Generally speaking, we prefer bars to egg crates. True, both are well-evolved housings for two of our favorite sources of sustenance, cold beer and chicken eggs. But there is more potential for excitement in a bar than in an egg crate, which is just a foam or paper container with very few single women.
Likewise, we prefer the new Ford Edge crossover SUV and its three-bar front grille, to its upscale twin, the 2007 Lincoln MKX and its elaborate egg-crate grille.
It's not by accident that we have focused here on the front grilles of these two new crossovers. Except for styling elements such as the grilles, these two orbs are almost identical. They share the same unibody platform, a much modified version of the Mazda 6 structure. Both are powered by the same 3.5-liter V6. Both send their substantial power through the same excellent six-speed automatic transmission. And both comfortably seat up to five passengers in a body that's shorter than the Ford Fusion sedan. And, like many of us who frequent the bar or the egg crate, they both could stand to lose some pounds.
In pursuit of Lexus
Naturally, Lincoln is not eager for its first luxury crossover to be compared with the Edge, which carries the blue-collar, Blue Oval badge. Lincoln engineers say that they benchmarked a number of luxury-brand crossovers. But it becomes apparent early in our conversations with the guys that there is really only one competitor that matters to them: the 2007 Lexus RX 350.
And why wouldn't it be? The Lexus RX is not just a benchmark; it is the benchmark of the class. Hell, it created the class way back in March 1998 when the RX 300 went on sale. And the RX is the only vehicle in the class that's sold in the kind of numbers that makes accountants lick their chops.
That it's taken Lincoln almost a decade to even begin benchmarking anything is shameful, but that's proverbial water under the bridge. What is important is how the MKX measures up against the latest version of the Lexus.
If by "measures up" one means dimensionally, the MKX measures up nicely. The two are effectively the same length. The Lincoln's wheelbase is more than 4 inches longer, though. This gives rear-seat passengers in the Lincoln 3 more inches of legroom than those in the Lexus. Combine that with the additional shoulder and hiproom in the back row of the Lincoln (thanks to an overall width more than 3 inches greater) and rear seatbacks that recline, and you can safely score one victory for the American.
The Lincoln's short overhangs and roomier rear seat limits cargo capacity, though. The Lexus has significantly more room for stuff than the MKX.
Weight, weight, there's more!
Despite similar dimensions, the MKX weighs about 500 pounds more than a similarly equipped RX 350. The all-new V6 is fitted with variable intake valve timing and rated at 265 horsepower at 6,250 rpm and 250 pound-feet of torque at 4,500 rpm. The 3.5-liter doesn't blow you away with its low-end response, but once it revs up a bit, the MKX feels pretty quick. Still the truck's portly curb weight will likely make it slower than the Lexus to 60 mph by almost a second.
What will be more of an issue for the average Lincoln customer, however, is the MKX's poor braking performance. Weight is the enemy and the MKX carries its enemy on its back. The all-wheel-drive Ford Edge SEL we recently tested stopped from 60 mph in 152 feet — a very poor performance. The MKX isn't likely to do any better since it uses the same four-wheel disc brakes with standard ABS and weighs slightly more.
Worse, one feels how overmatched the MKX brakes are in day-to-day street driving. Typical braking situations turn quickly from, "Oh, the guy up there is turning left, I'll begin applying the brakes" to "Whoa!"
The weight also compromises the MKX's fuel-efficiency. Despite using a six-speed automatic compared to the RX's five-speed, the MKX will travel two fewer city miles on a gallon of fuel than the RX will. The EPA estimates that an all-wheel-drive MKX (front-wheel drive is standard) will get 17 mpg in city driving and 24 mpg on the highway. But because the Lincoln runs on regular gasoline instead of the 91 octane the Lexus requires, the overall cost difference between the two won't be great.
The sounds of (near) silence
Lincoln is very proud to say that the MKX is quieter than the RX 350.We haven't verified Lincoln's claim to quietness supremacy, but the MKX is a hushed and comfortable ride. Lincoln added more and thicker sound-deadening material to the MKX than the Ford boys did to the Edge.
Lincoln also specified mellower dampers and springs than did Ford. And even wearing standard 18-inch wheels, the MKX glides comfortably over most road imperfections. Considering its flab and soft suspenders, the MKX should be a floppy mess on mountain roads. It isn't. In fact, a driver intent on not making his passengers carsick can usher the MKX smoothly through tight switchbacks with an ounce of talent and a pound of concentration. It is not fun, per se. But the MKX, following Lexus' script closely here, isn't really intended to be fun to drive.
Standard safety fare includes traction control and six airbags, including front, side-impact front and side curtain airbags. Electronic Roll Stability Control (RSC) is part of the all-wheel-drive system which can actively and seamlessly transfer torque front-to-rear and side-to-side even before wheel slippage occurs.
Quality is Job 1
Where the Lincoln really lags behind Lexus is in perceived quality. The dual-pod design of the MKX's instrument panel is handsome enough, but the materials from which it is assembled are not top-notch. The "satin-nickel-look" trim, for example, looks less like satin-finished nickel than it does like plastic painted the color of nickel. The lack of headliner-mounted grab handles is also a silly omission. It appears as if the company chose an awfully obvious place to save a few bucks.
Our test vehicle came with the optional power rear liftgate, which worked fine, but the motor is housed in what can only be described as a large plastic polyp low on the side of the cargo bay and has a thick black plastic tube connecting it to the liftgate. It looks tacked-on. It looks tacky.
We prefer the bars
With a roughly equal level of standard equipment, the Lincoln MKX's base price (front-drive: $34,795; all-wheel drive: $36,445) undercuts the RX 350's by about $3,000. We're not sure that's enough of a cut to lure buyers away from a vehicle with a reputation for excellence built over the course of a decade. Our heavily optioned all-wheel-drive tester listed for a not insubstantial $44,270, including destination.
Forget for a moment the benchmark and consider the Ford Edge, which in SEL Plus trim provides the same package, the same excellent powertrain and most of the same standard equipment for about $5,000 less than the 2007 Lincoln MKX. We prefer the bars.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.