Lincoln is well on its way to sowing confusion with its vehicular alphabet soup of models consisting of the MKS, MKT, MKZ and MKX.
So in the interest of clarity let me explain that the MKX is a mid-size luxury crossover, and a sibling of the Ford Edge. Designed to carry five, the MKX competes with luxury crossovers that include the Lexus RX 350 and Cadillac SRX.
That center stack is the backdrop for the debut of MyLincoln Touch, which uses touch-sensitive bars for entertainment, climate, navigation and phone functions. These functions can be operated by voice commands or thumb controls on the steering wheel as well. But having three ways to operate simple functions seems a tad complex.
Lincoln replaced the 3.5-liter V-6 from the previous model with a 3.7-liter V-6 engine matched with a 6-speed automatic transmission that offers clutchless manual shifting. With 40 more horsepower, this engine is rated at 305 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. That is more power than its Lexus and Cadillac competitors .
Despite having more power, the 2011 all-wheel-drive model is able to achieve the same fuel economy as the previous model — 17 mpg in the city and 23 highway.
The model starts at $40,995 with standard equipment that includes 10-way, heated and cooled front seats; dual-zone climate control; 60/40 split rear seat; reverse sensing system; anti-lock brakes, push button start and power liftgate.
The price of the vehicle I drove came to almost $49,000 with added rear-view camera, adaptive high-intensity discharge headlights, voice-activated navigation system, blind-spot detection with back-up traffic detection, heated steering wheel, power tilt-telescoping steering column, panoramic vista roof and 20-inch wheels.
If gadgetry and high-tech features are the price of entry to the luxury segment, then the MKX is well-qualified to compete.
When it comes to driving, the MKX handles well and rides comfortably. Changes were made to the springs, shock absorbers and stabilizer bars to lessen body lean. More soundproofing and acoustic glass up front make it fairly quiet.
In regular driving, the MKX operates in front-wheel drive for better fuel economy, according to Lincoln. But if the computer detects the front wheels slipping, it automatically shifts almost 100 percent of torque to the rear.
The steering on the MKX wasn't quite as responsive as I remembered that of the Edge to be. However, a Lincoln spokesman said the steering is calibrated the same as the Edge.
For those not smitten with a luxury label, Lincoln has to worry not only about competition from Lexus and Cadillac, but also from within. A Ford Edge offers many, although not all, of the same options as the MKX. The Edge Limited comes with MyFord Touch; and the 3.7-liter engine is shared with the Ford Edge Sport.
OK, if you buy a Ford, you don't get the Lincoln name, the more luxurious interior and the elegant exterior design. But Lincoln also doesn't have the standalone dealerships that provide a Lexus-level of customer coddling.
To try to be more exclusive, Lincoln has joined other luxury makes in offering a free scheduled maintenance program (four years or 50,000 miles) on 2011 models and says it will offer seven all-new or significantly refreshed vehicles in the next four years, all aimed at competing with Cadillac and Lexus.
Test Drive: 2011 Lincoln MKX AWD