There it is!
The first big news of 2015 for Lincoln, and one that also carries important news for the brand as a whole: the reveal of the 2015 Lincoln MKX mid- to plus-size luxury crossover, the latest all-new model for the brand and big brother in size and segment to the acclaimed MKC compact premium crossover. Although the official reveal took place January 13th at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, MI the photos and details surrounding the new vehicle were interestingly enough leaked a day earlier through Lincoln’s Canadian website, thanks to a poorly timed update.
Still, although the vehicle itself is big news, we’ll see that it also literally carries equipment that will soon reappear on every Lincoln in the line-up: a new, improved audio system developed by Harman’s Revel brand and the much anticipated Black Label trim level and experience.
Strenghtening Lincoln’s SUV portfolio:
Over the summer, Lincoln renewed the full-size Navigator with a thorough facelift that turned out to be a stopgap model before an all-new platform is rolled out around 2017. The summer before that, a new segment was opened when a smaller crossover went head-to-head against the imports, blending modern packaging with high luxury contents: it was the MKC.
The last member of this “Triple Threat” was the mid-size MKX, a model whose inception dated back to the “Old” Lincoln of 2006, and whose 2011 refresh marked the first extensive overhaul carried out by the “New” Lincoln. Although it proved to be a strong seller, especially in its facelifted version, it was still the weaker link of the line-up: with a platform that was by now essentially ten years old and a single engine choice, it was at the end of the line.
What’s more, its position needed to be adjusted within the Lincoln portfolio. The current MKX rides on a 111-inch wheelbase, for a total length of 187 inches (base prise of 38,000$) while the new MKC rides on a 106-inch wheelbase, for a total length of 180 inches (base price of 33,000$). This put the two vehicles awfully close for shoppers, probably too close to not canibalize each other’s sales. Especially since they shared a similar philosophy.
Lincoln design, all grown up:
We do not have the dimensions or pricing of the new MKX just yet, but even at first sight its designs looks more massive, longer, wider than the very compact-looking outgoing model. Overhangs are short, but the profile draws your eye and appears a little more slab-sided than, say, the MKC whose haunches really structure the overall shape. Actually, it probably draws a little more from the wagon-like MKT than from the previous generation MKX when seen from the side and a subtle but important scalop in the doors emphasizes the cabin area and passenger space.
The biggest impression is probably found upfront, and it follows closely in the footsteps of the MKC. Truth be told, auto journalists seemed to agree that the latter sported the best execution yet of the design originally shown on the MKZ Concept in 2012, so it’s no surprise that the design team chose to stick with it. Overall, the front fascia is massive but visually lightened by a limited number of bars in the texture of the grille, as well as a sculpted bumper which includes a skid plate-like applique, off-colour cladding and a dynamically styled lower grille insert. It is interesting to note that the MKX’s LED running lights are closer to the ground than on the MKC, and it contributes to that impression of larger proportions and stronger stance conveyed by the MKX. In my opinion. we are now far away from the swoopiness and spaceship-like profile of the MKZ, and maybe a little closer to the upright design of the Navigator – I would expect the mid-cycle refresh of the midsize sedan to get it closer to this new identity.
I hope to confront the style of the concept and production versions of the MKX in a dedicated post but what struck me most when the vehicle was revealed is that, on base models, the intricate styling that really came together on the concept is replaced by conventional (albeit intricate and very German-looking) headlights. As a reminder, on the concept, the headlights and grille intertwined to create a seamless assembly. Still, for more luxurious trim levels, these headlights are replaced by a gorgeous set of full-LED units, which seriously give Audi a run for their money.
Now, it still makes me miss the originality of the concept but it will definitely appeal to buyers. On the Navigator, conventional headlights sport a similar interior structure but have a neat “Lincoln” script engraved in the turn signals: it would have been neat to see Lincoln start a little tradition with this, the sort of “Easter eggs” people like to find on their vehicles. But these are still very luxurious looking and definitely up the whole vehicle’s appeal.
Since we are on the subject of technology, the MKX sports another novelty feature right behind its front emblem: the Lincoln star lifts up in certain conditions to reveal a 360-degree camera set to provide a bird’s eye view of your immediate surroundings when leaving a tight and blind parking spot for instance. It does have an immediate advantage: the camera does not have to be hidden behind a piece of clear plastic taking space inside the grille, or even in a fake fog light bezel. But reliability might be an issue, and you might want to make sure you clear out the snow on your grille so the motor powering the mechanism does not jam or strain too much.
