2016 Lincoln MKX EcoBoost review: Lincoln refines its luxury Edge with the 2016 MKX

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Starting at $55,810

Roadshow Editors' Rating

7.6 Overall
  • Performance 8
  • Features 8
  • Design 8
  • Media & Connectivity 6

The Good The 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine delivers a blend of power and efficiency. Lincoln's new Revel Ultima premium audio system boasts great sound quality and staging. A solid offering of driver aid functions, including semi-automatic parking, boosts the 2016 Lincoln MKX's tech cred.

The Bad MyLincoln Touch tech is sluggish and poorly organized. Adaptive cruise doesn't offer a creep function.

The Bottom Line The 2016 Lincoln MKX is a solid upgrade over last year's model, but we'd wait until Lincoln updates its dashboard tech.

Lincoln continues the reinvention of its stable with the new 2016 Lincoln MKX midsize SUV. The SUV boasts a laundry list of revisions -- some shared with its cousin and platform-mate, the 2015 Ford Edge, and others unique to the luxury model.

New EcoBoost engine

Under the hood, tucked deep into the MKX's large engine bay, is the relatively small 2.7-liter EcoBoost V-6 engine; the same engine that you'll find available on the new Ford F-150 pickup 's list of options. The downsized, twin-turbocharged mill makes a reasonably big 335 horsepower and an exceptional 380 pound-feet of torque when the accelerator is stomped. Most of the time, however, it's humming along quietly and efficiently. My 18.8 mpg average over a week of testing is on par with the EPA's 19 combined mpg estimate, which breaks out to 17 city and 24 highway mpg.

The engine is mated with a single-option, six-speed automatic transmission that sends power to either the front wheels or the automaker's on-demand all-wheel-drive setup. Rather than a traditional shift lever, Lincoln has decided to outfit the MKX with a bank of buttons for selecting the driving mode and direction. This move frees up a bit of elbow room in the cabin and gives the console a cleaner look.

The MKX steps down in displacement, but up in power and efficiency. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The on-demand AWD system typically sends its power to the front wheels when cruising or under low-load situations, but can instantly and seamlessly shift most of the available torque to the rear wheels as needed or blend between the axles. I also noticed that shifting the gearbox into its Sport setting seems to favor the rear bias.

When the MKX is so tasked, the acceleration can be quite good. The EcoBoost V-6 has a meaty torque curve that makes passing satisfying. When delivering the power, the engine makes a nice, subdued sound. When cruising or idling, it's so smooth that you'd hardly notice that it's there.

Quiet ride

The EcoBoost V-6 is quieted partly by design, but mostly thanks to generous amounts of insulation and cabin isolation materials added to the MKX's chassis -- which is based on the same underpinnings as the 2015 Ford Edge . The passive sound damping works alongside active noise reduction, which uses the SUV's audio system to cancel out road and wind noise.

The Lincoln sits atop the Lincoln Drive adaptive suspension that helps to keep the ride smooth across cracked and rough pavement. The suspension features Sport, Normal and Comfort settings, which are tied to the transmission's settings.

The S button on the dashboard puts the transmission and suspension in their Sport settings. The D button sets the transmission to its normal program and, depending on the driver's preference, the suspension in either comfort or normal. It's a bit odd that I wasn't able to quickly toggle between the suspension's Comfort and Normal settings without going into a menu, but I'll accept that most drivers will probably pick one and stick with it for the vast majority of their commuting. And, honestly, the two settings didn't feel very much different from one another.

The smooth suspension and active and passive noise cancellation combine to create a cabin that's not tomb-quiet, but is noticeably peaceful. Parts of the video at the top of this review were shot parked near road workers operating a jackhammer, but we simply shut the doors and shut the sound out.

In addition to being quiet, the cabin is also comfortable. Our example was equipped with the automaker's 22-way adjustable massage seats with heated and ventilated surfaces. The steering wheel is finished in leather and also heated and the dashboard is composed of high-quality materials, including more leather, textured wood and metal grilles for the Revel Ultima premium audio system.

Above is a massive panoramic skylight that stretches nearly to the D-pillars and brings light into the luxurious cabin.

The MKX's cabin uses high-quality materials and both active and passive noise cancellation. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

MyLincoln Touch

However, the Lincoln's cabin experience does have a dark spot right in the center of the dashboard: the MyLincoln Touch infotainment software.

Essentially, MyLincoln Touch is a rebranding of the much-maligned MyFord Touch software. The Lincoln also appears to use an instrument cluster that is a reshuffling of Ford's SmartGauge setup. We're not strangers to Ford's infotainment offerings, so the Lincoln's dashboard was familiar, but it also featured the annoyances that we've spilled much e-ink complaining about for years.

The biggest problem here is speed: every operation takes longer than it should. The system takes a beat to register every tap, hesitates in rendering every screen. Opening the map takes at least 3 seconds while the roads and text are rendered in chunks before your eyes. Even switching the map from day to night mode when passing through a tunnel triggered a new re-render that left me basically looking at blank map for a few beats.

