Review: 2009 Lincoln MKS

In the interest of full disclosure, this review was completed on the author’s own 2009 Lincoln MKS.

2009 Lincoln MKS ProfileIn mid-2008, Ford introduced the 2009 Lincoln MKS.  It is to be Ford’s halo car in the American car market.  Built off of a modified Volvo S80 platform, which is also shared with the 2010 Ford Taurus, the MKS is the technology-laden car that is supposed to pull Lincoln into the 21st century.  While some will argue that it is the successor to the Lincoln LS, which was discontinued after the 2006 model year, I believe that the smaller Lincoln MKZ actually follows more in the LS’ footsteps.  That begs the question of where in the Lincoln lineup the MKS is supposed to fit.  It’s got front wheel drive, unlike the Town Car and LS.  Unlike the MKZ, It also has comparable front seat room to the Town Car, while being a few inches shorter in the rear leg room department.  Rumors abound though, that the 2010 or 2011 model year will be the Town Car’s finale.  Add to that the sporty intentions of the MKS (with optional 20″ wheels), and it is a true quandary as to where exactly it fits into the Lincoln lineup.  For right now though, the MKS is Lincoln’s flagship car.

2009 Lincoln MKS FrontMy opinion is that the MKS is meant for drivers who want a mobile communications center or a road-bound living room, but who also might enjoy a little extra sportiness thrown in for good measure.  The MKS goes from comfortable and quiet boulevardier to sporting bull with just a rightward flick of the SelectShift 6-speed automatic transmission’s gear lever.  This puts the transmission into what Lincoln calls “SST Mode”, which locks out the 6th gear, holds lower gears longer, and quickens downshifts, for faster responses and better acceleration.  The buttery smooth transmission (one of Ford’s best efforts to date) turns the car from docile to somewhat playful.  You still know you’re piloting a 4,100+ pound car (add 150 pounds if you check the box for All Wheel Drive), but the Sport Mode, and associated Manual mode, definitely boost performance, giving the MKS a more sporting attitude.  Beyond Sport Mode, Lincoln has seen fit to give you manual control over the transmission.  After selecting Sport Mode with the gear shift lever, simply push forward for downshifts, or pull back on the gear lever for upshifts, giving you manual control over the transmission, which is useful when going up and down steep hills.  Most of the time, however, you will find that either the regular automatic mode or Sport Mode will suffice.

The first impression of any new car, especially on a test drive, is its outward appearance.  The Lincoln MKS has a coupe-like look, with a large “Split Wing” grille in front, which appears to be Lincoln’s new corporate face.  After seeing the 2010 Lincoln MKZ and 2010 Lincoln MKT, this appears to be the new corporate face of Lincoln.  The design of the MKS is far removed from traditional Lincoln vehicles, which is refreshing and at the same time is more like foreign sports sedans.  The sides of the car feature a high beltline and sculpted lower doors, with a tasteful chrome strip at the bottom of each door, and enough side glass to maintain high outward visibility – unlike the current trend in automotive design.  The overall shape has already been emulated by the new Buick LaCrosse, and is one which should stand the test of time.

2009 Lincoln MKS DashboardAfter taking in the lines of the MKS, you approach the driver’s door, and find that MKS is the first to feature Ford’s next generation keyless entry pad, which is blacked out until the heat and pressure from your fingers lights up the numbers.  With the key fob in your pocket, merely touching the keypad causes the driver’s door to unlock, giving you an entryway into what is a completely non-traditional Lincoln interior.  From the stitched leatherette dash cover to the Scottish “Bridge of Weir” leather seats, leather-covered door panels and nicely chromed switch gear, this interior exudes luxury, and bests the MKS’ competitors (BMW, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz), in this reviewer’s opinion.  The seats are supple, and unlike many of its rivals, the leather is not stretched but rather draped over the seat cushions.  Both front and rear seats are heated, while the front seats are air-conditioned as well, so the center sections of each seat are perforated.  Once seated, you notice more chrome in the instrument panel, as well as a strip of real wood crossing the dash horizontally, framed in another chrome strip.  Everything at your fingertips is soft-touch, and is crafted of high-quality materials.  The only visible parts of the interior which are made of hard plastic are the airbag cover above the glove box, the center stack, and a few framing pieces.  The rest is leather, leatherette, or soft-touch plastic.

