EXPERT REVIEW

chicagotribune.com's view


A sensibly sized Lincoln.

And a manageably sized crossover. Not so big that it takes a day’s pay to fill the tank. Not so small it takes two to haul the family to the store or church.

Ford got the formula right with the 2007 MKX, the Lincoln derivative of the midsize Ford Edge.

Great timing too.

As folks have second thoughts about the truck-like ride and handling as well as thirst for fuel of mid- and full-size sport-utility vehicles, car-based crossovers have become a logical alternative. You never know when gas prices are going north of $3 a gallon again.

When SUVs were the rage a few years ago, the Lincoln Aviator was derived from the Explorer to give Ford’s luxury division an entry in that segment.

As consumers turned to crossovers, Aviator made the switch too.

In doing so, however, it became a victim of Lincoln’s silly new nomenclature that grounded Aviator for an MK designation.

At the Chicago Auto Show, it should be noted, Ford officials said they realized dropping the Taurus name in favor of the Five Hundred for its midsize sedan was a mistake. They acknowledged that it takes years and millions of dollars to get consumers familiar with a new name. So what’s with the MK nonsense?

But we digress.

MKX comes with a choice of front- or all-wheel-drive. We tested the 2007 with the latter, like an SUV, for all-season motoring security in the Snow Belt. Unlike an SUV, it delivers 18 m.p.g. in the city and 26 on the highway. With a 20-gallon tank, you can get 400 to 500 miles on a fill.

And you enjoy a smooth car-like ride and sure-footed handling. Though MKX tips the scales at more than 4,400 pounds, you don’t feel it in the wheel and don’t have to exert lots of steering effort in corners, turns or parking lots.

Stability control with roll stability control is standard. And the AWD in the test vehicle is an on-demand system that delivers torque front or rear when it detects wheel slippage. It’s meant to work best in snow or rain, not sand dunes or hill climbs.

Unlike the full-size and sensibly named Lincoln Navigator, MKX comes with two rows of seats to hold five rather than three rows to hold eight.

Pull into a parking lot and you can slip into and out of any slot a sedan can on the first try. And it’s not so big that those next to you can’t see around you when backing out.

MKX came with the optional ultimate package with two gotta-have options–power rear liftgate and power folding second-row seats. If your arms are loaded with packages or luggage, just press the key fob and the liftgate opens for easy loading. A button on the instrument panel also powers the gate open or closed. A third button is conveniently located along the cargo wall to close the gate.

A second button along the cargo wall folds the second-row seat backs–independently or together–so you can slip more stuff inside.

Unlike the Navigator, the second-row seats don’t power up again. You have to reach in and raise them after unloading the cargo.

Good leg, head, knee and arm room front or rear and well-padded seats with well proportioned side bolsters for sit-back-and-relax travel–short or long distance. The same ultimate package that provides the power liftgate and second-row seats also offers heated or cooled front seats and for $295 more, heated seats in back.

If cooled seats seem a bit extravagant (as if heated seats aren’t?), you only have to experience them once on a hot, humid day and you’ll demand them forever.

By the way, Lincoln calls its standard leather seats “buttery soft.” We’ll go along with soft, but whoever came up with the term “buttery” is probably the same dude who favored MK over Aviator and should be sent to his or her room–forever.

Nice touches include a panoramic vista roof, a large power glass sunroof over front-seat occupants and a large skylight over second-row occupants. Both come with a power sunshade. The vista roof is one item in the $4,795 elite option package that includes what is perhaps the most confusing DVD navigation system on the market. Had a location to request, but the system never explained how or where to program it. While this scribe fiddled with the navi system, the wife called the destination and got the directions–in less than a minute.

Another nice touch is the quiet in the cabin. Quiet equates with quality, and MKX is well insulated. Also, lift the armrest over the center console to find a small stowage compartment and coin holder. Lift that compartment to find room underneath for a laptop or purse. And with a power plug in the dash, the center console, in the back of the center console and in the cargo hold, MKX has as many power plugs as it does cupholders (two front, two rear). That’s an oddity. There’s also a cell phone holder in the dash.

One love-or-hate feature, and we’re in the latter camp, is the light carpeting, which should be banned in the Snow Belt, and blond wood trim along the dash and door panels. Sorry, but this scribe finds blond wood in a car as fashionable as an avocado green stove and fridge in the kitchen.

The MKX is powered by a 3.5-liter, 265-horsepower V-6 with a 6-speed automatic. Excellent energy from a standing start or when a boost is needed to pass or on steep inclines. And don’t forget that 18/26 mileage rating.

Base price for the AWD MKX is $35,770. Standard equipment includes AM/FM stereo with in-dash six-disc CD player with MP3 player, dual zone automatic climate control, leather seats (power front), heated power mirrors, power windows and locks, remote keyless entry, four-wheel anti-lock brakes, tire-pressure monitor and side and side-curtain air bags.

As usually is the case with a Ford product, to get the most appealing amenities you have to check off the packages on the option list. This keeps the base price down and puts the blame for a bloated sticker on you, not Ford.

The sedan companion for the MKX is the MKZ, the car called Zephyr before the name game started.

– – –

2007 Lincoln MKX AWD

Price as tested: $43,150*

THE STICKER

Base price: $35,770

$4,795 Elite package with panoramic roof, DVD navigation system and THX II sound system

$1,995 Ultimate package with heated and cooled front seats, power side mirrors, 18-inch chrome wheels, reverse-sensing system, power eight-way front bucket leather seats, power folding second-row seats and power liftgate

$295 Trailer-towing package

$295 Heated rear seats

* Add $675 for freight.

THE NUMBERS

WHEELBASE: 111.2 inches

LENGTH: 186.5 inches

ENGINE: 3.5-liter, 265-h.p. V-6

TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic

City: 18 m.p.g.

Highway: 26 m.p.g.

PLUSES:

A more sensible and manageable Lincoln crossover.

Excellent ride and handling.

AWD for all-season security.

More respectable mileage than in an SUV.

MINUSES:

Pricey options.

Blond wood trim?

———-

Read Jim Mateja Sunday in Transportation and Tuesday and Thursday in Business. Hear him on WBBM-AM 780 at 6:22 p.m. Wednesdays and 11:22 a.m. Sundays.

jmateja@tribune.com

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