2011 Lincoln MKS: Introduction
American luxury cars are in a tough battle. The manufacturers have to fight off the stodgy image with one hand, and with the other hand they try to welcome back those loyal customers who like the old-style of luxury. This puts Lincoln at a crossroads and parked right in the middle is its MKS sedan.
The Town Car is on the way out, which means the MKS is the future of Lincoln's large sedan. Lincoln knows it cannot survive by making cars that satisfy the land yacht crowd, but it should not completely ignore them either. After all, when a Town Car comes back to the dealer for a trade in, no salesperson wants to tell the owner that Lincoln no longer wants them as a customer.
2011 Lincoln MKS: Pricing
So this sedan needs to have mass appeal. The MKS needs to be stylish, powerful, and unique. At the same time this Lincoln needs to be easy to use, comfortable, and spacious. To put this problem into perspective, think of how many movies can appeal to a grandmother and grandson at the same time.
To compound the problem even further, there is very little room for error in this price class. Our Lincoln MKS with EcoBoost had a final sticker price of $57,310 ($48,160 base). Both the young and old laying down that kind of money expect to be satisfied.
2011 Lincoln MKS: Exterior
As far as going for mass appeal, the MKS styling has hit its mark. Its sleek looks give the sedan a somewhat devilish grin. The use chrome as a trim accent and not a major body component helps the waterfall grille stand out and add prestige.
Its appearance is less daring than Cadillac's Art and Science philosophy, and more original than the Chrysler 300. The outside design is closest resembles the cleanly conservative lines of a Mercedes or Lexus.
The MKS has an enormous c-pillar that allows for a graceful slope at the rear. This also helps disguise the car's size. The MKS is about half a foot longer than a Chrysler 300, but it is styled to have a small trunklid. This allows for a much more sporting appearance, but it does make for a somewhat awkwardly small opening for an enormous 18.7 cubic-foot trunk.
2011 Lincoln MKS: Interior
Those who spend enough time in luxury cars will feel a little cheated when first sitting behind the wheel of the Lincoln MKS. There is a lot of blank real estate on the center console, which is different from most luxury cars. This should not be interpreted as a lack of features. Instead, the MKS keeps most of its controls in the touch screen system. Because the screen is mounted high at the top of the dash, it gives the rest of the controls an uncluttered look and feel. Lincoln's older crowd will appreciate having clear, designated buttons for normal features like radio and climate control. The new money crowd will have to be content with features like HD radio and traffic updates operated through the touchscreen.
2011 Lincoln MKS: Comfort
The seats are what make this car a standout for the road trip -- plenty of cushioning with three levels of heating and cooling available. Heated seats are expected in all cars in this class, but the ones in front also are cooled as standard. Seat coolers are still a novelty, but in class filled with executive commuter cars, keeping the back cool and comfortable (i.e. no sweat) is a nice standout feature.
The back seats are roomy but drab in appearance. So the standard rear seat heaters and optional rear sunroof will provide a little welcomed distraction back there.
2011 Lincoln MKS: Driving Impressions
The optional EcoBoost engine is what makes this a viable executive communing machine. This 3.5-liter V-6 twin turbo powerplant makes a respectable 355 hp while returning 17/25 mpg city/highway. The power and economy of this turbo V-6 puts it in close company with the V-8s found in the slightly less expensive Chrysler 300C and much more pricy Mercedes E550.
Don't think of the EcoBoost as a miracle mileage getter, but rater a stellar performer. More than enough power is always on tap, and achieving highway mileage is easier to accomplish than other luxury cars because this is just a normal V-6 when the engine is under lighter loads.
It was likely helpful that our tester comes standard with all-wheel drive. The obvious benefit is better traction in bad weather. The other advantage is without the EcoBoost engine, AWD is only an option on the MKS. The front-wheel drive layout of the base MKS would likely be disastrous under the EcoBoost unit. So upgrading the engine in this Lincoln not only raises the power, but also it makes sure there is a better way to get it to the pavement.
2011 Lincoln MKS: Handling
The suspension gives the driver impressions of being more involved than he/she really is. Bumps in the road are sensed, but it is not the trampoline-like bounces of the old-style American luxury, nor is it jolting like a performance-minded import. Instead it is sort of like an angst-filled teenager. It is constantly trying to tell the world it exists, but actually has very little impact. That may seem like a negative, but it is part of what brings this car into its happy medium of old and new crowds. The drive is not as isolated as the Town Car but is far more cushioned than a BMW 5 Series in Sport mode.
Every feeling of involvement is an important one in the MKS because it is so rare. Lincoln has loaded this car with enough technology for the MKS to almost drive itself. The adaptive cruse control has active radar so it will slow to keep a desired distance from the car in front. This same system is always on the lookout for potential front crashes and will send a visual and audible warning when it detects a possible accident.
The Active Park Assist means the MKS basically parallel parks all by itself. This system takes a little getting used to because the car is likely faster and better at parking than you. This is a must-have feature for those living in big urban areas. Those living in suburbia will likely just find it a novelty.
2011 Lincoln MKS: Final Thoughts
A big personality is not always a virtue. Not everyone likes the loudest person at the party, and Lincoln seems to be banking on this idea. The MKS does a good job of covering old customers, while keeping the technology and style at a level that can play with the new money crowd. Finding the customers in between these old and new styles is where the Lincoln MKS will hit its sweet spot.
There are people whose commute to the city is an hour or two. They enjoy it because there is an executive office and active lifestyle from the 9 to 5, and a quiet family neighborhood with a nice yard at home. The in-between time is just meant for small relaxation. These commuters are not concerned with rushing home along the backroads. Instead, they are happy to be on the expressway where they have a comfortable seat and few gadgets to have fun. These happy commuters just want to make sure that the ride is comfortable, and their car does not get laughed out of the executive parking lot. The Lincoln MKS EcoBoost is the kind of car these people can appreciate.
Lincoln provided the vehicle for this review