The present big car in the Lincoln lineup is the MKS. The MKS is the top scoring Executive Luxury Car in AutoPacific’s 2014 Vehicle Satisfaction Award research. These are outstanding results in a product segment that includes some very impressive competitors like the second place Acura RLX, BMW 5-Series, Cadillac CTS Sedan, Audi A6, Cadillac XTS, Lexus GS, Mercedes E-Class, Jaguar XF and the Infiniti Q70 (Infiniti M using Infiniti’s old naming scheme).
In achieving this level of satisfaction, the 2014 Lincoln MKS wins or ties in eleven of fifty attributes. The MKS is within one tenth of a rating point in another fourteen attributes. So, for fully half of the satisfaction measurements, MKS is at the top.
The top ten highest ratings by MKS owners are: feeling safe while driving, safety features and ratings, the perception of reliability and durability, braking, the reputation of the Lincoln brand and the MKS, overall quality and handling.
Ford EcoBoost Logo
High Tech V6 Gives V8 Power and V6 Efficiency: Several years ago at a dinner with Ford Group Vice President Derrick Kuzak we had a spirited conversation about replacing V8 engines with high technology V6 engines in Lincolns. My position was that a Lincoln could not be a REAL Lincoln without a V8. Kuzak’s position was that Ford could not wait to bring high technology, high performance, high efficiency engines to market. His strategy resulted in the Ford EcoBoost engines that have now been on the market for over a year. Based on AutoPacific’s owner data, it appears that the EcoBoost strategy is on the mark.
Ford Motor Company launched a new powertrain technology called EcoBoost earlier in 2010. EcoBoost will eventually be available on 90% of Ford’s lineup in the USA. The first EcoBoost installations are in Ford’s new D3 Platform vehicles – Ford Taurus SHO, Lincoln MKS, Lincoln MKT, and Ford Flex. EcoBoost’s first installation is a 3.5L V6 with gasoline direct injection and twin turbochargers. Power output on the Taurus SHO is 365HP while on the MKS, MKT and Flex is 355. The EcoBoost 3.5L has 350lb-ft of torque. These technology advancements yield substantially better performance while achieving equivalent fuel economy as a vehicle equipped with a non-EcoBoost 3.5L (of course this is only on paper. EcoBoost is so fun to drive you’ll be in it all the time – achieving equal fuel economy is just a dream).
EcoBoost a $5,000 Proposition Anyway, EcoBoost is not free. A Taurus SHO is almost $40,000 and the price increase for EcoBoost on the MKT, MKS and Flex comes out to about $5,000. That price includes all wheel drive which EcoBoost requires to handle the power and torque on the front wheel drive platform. So, with the power and price increase, how many is Ford selling?
EcoBoost Installations Running Ahead of Forecast According to George Pipas, Ford’s spokesman for sales reporting and arcane numbers, the Taurus SHO now represents about 15% of the Taurus lineup. This is 5%-pts higher than Ford had estimated. Each Taurus SHO generates $10,000 more economic profit than an average Taurus. Installation rate on the Lincoln MKT is 47%. About 30% of Lincoln MKS gets EcoBoost (and 37% gets AWD). The Flex has about an 11% rate lowest of the four.
So, it appears that EcoBoost is well on its way to being a success even in these tough economic times. In each vehicle line, with the possible exception of Flex, the installation rate is healthy for a performance option. It will be interesting to see what the mix is of EcoBoost engines as Ford continues to roll the technology across its vehicle lines.
We recently spent a few days with a Lincoln MKS equipped with EcoBoost and its host of technology features. Not industry firsts, Lincoln’s execution is impressive. From headlights that adjust high- or low-beam spread based on conditions to adaptive cruise control and parallel parking assist, these systems work smoothly and confidently. As systems like these tend to get better quickly after their first automotive application, Lincoln should still be commended for putting together a comprehensive and usable package.
If you’re driving the MKS EcoBoost, you have a willing and comfortable partner in a stylish package (assuming you’re a fan of the chrome-laden signature grille, of course); the 355HP powertrain moves the 4300-pound vehicle along briskly. Not only heavy, MKS is big, and feels it. Looking at its specs on paper tells you that, standing next to it tells you that, and driving it reminds you of it all the time. MKS is relatively nimble, but this is not one of those big-but-drives-small kind of cars, a trait perfectly appropriate for what is functionally a modern Town Car. The MKS driving dynamics seem pretty spot on. There’s power, comfort, a compliant but not overly soft ride, and plenty of technology to make being in it as easy as possible. I can’t say sporting. This is not a sports sedan, but offers grace and presence, with the muscle to back it up.
MKS is sized between an Audi A6 and A8, BMW 5-Series and 7-Series, and Mercedes E- and S-Classes, and slightly bigger than the Cadillac STS. Our EcoBoost could boast a nearly $57,000 price tag. While a healthy number, to be sure, in context of the amenities, style, and power offered, the price seems quite reasonable.
