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When the MKS came out last year, it signified a new start for Lincoln, new models with modern technology and luxury. The 2009 MKS featured an excellent THX-designed audio system along with the best cell phone and MP3 player integration in the business. But Lincoln planned to do more than just offer really good cabin tech, as the 2010 Lincoln MKS, just one year later, features an all new power train and a raft of new driving technologies.
To test the new MKS, we took it on a road trip down to the Los Angeles Auto Show, piling two editors and a photographer into this luxury sedan. Complaints arose in some quarters that we wouldn't be taking an SUV or crossover on this 1,000-mile round-trip trek, but when the 2010 MKS showed up in our garage, its size silenced all negative mutterings. And the size of the very spacious trunk made our luggage look meager, even with laptop and camera bags added to suitcases. We could have fit a couple more people in the cabin of the car, and squeezed one or two more into the trunk, if we wanted to pick up hitchhikers.
Being automotive journalists, the first driver in our rotation got the MKS onto a straight road, then floored the gas. The Ecoboost engine, a twin-turbocharged direct-injection 3.5-liter V-6, used its 350 pound-feet of torque to twist all four wheels (the Ecoboost version of the MKS comes standard with all-wheel-drive), in an attempt to defeat the efforts of countless engineers to design tires that grip asphalt securely.
And the engineers won, as the tires maintained grip and the big sedan bolted forward, giving everyone in the car the delightful feeling of strong acceleration. Subsequent acceleration tests during this journey got up to high speeds, tapping the 355 horsepower from this engine, and revealing that, as the car shoots past 70 mph, things start to feel a little unstable. The car doesn't hunker down and the suspension doesn't stiffen up, which would contribute to better handling when the speedometer starts threatening triple digits.
We also made a timed run based on opportunity, under very nonideal conditions. Three people still in the car, luggage in the back, and on a bend, we punched the gas, the engine roared, and the car hit 60 mph in 5.8 seconds. The same engine got the Ford Taurus SHO to 60 mph in 5 seconds, a realistic figure for the MKS as well, if you want to start leaving passengers on the side of the road.
And being automotive journalists, we made use of the paddle shifters while driving down the freeway. A six-speed automatic is the only transmission choice, but it does have a manual mode. Put the stick into M, and the steering wheel-mounted paddles become active. We amused ourselves looking at which gear produced which engine speed while traveling at freeway speeds, and lamented the fact that the paddles don't do anything in normal drive mode. In some situations, you want to be able to quickly shift down to get some power, without first having to move the stick.
Adaptive cruise does the driving
Having messed around with manual shifting, we turned our attention to the adaptive cruise control system. In moderate traffic heading south from San Francisco on the freeway, we set the cruise control to 75 mph, with the gap to the next car set at the default maximum. The MKS quickly caught up with slower traffic doing a law-abiding 60 to 65 mph, and the cruise control system matched the speed of the car ahead.
We changed the gap to the minimum, as the default put us too far behind the car ahead, and we followed at a comfortable pace, not touching gas or brake pedals. Whenever we felt the car ahead was going too slowly, we moved the MKS over a lane. After a brief moment it realized there were no cars ahead, and leaped to comply with our previously set speed. For much of this long freeway cruise, we let the adaptive cruise control handle braking and gas, enjoying some driving luxury.
One of the treats of sitting in the MKS for hundreds of miles was the THX II audio system, comprised of 14 speakers and 5.1 surround-sound processing. The sound quality from this system is very refined, and competes well with Lexus' Mark Levinson and Audi's Bang & Olufsen systems, while blowing away the Bose systems found in many other cars.
To feed this sound system, the MKS has a single CD/DVD player, satellite and terrestrial radio, storage for music on the navigation system's hard drive, the capability to play music from Bluetooth streaming sources, and a USB port that can accept an iPod or Zune cable. We tried the USB port, as it would make our MP3 player's music library available on the car's LCD and through voice command--features of the car's Sync system we've tested many times before in other cars. But the USB port was completely hosed, not responding to anything we plugged into it. It was a bad glitch in this automotive tech wonderland, forcing us to rely on Bluetooth streaming, which doesn't offer nearly as nice of an interface.