2009 Lincoln MKS: Looks Can Be Deceiving

Written by Kimatni D. Rawlins

incoln was founded in 1917 by the great machinist and engineer Henry Martyn Leland. He was a master of building precision parts and luxury cars. This is also the same mastermind who helped establish Cadillac in 1902 before selling it to General Motors. Leland and company eventually sold Lincoln in 1922 to Henry Ford for $8 million. He was a man who dedicated his life to insuring that everything he touched was precise and ahead of its time including the use of interchangeable parts and his campaigning of the self engine starter. Fast forward to the 2009 model year, and Lincoln still seems a bit lost in the world of automotive luxury without its founder. Proof is in the pudding. The company’s dismal placement amongst elite brands such as Cadillac, Acura, Infiniti, Lexus and of course the Germans is evident that they need a new game plan.

The Lincoln Town car is gone, the Navigator lost its luster years ago to the Escalade, the MKZ is a non-factor and the MKX can easily be substituted for a cheaper look-a-like with the Ford Edge. And now Lincoln steps into the second half of the year with their new top-of-the line dime piece MKS. Their advertising touts the new four-door as a starship. For the record folks, a Benz S-Class and Audi A8 are starships. When I first drove the MKS back in the spring in my hometown of D.C., my position was neutral. Being that we only spent minor time behind the wheel then, I opted to wait for a longer period of time with the American newbie before offering judgment. And like most consumers who first see a vehicle foreign to them by name and style I gave the MKS a positive position. However, after a full day and night with the car I became complacent. After three days I was already bored. On the fifth day I hung up the key in place of the 2009 Acura TSX that had just been delivered.

Priced at an astonishing $46,070 (MSRP just under $40K) the MKS is only just average. Based off the Ford Taurus platform, it drives big like the Town Car but rides with the 3.7-liter V6 and 6-speed automatic transmission combo. “People are very excited about this vehicle because it provides the complete package - a striking exterior design, dynamic performance, advanced safety features and a host of amenities not found on other luxury sedans," said Pei-Wen Hsu, Lincoln MKS marketing manager. I beg to differ. Front-wheel drive (AWD available) and 273 horsepower on a wide and tall body is hardly dynamic performance. I found this out quickly on the highway as the engine screamed when accelerating even lightly. Next year the MKS will be offered with the $700 optional EcoBoost 3.5-liter V6, which features twin turbochargers and gasoline direct injection. Ford’s four-cylinder EcoBoost engine receives one turbocharger. I could have used EcoBoost this week.

The design is cool but not original. The problem with Lincoln is that it has no long standing vehicle naming convention like the Benz letter system, the BMW number series or the Audi alphanumeric pattern. Every few years Lincoln is spending time, energy and ad bucks re-educating buyers on their “all-new” vehicle products. And next year they will have the MKT three-row crossover. It’s the same experience Acura went through when they dropped the “Legend” and “Integra” brand names for numbers and letters. From the quarter panel view, the MKS looks like a Buick Lacrosse. From the side with its huge doors and standardized “flower patterned” 19” aluminum rims, it looks like ten others. The front, with its plastic “waterfall” grille, is the only unique style feature on the MKS. It at least beats the terrible egg-crate grille on the Navigator. And everything that looks like chrome trimming is not chrome.

The inside disappoints even further. The best the MKS has going for itself is the optional Microsoft Sync, THX-II audio system, and the voice-activated navigation system with SIRIUS Travel Link. And though it’s nice, every luxury maker has an advanced multi-media system. One of which is Hyundai’s new Genesis which includes a V8 and rear wheel drive. For the price, it’s one of the most sophisticated vehicles we have tested to date. Sync combines music options such as iPod integration, hands-free Bluetooth capability and more into the voice operated, touch screen navigation. You also get a calendar, rear back up camera and traffic and sports information. SIRIUS Travel Link provides real time updates on accidents within your vicinity, local gas prices, movie listings, as well as scores and results for many professional sports and motorsports.

Outside of all the options that raise the base price, the rest of the interior falls way short of what Lincoln luxury should be. Our “Black Ultimate Interior” was a mix of fake wood trim, dark plastics and basic leather which was tucked under the seats like bed sheets. When I tried to adjust the seats, the plastic frame hosting the seat adjusters could be pushed out exposing the ugly finish of the leather and the foam which makes up the seat cushion. No refinement in the finishing as you see with the hand-stitched Cadillac CTS. Around the Dual Panel Moonroof, the headliner bends as if it was cardboard and the bulky, yet flimsy gear shifter shakes when in position and is circumvented by a thin folder-like plastic liner opposed to leather. Lastly, the characterless, full plastic center stack is as plain as they come.

The MKS could have been much more in a time where SUVs are being reconsidered for sedans. But it leaves you curious for other options like an Infiniti M, Lexus GS or Cadillac STS. At first sight the vehicle will reel you in like fishing poles and pitch you the world. But keep in mind, looks can be very deceiving!

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