The Lincoln MKT is a Looney Tunes cartoon: based on previously made creations, packaged into something unique. While the animated series started from the Warner Brother’s impressive music library, the MKT comes from an old Volvo S80 platform, sharing a motor with the Mazda6. So both creations are downright looney. Which explains the MKT’s krill filtering grille: silly in pictures, insane in natural sunlight where it’s obvious that 40% of it’s toothy smile is blocked off by solid plastic paneling. Which probably says more about the current state of Lincoln better than anything else.
While the Lincoln MKT’s design is proportionally derivative and stylistically challenged, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Still, the MKT’s droopy butt sticks out like a sore thumb in any lighting condition outside of a PR-coordinated photo shoot: even the oversized, italicized “T” on the decklid badging reeks of branding desperation.
Sure, the not-so-subtle beltline kick pays homage to the Continental Mark IV and the taillights are Mark VIII-ish, but the MKT’s boxy fenders with a lack of “Pre-War Continental” flare and cargo killing slant back design take the 1930’s coachbuilt-era’s hallmarks to dangerously bizarre heights. Then again, it happens when you design a CUV around other people’s hard points (so to speak). If there’s one reason to buy a wannabe-xB Ford Flex, here it is.
The interior is a less obvious desecration to the Lincoln brand, as the once favorable opinions on the Lincoln Navigator are history. But Navigator never died, and it’s brilliant combination of masculine haunches and day-spa like ambiance both charm and disarm any occupant.
The MKT’s cabin is awash in the luxury hallmarks of others: Lexus-like soft curves, Acura’s swoopy slabs of wood and an awkward Volvo-homage from the (inelegant) negative area behind the center stack. The flimsy wheel-mounted shift paddles are laughable, but the center console’s armrest sits higher than their door-mounted counterparts: FAIL. The steering wheels’ misaligned wood grain inlay is a sad cost cutting measure (ironically) not found on the earlier, badge engineered, Lincoln MK-Zephyr: a proper hunk of oak on the wheel is mandatory at this price point.
Luckily, someone sweated the other details. The white LED backed, chrome ringed gauges are bright, futuristic and elegant. Most anything touchable is wrapped in a leather-like material with triple stitching. The THX-fettled audio is stellar and the navigation’s GUI might be the most straightforward on the planet. Even the first two rows of seating provide adequate comfort and luxury, for a brand formerly known for being anything but adequate.
Get the MKT moving and you experience the good and bad of Ford’s recent decisions. In the 4500lb, two-wheel drive Lincoln CUV, Ford’s Duratec 3.7L six-pot is a pleasant surprise: paired with a reasonably quick six-speed autobox there’s enough grunt to light up the twenty-inch wheels, launching the MKT through the intersection in a flash of blinking traction control advisories.
And that’s just first gear. The MKT flies down the highway with sports car authority: nice, until you remember that front-wheel-drive and impressive power don’t mix. Wheel-jerking torque steer makes straight-line duties cumbersome, so turning the MKT with a modicum of throttle authority is entirely out of the question. While flat-ish handling is one the “D3” chassis strong suits, there’s too much power to finesse those front wheels.
Then again, the entire affair is no less artificial than a Lexus RX. Which isn’t damning the MKT with faint praise, considering this platform’s international heritage. And who buys a FWD wannabe-SUV for cornering pleasure?
These vehicles are about a pleasant ride. And the MKT doesn’t disappoint, except when it does. The ride is suitably floaty, without the pavement joint obliterating motions of the Navigator equipped with a similar set of twenty-inch rolling stock. In case you missed the underlying problem, remember that fragile products require air-suspended trucks for Interstate transport. That said, the adaptive cruise control works brilliantly for long distance cruising: too bad this system’s soul mate, the Lincoln Town Car, continues to live (thrive?) in the Stone Age.
But wait, there’s less! The four-passenger MKT carries about the same amount of cargo (third row folded) as a five-passenger Taurus from the Jac Nasser era, netting terrible fuel economy in the process. And think twice before towing (the rated) 4500lbs, even with EcoBoost motivating the car-based transaxle and unitized frame. While the MKT is more palatable than today’s Navigator, that’s not a very sincere compliment.
Unless the D3 platform’s voodoo sales curse magically disappears at the sight of the MKT’s grinning face, this abomination is doomed from the start. But the sooner the MKT dies, the sooner Lincoln will realize their heart and soul is in their core offerings. And, with any luck, they’ll stop neglecting them this time. Which is what we’ve been waiting for…for several decades.