Look back over the last 30 years and it is clear that the mission of luxury cars has changed.&nbsp;
Baby Boomers have shunned the soft riding land yachts their parents coveted for performance sedans with razor sharp handling.&nbsp;&nbsp; When American buyers started embracing Autobahn-bred BMWs and Mercedes, the upscale domestic brands tepidly chased their styling and performance cues.&nbsp; In the end, promises of "the ultimate driving machine" siphoned off the buyers Cadillac and Lincoln value most: younger, wealthy ones.&nbsp;
The domestics have shed their landau roofs and are fighting back with real bullets.&nbsp; If you haven't noticed, Cadillac started with the STS and has been impressing with the knife-edged CTS.&nbsp; Which brings us to Topic A: The Lincoln MKS.&nbsp;&nbsp; Lincoln's name conjures up towncar, not track time.&nbsp; Ford's premium brand isn't exactly known for carving up canyon roads.&nbsp; MKS is a departure from the livery service Lincolns but does not abandon its roots.&nbsp; It's proud to be an American luxury automobile.
The new face of Lincoln
Let's start with the looks.&nbsp; The car Lincoln has dropped into my driveway is an all-wheel drive edition.&nbsp;&nbsp; It's dressed up in metallic tuxedo black paint that's as deep as a clear night sky.&nbsp;
MKS is the first Lincoln to get the new family face.&nbsp; No mild European understatement here - the split-wing grille is very bold, very American.&nbsp; On approach the wide sweeping front end is grounded and confident.&nbsp; In contrast, the back of the car has smaller vertically oriented tail lamps, losing some of its visual assertiveness.&nbsp; There's a good amount of chrome about the car but not too much.&nbsp; Again, quite American.
A $5,995 ultimate package is the only option on this tester.&nbsp; That bumps 18-inch wheels up to 19, adds a dual panel sunroof, nav system, keyless ignition and a THX II sound system that is among the best I've heard in years.&nbsp;&nbsp;
There's also turnable HID headlamps with an auto highbeam setting, rain sensing wipers, a back-up camera and the Lincoln logo embroidered into the front headrests in an oh-so-tasteful manner.&nbsp; That brings the retail price to $47,235.&nbsp; The only other option of consequence is a $995 adaptive cruise control system.
Traveling a new road
Oh sure, there are nods to Europeans.&nbsp; Classic Lincoln names like Continental are being replaced by three letters, hence the MKS moniker.&nbsp; Some heritage could have been preserved by pronouncing it "Mark S" but perhaps the Ford folks feel MKS is more like cool kids Acura and Cadillac.&nbsp;&nbsp;
Forget about Lincolns of yesteryear, the suspension has been taught some new tricks. Will MKS go toe to toe with BMW 5 Series, Acura TL, and Audi A6 in the cornering department?&nbsp; If your daily commute includes slalom courses, the answer is no.&nbsp;
Make no mistake, the Lincoln does not bob about like a waterbed.&nbsp;&nbsp; Those days are gone.&nbsp; My tester is alert and float free.&nbsp; Slam on the anti-lock brakes and the nose dives a bit during the average stopping distance, but quickly regains composure.&nbsp; In Lincoln tradition the suspension is calibrated more toward comfort than slicing curvy canyon roads.&nbsp; It's a good real world set up for those who spend most of their time commuting on the interstate.&nbsp; And really, how many of us zig-zag through orange cones on the way to the mall, huh?
A brisk performer
Expecting a V8 under the hood?&nbsp; Nope.&nbsp; It's a 3.7-liter V6 that pumps out 275 horsepower and a minimum of 270 ft.-lb or torque when using premium fuel.&nbsp;&nbsp; This engine looses two horses when running on regular.&nbsp; Kudos if you can tell the difference.&nbsp; Smooth accurate shifts are courtesy of a 6-speed automatic transmission with manual control on the center console mounted lever.&nbsp; Those with patience and extra cash should know about Ford's new generation of engines call EcoBoost.&nbsp; This new 3.5 liter twin-turbo V6 will be available soon, and rumored to make 355 horsepower and 350 ft.-lb or torque.
For now the torquey 3.7 engine moves MKS off the line briskly. 0-60 happens in 7.8 seconds according to my Dynolicious equipped iPhone (this app is apparently a very accurate measurement tool).&nbsp; Inside, the engine sound is not as refined as one might expect from a luxury car.&nbsp; Perhaps EcoBoost will change that.&nbsp;
Front drive is standard.&nbsp; I can't tell you if there's steering wheel tugging torque steer since this one's all-wheel drive.&nbsp; A quiet highway cruiser, MKS provides all day comfort.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Order stylish 20-inch wheels with low profile tires and sharp bumps are more easily felt.&nbsp; I'm seeing a 19 mile per gallon average, not puttering about like a grandparent.
