS becomes the flagship sedan at Lincoln. For those seeking V-8 power with Lincoln badging in 2011, the large Navigator sport utility is the click to pick.
The MKS is available with one of Ford Motor Company's most advanced V-6 offerings, a 3.5-liter, twin turbocharged, direct-inject, Ecoboost V-6 cranking out an impressive 365 horses and 350 lbs.-feet of low-end torque grunt. Ecoboost directly injects fuel into the combustion chamber of each cylinder rather than the fuel being mixed with air prior to entering the chamber, resulting in lower carbon emissions. Along with dual water-cooled turbochargers and high compression ratio, Ecoboost improves torque and engine efficiency. Think of it as V-6 fuel efficiency cranking out V-8 power numbers. The MKS Ecoboost engine comes standard with Ford's 'Intelligent' all-wheel drive automatically distributing torque between front and rear wheels as needed. Fuel economy numbers with Ecoboost? Seventeen miles per gallon in city travel and 25 mpg highway.
Also offered in MKS is a 3.7-liter Duratec engine generating 273 horses. Both front wheel and all-wheel drive are available with the Duratec engine. Keep in mind Premium Octane fuel is recommended for optimal (in the 19-gallon tank) use in the Ecoboost engine, although regular 87-octane may be utilized albeit with toned down efficiency. Both are connected to a smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmission. No gas-electric hybrid powertrain is available in MKS, but one is offered in the mid-sized MKZ sedan. While MKS sports no specific trim level identifiers, Lincoln breaks the offerings into MKS front drive, MKS all-wheel drive and MKS with all-wheel Ecoboost.
Our all-wheel drive MKS tester with Ecoboost started at a pricy $48,160. With a $3,500 voice-activated navigation package (including rear-view back up camera and dual panel moon roof), and $2,995 Ecoboost appearance package along with active park assist ($535), adaptive cruise control ($1,295), the bottom line added up to $57,310 including a $825 destination charge. Our tester represented one of the most decked-out models offered. The lowest priced MKS, a front-drive with Duratec engine, starts in the $41,300 range.
Another simple, yet noteworthy MKS nuances is Ford's 'Easy Fuel' gas tank. Just slip the fuel nozzle past a self-sealing barrier plate when fueling, and simply slip out when complete. The barrier automatically opens and closes, reducing the need for a plastic twist cap.
Inside, the instrument panel includes three flat, circular analog gauges. The smart-looking dashboard includes soft-touch materials at home in a luxury sedan. A foot-operated parking brake opens up the region between front buckets for dual in-line cup holders and a narrow slide door when opened reveals a storage/power up area for cell phones or iPods. The medium-sized four-spoke, leather wrapped steering wheel includes cruise control and secondary audio functions in all trims. Black, finger-operated paddle shifters are also standard, but are more at home with a true sports car rather than a full-sized family-friendly sedan. The single-partitioned glove box is of average size. Push button start is standard across all model lines. The steering column includes an up level power telescoping and tilt function. Dual front climate control comes standard as does satellite radio pre wiring. The attractive, straight across dash includes center stack flowing directly into transmission/cup holder area.
Ford's voice-activated Sync system regulating radio and optional in-dash navigation functions comes standard. Being a luxury brand, MKS comes well equipped with popular items (power windows, cruise control) standard.
Thanks to full-size dimensions (204.1-inches long, 75.9-inches wide); MKS accommodates three adults in the back bench seat, a true five passenger vehicle with oodles of leg room. Head room is more than adequate no matter where positioned. Leather trimmed seats are standard in all models. Back doors could be designed to swing open wider for easier leg entry. A fold down arm rest with pass through window (for skis and other long, narrow totes) takes the place of split-folding rear backs. Heated rear seats come standard while heated and cooled seats adorn the supportive and comfortable front buckets.
Visually, MKS boasts the Lincoln's familiar large waterfall front grill flanked by very narrow band-like headlight housing. In the rear, a high, short deck lid plays off the long hood. The MKS smartly includes integrated blind spot mirrors, concave corners tucked in the side-view mirrors, allowing for views not usually available to sedan drivers. It's safety made simpler. Large side and back windows allow for good sight lines for drivers. Lincoln's MKS has a decent sized trunk capable of toting 18.7 cubic feet of cargo with strut-like hinging outside the arena. A temporary spare is found below the flat floor. Dual exhausts come standard with both engine selections as do adaptive headlights, which swivel and illuminate a greater visual range. The dual panel moonroof is optional in all models.
The interior is quiet, but not quite Lexus quiet, (the unofficial benchmark in the luxury segment). Turning radius is average for a large sedan. This car incorporates a smooth luxury ride rather than a more intense sport suspension. The MKS includes all the safety feathers (including a curtain-side airbags) once expects in a $40,000 plus vehicle.
Also included is park assist, a feature helping those parallel-parking challenged folks to maneuver into tight quarters. Park assist largely involves automatic turning of the steering wheel and calculating the angle into the space. Humans behind the wheel are in charge of braking.
Just about all MKS Ecoboost nuances can be had with the less-expensive, platform-sharing Taurus SHO (the top-line Taurus with Ecoboost). Potential customers must weigh whether Lincoln badging and waterfall grille is worth the extra cash outlay. Competitors to MKS include the Cadillac STS and Lexus GS.
Lincoln's MKS powertrain warranty is good for six years or 70,000 miles (whichever comes first). With Lincoln's upscale image, the advanced Ecoboost engine is a defining difference maker in this flagship sedan over the more pedestrian but certainly effective Duratec powertrain. To experience the full Lincoln ambiance, opt for the Ecoboost trim if the budget allows.