Lincoln is shedding a stuffy image with its new flagship: the 2009 Lincoln MKS sedan. But is the MKS in the same luxury-car league as its competitors? The all-wheel-drive model we tested certainly has most of what it takes — electronic gadgets and sleek styling — to attract a younger generation.
Appearance: The split, waterfall grille gives the car an aggressive look that sets it apart from the competition and recalls some classics from the Ford stable — think of the '49 Mercury. The tradeoff for this sleek styling: a small rear window that compromises visibility.
Performance: A push of a button — there's no key — starts the 3.7-liter V-6, which cranks out 273 horsepower, certainly enough to get the more-than-4,200-pound car moving. But we feel it could use a little boost when merging onto the interstate. Whatever the MKS may lack in initial acceleration, the ride is smooth and the steering responsive. The SelectShift automatic was a bit clunky in the manual shift mode.
Interior: There's a split personality. We love the leather-covered doors and dash, but below the midline, the center console is plain and plasticky. That doesn't match well with the soft, supportive leather seats. Even worse, the console's twin cupholders are different sizes and too close together — so don't think about setting down two lattes at the same time. Still, there are nice details elsewhere: 12-way power front seats and a sliding center armrest, which is great for shorter drivers who have to move the seat forward. The buttons on the center console are small, making it difficult to push the correct one while driving. However, these controls are also available on the navigation system's touch screen. There is ample head- and legroom, but the rain sensor in the center of the windshield is bulky and can be distracting to the front passenger.
Our 3 favorites
Peter Couture 49, city driver, 6 feet tall, married with a teenager and a middle-schooler.
Styling: As Detroit luxury goes, I'll take it over an angular Caddy. Make my MKS black, please.
Back-up camera: Do you live on a street of joggers and kids? This is one option you'll rely on.
All-wheel-drive: This option kept us sure-footed in the rain.
Lyra Solochek, 43, highway commuter, 5 feet 1, married with a 5-year-old and teenager.
Home theater on wheels: A THX-II surround system delivers crystal-clear sound, whether it's NPR or Green Day. The speed-compensated volume control keeps the sound level perfect.
Exterior lighting: Your path is lit after you exit the car. Great for late-night arrivals.
Dual-panel moonroof: It lets in lots of light, but keeps the broiling sun out with a power shade.
The bottom line: There's a lot to like about this Lincoln, such as its styling and comfort, but we think the MKS needs another model year to refine its promise. We can't wait for the 2010 model with Ford's new EcoBoost twin-turbo engine.