Lincoln's definition of luxury is very broad in the revised MKT.
December 11, 2012
By: Nick Saporito
Luxury wears a dynamic definition. Every individual and marque has a different meaning for the word and attempts to apply it to their brand in an novel way. Lately Lincoln has been seeking to give their spin on the meaning of luxury by re-launching the brand with the all-new MKZ. While the new MKZ is getting all of the attention of the new Lincoln Motor Company, the brand has a couple other new products, including the 2013 MKT crossover, that are helping give Lincoln a new meaning.
The MKT launched in 2010 as the curvy cousin to the shoebox-like Ford Flex. The media generally praised both large crossovers, but sales have consistently been muted due to polarizing exterior designs and high price points. For 2013 both crossovers received a do-over of minor design alterations and additional features, with the MKT receiving a few extra goodies as part of Lincoln’s revitalization.
One approach to luxury is design centric. Having a standout design or heritage infused look are common amongst luxury cars in today’s market. For 2013 the MKT’s front clip was actually toned down a bit. The massive gull-wing grille has been replaced by a smaller version with a finer pattern filling its bounds. Aside from the new grille and new wheel designs, not much else has changed. Left are some heritage cues, however, such as the reverse kick-up in the belt-line; a trait borrowed from the iconic 1961 Continental.
Whether or not you like the MKT exterior design is entirely up to each individual, but it is hard to dispute that it stands out. The MKT looks like nothing else on the market, particularly the crowded crossover market where everything has the same general shape. The tall wagon look of this Lincoln may be a point of discussion, but that’s arguably a good thing for a brand trying to get noticed again. Changes on the outside of the 2013 model may be minimal, but the toned down grille goes a long way at giving the vehicle a classier appearance, particularly in dark colors.
Exterior vanity aside, its often said that what matters most is on the inside, and MKT is much less polarizing in that regard. The overall look and form of the MKT interior has remained unchanged for 2013, but important hard points of this cabin have been altered or upgraded.
Following the theme of the MKX and other Ford products, the MKT is devoid of any physical buttons on the center stack. Instead a single piece of metallic plastic houses many capacitive touch buttons, including two finger slides for volume and fan speed controls. From a pure aesthetic point of view, the updated stack is more attractive. The black plastic buttons that filled the center stack of the first MKT are gone, and in their place is a seamless clean surface. The function of this change is where the debate is, but more on that in a bit.
The trend of simplifying the visual of the interior continued by changing out the analog gauge cluster with Ford’s MyLincoln Touch gauges, which encompass two 4.2-inch LCD panels flanking an analog speedometer. In front of the new gauge cluster rests a new Lincoln-specific steering wheel with lots of buttons. The new wheel design is a vast improvement over the previous, though the sea of buttons may intimidate some drivers. Rounding out the noticeable interior changes is the addition of Ford’s new global switchgear, which features chrome accents and is a bit more ergonomic than the outgoing gear.
Lincoln has also slipped in a few not-so-noticeable changes inside the revised MKT, including updated seats. To the naked eye the seat design is the same as the last MKT, but engineers have added more side bolsters to the front buckets, as well as a much-needed center armrest to the second row bench seat. Engineers have also isolated interior noise a bit further thanks to additional insulation in the A-pillars. Both additions make the already comfortable MKT, even more so.
From day one the biggest problem with the MKT interior is one that remains unchanged. Thanks to the MKT’s slopping rear roofline, third row passengers have very limited headroom and legroom isn’t much better. There is little question that the third row is exclusive for children or small adults for short trips.
Considering we now live in a society in which over 60-percent of cell phone users now pack a smartphone, luxury apparently has to up its technology game as well – and MKT has done that in spades.
For 2013 the MKT has gained MyLincoln Touch, the brand’s infotainment system, lane departure warning, forward collision assist, remote start and much more. Keep in mind the old MKT had one of the longest feature lists in the $50,000 crossover arena before Lincoln added more for 2013.
One could write a whole separate thesis on the technology Lincoln has in the 2013 MKT, not unlike most Ford products today. As an example, when equipped with the technology package the MKT will literally steer you back into your lane if you veer out of it and will begin stopping the car if it predicts an imminent collision. The car is so automated that it advises the driver to put their hands back on the wheel if it senses that the driver has removed both hands from the steering wheel (something we advise against, by the way). And if you veer from your lane too much, the MKT will advise you to take a break and display a little coffee cup icon in the gauge cluster. If only the MKT could make the espresso it recommends.
All of this technology sounds fantastic, but it has to work to really be impressive and a sign of luxury. Lincoln has done a really good job of making sure the safety features of the MKT work great, and they do. The lane departure system, for example, is one of the most accurate we’ve sampled. On the flip side, the notorious MyLincoln Touch system is still not bug-free, despite our tester having the most recent software.
On many occasions MyLincoln Touch gains a mind of it’s own by reverting to FM radio when no one has asked it to, or by playing a random song from a USB device only to skip to the next for no reason. While the system has improved with the software upgrades it has received, it still has a ways to go before it is no longer the negative talking point of new Ford and Lincoln products.
Arguably one of the most make-or-break components of a luxury vehicle is the way it drives. For the MKT, most buyers are opting for Ford’s well-known 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 over the standard 3.7-liter V-6. For 2013 the EcoBoost V-6 churns out an impressive 365 horsepower and 350 foot-pounds of torque funneled through a six-speed automatic and all-wheel drive.
Just hearing that a luxury crossover has a 365 horsepower twin-turbo V-6 is enough to catch the attention of most enthusiasts, and it should. For a 5,000-pound crossover, the MKT is fun to drive when pushed, especially with its new electronically controlled dampers.
During enthusiastic handling maneuvers the new suspension keeps the MKT’s rear (the lightest end weight-wise) more planted than the outgoing MKT. The MKT’s heft is also kept in check during cornering by keeping body roll to a further minimum. Lincoln has also upped the ratio of the electric steering; giving the MKT faster reflexes to match it’s improved handling ability. The steering system has added weight to the feel over the old MKT, with strong on-center feel, though it can feel numb at high speeds.
With Lincoln Drive Control in sport mode, the MKT ends up doing a good job of masking its weight, largely in part to firmed up suspension and a surprisingly aggressive throttle response. Our only complaint is one that has held true on most all-wheel drive equipped Ford products: during hard acceleration off the line the vehicle reacts like it is front-wheel drive. It isn’t uncommon to experience slight tugs at the steering rack, which is perplexing considering the all-wheel drive should be sending some of MKT’s copious amounts of torque to the rear tires.
Lincoln may be in the midst of determining what luxury means for it’s brand, but the MKT suggests that they have several possible ways to go. The 2013 MKT is essentially a polished up version of the first MKT, but with even more technology and vastly improved dynamics. It comes close to driving itself, and at the same time pampers passengers with quietness and Scottish leather. Throw in the beast under the hood and it quickly becomes apparent that this Lincoln wears many luxury hats – and wears them quite well.