Luxury at the Cutting Edge The MKX proves to be a comfortable runabout vehicle, with a smooth ride and responsive steering. Just don't expect a lot of fun. By James Riswick, Associate Editor Date posted: 07-25-2007 3.5-liter 265-hp V6 - 6-speed automatic - 146-foot stopping distance There's so much a menu doesn't tell you. There might be 15 things that sound delicious, but there's no telling if the preparation will tickle your taste buds. The braised Sonoma lamb could be on the rare side or the loaded potato skins may be a tad heavy on the bacon. In other words, a long list of nifty features doesn't automatically equal success. When compared feature to feature, the 2007 Lincoln MKX stacks up very well against an impressive group of similarly priced luxury crossovers and even surpasses them in many respects. Things like cooled front seats, a panoramic sunroof and a 14-speaker THX audio system tend to get your attention just like free buffalo wings during happy hour at T.G.I. Friday's. But it doesn't take long for you to realize that the 2007 Lincoln MKX needs more going for it than a class-leading menu of treats. Same Difference The grille says 1965, but it's tastefully applied to a thoroughly modern crossover design. The Lincoln MKX has high aspirations, and you can see the evidence in its exterior styling, which is classically inspired yet thoroughly modern. The 1960s Lincoln Continental-esque egg-crate grille is striking, and it's also unconfused by the kind of absurd, "look at all this chrome!" flamboyance of the Lincoln Navigator. This retro grille is also attached to one of the most modern shapes Ford has produced in decades. The wide, stocky stance implies an athletic nature, while the strip of red LED taillights that stretches across the tailgate is eye-catching without resembling the marquee of a Las Vegas casino. Yet there's not a lot of unique stuff under the skin, as the MKX is the genetic twin of the Ford Edge. Both are powered by the same 3.5-liter V6 that produces 265 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque, and it does business with either front- or all-wheel drive. With a curb weight that's 91 pounds heavier than the last Edge SEL Plus AWD we drove, this all-wheel-drive MKX is unsurprisingly a tenth of a second slower to 60 mph than its Ford sibling, making the run in 8.4 seconds. The quarter-mile is accomplished in an Edge-identical 16.3 seconds at 85 mph. This isn't bad, but a lot of the MKX's competition is quicker. Like the Edge, the MKX features a six-speed automatic calibrated for maximum fuel economy, and it's very reluctant to shift down a gear for quicker acceleration. Like other Ford products, the shift mechanism offers only Drive or Low positions. Once in Low, the transmission will downshift, but it's slow to respond and tends to drop one too many gears, so it's only useful for engine braking rather than charging up a hill or passing a pokey minivan. The Lincoln MKX also shares its braking system with the Edge, and we've confirmed that this is not a good thing. The MKX takes 146 feet to stop from 60 mph, a function of too much weight, insufficient braking power and hard tires. Not only does the MKX fail to measure up to virtually every other luxury crossover, even the 7,550-pound Ford F-350 Super Duty pickup stops in 4 fewer feet. The MKX's braking is further compromised by soft, long-travel pedal action that doesn't exactly instill confidence, especially in traffic when you know you'll need at least 10 feet more than the cars around you in order to stop. When Ford has gone to such lengths to engineer the Lincoln MKX for some otherwise excellent safety ratings, it's a mystery that such braking performance ever made it out of the gates of the proving ground. Forget the Track, Try a Treadmill The MKX is one of the freshest, best-looking designs Lincoln has produced in decades. Being largely identical to the Ford Edge also works in the MKX's favor, as the same Mazda hardware lies in its gene pool, and the result is an SUV that's reasonably adept at tackling winding roads. The steering effort is well-weighted and there's a useful amount of feedback from the tires. No one will ever confuse the MKX with athletic crossovers like the Acura MDX or Cadillac SRX, but this Lincoln feels far more entertaining on winding roads than its primary target, the Lexus RX 350. Our results from the test track back up our observations. On the skid pad, this front-wheel-drive MKX pulls 0.72g, and slow, smooth steering inputs help to keep the chassis from getting unsettled should the (undefeatable) stability control rear its head. Stability control also restricts the MKX's speed in the slalom to just 57.3 mph, although the Lincoln's hefty curb weight didn't help matters either, inducing lots of body roll. These mediocre test results tell us that the MKX needs to be sent to fat camp. At 4,621 pounds, this five-passenger SUV manages to weigh more than dimensionally larger, seven-passenger crossovers like the Acura MDX and Mazda CX-9 (which even shares platform bits with the Lincoln). Fuel economy also suffers as a consequence, and the MKX records 2008 EPA figures of 16 city and 22 highway. This is about average for the class, but it doesn't live up to the significantly