There was a time when Lincoln and Cadillac were considered relatively even in the battle for the American luxury-car consumer. But General Motors gave Cadillac a shot of adrenaline about 10 years ago to update its model portfolio, and Ford has been pushing Lincoln to catch up ever since.
I'd submit that one thing holding Lincoln back is its annoying model names: You'd have to be a Lincoln salesperson to immediately recognize the model from their badges -- MKS, MKT, MKX and MKZ. But isn't it easy to call to mind the Lincoln Navigator and Town Car?
The MKT, tested here, is Lincoln's largest crossover SUV, sharing a basic platform with the Ford Flex. Introduced in 2009, it's Lincoln's attempt to wean its traditional customers off not one model, but two: The aging Navigator is a beefy, V-8-powered SUV that doesn't exactly fit in with Lincoln's remade, more delicate image. And the venerable Town Car, darling of the limo and livery services, goes out of production this year.
With three rows of seats, the MKT can seat up to seven, and it can tow 4,500 pounds, half of the Navigator's towing capacity, but enough for a small trailer or boat.
The MKT has two seats up front and two in the middle, and it's the buyer's choice to have two seats separated by a big console in the third row, or three seats. Either way it's a very tight fit back there for adults -- anyone over 5 feet tall will find minimal leg and head room. The third row is best for kids -- or given the MKT's demographics, grandkids.
No complaints about the front two rows, though. The MKT is as luxurious and comfortable as a Lincoln is supposed to be -- options on the test vehicle included a two-panel panoramic sunroof and an $895 five-quart refrigerator in the rear console.
The MKT is offered with your choice of two engines: A 3.7-liter, 270-horsepower V-6, or the turbocharged Ecoboost 3.5-liter V-6 with 355 horsepower. The test vehicle had the Ecoboost, which is one of the best engines offered by any manufacturer. The test MKT was a 2011 model, and one of the very few changes for 2012 is a big cut in the price of the Ecoboost option.
On the highway the MKT is an excellent companion, reasonably nimble for its size and very quiet.
Safety features abound, including a blind-spot monitoring system and adaptive cruise control that maintains a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you and warns of impending collisions. The Ecoboost model comes with all-wheel-drive, rather than the standard front-wheel-drive.
The base MKT starts at just under $45,000. The Ecoboost version starts at $49,200, and the model that was tested ended up at $57,775 with options and shipping.
Given the discount for 2012 on the Ecoboost engine, we'd expect a hefty discount on any leftover 2011 Ecoboost-equipped MKTs.
2011 LINCOLN MKT
Base price: $49,200
Price as tested: $57,775
EPA rating: 16 mpg city driving, 21 mpg highway
Engine: 3.5-liter, 355-horsepower V-6
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Length: 207.6 inches
Wheelbase: 117.9 inches
Parting shot: Not Lincoln's biggest SUV -- that would be the long-in-the-tooth Navigator -- but by far the most modern.