2011 Lincoln MKX

Beginning with this issue of Camp we’ll be running periodic car reviews. These test drives have been a fun adventure for me — someone who’s been called a gearhead, or simply a car nut. I hope my comments give you some insight on the vehicles we cover.
For this issue, we’ll look at the 2011 Lincoln MKX.
I drove this car on a road trip to Chicago, which gave me ample time to become familiar with how the car performs on interstates, two-lane highways and in urban congestion.
The MKX debuted in 2007, and it went through a major update in interior and exterior styling for 2011. It now can seriously compete with SUVs in the $40,000-$50,000 range. I noticed that there is also a $1,500 cash-back offer until July 5.
One significant styling change was to add the waterfall-type front grill that is so recognizable on other Lincoln models. The MKX is available only in a two-row, five-passenger configuration; it is not large enough to offer third-row seating.
The car I tested was fully optioned out. It had the fantastic-sounding THX II certified audio system with HD radio and 14 speakers, along with a feature that allows you to tag a song on iTunes for uploading onto your iPod. For those looking for a similar vehicle at a lower price point, check out the Ford Edge or Mazda CX-7, which share the Ford/Mazda relationship with chassis and dimensions.
Fit and finish are superb. This model had an elegant leather interior and the panoramic vista sunroof, along with chrome 20-inch wheels. Like many of the other Ford/Lincoln products, the MKX is available with voice-activated Sync for many of the commands that can also be executed on the MyTouch navigation screen interface and dashboard controls. Working both voice and touch commands can be a challenge, however, and some may prefer to skip it. I found it a bit slow and often simply wanted to change the temperature or radio with a simple dial or knob. If you are considering a car with the Sync options, I’d recommend giving Sync a serious road test to determine whether it’s something you’ll love or hate.
The voice commands are great when you don’t want to take your eyes off the road. You simply press the voice button on the steering wheel and are greeted by a friendly female voice asking what you’re looking for. (The voice can be changed by gender and even language in the setup menu.) Here’s an example: I pressed the voice command and said, “climate.” Then “temperature.” The voice responded, “What temperature?” I answered, “73 degrees.” The voice said, “Did you say 83 degrees?” I said, “No, 73 degrees.” It answered: “Did you say 73 degrees?” I said, “Yes.” Then the voice said, “Setting temperature to 73 degrees.”
Several times it took a few tries to get the system to interpret the temperature or other voice commands right. But after driving the car for some time, I felt it was training me to enunciate, because my success rate on the first try got better.
The MKX has a sliding dial for temperature and also the touch screen. You can adjust temperatures with your fingers, if you prefer, for each front-seat passenger and for each person’s heated and cooled seat.
The voice-activated commands and touch screens also work for the navigation system, and they can be handy when activating directions to previous locations or accessing your Bluetooth-linked phone book in a hands-free phone environment. Another great option through the Sirius radio was a gasoline finder, where the system tells you the price per gallon within a five-mile radius of your current location. (The Lincoln MKX does not require premium unleaded fuel, by the way.) You can refresh that information as you drive, so you always know when it might be best to stop and fuel up. I found that by using the gasoline finder, I actually saved more than 40 cents per gallon. However, this gas-pricing feature is also an app available on many smartphones.
This car had two options that I found addictive, although for a good driver, they aren’t necessary: the adaptive-braking cruise control, and the collision warning and blind-spot warning in the exterior mirrors. With the adaptive-braking control, you can adjust the settings to slow the car’s speed so that it stays one to four car-lengths behind the driver in front of you. When cruising the highway, it was very driver-friendly as it slowed down the car automatically when in cruise control if the distance became too close to the vehicle in front. Once you change lanes, the system automatically adjusts back to the higher speed setting on the cruise control. The blind-spot monitoring lights in both front exterior side mirrors were very helpful in warning of oncoming vehicles. This car also offered a rear camera when in reverse with a collision warning should a person or car dart behind you as you back up.
The MKX’s six-cylinder engine has 305 horsepower and 280 pounds-feet of torque and is available in front-wheel or all-wheel drive. I drove the all-wheel drive, and it felt quite responsive, with exterior dimensions just right for city driving. EPA-estimated gas mileage is 17 city / 23 highway, although my experience after some hard driving was lower.
After packing the car for my Chicago road trip with my four terriers, their dog beds, folding crates, pet food and other child (I mean, pet) accessories, an ice cooler with food supplies, and oh yes, one piece of luggage for me, the car felt a bit full. Although the MKX may offer a higher seating position and more interior height, I found the actual cargo area to be not that much larger than that of my more fuel-efficient four-cylinder Volkswagen Passat station wagon.
Style: 10
The gay men on Halsted Street in Chicago were doing double-takes at the car.
Interior room: 8
Although it passed my 6’4” tall-person height requirements, rear-seat legroom was at a premium behind my seat in its farthest-back position. The cargo area was adequate, although comparable to vehicles in this class.
Fuel Efficiency: 7
Not bad for a car of this weight, and the six-speed automatic helps highway mileage. But you pay for style and weight at the gas pump.
Safety: 10
When optioned out, the car can give a driver a great deal of security.
Practicality: 5
You can get a similar vehicle in a less-expensive Ford Edge and even some of the smaller wagons. But if you want style as well as safety, practicality may not be at the top of your list.
After driving the car for two weeks, including a road trip of more than 1,200 miles, I really hated giving it up. If I were in the market for a luxury intermediate-sized SUV, the MKX would be at the top of my list.

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