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.
We barely tapped the trunk space with our luggage.
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.
Ford's new Ecoboost engine generates 355 horsepower, with V-6 fuel economy.
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.
The amber cruise control light means the MKS detected a 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.
The stereo connects to iPods and other MP3 players through a USB port.
This Bluetooth system also works for mobile phones, letting you make hands-free calls. Once a phone is paired to the car, it asks to import the phone book. When this process is complete, you can make calls through voice command, merely saying the name of a person in your phone book you want to call. We've tested this system extensively in the past with great success.
Our car lacked the available blind-spot-detection technology, which lights up an alert in the side view mirror when another car is in the next lane. Without that option, Lincoln fits the upper corners of the mirrors with special inset mirrors, a low-tech way of checking out the blind spot. We prefer the optional system.
As another safety technology, the MKS had collision warning, which relies on the same radar used by the adaptive cruise control. We got to see it in action when, driving manually, we let the MKS roll a little too quickly towards stopped traffic ahead. A red light flashed on the windshield and a tone sounded, giving adequate warning to hit the brakes.
Easy parallel parking
There was one technology in the MKS we couldn't wait to try out, so halfway down to Los Angeles we pulled into a freeway-side town and parked. Actually, the car did most of the work with its automatic parking system. We found a line of cars parked at the curb, pushed the P button next to the shifter, and watched the display on the speedometer that would tell us when the car sensed a space large enough in which it could fit. Having found one, it told us to put the car into reverse, after which it turned the steering wheel sharply, guiding the back of the car into the space. After this initial maneuver, it turned the wheel quickly back, getting the car close to the curb and nicely lined up with the cars in front and back. Given how well this technology worked, we found many other opportunities to try it out, and each time it made the correct maneuvers to get into the space.
The MKS uses this speedometer display to tell you when it is looking for parking.
At the start of this trip, we had put our destination into the MKS's navigation system, using the points-of-interest database to find our hotel. It gave us a choice of routes, and we picked the more scenic. During our various excursions off the freeway to test out various aspects of the car, the navigation system quickly recalculated our route without any bother, urging us back on course with voice prompts that said the names of the streets on which we needed to turn.
But route guidance was unnecessary for most of the trip, only becoming crucial as we approached Los Angeles and found that, with 58 miles left to go, the trip computer said we could go only 32 more miles with what was left in the tank. We were impressed to make it that far on one tank of gas, even with the large 19 gallon tank in the MKS. The average fuel economy had been hovering around 23.5 mpg for the trip down, coming in a little below the 25 mpg highway figure from the EPA, but far above the city rating of 17 mpg.
Turning to the car's Sirius Travel Link feature, we not only found all the near by gas stations, but scanned their per gallon prices and picked the cheapest one. A touch on the LCD added that gas station as a waypoint to our destination, and we were quickly refilled and back on the road.
Finding a list of fuel prices from nearby gas stations is invaluable on a road trip.
Sirius Travel Link also shows traffic, crucial information when driving into Los Angeles. We had an easy cruise on the various freeways into the city, but then hit some seriously slow traffic close to our downtown destination. And sure enough, the traffic flow information on the navigation map showed red. We've seen these Lincoln systems offer detours when there are traffic jams ahead, but this one failed to do so in this circumstance. It could have been that the jam was too short to bother with a detour, or possibly the avoidance feature was turned off in the navigation settings.
While the navigation system's graphic route guidance was generally good, we got a little lost in the downtown Los Angeles streets. It is a complex area, but a little better map resolution and a better lane guidance feature in the navigation system would have helped.
The 2010 Lincoln MKS made this trip very comfortable for the three of us, providing high-tech driving aids and information features. There were a few glitches, the most annoying of which was the dead USB port. Our overall mileage in the car, biased towards the freeway but with a fair bit of heavy urban traffic thrown in, came in at 22.8 mpg, not bad for a car with 355 horsepower.
The MKS' cabin tech previously earned it very high marks in our reviews, but other carmakers have been catching up, although none have quite reached its level. The new driver aid technologies--adaptive cruise control, automatic parking, and blind spot detection--keep the MKS well ahead of other automakers in cabin tech. As for performance tech, the Ecoboost engine is impressive, although merely competitive with the likes of BMW. Still, both companies are producing top engine technology. Lincoln could put a little more work into suspension and transmission technology. Finally, in the area of design, Lincoln has managed to put clear styling language in the sedan body. It's not as dramatic as a Cadillac, but the MKS still marks out a unique Lincoln identity.
|Model||2010 Lincoln MKS|
|Power train||Twin turbo direct injection 3.5-liter V-6|
|EPA fuel economy||17 mpg city/25 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||22.8 mpg|
|Navigation||Optional hard drive-based with traffic, weather, and other data|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard|
|Disc player||Single CD/DVD, MP3 compatible|
|MP3 player support||iPod, Zune, many others|
|Other digital audio||USB drive, internal hard drive, Bluetooth streaming, auxiliary input, satellite radio|
|Audio system||THX II 14 speaker 600-watt 5.1 surround sound|
|Driver aids||Rear view camera, blind spot warning, adaptive cruise control, collision warning, automatic high beams, automatic parallel parking|
|Price as tested||$53,930|