Out back, the MKX shows what is probably its most conventional side, with what are for all intents separate tail light units and a conventional liftgate. That being said, even on the concept, the rear fascia did not use the MKC’s clamshell design and matching full-width tail light assembly. Again, it seems to me that the MKX carries some of the station-wagon, people-mover DNA that we found in the MKT back in the day, in sharp contrast with the concept’s performance-oriented persona.
First-class interior accomodations:
Inside too, the MKX builds on the celebrated achievements of the MKC rather than the more forward-thinking features of the MKZ: touch-sensitive sliders are nowhere to be found, but the center stack relies on an adequate number of chrome buttons and knobs. Interestingly enough, the “Start” button has been taken out of the push-button shifter unit and is now found down by HVAC controls: this is definitely linked to the recall Lincoln has had to issue after people complained of somehow turning their engines off while trying to use the touchscreen.
We also note that there is no floating console like on the MKC, but rather a full-size center console with a large storage compartment where a gearshift lever would normally be, which again makes me think of the MKT’s interior design. The sides of this storage compartment are covered with beautiful open-pore wood appliques, and if you look under the console, in the hollow space you can also find on the MKZ, the rubberized mats sport a stylized Lincoln star logo which I find to be a very nice touch.
Elsewhere, it’s pure Lincoln: leather all around, rich colour schemes, and integrated MyLincoln Touch with electronic and analog instrumentation. Many auto magazines were predicting the release of Ford’s new infotainment system in the new MKX but it seems Ford thought more relevant to showcase it on the same week in the new Mustang at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). You can find a link about that event at the end of this article.
And, of course!, the big news we’ve also covered in these pages earlier: the official introduction of the Revel sound system which is set to replace the THX-certified units found in Lincolns for the longest time. The base set-up will feature 13 speakers, while the Ultima option will offer 19 speakers and ClariFi technology. The amplifier’s specs were not part of the press release but insiders have revealed that the system as designed can handle up to 2,000 watts of power. For reference, the bespoke audio system available at Bentley ranges from 1,100 to 2,200 watts. Talk about “Concert Sound”, eh Buick?
Specs tailored for its role:
From the exterior and interior features, the role of the new MKX can already be imagined. It is posher than the already premium MKC, but it also seems to be more of a family-ready SUV: the wagon-like exterior and proportions, along with more conventional interior accomodations should resonate well with prospects used to cross-shopping large German vehicles. Still, the last parameter to confirm that placement would be the mechanical specs. What is this vehicle capable of?
The answer to this question sets the new MKX’s place in Lincoln’s line-up. On the one hand, the smaller, more personnal MKC only offers turbocharged four-cylinder engines, although in two grades of power. And on the other hand, the fuller, family-ready MKX only offers a pair of V6 engines: the 3.7L from the previous generation carries on as the base engine, with the same specifications (305hp), while a brand-new and interesting 2.7L twin-turbocharged EcoBoost offering 330hp is available. The choice to keep the 3.7 was probably justified by cost concerns, in order to offer a competitive base price, given it is a rather old engine whose high displacement gives some “woomph” to larger vehicles but also comes with mediocre fuel economy. Still, the new engine should prove a very, very interesting offering both in terms of fuel economy but also performance.
Conclusion: a welcome addition to the family!
With the MKX Concept, Lincoln wooed the press and audiences, as it hinted that there was room in their line-up for a youthful, dynamic SUV; but doing so probably stayed a little too close to the MKC’s market. With the release of the production version, Lincoln shows that the passion behind the concept can also be translated into a very relevant addition to their SUV portfolio and certainly delivers a product that is quite different from the concept but also a very solid entry against German and Japanese offerings. And, incidentally, it fields a product that has no direct competitor among the domestic crowd.
To paraphrase a famous movie, while the MKX Concept had our curiosity, the 2016 MKX now has our attention.
- 2016 Lincoln MKX: Detroit 2015 Live photos gallery, at Autoblog.com
- All-new Lincoln MKX delivers personal luxury, at Lincoln.com
- CES 2015: Ford SYNC 3 First Look, at InternationalBusinessTimes.com
- News That Makes Noise, at TheMarkOnline