The current Lincoln MKS is not what one would call a competitive luxury car. On paper, the specs seem exciting enough: plenty of juice, all-wheel-drive, reasonable price. But in the metal and on the road, the car comes off as a chintzy exercise in badge engineering of the sort that sunk Detroit.
Ford knows Lincoln’s on a precipice and they’ve assembled a team to patch the listing ship. The new Lincoln group’s first efforts are a mildly refreshed MKT and MKS. The seven-passenger crossover gets a new front end even more reminiscent of a krill-hoovering humpback than the previous rendition. On the bright side, the base engine is now the same excellent 3.7-liter V6 found in the Mustang, offering 32 more horsepower than the previous engine.The MKT also receives a new variant especially tailored to the needs of livery services. In keeping some semblance of black-car continuity, the new fleet special is called the MKT Town Car. We understand the branding decision, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the right one.
Lincoln’s new head of design, Max Wolff — the Australian responsible for Cadillac’s recent products — took the stage to introduce the new MKS. It also features the Mustang engine, the cyber-cetacean grille and the interior design is perhaps a notch better than the current car’s dismal space.
If you drive all jiggly-like, a chime sounds and a coffee cup appears on the dash, a la recent Mercedes products. The cup is cloying and irritating in the Benz. It wouldn’t be a shock if Lincoln’s rendition somehow manages to be downright infuriating, but we’ll reserve judgment until we take one for a spin on 30 minutes’ sleep.
Wolff’s a talented, engaging man, and Ford’s hired some top-flight people who’ve done great work at other automakers as part of Lincoln’s turnaround program, but he’s got a serious road ahead. Ford’s product plan for Lincoln revolves around the company’s current, FWD-based architectures, some of which are excellent and some of which, like the aging Volvo platform that underpins the MKS, MKT and MKX, are subpar. The space-and-cetaceans theme of Star Trek IV is also apparently an important ingredient. The jury’s still out as to whether Wolff and company can turn an unfortunate stew into a winning mix.