When we tested the Ford Flex last March, we knew the Lincoln MKT would be arriving on deal lots soon. At the time we wondered if the new Lincoln would be/could be the new “Black Sedan” or maybe have a bit of that private jet feel to it for second row passengers. Other than the motor in the Flex, the standard 3.5L V-6 which we found just a touch lacking, we loved the Flex, and knew that it would be hard for Lincoln to come up with something better.
Right off the bat the thing that smacks you in the face with the MKT is the styling. As with most of the rest of the Lincoln line you either like the styling, or you don’t. We dig Lincoln’s exterior look and have no problems with the execution of the design language here. Pay attention when we say exterior.
While the Flex looks like a giant MINI from the rear, you aren’t going to mistake the MKT for anything else. Not only does it have Lincoln’s strong front facia, it has the kicked up shoulder over the rear wheel that gives it a more muscular look as well. From there the rear part of the roof begins to slope down into the rear lift gate. While it doesn’t have the elegance as it could have had if the Ford designers had used more of a French Curve, the rear treatments are for the most part successful.
A straight-on rear shot does give you an idea of just how large this vehicle is though. An interesting thing to note with the MKT is what a difference color plays here. When you see an MKT in black, as our tester was, it appears much more substantial than when you see it in a lighter color. Normally the fashionistas will tell you that black is slimming, however, on the MKT that’s not the case.
If you have been inside a Lincoln recently, the interior will feel vary familiar, just a little larger in scale. The materials are very nice, though not quite to the Audi Q7 level. Then again the MKT checks in about twenty grand less, so there you are. There are soft touch materials where you would expect them, the center stack is well laid out, and of course you get Ford’s great SYNC system.
The second row of our MKT was equipped with captains chairs and the refrigerator in between. If you are a mom from Westchester County hauling the boys to hockey practice, and the girls to their equestrian lessons the cooler does a good job of keeping their sodas cold. If you are an executive using this as your “black sedan” then it does a passable job of keeping that Non Vintage bottle for Krug cold. Second row passengers not only have plenty of leg room and their own HVAC controls, but also heated and cooled seats as well.
Row three is where we see the largest difference between the Flex and the MKT. In the Flex, two full sized adults can fit back there, for a time, and not be uncomfortable. In the MKT, they can’t. It isn’t so much the leg room, it’s the lack of head room in the MKT. The sloping rear section of the roof of the MKT cuts in the cabin a great deal and the result is a serious lack of available headroom. While at not quite 5’11” I can sit upright and have plenty of room in the third row of the Flex, anyone much over five feet tall won’t be able to sit upright in the Lincoln’s third row.
The major nit that I have to pick with the MKT’s interior is one that I think would be solved by a change in color. By choosing the Olive Ash wood trim you aren’t forced into the rest of the interior being all black. With the Olive Ash trim you can get what Lincoln is calling “canyon” which is more like a nice darker tan/camel color. The other choice for the seating materials and some of the interior trim pieces is “light stone.” While I would not call the all black interior of our tester oppressive or claustrophobic, it did feel a bit cave-like. Even with the large double panoramic sunroofs teh cabin lacked the airiness of the Flex we tested almost a year ago, and I believe much of that has to do with the interior color choice.
Have a look at some of the interior pictures of the MKT that our friends over at Autoblog had about the same time we had our tester, and I think you will see the dramatic difference.
There are a few things we’d like to see in the interior of the MKT in future model years. First would be a heated steering wheel. Grabbing the the wheel on some of the cold single digit temps we experienced while the MKT was in our driveway was not the most pleasant thing without gloves on. Perhaps a switch of materials to Alcantera or some other micro suede would accomplish the same thing and give the Lincoln an even more upscale feel without a bump up in the price tag.
My second suggestion for Ford’s engineers has to do with the MKT’s remote start function. How about a system that remembers the last settings for the heating and cooling of the seat and cabin temps? Again jumping into the MKT during temperature extremes can be unpleasant. It’s a small thing, but one that would make a big difference in our eyes. As Ford and Lincoln expand their “My Touch” and open the software for the Sync system to developers, perhaps we can have an app for our iPhones/Crackberries/Android’s that accomplish all of that together.
Under the hood of our Lincoln was the 355 Horsepower 3.5 liter V6 EcoBoost engine. The added power and torque of the EcoBoost over the standard, non-boosted 262 Horsepower V6, easily solved our largest issue with the Flex, and that was needed just a bit more grunt in passing and merging situations. Even with the added power of the EcoBoost and the extra drive line losses of MKT being an AWD model the difference in mileage between the two people haulers wasn’t much, maybe one or two MPG at most. That makes the EcoBoost well worth the trade off we think.
As for handling, well, at a curb weight just over 5000lbs, it’s no sports car, but the MKT is more than competent for anything you would ask of it. It handles predictably, there is no real tug from the front wheels in the AWD model when you apply power from low speeds around corners. And the ride on the highway, even on Michigan’s bomb cratered roads was good.
While we really do like the MKT, we are left with one issue, is it fifteen grand better than the Flex? Our immediate reaction is no, but then again maybe it depends on what you are looking for. And if it's something quite peculiar, something shimmering and white, it leads you here, despite your destination, under the milky way tonight. Where the Flex comes across as the tall wagon with hints of the Woodys of the 40’s and 50’s, the MKT does have a more substantial, more serious presence about it. You can’t help but feel the interior of the MKT is a serious Hugo Boss suit person, while the Flex is more khakis and polo shirt kind of guy
If what you crave is most of the interior usability of the Flex in a package that projects a more upscale adult feel that the Flex might, then the MKT is for you. While the interior is not quite up to the Audi Q7 level, it’s fairly close, and as we said earlier a twenty grand difference in price between the Lincoln and the Audi is fairly substantial. The MKT might not quite be the four wheel Gulfstream G550 we had hoped it could be, but having to fly business class on Emirates Airline isn’t exactly a hardship.