Full 2011 Lincoln MKS Review
What's New for 2011
Aside from adding a few electronic features (HD Radio, Sync turn-by-turn directions and remote starting), the 2011 Lincoln MKS is largely unchanged.
On outward appearances, the 2011 Lincoln MKS has the potential to battle for the hearts and minds of luxury car buyers. Underneath it all, though, is essentially a re-skinned Ford Taurus. That's a fine car, but not enough was done in the transformation from Taurus to MKS to warrant such a significant price jump, let alone choosing this Lincoln instead of any number of pure-bred luxury sedans. This year's minor feature additions do little to improve the MKS's standing.
Last year, Ford's twin-turbo "EcoBoost" engine debuted in the MKS lineup, giving buyers an engine choice that handily outperforms the base V6. However, when you consider that the considerably cheaper Ford Taurus SHO is essentially the same car underneath, and even makes an additional 10 horsepower, the EcoBoost model suddenly doesn't seem all that special. Further souring the deal is the car's lackluster handling and interior materials.
Like the Taurus, though, the 2011 Lincoln MKS benefits from a genuinely spacious interior, a long list of standard features and a gigantic trunk. Indeed, if you didn't know the Taurus existed and ignored the MKS's myriad competitors, the MKS would be a pretty nice car. But the reality is that the MKS is a rather middling choice. Instead, we think most luxury sedan shoppers would be happier with an Acura TL, Buick LaCrosse, Cadillac CTS or Hyundai Genesis. And if you're considering the EcoBoost model, a similar amount of money could likely get you into more refined sedans like the Jaguar XF and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. In short, it takes more than a tarted-up Taurus to do battle with some of the world's best all-around sedans.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Lincoln MKS comes in three trim levels: FWD, AWD and EcoBoost. The FWD and AWD models come standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, parking sensors, foglights, rain-sensing wipers, heated power sideview mirrors with memory, integrated blind-spot mirror and auto-dimming on the driver side, automatic adaptive xenon headlamps, automatic high beams, keyless entry/ignition and a slick version of Ford's venerable touchpad entry system that's embedded in the base of the B-pillar.
Interior standard features include a power rear sunshade, cruise control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, leather upholstery, power tilt-telescoping steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated and cooled eight-way power front seats (with power lumbar), heated rear seats, driver memory settings, the Sync voice activation system (includes turn-turn directions), a THX-certified sound system with an in-dash six-disc MP3 changer, satellite radio and an auxiliary audio jack. The EcoBoost is similarly equipped but has a more powerful twin-turbocharged engine and 19-inch wheels.
Optional features include 19- or 20-inch wheels, adaptive cruise control and, on the EcoBoost, Ford's automatic parking system. The Navigation package adds a back-up camera, a touchscreen hard-drive-based navigation system with Sirius Travel Link, and an upgraded 14-speaker THX-certified surround-sound system with a single DVD/CD/MP3 player, HD radio, two subwoofers and 10GB of digital music storage. The Ultimate package adds all Navigation items plus upgraded leather upholstery and dual-pane sunroof (stand-alone on non-EcoBoost models). An EcoBoost Appearance package adds sporty exterior styling cues like unique 20-inch chrome wheels, exclusive seats, illuminated sill plates and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Powertrains and Performance
Both FWD (front-wheel-drive) and AWD (all-wheel-drive) trim levels share the same powertrain, a 3.7-liter V6 matched to a six-speed automatic transmission with manual-shift control and paddle shifters. This engine generates 273 hp and 270 pound-feet of torque with regular unleaded, but filling up with a premium boosts power to 275 hp and 276 lb-ft. We managed a sluggish 7.5-second sprint from zero to 60 mph in an AWD test car with this engine; expect the lighter front-wheel-drive model to shave a couple tenths off that time. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 17 city/24 highway mpg and 19 mpg combined with FWD and 16/23/19 with AWD.
The all-wheel-drive EcoBoost model is powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 that makes 355 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. The EcoBoost is considerably quicker and actually gets better fuel economy at 17/25/20. However, premium fuel is recommended for the EcoBoost engine.
The 2011 Lincoln MKS comes standard with stability and traction control, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and antilock brakes with brake assist. A collision warning system with brake support comes with the optional adaptive cruise control. In government crash tests, the MKS received a perfect five-out-of-five-stars rating for occupant protection in both frontal and side-impact crashes. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also awarded the MKS its highest rating of "Good" for both frontal-offset and side-impact testing.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2011 MKS features a pleasant interior design with standard leather upholstery and an attractive dash layout. Unfortunately, the cabin styling is hindered by some lesser quality materials and Ford-sourced switchgear. This is especially distressing when you realize that the MKS is not appreciably nicer than the much cheaper Taurus.
On the plus side, ventilated seats are a welcomed addition, as are the MKS's standard rear heated seats. The 2011 MKS offers plenty of interior and cargo space -- the trunk will hold 18.4 cubic feet. Rear passenger room and comfort are particularly impressive.
All of the graceful curves, luxury features and Lincoln badging work well to mask the MKS's origins, but behind the wheel, there's no escaping the Ford Taurus underpinnings. A base V6-powered MKS would be outclassed by a Ford Fusion SEL V6 in terms of performance and its coarse engine noises further diminish it appeal -- especially when compared to other cars in its price range.
The EcoBoost engine is much more satisfying engine choice, but regardless of which powerplant is selected, handling is a bit of a disappointment. On curvy roads, the suspension feels dull and overly soft. Normally, this softness would translate to a cushiony ride quality, but oddly enough, the MKS still feels rather firm. In the end, the 2011 Lincoln MKS drives like a big sedan without the luxurious ride quality you'd expect.