I was surprised when one of my friends told me she bought the 2009 Lincoln MKX.

It's a crossover I never considered someone under 30 might decide to make a long-term commitment.

Yes, she works at Ford Motor Co. so she wasn't paying the full $37,845 for this five-passenger luxury crossover, but she really raved about it, so I thought it deserved a second look.

When the test vehicle arrived, it looked stunning. All black, the body appears more truck like than car. The optional 20-inch wheels stuff up into the body (18-inch wheels are standard) and splashes of chrome sparkled in the sun. There's a certain attitude about the MKX that I like -- it's the toughest Lincoln in the lot. The MKX looks luxurious, solid and well built and that's not a bad combination.

My favorite feature on the body is how the rear tail lights stretch across the crossover's entire body. Distinct looking vehicles, especially at night, are tough to come across nowadays, but the MKX is easily identifiable with its red band of light sitting above two chrome exhaust tips.

While there are clear similarities between the MKX and the Ford Edge (Ford's other five-passenger crossover built off of the same platform) there are also some clear differences. The Edge provides a much more utilitarian interior. The MKX is outright nice.

Sitting behind the leather wrapped wheel of the MKX, you find yourself surrounded with high-end materials and luxurious high tech amenities. Ford has adopted an incremental improvement policy that is good news for consumers. If a new Lincoln can come with something new, Lincoln puts it in. The MKX may have debuted as a 2007 model, but every model year Lincoln seems to add a new feature that's far beyond new paint colors and wheel packages.

The 2009 MKX now offers a standard power lift gate, an optional voice activated navigation system, a front passenger grab handle, universal garage opener and cargo hooks in the back. No, it's not a major overhaul, but it is refreshing attention to detail.

When I got in, my head filled with the smell of leather, and I started to understand why someone might like the MKX so much. The high driving position and the comfortable seats make it good for long hauls. All of the space -- fold down the second row and there's 68.6 cubic feet of storage room -- make it a smart choice for someone who needs to carry around a lot of stuff. It can haul the big screen TV, a stack of boxes or four other friends.

My test model included a $2,990 voice activated navigation system and a few other features I didn't expect, such as heated second row seats and adaptive headlamps that turn with the MKX's steering wheel. Then there were a lot of features I expected and enjoyed. SYNC, the voice operated infotainment system is still the best all around to talk on your phone, listen to your iPod and generally use. It's almost too hip for Lincoln.

There's a lot of luxury to get used to in the MKX.

Starting it up, the MKX remained remarkably quiet. A true distinction to quality is the lack of outside noise seeping into the vehicle as you drive. The MKX provided an extremely quiet ride.

The 3.5-liter V-6, one of Ford's new engines, provides 265 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque to give the MKX lots of power. The car-based platform gave the MKX a much more planted feel in its performance. While it may have the look of a compact SUV there was nothing truck-like in its performance. The wide track keeps the MKX firmly planted on the road and the six-speed automatic transmission provides smooth, clean acceleration.

The gas mileage seems low at 15 mpg city and 22 mpg highway for my all-wheel drive test vehicle (it's 2 mpg better in both categories for the front-wheel drive model) but the sporty ride made up for the lack of mileage. Really, it was one of the crossovers I overall enjoyed driving. Many feel too numb on the road, devoid of personality. The MKX makes you enjoy the ride.

The rack-and-pinion steering provides nice return to center and remains well weighted in all types of driving. The weather remained nice during my testing so I never pushed the all-wheel drive system.

There were a few things I did not like in the MKX on the road. The seat feels almost too low in the cabin, making the dash feel too high. It creates a blind spot on the right and made me worry about hitting the curb on right hand turns. For a vehicle that feels much smaller than it is, the blind spot was one distraction I found worrisome.

After 100 miles in the MKX, I wanted to keep driving. I could flip on the ventilated seats if things got too hot or adjust my side of the dual climate zone if it was too cold. The THX stereo provides the perfect back drop for highway driving and Sync means I never have to take my hands off of the wheel.

I can understand why my friend bought the MKX. It's sharp looking, versatile and provides a lot of features that young drivers would enjoy. It may never become a young person's brand, but the MKX makes this brand feel a whole lot younger.

sburgess@detnews.com (313) 223-3217