On their own, each of these micro-hesitations isn't a big deal, but combined they all make the system feel laggy and result in me spending more time than I want to looking at the screen waiting for the information I requested to appear.

MyLincoln Touch is a dark spot in an otherwise bright cabin. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

My other issue is with MyLincoln Touch's organization and design. The software places the shortcuts for each of the four infotainment functions (audio, navigation, climate, communication) at the four corners of the screen, which sort of makes sense until you realize the touch points are woefully small and hard to tap. The button I most often reached for -- navigation -- was tucked in the upper right corner of the screen, the hardest point to reach from the driver's seat. This upper corner is also where the buttons for destination entry hide.

Fortunately, the Sync voice command is easier to use. It's still not snappy, but the software will let you bark a full address in one pass and get back to the business of driving while Sync figures out where to go.

Ford has unveiled the third generation of its Sync infotainment software, which looks promising. Odds are good that this tech will make its way into the MKX within a model year or two; I'd wait for it.

Revel audio

Filling the Lincoln's cabin with sound is the excellent (and optional) Revel Ultima premium audio system. This is Revel's first foray into the automotive space; it's primarily known for its home theater offerings.

The system doesn't offer a lot of DSP (digital signal processing) settings and there are only two surround options -- three, if you include flat -- but is simply a great-sounding system. Clarity and power are good; the staging of its stereo sources is excellent.

Physically, the system consists of 19 speakers scattered around the cabin and two amplifiers -- one class A/B and one class D -- totaling somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,200 watts. (A 13-speaker Revel system is also available.)

On the software side, the system uses Harman's Clari-Fi processing, which claims to "rebuild audio details often lost during the digital compression process" to make digital media sound better. Audio streamed via Bluetooth sounded quite good, but I still noticed the terrible compression artifacting when listening to satellite radio. The two surround settings are Audience, which enhances frontal stereo staging, and Onstage, which creates a more enveloping, 360-degree sound field. I preferred the Audience setting for most of my listening.

Audio sources for feeding the Revel Ultima system include CD, USB, satellite radio, HD Radio, an auxiliary input and an SD card slot that's occupied by the map data card.

Driver aid, convenience tech

The MKX also features a solid offering of convenience and driver aid technologies, starting with its hands-free power lift gate. Simply walk up to the rear of the vehicle with the keyless entry transponder in a pocket, kick a foot under the rear bumper and the hatch opens. Kick again to close.

Around front, our MKX was equipped with optional, full-LED headlamps with automatic high beams and an adaptive beam pattern that adjusts to a wider throw around town and a more focused beam at speed.

Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert help to keep the driver out of trouble alongside a forward precollision warning system. Adaptive cruise control is also available, but Lincoln's system isn't a full-speed setup and deactivates at speeds below 15-20 mph. So you can't use it to creep through slow-moving traffic.

A camera hides behind the motorized Lincoln crosshair badge. Additional cameras can be found on the side mirrors and rear hatch. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The electric power steering enables the MKX to use Ford's excellent semiautomatic parallel and perpendicular parking systems. With the touch of a button, the MKX can scan for an open spot while the driver cruises down the lane. When a spot is found, the driver is notified to shift into reverse and let go of the steering wheel. The vehicle will then guide itself into the parking space while the driver controls the accelerator and brakes. Parallel parking is faster than the reverse perpendicular parking (which does a three-point turn into the open space), but both are easy to understand.

Rounding out the noteworthy driver aid tech is the optional lane departure warning and prevention system, which will vibrate the steering wheel when the vehicle drifts near the lane markers and will attempt to pull the car back in line with the electronic power steering if a line is crossed without signalling. The Lincoln offers three levels of notification and intervention strength, each selectable via a menu in the instrument cluster. The system also integrates a driver alertness function; if the system notices that it is having to intervene too much, it will suggest that the driver pull over and take a break.

Pricing

The 2016 Lincoln MKX is only available in North America and starts at $38,100 with the conventional 3.7-liter V-6, but things really get interesting with the $40,100 EcoBoost model. All-wheel drive is extra, so our example gets off of the line at $42,595. Add a $925 destination charge and almost every option in the list to reach our fully-loaded, as-tested price of $60,815.

The 2016 Lincoln MKX competes directly with the Cadillac SRX and Lexus RX. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

If you don't mind doing your own parallel parking, you could cross-shop a fully loaded Lexus RX 450h for that money. For the money, the Lincoln has more bells and whistles while matching the Lexus' level of luxury. But the Lincoln's biggest competition may come from within. Everywhere I took the SUV, people asked, "How does it compare to the Edge?" and, "Is it worth the extra money?" That's a much trickier question to answer. The Lincoln is much quieter and more comfortable than the Ford, but if it's the tech that you're after (automatic parking, adaptive cruise) and not the luxury (Revel Ultima audio, massage seats) you could save almost $20,000 parking a fully loaded Ford Edge Platinum in your driveway and still have a comfortable midsize SUV.

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