improved fuel economy that we were led to expect from crossover packages. Satin Nickel and Dime The MKX interior looks nice enough, but upon closer inspection, it pales in comparison to everything else in the class. Just as the MKX package needs a trip to fat camp, its interior should be sent to finishing school. The ergonomics are generally good and controls work in a straightforward fashion, but somebody needs to tell Lincoln that simply spraying silver paint on stock Ford switchgear doesn't create a luxurious, high-quality environment. This "satin nickel" finish doesn't look convincing on a $24,000 Toyota Camry, let alone a $43,000 Lincoln. The other plastics within the MKX's interior also have a low-rent feel, and even the gauges are plain. The fit and finish of the MKX interior also fails to measure up to our expectations. A plastic panel in the driver footwell appeared to be bursting at the seams, and there was a terrible, incessant rattle caused by a large, poorly fitting tailgate panel. This isn't a matter of American craftsmanship versus the imports, because the redesigned Cadillac SRX offers one of the nicest interiors in the class and simply puts the Lincoln to shame. The MKX does have a very good driving position, plus a standard telescoping steering column (an item that's unavailable on the Cadillac SRX and offered only as an option on the Lexus RX 350). Unfortunately, the front seats are incredibly hard, probably compromised by the cooling mechanism beneath the upholstery. Although our butts might occasionally get sweaty, the Edge's seats are actually comfier. Judging by spy photos of the upcoming MKS sedan, we know that Lincoln is capable of producing a much nicer interior. Just as Cadillac radically improved the SRX cabin in its second attempt, perhaps Lincoln can accomplish a similar transformation for the MKX to make it closer in quality to the Lexus RX 350 it's trying to compete with. A Nip Here and a Tuck There Since there's no third-row seat, the MKX's backseat is particularly spacious and features available heat. Quite simply, there's not enough differentiation between the MKX and the Edge to show that Lincoln means business in this ultracompetitive class. In fact, the Edge tops the MKX in some areas. In comparison, few people will ever confuse a Lexus RX 350 with a Toyota Highlander. Although the 2007 Lincoln MKX is certainly a comfortable, reasonably competent entry in the ever-expanding crossover department, we'd be hard-pressed to pick it instead of the many other X-branded luxury choices like the Acura MDX, Cadillac SRX, Infiniti FX35 or Lexus RX 350. Each is more refined, more spirited to drive and constructed with interior materials befitting a luxury brand. The MKX is only a few changes away from being a truly attractive proposition, however. A new set of brakes, a bit more powerful engine and an interior similar to the one that will appear in the MKS will make a world of difference. Until then, the 2007 Lincoln MKX is just a well-stocked menu that leads you into dining disappointment. The tasteful yet eye-catching LED taillights bring a much-needed modern touch to a brand in search of some youthful spirit. MSRP of Test Vehicle: $43,215 What Works: Classy modern styling; impressive feature content; comfortable ride; more personality than Lexus RX 350. What Needs Work: Very poor braking distance; needs a trip to Jenny Craig; no dynamic advantages over Ford Edge; hard seats; below-average interior fit and finish. Bottom Line: A well-equipped and comfortable luxury crossover, but the MKX comes up short against similarly priced competition. Second Opinion Square gauges are an interesting touch, but lack the rich quality of electroluminescent dials featured by the MKX's competition. Executive Editor Michael Jordan says: This is the adult-rated version of the Ford Edge, so all the detailing that might seem a little self-consciously stuffy is by design, as Lincoln wants to ensure that there won't be the slightest whiff of dirty diapers when you drop the MKX at valet parking. No worries there, as this is one of the very few car-based crossover sport-utilities that doesn't automatically tell people that you're off to afternoon soccer practice. It successfully combines the tall, useful proportions of a utility with pleasantly carlike style cues, and the result is the only real modern look in the Ford design portfolio. The trouble is, the MKX needs to drive with the same kind of grown-up character. The tinny rasp from the V6 engine and the flaccid engagement between the engine and the transmission make you feel as if you're wheeling a minivan down the road, not a Lincoln. More power isn't the issue. It's the sensory quality of the experience, and there's not a bit of sensory goodness to the MKX's on-the-gas personality. Almost everybody I know would be better off in a Lincoln MKX than in just about any large sedan you can name. It's quieter, rides smoother and even looks better. But as far as adults are concerned, this fuel-sipping drivetrain calibration threatens to banish the MKX to the gulag of undesirability where the minivan lives. The MKX represents a real opportunity for Lincoln to bring a lot of new people under its tent, and it needs to take advantage.