Refined driving in the Lincoln MKT
Some of the memorable moments I have of growing up in this region are of enjoying riding in the spacious American luxury cars of the 1980s, particularly the Lincoln and the Cadillac. It was truly a fantastic experience simply because travelling in such a vehicle was different from that of riding in a Japanese or German luxury car. For one, it was the sheer amount of space inside; to me as a child, it represented power and style in ways that few other cars could at that time.
Over the past decade, America's luxury car makers moved into the world of SUVs, as did a lot of other premium brands around the world. They must have felt it was time to lend the badge of honour to an automobile that had a higher riding height, four-wheel drive, and could go off tarmac at the flip of a gear.
The Lincoln Navigator, the flagship SUV from the brand, packs a lot of power and entertainment features in addition to a spacious interior. It is also a lot more tarmac friendly than off-road.
I recently test drove a 2011 Lincoln MKT and it reminded me of the Navigator I drove last year. In terms of looks, the 2011 Lincoln may be worlds apart from the Navigator, which sports a more basic interior, but both have style, road presence and that American motoring finesse.
The first impression I had when I stepped into the car was that it was all about sophistication and luxury in a combination unique to the American premium car segment. While it has a larger-than-life feel, the interior is warm and welcoming.
The instrument cluster and layout of the controls on the dashboard have a futuristic feel. One might argue the dark leather finished interiors and the lighting on the instrument cluster aren't what you would term classy for a Lincoln, but they give the car a very modern, global appeal.
The MKT version offered here in the UAE comes with a 3.5 litre twin turbo charged ‘Eco-Boost' V6 engine and a standard all-wheel drive system. The MKT is also produced with a naturally aspirated 3.7 V6 engine with optional all-wheel drive. But this version is not available here.
It's one quick road-going SUV
The all-wheel drive offered here is standard - something that makes sense in this region. Although the MKT's utility isn't really that of a rugged off roader's, I found that the 4x4 system was good for beach sand and gravel driving.
The engine produces a maximum of 355 horsepower @ 5,700 rpm and 475 Nm of torque between 1,500 and 5,250 rpm. These figures are impressive and suit that of a really good dune-bashing vehicle, but with the cross-over style of the MKT these numbers also bode well for its tarmac capability. In simple terms, the MKT is one quick road-going SUV.
I enjoyed a perfectly smooth and refined driving experience with the Lincoln MKT - as can be expected from any Lincoln. In some ways, it reminded me of the way the Ford Edge and Flex feel like to drive. I took the car around the city and it was perfect for city driving. It was easy to squeeze into tight parking spaces and was a pleasure to manoeuvre even in traffic. The drivetrain felt like it was designed for the most relaxed and composed kind of individual because neither the turbo nor the six-speed transmission with manual override seemed to create any kind of aggression that these kind of performance figures usually deploy.
Highway driving is a breeze with the MKT and it takes your mind off irregularities of the road, gliding over all of them in style and without fuss. The road noise is pretty low and all-round visibility good.
Overall, the driving experience was pleasant - the car doesn't fall short in any areas except the ‘thrill factor' but then that's not something its potential target users are looking for. While it packs a lot of power and style, it delivers it in a way fit for a gentleman in a three-piece suit.
The MKT comes with a fair bit of gadgetry. The Ultrasonic-based Active Parking Assist feature although fitted with good intentions, fell a bit short for someone with my level of patience; I found it was taking a bit too long. I prefer to park cars with the least electronic intervention possible.
The ‘SYNC' multimedia interface it shares with its Ford cousins powers the entertainment system in the MKT. I first experienced the Sync interface in the Ford Flex and found it is easy to use. The MKT also comes with a 10 GB hard drive built in - more than sufficient for the music you're likely to listen to while driving.
With a price tag of Dh199,000 the 2011 Lincoln MKT is priced well above the non-premium rivals in its class but it has a lot of things going for it and is sure to keep its users happy.
Engine 3.5 litre twin turbo charged ‘Eco-Boost' V6 engine and a standard all-wheel drive system
Max output 355 horsepower @ 5,700 rpm
Max torque 475 Nm of torque between 1,500 and 5,250 rpm
Philip Shane is a Dubai-based motoring freelancer