When was the last time you saw a Lincoln mentioned in the press? If you can’t think of anything later than December 2011, when a 1976 Continental hearse carried Kim Jong-il to his grave, don’t blame yourself. That’s because Ford’s luxury brand has been struggling to pick itself up from the dizzying fall from its glory days when the Continental was the ride of choice for royalty and heads of state around the world — while they were alive.
However, Ford seems to have high hopes of restoring the brand to its past glory. This was evident when CEO Alan Mulally offloaded Volvo and Aston Martin and boarded up the Mercury division but chose to keep Lincoln going alongside the Blue Oval. Has the boss’s confidence begun to pay off?
Strangely, the very reason behind the brand’s downfall — building cars on cheaper, mainstream Ford platforms — is now proving to be a blessing as the spectacular turnaround in quality and mechanical brilliance of new Ford models have made them ideal platforms for a more premium badge.
The MKT is based on the Ford Flex, which is a good thing as the Flex is one of the most comfortable large crossovers around. Although the Lincoln is sleeker in design, longer and lower compared to the boxy Flex, not much of the practicality is lost. Thanks to the 2,995mm wheelbase, there’s ample head, leg and shoulder room for five adults in the first two rows, while the third row can comfortably seat two kids. And even with the last row up, there’s enough space for a couple of small bags on the cargo floor. Adding to the sense of space and airiness in the cabin is a large power panoramic roof.
When it comes to looks, the MKT seems to be facing a bit of an identity crisis. It looks more like an estate than a conventional crossover, but it’s larger and longer than any estate, and you won’t mistake it for an SUV. The exterior is mostly carried over from the previous model year, except the restyled grille, which retains its wing-like shape but with thinner, closer slats. Overall, the MKT looks awkward, especially when viewed from the front. The only saving grace is the beltline that kinks up near the C-pillar, which together with the sloping D-pillar helps break up the otherwise bland and characterless profile.
The twin-turbocharged 3.5-litre EcoBoost engine is surprisingly powerful, its 355bhp more than enough to lug the two-tonner ahead with ease. The six-speed automatic shifted cogs almost seamlessly, both while accelerating on the highway as well as when pottering around town. While the Flex was a bit wallowy, the MKT manages to display much tighter handling characteristics for its size.
The electric power-assisted steering and the continuously controlled damping system combine to keep the crossover surprisingly planted around interchange loops and corners. And the ride quality is right up there with the Lexuses and the Mercs. Although Lincoln claims the Ecoboost powerhouse has reduced fuel consumption considerably, I found it quite thirsty for a V6, returning an average of 16.7 litres-per-100km during the course of the four-day test.
If you have a big family, which in all likelihood you do if you are considering a seven-seater, it will be heartening to know that Lincoln hasn’t skimped on safety features. In fact, the MKT is loaded with features like Roll Stability Control, dual-stage driver and passenger air bags, side and safety canopy air bags with rollover sensor as well as inflatable second-row seat belts. Add to these the other standard features such as Blind Spot Information System with cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control and collision warning and Post Crash Alert System, and you have a set of wheels that offers complete peace of mind.
But there’s one problem. The price, starting at Dh205,000 and going up to Dh215,000, is a bit too steep, even with all the prestige a Lincoln can offer, especially when you consider a Land Cruiser with a 4.0-litre V6 and more space can be had for about the same money. To me, this car would have been a wonderful deal if Lincoln had managed to keep the price a good Dh30-40K less.
A real shame that, as there’s a lot else to like about this car, which along with the upcoming MKZ mid-size saloon has the potential to boost numbers and help the brand regain at least a semblance of its past splendour.