What's New for 2009
The optional navigation system gets a welcome upgrade for the 2009 Lincoln MKX. Graphics and menus have been improved, while voice activation and Sirius Travel Link are new additions this year. The standard Sync system now features 911 Assist, which automatically contacts 911 through your cell phone in the event of an airbag deployment.
There are many successful examples of well-executed luxury vehicles that are based on non-luxury counterparts. The formula usually goes something like this: Take a popular model's platform, give it more sophisticated styling cues, improve its handling and ride, give it more power, add higher-quality interior materials and equip it with an array of high-tech features to cosset both driver and passengers. Unfortunately, the 2009 Lincoln MKX is missing many of this formula's variables.
It gets at least part of it right. The MKX is based on the Ford Edge, a family crossover with a pleasant amount of performance, comfort and driving involvement. The MKX's exterior looks more elegant than the Ford's, thanks to its retro-inspired mesh grille and eye-catching strip of LED taillights. In terms of features, the MKX is a standout, as it comes with more standard features than its pricier competitors, including Ford's voice-activated Sync system. And this year, the MKX gets Ford's new and greatly improved navigation system featuring Sirius Travel Link, which provides real-time traffic, weather, movie times and sports scores.
Beyond that, the MKX boasts no dynamic advantage over the Edge. Handling, ride and performance are virtually identical, including the disappointing braking performance that has at least been improved somewhat for 2009. The Edge isn't exactly a class leader among vehicles wearing more pedestrian Toyota and Nissan badges, which leaves the MKX severely outgunned against luxury crossover SUVs from Acura, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz. That goes double for the MKX's interior, which is filled with lackluster materials and parts-bin switchgear. It also provides less cargo space than most of its rivals and has no third-row option.
Those looking for a true luxury crossover SUV should instead consider the Acura MDX, Lexus RX 350 or even the new Mercedes-Benz GLK350. For those who see the MKX as a slightly cheaper alternative to those vehicles (or who want more space), the Buick Enclave, Ford Flex and luxurious Hyundai Veracruz Limited are also worth a look. There are plenty of good choices in the luxury and near-luxury crossover segment. The 2009 Lincoln MKX is missing too many ingredients to be one of them.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Lincoln MKX is a five-passenger luxury crossover SUV that comes in one trim level. Standard features include 18-inch wheels, reverse parking sensors, a power liftgate, auto-dimming rearview and driver sideview mirrors, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated and cooled power front seats with driver memory, leather upholstery, the voice-activated Sync system and a six-speaker stereo with six-CD changer, satellite radio and an auxiliary audio jack.
Optional features include 20-inch chrome-clad wheels, a panoramic sunroof, heated rear seats, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system and a voice-activated, hard-drive-based navigation system with a single CD/DVD player, 10 GB of music storage and a THX II audio system (the sunroof and navigation can also be paired together in the Elite package). The Ultimate package adds chrome-clad 18-inch wheels, adaptive headlights, trunk-mounted folding rear-seat releases, upgraded leather upholstery and a cargo management system. The Limited Edition package includes special exterior and interior appearance items and the chrome-clad 20-inch wheels. The Monochrome Limited Edition package adds the Ultimate package equipment, plus 20-inch wheels, a body-colored grille and black as the only color choice.
Powertrains and Performance
The Lincoln MKX is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that makes 265 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque. There is a choice of front- or all-wheel drive. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard, but unlike competitor models, there is no manual shift control feature. With the optional Class II towing package, the MKX is able to tow 3,500 pounds. In performance testing, the MKX went to 60 mph in 8.4 seconds, which is on the slow side.
Fuel economy for 2009 is 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined for the front-wheel-drive model and 15/22/18 mpg for AWD models.
Standard safety equipment includes antilock brakes, traction control and stability control (including rollover mitigation technology). Six airbags protect occupants, including front-seat side impact airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. In government crash testing, the 2009 Lincoln MKX got five out of five stars for frontal driver and side impact protection and four stars in frontal passenger collisions. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the MKX its highest rating of "Good" for frontal-offset and side impact protection.
Interior Design and Special Features
The MKX gives away its Ford roots with plain gauges and low-end plastics. Fit and finish isn't up to par for the class, and the front seats lack the cushiness of most luxury SUVs (in fact, some call them downright hard). On the plus side, the controls are well laid out and intuitive to use, and there are plenty of standard and optional creature comforts like heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats and a plethora of entertainment options. Both rows of seats offer plenty of space -- particularly in back, where three people can fit well enough in the MKX's wide body. The cargo area, however, is another story. Its capacity is limited to a maximum of 69 cubic feet, less than what many competing models offer.
The 2009 Lincoln MKX's 3.5-liter V6 is smooth and keeps plenty of power on tap -- perhaps more so than any Ford-based V6 in recent memory. Steering is nicely weighted and provides a decent amount of feedback while driving around town. The MKX has the cushy ride part down, and the cabin is very quiet, even at highway speeds. No one would confuse the MKX with any of the segment's sportier and/or refined entries, however. We haven't retested a 2009 MKX to see if Lincoln has corrected the truly awful braking distances it displayed originally two years ago. However, if the virtually identical Edge is any indication, braking performance has improved, but remains prone to fade and a mushy pedal.