You get what you pay for. In most cases, it's an adage that rings true when buying a car. We've often applauded exceptions to this rule — namely, products that deliver unexpected bang for the buck. Sadly, the 2010 Lincoln MKT EcoBoost three-row luxury crossover, a premium version of the Ford Flex EcoBoost, is an example of the inverse. It costs far more than a comparably equipped Flex, yet delivers significantly less value.
The MKT does offer a handful of features that aren't available on the Flex, like a unique dashboard design, optional adaptive cruise control and aluminum interior trim, but none of these are game-changers. The Flex has a luxurious cabin in its own right, and its powertrains and driving character are similar to the Lincoln's. Adding potential injury to insult, the MKT's third-row seat sacrifices space in the name of style — even adults of shorter stature will hit their heads on the roof and their knees on the second-row seatbacks. The cargo bay's size and usefulness are also compromised.
What really separates the MKT from the Flex is its distinctive shape. For those who find the exterior styling of the Flex a bit too boxy for their tastes, the MKT's sculpted and tapered look may hold more appeal. Quite frankly, though, we've heard more jeers than cheers when it comes to the MKT's appearance. In the end, you pay for more than what you get with the 2010 Lincoln MKT.
The 2010 MKT comes standard with a 3.7-liter V6 that produces 268 horsepower, but our test vehicle had the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 with twin turbochargers. Rated at 355 hp and 350 pound-feet of torque, this robust engine is matched to a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control. All MKT EcoBoost models are all-wheel drive (the base MKT starts with front-wheel drive). The EPA estimates fuel economy at 16 mpg city/22 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined, though it's worth noting that our best highway mileage was just 17.3 mpg.
At the test track, the 4,975-pound MKT EcoBoost needed only 6.3 seconds to accelerate from zero to 60 mph, which is remarkably quick for a luxurious people hauler. Brake test results were more of a mixed bag — the first stop from 60 mph took a respectable 127 feet, but there was a significant amount of brake fade on subsequent runs. In real-world driving, the EcoBoost V6 is thoroughly impressive, providing prodigious thrust in all situations. We also like the transmission, which does an admirable job of making the most of the engine's output thanks to well-spaced gears, quick upshifts and rev-matched downshifts.
Much like the Ford Flex, the 2010 Lincoln MKT handles well for its size. The suspension is tuned for a soft, luxurious ride, but it never feels wallowy. Steering effort is feather-light but remains precise and confidence-inspiring. We wouldn't go so far as to describe the behind-the-wheel feel as carlike, though. The MKT's large proportions, heavy weight and reduced rearward visibility are constant reminders that you're driving a large vehicle.
A wealth of power seat adjustments allows drivers to find a comfortable position whether they prefer a reclined, carlike posture or a more upright, SUV-like orientation. The MKT's low ride height and large door openings make the transition from pedestrian to passenger nearly as simple as sliding into an easy chair at home. Second-row passengers will find entry/egress as effortless as those in front, and they'll also be treated to slide-and-recline functionality, heated and cooled seats and separate rear climate controls, giving the big Lincoln a limolike quality.
Third-row passengers, however, will feel left out of the party completely. The second-row seats have a convenient one-touch fold-and-tumble button to permit access to the rear quarters, but those unfortunate souls relegated to the third row will likely have to crawl to reach their seats. Once there, passengers over 5 feet tall will probably feel as though they are testing a child safety seat. The lack of headroom, legroom and shoulder space makes these seats suitable only for children — and small ones, at that.
Passengers riding in the first two rows, therefore, are more likely to appreciate the 2010 Lincoln MKT's quiet and smooth ride. The harshness of the outside world is kept at bay with plenty of sound insulation and a compliant suspension. Wind and road noise are almost undetectable, and imperfections in the pavement are soaked up effortlessly.
The MKT's small rear window and wide D-pillars — consequences of that distinctive exterior styling — would make maneuvering in reverse a nerve-racking affair were it not for the many electronic aids. Thankfully, a rearview camera is standard on all MKTs, and our test vehicle also featured the optional Active Park Assist, which essentially parallel-parks the car by itself. Forward visibility is much more favorable, with standard adaptive headlamps that light the way through turns at night.
Form also trumps function as far as cargo space is concerned, and no amount of technology can remedy this issue. The area behind the third-row seats measures a hatchbacklike 18 cubic feet, while maximum cargo space (with both rear rows folded flat) is 76 cubes. The Flex offers 20 and 83 cubic feet, respectively, and it can swallow more bulky items due to its boxy shape. Owners who regularly transport small children can breathe a bit easier, though, since the MKT easily accepts a rear-facing child safety seat in its second row.
In terms of options, our 2010 Lincoln MKT was almost fully loaded, lacking only the rear-seat entertainment system and power-folding third-row seats. The optional 14-speaker surround-sound audio system delivered clear tones, though it could stand to have stronger bass response. The physical control buttons for the audio system are on the small side and hard to read at a glance, but the Sync voice activation feature effectively eliminates this shortcoming.
The other optional bells and whistles were generally met with positive reviews as well. The blind-spot monitoring system works as advertised without being too distracting. Bundled with this system is the cross-traffic alert system, which provides audible alarms to warn of approaching vehicles while backing out of a parking space. This system works well in parking lots, but it isn't effective for traffic moving at or above boulevard speeds. All of these features, along with the adaptive cruise control, were easy to operate and never required us to consult the owner's manual for guidance.
Design/Fit and Finish
The 2010 Lincoln MKT's exterior styling tends to elicit love-it or hate-it responses. Some of our editors compared the massive grille to a feeding baleen whale, and the sloping rear end to that of a tortoise. We think that the Lincoln designers may have taken the brand's prevailing styling cues a bit too far on the MKT; however, there were a handful of occasions when it received compliments from casual observers.
The MKT's interior design is less polarizing. The dash is austere in appearance, with the waterfall center stack lending a bit of style to an otherwise plain design. Interior materials are quite good, with a majority of surfaces covered in soft-touch or additional high-quality plastics. The parts-bin buttons and knobs remind you that the MKT is indeed a Ford product, though, cheapening the overall interior execution. We're also not terribly fond of the optional aluminum trim that our test vehicle came with, as it seemed a bit gimmicky given the Lincoln's luxury leanings.
In any case, the Lincoln MKT's interior is well assembled, with tightly fitted panels and trim pieces. Squeaks and rattles were blissfully absent, even when the rear seats were folded flat for maximum cargo space.
Who should consider this vehicle
The 2010 Lincoln MKT EcoBoost is a pleasant three-row luxury crossover on its own merits, but the Ford Flex EcoBoost is a wiser choice unless you absolutely love the Lincoln's styling. The Land Rover LR4 is also a highly appealing alternative, and our test vehicle was only a few thousand dollars cheaper than a base Mercedes-Benz GL450 4MATIC, which is a superior all-around vehicle.
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