Road test: 2011 Lincoln MKS

Lincoln’s MKS sedan is accoutered with all the trappings of a large flagship sedan — sumptuous double-stitched leather, gleaming chrome, all the modern conveniences expected of a luxury vehicle and a simply obscene amount of electronic gadgetry designed to keep one safe, entertained and connected. Yet the car is also fitted with an (optional) twin-turbocharged 355-horsepower EcoBoost V6 with six-speed SelectShift manumatic — replete with paddle shifters.

So, does this make the MKS a sport sedan — or at least a luxury sedan with sporting intentions — or is it simply a big car with a powerful motor? It’s not just a casual musing. Unlike Cadillac, which has a defined line of sport sedans and coupes (CTS) as well as a more traditional luxury vehicle (DTS, soon to be replaced by the XTS), Lincoln has been blurring the distinction -— likely to its detriment.

Ultimately, at least for those more attuned to luxury European brands such as Mercedes, Audi, BMW and Jaguar, the MKS comes off as the latter — a big car (just less than 5.2 metres in length) and big engine — rather than a truly sporting sedan. The components are there (essentially the same as found in the Ford Taurus SHO); they just haven’t been tuned to provide the visceral experience expected.

This isn’t meant as a dismissal. There are still plenty of customers who define luxury by ride softness, seat comfort, interior isolation and the number of toys. Indeed, driving the tester during a week of stifling heat, I began to appreciate the speed at which the car’s air conditioning refrigerated the cabin as well as chilled my butt (thanks to seat coolers) rather than how fast it accelerated to 100 kilometres an hour.

That said, the MKS will acquit itself when called upon — at least in a straight line. It is quite capable of accelerating to 100 km/h in slightly less than six seconds, which is certainly quick enough for almost any vehicle short of a full-out sports car, never mind an all-wheel-drive luxury sedan tipping the scales at more than 2,000 kilograms. (All-wheel drive is standard with the EcoBoost 3.5-litre V6, optional with the base normally aspirated 274-hp 3.7L V6.)

I admit to being bemused by the car’s steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, which seem an odd addition considering the Lincoln’s obvious non-sporting intent. I’m not a huge fan of paddles, preferring console-located shifters myself. Still, I am used to the more familiar type where the right paddle upshifts and the left downshifts. Ford, however, has chosen to fit the MKS with paddles whereby a squeeze back on either one delivers the upshift, while a push forward induces a matched-rev downshift. It didn’t feel intuitive (despite what Ford says), so, after a few experimentations, I just left the transmission in Drive.

As for fuel economy, the benefit of the EcoBoost V6 is V8-like power when needed without the thirst. My test average of 14 litres per 100 kilometres for a week of mixed city and highway driving probably isn’t terrible considering the MKS’s size and weight, although it’s still higher than I would have liked considering the car’s city rating is 12.5 L/100 km. Notably, Ford doesn’t mandate the use of premium unleaded for the engine, although its full 355 hp and 350 pound-feet of torque are only achieved with the tank filled with liquid gold.

While the MKS is tuned more for smooth, comfort-oriented motoring, it’s not the wallowing, pillow-soft variety of the historic Detroit cruiser. There is decent feedback from the road through the well-weighted steering wheel. When tackling on-ramps and the like with anything approaching gusto, you can’t help but feel the car’s weight, but roll is moderate and the all-wheel-drive system (not to mention a host of electronic safety backups) helps it stay true to its intended line.

Styling is always a very personal thing: To me, the MKS is cleanly penned with muscular haunches. But it’s also slightly anonymous like many of its Asian luxury rivals, lacking the more hard-edge look of Cadillac products. As for Lincoln’s corporate toothy grille — a polarizing feature — at least it’s proportional to the car’s front.

Inside, however, the MKS tester shows its true colours — acres of Bridge of Weir leather befitting a London gentlemen’s club and more buttons and controls than in a space shuttle, plus not one but two sunroofs (a $2,200 option). Lincoln Sync is standard, providing voice-activated communications and infotainment. The standard audio system is the 600-watt THX II with AM/FM/DVD/MP3 capability, six-disc CD, 16 speakers, satellite radio, an auxiliary input jack and a USB port.

The seats are particularly comfy, with pronounced side bolsters designed to keep one in place if the need for spirited driving proves too tempting. The standard heated and cooled 12-way power driver and front-passenger seats offer four-way lumbar (up, down, inboard and outboard) for added comfort, while rear-seat passengers also enjoy heated rear outboard seats. Interior room is such that a quartet of six-footers will not be compromised in any way.

While personal preference has me siding with European luxury sedans — those that will carve a tight, twisting road and still deliver a full measure of comfort — the MKS is worthy of attention. It’s a solid, well-crafted car that will chew up long kilometres of highway cruising while providing a fatigue-free experience. Plus, it’s quick for its size and the level of amenities it offers for its price ($53,000 base) makes it a bargain among luxury vehicles. All Lincoln has to do now is build a real sporting sedan.


Type of vehicle: All-wheel-drive full-sized luxury sedan

Engine: Twin-turbo 3.5L DOHC V6

Power: 355 hp @ 5,700 rpm; 350 lb-ft of torque @ 3,500 rpm

Transmission: Six-speed manumatic

Brakes: Four-wheel disc with ABS

Tires: P245/45R20 (optional)

Price: base/as tested: $53,000/$65,330

Destination charge: $1,550

Transport Canada fuel economy L/100 km: 12.5 city, 8.1 hwy.

Standard features: Dual-zone automatic climate control, illuminated entry system, power windows, door locks and exterior heated mirrors, push-button start, 12-way power heated and cooled front seats with power lumbar support, leather seats, steering wheel and shift knob, power tilt and telescopic steering column, cruise control, power rear sunshade, in-vehicle connectivity system, 600-watt AM/FM/DVD audio system with MP3 capability, six-disc CD, 16 speakers, satellite radio, rain-sensing wipers, forward and reverse sensing systems, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, auto xenon headlamps

Photograph by: Brian Harper, National Post