Several months ago I had the opportunity to drive a pre-production Buick Lucerne Super for a few miles around Malibu with Karen Micklin the program manager for the car from General Motors’ Performance Division. I was pretty impressed with the Super as a very competent front wheel drive large car from GM’s “mature division”. Also impressive was the fact that Buick was not trying to make an overt move to capture younger buyers. They simply want to provide the most competent car a Buick driver can buy.
Last week we had a Super at VehicleVoice offices and the staff had a chance to drive the car. Several balked at the idea of driving the Buick – too mature for their youthful sensibilities – but when they came in the day after driving the car each was surprised and impressed. The highlights: effortless cruising on the freeway, good performance from the tweaked Northstar V8, quiet and comfortable ride, good size.
AutoPacific and VehicleVoice just drove the all new Lincoln MKS in Washington DC and rural Virginia. We were the third of three waves of journalists and analysts to evaluate the MKS, but our wave had the added advantage of driving through a microburst of wind, thunder and lightning that tested the car’s systems from its all wheel drive, rain-sensing windshield wipers and latest generation SIRIUS Travel Link system. So the first two waves drove the cars in perfect weather and we got the best of it – a challenge.
New Lincoln Design Cues Begin Appearing on MKS
Competes With Executive Luxury Products
The Lincoln MKS is a contemporary luxury car positioned against the Cadillac STS V6 and Lexus GS350. Other competitors Lincoln identifies are the Acura RL, Infiniti M35, and up-level Cadillac CTS. There was even mention of Nissan Maxima and Hyundai Genesis. The MKS is actually longer than the BMW 750Li and competes well in interior spaciousness even with the long wheelbase competition (BMW 750Li and Lexus LS460 L). Lincoln won’t have to apologize for the car being a “little Lincoln”… it is full sized.
Against its STS and GS competition, Lincoln has a good value story being base-priced thousands less and including gobs of standard equipment. In fact, loading up an MKS to the specs I would personally choose yields a price point of about $43,000 for the AWD version.
Styling is not particularly head-turning, but Ford’s stylists were able to push the design envelope a bit further than when the MKS was first seen at auto shows about 18-months ago. Since then, Ford Design has developed a palette of Lincoln DNA design cues that were rushed into production on the MKS. The result is an MKS style that incorporates Lincoln’s new bow wave grille, simple bodyside sculpturing and a kickup over the rear wheels in the rear quarter panel. There is a large Lincoln star placed on the rear surface of the front fender – a cue we will be seeing on future Lincolns. The rear end has LED taillamps distinguished by hockeystick shaped backup lamps on the inboard surface. A cue we particularly like – borrowed from the BMW 750Li and Infiniti M are the fore-to-aft bright inserts in the roof panel. Nice touch. The MKS can be had with large 20-inch tires and wheels that really fill the wheel openings but don’t deteriorate ride quality.
Best of Show
You always go to an autoshow with the hope that there will be a truly outstanding example there. VehicleVoice and AutoPacific’s eight staffers at the 2008 North American International Auto Show were extremely impressed with the Lincoln MKT concept vehicle.
A vehicle we will call a Crossover SUV, the MKT is in many ways similar to General Motors Lambda Crossover SUVs and especially the Buick Enclave. The thing that makes MKT special is its exterior styling which uses all six Lincoln design cues
(although they say seven at the show, Peter Horbury, Ford’s head designer in North America says he only really uses six) which are critical to the definition of a Lincoln design. Wow, this thing is beautiful. From the bow wave grille to the relatively fast rear end treatment, MKT comes across as a premium, substantial vehicle worthy of carrying the Lincoln badge.
Not only is the exterior stunning, the interior carries on new Lincoln cues which are very upscale, contemporary and modern. A four passenger concept with no pretense at transporting seven passengers, the MKT is decked out like a luxury business jet.
Only Thing Wrong… The Name
A few years back, Ford made the unfortunate error of renaming Lincoln vehicles with alphanumeric names – MKZ (Zephyr), MKX (Aviator), MKS (Continental), and now MKT. Another great concept is the MKR flagship sedan. Better with a real name. Only the Navigator and Town Car have not succumbed to this folly. I guess MKT means Lincoln “Truck”. No, it’s really “Touring”… guess that fits better. Well, MKT certainly ain’t no truck. It’s really special and deserves better… a name.
[Even Mark Fields, Ford’s President of North American Operations, botched up the name of the MKS when he introduced it at the Los Angeles Auto Show. He first said “MKX”. If Ford’s biggies can’t keep ’em straight, think about salespeople at Lincoln dealerships and prospective buyers].
2009 Ford Flex Crossover SUV is Base for MKT
Based on Ford Flex (Ford Crossover SUV to be launched in mid-2008) underpinnings, MKT is powered by Ford’s 3.5L Twin Turbo GDI EcoBoost V6. This should give it enough punch to qualify as a high performance Crossover. In the MKT the 3.5L V6 has 415-horsepower and 400 pound feet of torque.
Only A Concept – Get them to Build It
In discussions with Ford design management, there was no confirmation that the MKT – codenamed D472 – has been approved for production. In fact, the designers contend that the MKT design has not even been proven feasible. The front fenders and rear quarters have a very crisp blade on the upper surface that would be practically impossible to stamp out of metal. MKT uses plastic to get around that particular problem.
