This review first appeared on Car-Revs-Daily.com.
Loaded with features, powered by a spirited and fuel efficient powertrain along with a comfortable and spacious interior, the 2016 Lincoln MKX Black Label is a growing competitor in its segment. It is clear why it is. I didn’t want to stop driving it.
The all-new MKX is Lincoln’s newest push to knock the Lexus RX juggernaut from atop the midsize premium SUV segment. This is the largest segment in the luxury market and represents one-quarter of the market. In order to counter newly refreshed RX models, Lincoln now offers a 2.7L EcoBoost engine, an upgraded interior and a host of new safety features. Also, there are now four different versions of its top of the line Black Label trim – Muse, Thoroughbred, Modern Heritage and Indulgence. Each of these versions offers different color and interior styling treatments. Finally, Mr. McConaughey is back touting the MKX in another round of subdued and interesting advertisements.
All of these upgrades make the MKX a better competitor to the RX and during my week of driving. With my experience driving various RX models and other luxury SUVs over the years, I found several places where the MKX hits and misses versus its chief competitors.
Starting with the exterior, the MKX is more streamlined than previous models and designers brought in their new split-wing grille look featured on a variety of vehicles in the lineup. This look takes some getting used to and while beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I was initially turned off looking over the SUV. From the front to the rear, the design just isn’t as appealing as other models like the aforementioned Lexus models or other competitors like BMW and Audi. From the split-wing grille to the wrap-around taillights, the look is a miss for me.
My impression of the SUV changed dramatically once inside. The luxury materials, styling and roominess of the cabin are really impressive. Everywhere you look, the interior feels luxurious without being overboard. Both the driver, passenger and second-row seating offers ample head, hip and leg room and the MKX feels like a larger SUV than it is. This is especially the case in the rear cargo area where I was able to carry golf clubs and groceries with ease. A definite hit.
After a full day of driving, I was really impressed with the seats and my level of driver fatigue. The comfortable seats held up all day and were a big hit. Lincoln says the reason they are so good is they partnered with orthopedic surgeons to reduce potential back pain areas and the seats use an Active Motion function which provides a “slight continues movement in the seat cushion.” This movement is designed to reduce pain by “provoking a change in the muscular activation of the pelvic area.” Whatever the scientific reason, the seats in the MKX are quite exceptional. They rival the zero gravity seats found in Infiniti products and are a much better seat than BMW or Lexus.
Besides the seats, a variety of safety and convenience features made it a pleasurable day behind the wheel. Features like adaptive cruise control, lane departure assist and active noise control that dampen sounds to create a quiet cabin all reduced driver fatigue.
Along the way, I experienced the 13-speaker Revel sound system and found it is nearly on par with the Mark Levinson audio systems found in Lexus products. It doesn’t quite have the same rich sound, in my opinion, but it is close.
Another experience was the push-button shifting found in the MKX alongside the infotainment screen. Initially, it was difficult to get adjusted, yet after a day, I found it very intuitive and easy to use. Plus, the extra space gained for cup holders and storage was a real bonus.
On the topic of push buttons, the MKX has a push-button start/stop button located on the center stack below the push-button shifting and across from the temperature controls. In the above photo, the button is just to the left of the volume knob. I bring this up to make sure you know where to find it and how to start the car. The button doesn’t stand out and it took a concerning amount of time trying to start the SUV for the first time.
Finally, the MKX uses the new Sync 3 infotainment system found in all newer Ford and Lincoln products. While this system replaces the much criticized Sync system, it is still an awkward setup compared to other competitors with its corner button driven activation (other competitors have an icon driven menu system with slick graphics). To its credit, load time and responsiveness is better with the Sync 3 (key complaints of the prior system) and navigation of the system gets easier through usage although, again, it isn’t ideal and a more icon driven menu would be an improvement.
In the end, there is a lot to like on the new MKX and consumers have responded with February 2016 sales exceeding 2,000 units (up 109 percent year to year). However, there is still a ways to go to catch Lexus RX sales topping 7,000 units. This offering by Lincoln can make up ground and consumers shopping in this segment will appreciate many of the new features, performance and seats.
Engine: 2.7L EcoBoost
HP/Torque: 335 HP and 380 lb-ft torque
Transmission: Six-speed automatic with push-button shifting
EPA Fuel Economy: 17/24/19 city/highway/combined
Price as Tested: $65,270 with $925 destination and delivery