2009 Lincoln MKS Dash (2)After adjusting the 12-way power driver’s seat and the power tilt/telescoping steering wheel and power mirrors, pushing the Engine Start button fires up the engine, which quickly settles into a low idle.  The 14-speaker THX II-certified sound system comes to life,and the 8″ touchscreen for the audio and satellite navigation system welcomes you.  The MKS comes with SYNC, the voice-activatied communications and entertainment system created by Ford in conjunction with Microsoft.  By pushing a button on the steering wheel and speaking to the car, almost any function you’d need while driving can be summoned by voice alone, and it just works.  Very rarely have I had any trouble getting SYNC to recognize the command I’d given it.  The screen is large enough on the MKS that you can view the navigation map, audio information, and climate control information all on one screen, or you can give the focus to any of the three.  The on-screen menus are easy to understand and use, and within a few minutes, you’ll have the car set up just the way you like it.

2009 Lincoln MKS RearOne of the first things you’ll notice while driving the MKS at speed is its serene atmosphere.  The acoustically treated windshield and side glass, as well as plenty of sound deadening material, gives the MKS an almost unrivaled quietness, especially for a car starting in the high-$30,000 range.  When driving with the stereo at a normal listening level, you can have a conversation with your passengers at barely above a whisper, and surrounding traffic becomes almost purely visual, barely heard.  Ford’s engineers apparently spent a lot of time engineering the sound out of the car, and the stereo into the car.  The stereo has separate speakers for high, middle, and low frequencies, which translates into very clear sound, making distortion is a thing of the past.  Lincoln has been putting THX-certified stereos in its cars since the LS in the mid-2000s, and that time and experience all culminate in the MKS’ audio setup.

Once up to speed, steering feel is light, and a bit uncommunicative. This may be a problem for a sport sedan, but for a luxury sedan such as the MKS, which is geared for comfort and cruising, it’s expected, and the car is a pleasure to use on both the highway and in rush hour traffic.  You won’t want to drive into corners going overly fast, but the 20″ Michelin Primacy MXV4 tires provide plenty of grip in both wet and dry, and give plenty of confidence in most situations.  Be careful when going down windy roads, however, as this car is wider than most, so it takes up a lot of whatever lane you’re in at the time, and hustling all that weight side to side takes time.

All this going (and turning) has to come to an end, and the MKS’ brakes are geared for comfort.  While not confidence-inspiring at first, once you’re used to them, you realize that they are quite progressive and easy to modulate.  Panic stopping brings the big car to a halt in a distance which is average for a car of this size and heft, thanks to big disc brakes at each corner.  After a few miles, you’ll be used to it and stop accordingly.  Remembering that this car’s main purpose is to provide a comfortable cruise to its driver and passengers, this car delivers when not adversely provoked.

2009 Lincoln MKS WheelAll this comfort comes at a price.  The weight of all the electronics and materials that Lincoln engineered into the MKS to make it so comfortable and smooth lead to a penalty at the gas pump.  If you’re used to a smaller car, the 17/24 city/highway mpg might cause you to shy away from the MKS.  The MKS’ city fuel mileage is right in line with its competitors, while its highway mileage is about 2 mpg less.

After driving the car and getting used to it, you start to look for those extra creature comforts in a car whose sticker price (as tested) reaches to almost $45,000, and boy do you get a lot for your money.  The short list of features includes the heated and air-conditioned front seats, heated rear seats, automatic headlights and high beams, rain-sensing wipers, backup camera, front and rear parking sensors, bluetooth and iPod connectivity, and dual sunroofs.  While the rear sunroof is fixed in place, the front one tilts up or slides back, and the power sunshade covering both can be opened with just two touches of a button (first press reveals the front sunroof, second reveals the rear one).  Add HomeLink buttons on the driver’s sun visor and puddle lights on the underside of the side mirrors, and you’ve got a car that makes it easy to get into and out of, regardless of ambient light.  The high-intensity headlights, and auto-dimming rear view and driver’s side view mirrors, make for a car that is helpful when the sun sets, and cuts down on glare from drivers behind you in trucks or cars with their high beams on.  With the adaptive headlights, more of the road ahead is illuminated, rather than just what’s directly in front of the car.  The headlights swivel up to 15 degrees to the left or right, moving with the steering wheel.