The inside story
Keep the transponder key in pocket or purse, a touch of the elegant pillar-mounted keypad unlocks the car.&nbsp; The bottom edge of the doors extends down and reaches inward, covering the sill to keep it and your pants leg clean.&nbsp; It also moves the rocker panel in closer to the seats for easier entry.&nbsp;
With a good amount of wood and chrome, MKS' cabin is modern Americana.&nbsp; The instrument panel gets a hand stitched leather covering and aluminum vent accents.&nbsp; It looks great though the lower center stack in black plastic appears a little plain.&nbsp; Supportive seats aren't just heated, they can blow a chilled breeze up your Dockers as well. Gauge graphics are clean with a font style that matches up to the LCD screen for a cohesive feel.&nbsp; Controls and tech interface are remarkably easy to use, something the competition could learn from.&nbsp; True luxury doesn't complicate life; it simplifies.
Technology to set you free
Microsoft Sync makes cell phones and iPods handsfree and voice activated.&nbsp; I paired my phone without even thinking of the manual.&nbsp; It reads text messages and can send pre-written messages back such as "only a fool would text and drive".&nbsp; Fill up a USB jump drive with MP3s and Sync will treat it similar to an iPod.&nbsp; Again, it's easy to use.
The world is full of great automotive music systems, the THX II Certified 5.1 Surround Sound system just become my favorite.&nbsp; With a 12-channel, 600 watt "smart amp" it pumps crystal clear sound to 16 speakers. It plays CDs, DVD audio, Sirius satellite radio and tunes from an internal hard drive.&nbsp;&nbsp; You've heard claims of concert hall sound?&nbsp; Cranking up The Kills on the THX II system is like having them in the car breathing down your neck.&nbsp;&nbsp;
Big enough for the drum set is the back seat.&nbsp; MKS can handle three adults comfortably with good but not limo-like legroom.&nbsp; A surprise, there are heated seats back here.&nbsp; Another surprise, I don't see a DVD entertainment system on the options list.&nbsp; No separate climate control in back either.&nbsp; My work-ethic northern Minnesota upbringing finds these things unnecessary but to some, these things matter.&nbsp;&nbsp; There's a ski pass-through to the trunk, but the seats don't split or fold.
That leads me into gripes.&nbsp; Everything touched in a luxury car should be double-dipped in Teflon.&nbsp; MKS doesn't always achieve that.&nbsp; Sliding covers on the center console feel fine in a Taurus but here they're less than elegant.&nbsp; An adjustable front armrest splits to accommodate both driver and passenger but it doesn't glide - it thunks into place.&nbsp; What I thought was a rattle turned out to be my boy's iPod ear buds left in the rear armrest with its hard plastic compartment.&nbsp;&nbsp; Storage is good, lined storage that keeps rattles at bay is better.&nbsp; Trivial complaints?&nbsp; Maybe.&nbsp; But these days competition is fierce.&nbsp;
Big trunk, small opening
The rear window reaches way back towards the deck lid.&nbsp; That makes the trunk opening small.&nbsp; Space saving scissor hinges help keep it as wide as possible but large boxes will be denied entry.&nbsp; Still the space is large, an above average 8 pack score in the Costco Toilet Paper Test.&nbsp; Watch the streaming video and it looks like a 9th bundle will wedge in.&nbsp; No can do.&nbsp; It's a casualty of the subwoofer placement.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;
Other cool stuff includes rain sensitive windshield wipers, a dual-panel sunroom, rear power sunshade and auto highbeams to go with the HID headlamps that swivel when the steering wheel is turned.&nbsp; $995 will get you adaptive cruise control that automatically matches speed when approaching slower traffic.&nbsp;&nbsp;
Marketing vs. reality
MKS starts at 39 grand, this one retails for 47 large.&nbsp; Enthusiasts may cringe when I state the MKS is a good car for a lot of people.&nbsp; Sure a BMW 5-Series or Acura TL is more athletic on a handling course.&nbsp; But these cars live in the real world, not on the track.&nbsp;&nbsp; Cruising in the MKS- which is how many of us commute- reminds me that in this Type-A world we live in, sometimes it feels good to forget about lateral G force stats and just enjoy a good well balanced dynamic.&nbsp;&nbsp;
As far dependability, Lincoln shatters some perceptions.&nbsp; The brand rates #8 in J.D Powers 2009 Vehicle Dependability Study.&nbsp; That's ahead of Cadillac (#9), BMW (#17), and Mercedes (#20) but behind Lexus (#3), Infiniti (#6) and Acura (#7).&nbsp;&nbsp; By the way Buick, yes Buick is #1 this year.
We all have visions of racing through curvy roads.&nbsp; It's fun but it's also a truck full of marketing.&nbsp; Driving the busy streets of Seattle, I've never come close to approaching the limits of this car (and I'm more of an aggressive pilot).&nbsp; Just something to chew on.&nbsp; Lincoln MKS is an American luxury sedan that confidently travels its own road.