Test Drive: Lincoln MKT

For full disclosure, we have to confess being fans of the Ford Flex.? With its long and boxy shape the Flex resembles a shoebox for a pair Shaq?s shoes (He wears a size 22.), but we think the styling is classy and it?s fun to drive.

Under the surface, the Lincoln MKT is in essence a Flex, but rather than trying to gussy up the Flex, Lincoln engineers and designers gave the Lincoln a distinctive bold and elegant look.? The interior is completely different, too, and the Lincoln luxury appointments are what we expect from a luxury brand.

The Lincoln brand is famous for the way it treats passengers and the MKT is true to tradition.? With three rows of seating, it is designed as a six- or seven-passenger model depending on the seat configurations.? A five-button control unit mounted in the rear cargo space takes the work out of stowing and raising seats or closing the liftgate.

Starting with its signature twin waterfall grille, the MKT stands out from the crowd.? Massive 20-inch 10-spoke wheels and a window line that steps up after the rear door exaggerate the size.? The rear end is clean with its lightweight magnesium liftgate and broad taillight treatment that wraps the rear end from side to side.? There is nothing like it on the road, and it turns heads.

With an interior space slightly smaller than the Navigator and a price tag about $10,000 less, the MKT may draw shoppers from the big Lincoln SUV.? The more comfortable ride and better handling will be an added bonus, too.? If towing is on the agenda, however, the Navigator?s 9,000-pound capacity is twice as much as the MKT.

The MKT is available in three models: front wheel drive (FWD), all-wheel drive (AWD) and EcoBoost AWD.? The first two models are powered by a 268-hp, 3.7-liter V-6 engine using a six-speed SelectShift Automatic? transmission with paddle shifters.? The EcoBoost model gets the 355-hp, twin-turbo V-6 engine with the same transmission and all-wheel drive.? Pricing starts at $44,995, including the destination charge, for the MKT FWD.? AWD adds $1,995.? The EcoBoost model is $49,995.

Two turbochargers on the direct injection V-6 engine give the EcoBoost V-8-like power that produces a 6.1-second 0 to 60 mph acceleration.? The fuel economy penalty is only 1 mpg less than the base 3.7-liter V-6 or 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway.? After a week of mixed driving, we averaged 19.7 mpg.

The MKT is not the car we would want for pushing hard up a winding mountain road, but it?s more agile and responsive than the looks indicate.? The only mechanical complaint we had was a slightly soft brake pedal, but it didn?t seem to affect stopping power.

The MKT showcases all the latest Ford technology with available features like the Active Park Assist that helps select a parking place and then helps the driver make a perfect parallel park.? It also has Adaptive Cruise Control that allows the driver to maintain a constant distance behind a vehicle automatically even when that vehicle?s speeds change.?? Other features include BLIS blind spot warning system, cross traffic alert, adaptive HID headlights and the invisible Securicode? keypad.? Of course, it has the outstanding SYNC? audio and communications system, plus voice-activated navigation system with integrated Sirius Travel Link?.

The Lincoln MKT is an interesting option for a family looking for space, luxury and performance in a uniquely designed crossover.

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