Conclusion:

With the introduction of the MKS, Ford has brought Lincoln’s flagship car mostly up-to-date with its competitors in the Technology, Fit & Finish and Quality departments, and all for a lot less money.  While its engine might be a bit less refined than that of its German and Japanese rivals, the MKS equals or betters them in the rest of its execution.  Squarely aimed at Lexus with its ride comfort and quietness, the big Lincoln manages to poke at Mercedes-Benz as well, leaving the true luxury sport sedan arena to BMW.  Meant as a way to drive your living room down the road, the MKS excels in most areas, and with a bit of tweaking on the part of Ford’s engineers, the Lincoln MKS may well best its rivals in all categories.  Time, as always, will tell.

Competitors: Lexus GS, Mercedes-Benz E-Class Sedan, BMW 5-Series, Acura RL

As-Tested:

Year: 2009
Make: Lincoln
Model: MKS

EPA Fuel Mileage: 17/24 City/Highway (16/23 for AWD models)

Base Price: $37,665.00

Options:

$5,715: Ultimate Package (which includes the Technology Package, Navigation Package, Rain-sensing Wipers, Dual Panel Moonroof, Adaptive Headlamps with Auto High Beams, Forward Sensing System, SYNC, Push-Button Start, Rear View Camera, THX II-certified Sound System)
$685: 20″ Polished Cast Aluminum Wheels

Total: $44,065

Destination: $800

As-Tested Price: $44,865

Ford has an online Window Sticker viewer.  Click here to view the Window Sticker for the actual test vehicle.

View Scorecard

By John Suit

The Drive
Handling 3 Not a corner-carver, but goes where you point it
Breaking 3 Decent stopping power, more suited for passenger comfort
Noises 5 Very quiet, keeps out a lot of noise
ICE 5 One word: SYNC
Ride Comfort 4 Some bumps are transferred to the car more than they should
Road Presence 5 Big car – people know you’re coming
Parking 4 Without the rear-view camera, this car would get a 2, but the camera makes parking much easier
Blind Spots 4 Again, rear-view camera saves the day
Seat Comfort 5 Heated/Cooled seats covered in Bridge of Weir leather!
Total 38
Interior
Seating Adjustments 5 12-way drivers AND passenger seats?  It’s a no-brainer
Ease of Use 5 Buttons are all labeled properly, easy to see at night, and right where you’d expect them
Creature Comforts 5 Plenty of luxury items in this car – automatic headlights/wipers, etc.
Layout/Quantity of Controls 4 Ford kept it simple here, as simple as any luxury car’s dash could get, at least.
Roominess 5 Plenty of room for four (or five, for shorter trips)
Ingress/Egress 5 Ford’s “Easy Entry” seat gets high marks here, and the driver’s seat features 2-driver memory
Quality 5 Bridge of Weir leather, great fit and finish, stitched leatherette dashboard cover.
Storage Spaces 2 2 cupholders, only one of which can be in use at a time, and no cubbyholes besides the glove box
Total 36
Miscellaneous
Value 5 Compared to its rivals, you can save $8-10,000.  I’d say that’s as good a value as you’re going to get!
Lighting 5 HID lights – very bright at night, and adaptive headlights really light up the road where you’re going.
Total 10
Fun-to-Drive
Fun-to-Drive 3 While not a sports sedan by any stretch, still offers plenty of gadgets, and with its comfortable ride, is sure to please anyone who gets stuck in traffic or drives long distances.
Total 3
Total Points 87
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