In any event, write, email, telephone Ford to convince them to produce the MKT. If they give the vehicle the go ahead, we could expect to see it in 2010 as a 2011 model year vehicle.
Ford’s press release on the Lincoln MKT Concept is below the fold.
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On Monday, November 6 Ford gave Detroit-area journalists a glimpse of the 2009 Lincoln MKS Mid-Luxury Car. We had reviewed the concept of the MKS previously in VehicleVoice and found the car lacking. In its first incarnation, the MKS came across as a JapoEuro design exercise without much American flair. It was bigger than it looked and that is not necessarily a good thing. Given the somewhat lukewarm reception that the MKS concept received, especially in light of the very positive reception of the MKR Concept at the 2007 North American International Auto Show, Ford’s product development team went to work on upgrading the MKS in subtle ways.
Production MKS Execution Now Has Presence
The production MKS now has the presence and ambiance that it should have had all along. The former blandonymous grille has been replaced by Lincoln’s new double wing face grille. There is a Lincoln logo mounted in the space between the grille wings. Character lines are crisper. The taillights are reminiscent of Maserati European taillights of a few years ago… with backup lights mimicking the boomerang effect of the Maserati pieces.
The interior is very upscale and continues Lincoln’s interior themes first seen on the Navigator, MKX and MKZ. Ergonomics appear to be excellent, but this is characteristic of Ford’s large entries produced at their Chicago Assembly Plant (Taurus/Five Hundred, Taurus X/Freestyle, Sable/Montego).
But… a “Flagship” It’s Not – Four Reasons
Ford describes the MKS as its “Flagship”. While it will be its newest passenger car entry, the venerable Town Car is Lincoln’s Flagship until Ford simply cannot justify continuing the Panther lineup (Crown Victoria – now fleet only, Grand Marquis, Town Car) produced at Ford’s St. Thomas, Ontario assembly plant. But, with such a high percentage of Town Car sales to the fleet and executive car business, maybe Ford is not counting Town Car any more.
Another reason we don’t buy into MKS as a flagship is the MKR concept shown at last year’s Detroit show. A wow piece if ever there was one, the MKR showcased all of the Lincoln design cues in one place. A stunning piece of work! Now, if they would produce the MKR on a RWD V8 platform, I’d buy it.
The MKS is V6 only. In the beginning, the MKS program included the 4.4L V8 found in the Volvo XC90 and S80. This Yamaha-built unit is terrifically expensive and I guess Ford decided not to pony up to add it to the MKS. Mistake.
VehicleVoice and AutoPacific have conducted several research projects on what makes an ideal $50,000 luxury car and the evidence is very clear that a V8 engine in the lineup is the price of entry for a car in this class. The V8 does not have to be standard, but it needs to be offered. Sure it may be a low installation rate – especially with $3.00 per gallon gasoline, but the image halo of a V8 is indisputable. Having a twin turbo direct injection V6 gives MKS some performance panache, but there is no replacement for numbers of cylinders and displacement.
You will be able to get into a base MKS for less than $38,000. This is not flagship pricing. Clearly, Ford is leaving room at the top of the heap for a premium priced flagship with the specifications necessary to really command price points over $50,000.
Let’s not forget Reason Five
: Nomenclature. Hopefully, once Jim Farley gets his feet on the ground he will review Lincoln’s present nomenclature plan and scrap it. Not clean or easy, but having Lincoln’s with alphanumeric nomenclature is folly. Go back to names!
Ford’s press release for the MKS is shown below the fold.
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Ford has all but guaranteed the demise of its luxury Lincoln brand through a series of strategy, marketing and product blunders not recently seen in the American car industry. In effect, Ford has forced Lincoln’s suicide. While we would like to write the epitaph now, Lincoln’s death seems like a long, slow, painful trauma that will provide fodder for the business press for the next decade. VehicleVoice counts the various ways Lincoln has been killing itself over the past couple of years.
Lincoln Shoots Itself in the Stomach by Cancelling V8 engine on 2009 Lincoln MKS (pronounced Em Kay Ess, not Mark S): This guarantees Lincoln will no longer be a luxury brand but a premium brand like Acura or Buick. Maybe the MKS will be an OK car, but with AWD and only a 260-plus horsepower V6 it can, at best, be an “almost-Acura-RL” which is off-concept at best. Even rumors of a range topping Twin-Turbo V6 with well over 300 horsepower will not offset the lack of the needed V8.
Lincoln Shoots Itself in the Shoulder by Cancelling the Lincoln Town Car: The Lincoln Town Car has not pretended to be at the top of the luxury car heap for decades, but with few improvements over the years, Town Car devolved into the Executive Car loved by livery buyers. Few Town Car sales were for personal use. So Ford allowed the Town Car to deteriorate from any Luxury Car pretenses it may have had, and become a luxurious black taxi driven by cabbies with ties. Just think what Ford could have achieved if they had implemented a major major change on the rear wheel drive Panther platform. New Town Car, New Grand Marquis, New Crown Vic… all built in Canada. Now, put in the 300HP 4.6L V8 and you could have a something to talk about