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First Drive: 2011 Lincoln MKX

New Lincoln crossover moves further upmarket, adds power and major electronics upgrades.

by on Sep.14, 2010

The 2011 Lincoln MKX undergoes significant changes for the new model-year.

Now that Lincoln has been permanently severed from the Ford-clone Mercury brand, the division will have to claw its way upward a step at a time into the realm of real luxury cars, and for 2011, there are a couple of significant steps, notably including the new MKX crossover.

The 2011 Lincoln MKX, first shown to more than a year ago at a private event during the annual Pebble Beach Concours, has major upgrades that should significantly enhance its appeal.

The restyled MKX has the same doors and roof as the 2010 model, but everything else is new, inside and out.  The grille, hood, fenders, lamps, tailgate, and rear lamps, and a completely new interior, instrument panel, steering wheel and dashboard.

The big crossover now has the same large, toothy, split-wing grille as Lincoln’s sedans and the 7-seat MKT in lieu of the original horizontal mesh grille.  At the rear, the full-width taillamp of the 2010 has been replaced by twin lamps, so, in total, it looks very different from the original MKX.

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All 2011 MKXs will be powered by an upgraded 3.7-liter V-6 engine rated at 305 horsepower and 280 foot-pounds of torque, driving the front tires through a 6-speed automatic transmission.  A computer-controlled all-wheel-drive system will be optional. Ford says the MKX will have best-in-class fuel economy of 19 mpg city and 26 mpg highway.

In addition to touch-sensitive technology, the electronic finish panel of the 2011 Lincoln MKX also has touch sliders for the volume control and the fan control.

MyLincoln Touch telematics technology, based on the previous Ford Sync system but expanded exponentially, delivers a simpler way to connect drivers with onboard electronics.  It comes standard on the new MKX, and features two smaller screens in the instrument pod, a four-zone display on the 8-inch TFT screen, and redundant five-way controls on the steering wheel.

One of the more intriguing features on the 2011 Lincoln MKX is the first automotive use of lighted touch buttons and sliders for sound volume and fan speed.  The screens can be personalized to display different information for each individual driver, including wallpaper photos.

The 2011 Lincoln MKX gets two configurable LCD screens plus the big LCD atop the center stack.

New on the MKX is iTunes tagging, a standard feature with the optional, factory-installed HD radio.  An iTunes tag lets customers capture a song heard on the HD radio receiver for later purchase from iTunes with the “TAG” button on the touch-screen display.  Once a song is tagged and customers dock their iPods to the Sync system, the tagged song transfers to that iPod. Up to 100 tags can be stored until the iPod is connected. When the iPod is then synced to iTunes, a playlist of tagged songs appears.

A completely redesigned grille now matches the rest of the Lincoln line-up.

Other technologies include optional adaptive cruise control that allows the driver to set cruising speed, using radar technology to slow the vehicle, adapt for conditions and maintain the preset distance between vehicles. Once traffic clears, the set speed returns.

The MKX’s Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) with cross-traffic alert detects vehicles in blind spots when traffic approaches from the sides when reversing out of parking spots.

Chassis upgrades include larger, grippier 18-inch tires and wheels, new springs, shocks and stabilizer bars retuned to give the MKX a flatter response, and a raft of modifications to make it quieter over the road.

While roof and doors remain the same, the front and rear of the 2011 Lincoln MKX have undergone significant redesign.

A more absorptive sound pack reduces high-frequency noise more effectively, along with an acoustic headliner, and the microphone for the Sync system has been relocated closer to the driver for improved voice recognition. The windshield also is thicker and acoustic-laminated for reduced wind noise. Acoustic glass in the front doors also is standard for the 2011 model. Baked-on expandable foam baffles in the fenders and D-pillars seal out unwanted road noise.

New ABS brakes have steel pistons, larger rear rotors, revied brake friction materials, a revised brake booster and revised pedal ratios.

The 2011 re-make of the MKX will be a critical part of Ford's efforts to rebuild the Lincoln brand.

The 2011 MKX also features hill start assist, trailer sway control, brake assist, and available collision warning with brake support.

Interior details include brightwork on the vents, true stitching on the doors, and softer armrests with upgraded materials. The cupholders can have optional ambient lighting,  hidden under the sliding leather-covered console lids.

A power tilt/telescoping steering column and a heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel are available. New leather-trimmed seat with tuxedo stripes and real aluminum appliqués are standard, with aluminum accents on the doors and instrument panel. There are two available wood accents, Olive Ash and Walnut Swirl, on the steering wheel, dashboard and doors.

Prices for the new MKX will start at $39,185 plus $850 for destination charges, $40,995 for all-wheel-drive versions.  They are reaching dealerships now.

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