Saturday, June 11, 2011

2011 Lincoln MKT AWD Review – Singing Along in the Family Wagon

2011 Lincoln MKT distinctive split-wing grille - For this review, I had the unusual pleasure of testing a 2011 Lincoln MKT AWD on a snowy weekend trip up to Tahoe. What better way to test the cruising capabilities, the all-wheel drive for stability, and hauling capacity to pack a family for a ski vacation?
Driving Impressions
The new Lincoln MKT is a luxury crossover that blends the advantages of both the more agile handling sedan with the power and interior room of a full SUV. With the stretched styling, I found myself thinking of the MKT as the next generation station wagon – and I really mean next generation. The MKT should not suffer from any of the stigmas attached to the 70’s automotive icon. It really delivers on the promise of good handling, roominess and loads of cutting edge technology that elevates to an entirely new plane of existence. And the MKT introduced me to my favorite new road trip feature- adaptive cruise control.
Lincoln MKT interiorLincoln MKT adaptive cruise control
Driving between the San Francisco Bay Area and the Tahoe Lake recreation area is a crowded trip any time of year, any time of the day. Even though it’s potentially a four hour trip, the road congestion makes it a reliable five hours of speeding up, slowing down and changing lanes. The idea of using standard cruise control is a useless exercise in hitting the set, cancel, and resume buttons. However, with adaptive cruise control, the car automatically adjusts speed to maintain a set distance between you and the next car. You can easily cycle through to select a short, standard or long distance cushion depending on your speed and aggressiveness.
While not exclusive to the MKT or even to Lincoln, adaptive cruise control is representative of the loads of technology in this crossover to simplify every possible way of interacting with the car. For example, every SUV that I’ve tested with a 3rd row seat has created a mini-MENSA test to move the 2nd row seat out of the way for loading passengers. In the case of Kia Borrego I reviewed, I simply gave up trying to figure it out. On the MKT, this issue is solved with the push of a button that automatically folds the 2nd seat and moves it out of the way.

Packing the Lincoln MKT for a snow tripLincoln MKT front console cupholder
While all the powered movement was nice, the technology that will impress your friends is the infotainment system. I had doubts when I saw that this system was based on the new Microsoft SYNC (c) platform, given my experience with their computer operating systems and the very thick manual devoted to this subsystem. While it certainly did have its unique and sometimes awkward interface, on the whole it worked well. It felt more like I was dealing with my laptop than a car, though.
Lincoln MKT convenient storage of electronic devices w/accessory power outlet
One example of the power of this system was the way it could play tunes straight from my iPhone, while the phone was still in my pocket! After I had used Bluetooth® to pair the phone to the car for calling purposes, the car was then able to stream music from my playlists.
When I started up the car, the excellent THX® sound system simply started playing from where it had stopped when I had turned the car off. I would have wanted more information about the track being played, as I’ve seen in other cars, but the overall system was pretty impressive. It didn’t work flawlessly, though. One time when I selected a play list, it refused to start playing the song. I tried a few ways to make it work, but to no avail. However, that song automatically started playing the next time I started up the car. I guess I needed to reboot the system, just like my laptop.
One of the other thoughtful features was a 110V plug in the passenger compartment. While we have 12V chargers for most of our car accessories, having a regular household plug was great for a long trip when we need to charge a dying iPad.
Packing the Lincoln MKT for a snow trip
Storage for such a large car was pretty good. As you can see from the pictures, we did fill it up on our trip to the snow. With the sleek styling on top, there are no connection points for a roof rack, so we had to stow the skis inside, which ate up a fair amount of space and required us to put one seat down. If we had four folks, packing would have gotten much more creative.
For the front, there is a collision warning that uses radar to notify the driver if the traffic is stopped ahead. I inadvertently tested this last feature on my road trip when the highway traffic came to an abrupt stop, yet I was approaching way too fast. An alarm sounded and red LEDs lit up the windshield- an effective way to say “pay attention!” Lincoln claims the brakes “pre-load” in this situation to be ready when the alarm goes off. I’m not sure if they did or did not, but I was able to bring the fully loaded MKT to a quick stop and easily avoid a nasty rear-end collision.

As I mentioned earlier, the MKT is a luxury crossover, which means there is leather and wood finishes throughout the main cabin. The extra-large, dual-panel moonroof delivers an airy sensation when opened. At night, when the moon roof can’t set the mood, there is a selection of LED illumination lights in a variety of colors. With the powerful EcoBoost engine delivering an impressive 355 horsepower, the MKT moves with style as it floats over the road.
Once we arrived in Tahoe, the all-wheel drive that powers the 20” aluminum wheels provided a very stable platform on the snow covered streets of Squaw Valley. As you can see from the photos, we did get some snow while we were there, yet the MKT handled excellent traction and never once lost control.

2011 Lincoln MKT
Nice for Road Trips
The Lincoln MKT AWD EcoBoost delivers on the promise of a luxury crossover and then adds on more advanced features than expected. While the technology had its quirks, such as automatic windshield wipers that didn’t activate in snowing conditions, the car on a whole simplifies the art of a road trip. The MKT contains every possible convenience, including an optional rear seat refrigerator to keep your drinks cool. At a price of $58,000, the version I tested was not cheap, but you do get your money’s worth.

RATING 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.0 4.0 4.0 4.25/B+

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