Lincoln MKT - Don't call it a wagon but....

2010 Lincoln MKT , The SUV backlash that everyone predicted is in full swing. Customers are deserting truck-based sport-utility vehicles in droves, and a growing number of multi-purpose crossover vehicles are taking their place, at both the low and high ends of the market. The marketing folks will talk about how it's an opportunity to serve customers as never before; what they really mean is, "What do luxury buyers want these days?" The market's changed, and that's why we're looking down the split-grilled barrel of a great big Lincoln station wagon.

Okay, it's not technically a "station wagon." The all-new MKT is Lincoln’s full-size luxury crossover vehicle. It’s a mega-wagon that features three rows of seating, a wide range of safety technologies, Ford’s new EcoBoost engine which provides V8-like horsepower with V6 fuel economy, and of course Lincoln’s brand of American luxury. Show-car styling and a generous girth give the MKT an impressive bearing on the road, and a newfound sense of luxury makes it a comfortable place to be, as well. Of course, that pesky question still remains: is it what luxury buyers want?

Based on the platform that underpins the Ford Flex, the MKT is instantly recognizable as a Lincoln. As is fitting for a paradigm-breaking vehicle, the MKT doesn't seem to have been influenced by other cars but does bear a passing resemblance to a luxury yacht. The front aspect is dominated by a “split-wing” grille with angled headlamps, and a prow-like nose. The long hood features Lincoln’s signature sculpting and flows into a rising side line that blends with the greenhouse, continuing the nautical resemblance. The MKT's wide rear end is dominated by full-width taillamps, a body-colored bumper and a vast expanse of sheet metal that's just begging its owner to airbrush a name across the back. A panoramic glass roof (with sunshades) is standard. Seriously, though, this is a decent-looking vehicle that manages to avoid many of the typical big-wagon tropes found on crossovers this size.

The MKT has a quiet sort of luxury inside, and it was one of the most popular people haulers we've driven this year, based on the votes of our various passengers. Generously-proportioned seats and cozy options like second-row heated seats may have had something to do with the loud noises of approval coming from the back. Six- or seven-passenger seating is available, and the MKT comes with a standard glass panoramic roof with power sunshades front and rear. The handsome instrument panel uses acrylic and LED white lighting, and real wood trim. For the rear-seat passengers, there are a small refrigerator and headrest-mounted DVD screens on the options list. Other high-tech luxury options include Adaptive Cruise Control, pushbutton start, adaptive headlamps, Ford’s new Blind Spot Information System with Cross-Traffic Alert, a reverse camera, navigation system and the SYNC communications and entertainment system with 911 Assist.

A choice of V6 engines is offered. The standard 3.7 liter Duratec V6 produces 268 horsepower. Fuel economy is rated at 15 miles per gallon in the city and 23 on the highway. To really move the MKT out, the available 3.5 liter EcoBoost V6 features twin turbochargers, dual overhead cam construction and direct fuel injection. The result is a very healthy 355 horsepower, and my EcoBoost-equipped MKT was more than willing to put that power to the road and run. Floorboard the pedal and there's not much evidence of the MKT's hefty 4800-pound curb weight as the car launches. Six-speed automatic transmissions with manual paddle-shift control are standard with both engines. The six-speed's shifts are wonderfully matched to the EcoBoost engine, especially under power. The MKT will play the part of Hot Rod Lincoln without protest. The 3.5 liter EcoBoost engine comes standard with all-wheel drive, which is available with the base 3.7 V6 as well.

The MKT is big. It feels big, and it drives big. Nonetheless, this vehicle has been tuned for confident handling and responsiveness that belie the vehicle’s size, and it works. MacPherson struts up front are backed up by rear-facing control arms and stabilizer bars, while the rear uses an independent multi-link setup with coil-over shocks. In the language of normal human beings, this means that the MKT provides a comfortable ride that's firm enough to feel carlike, but not as stiff as that of a truck-based vehicle. It's a good basis for a modern luxurious ride. Even with six passengers aboard, the ride is solid and smooth enough for last-minute makeup touchups on the way to a party. Electric power steering is available, as is the new Active Park Assist system which helps guide the driver during parallel parking. Anti-lock brakes and AdvanceTrac stability control with Roll Stabilty Control are standard equipment.

The MKT is a big, bold flagship for a brand that’s hoping to do big, bold things in the next few years. It’s equal parts versatile people hauler and technological showcase, and that makes it an appropriate symbol of Lincoln’s future. MKT pricing starts at $44,200 for the base 3.7 liter V6 with front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive starts at $46,195, and the more powerful EcoBoost-equipped MKT stickers for $49,200.

By Chris Jackson