At first glance, the MKT looked like its designers tossed every historic Lincoln design cue into a plastic bucket, shook it 23 times, and tossed it at the closest clay model in the studio. We got a stylized version of the iconic ’40 Continental’s grille, sharp shoulders and stepped beltline from the ’61 Continental, and the rear lights of a ’93 Mark VIII. I thought it was big-time fugly – time for Lincoln to gather its pieces. Turns out, they are pretty stylish pieces, and after further reflection, the MKT is quite right.
Back in 1960, as Lincoln director of design Eugene Bordinat was imagining his division’s next model, he knew there was a problem. Since the end of World War II, Lincoln had sold three generations of cars that looked like they could have come from three different automakers. This was in direct contrast to Cadillac that maintained a consistent design theme of eggcrate grilles, formal rooflines, and tailfins. As a result, Cadillac was the envy of rock stars while Lincoln was just another plush car. Designer Elwood P. Engel had just the cure.
The 1961 Continental, best known as President Kennedy’s final ride, was stunning and couldn’t have been more distinguished. When Cadillacs flaunted high fins, excessive chrome, and obscene exuberance, Lincoln was refined, understated, and elegant. Chromed razor edges and stepped shoulderlines became Lincoln design hallmarks.You can see a lot of the Continental’s side profile in the MKT.
Another influence for the MKT, especially in the bow-wake grille, is the 1940 Continental that was announced in October, 1939. Originally shaped by E. T. “Bob” Gregorie for Edsel’s winter home in Florida, the car became an icon when the younger Ford ordered into production. It eventually begat the ’56 Continental, which was over-seen by Edsel’s son, William Clay Ford.
With two Continentals as examples, MKT designers apparently had an infatuation with the ’93 Mark VIII’s expansive taillamp band and humped rump. On the MKT, the rear hatch flows right to the bumper with the fully-integrated look of a concept car. A button on the key fob opens up the cavernous interior.
Gone is the cool Continental-inspired twin-dash design from recent Lincolns, and it its place, is a curvaceous suave zone with a fluid dash, LED white lighting, glistening analog instruments, and Panoramic Vista Roof that lets sun shine on front and rear seats. Seven-passenger cabins are available, but most regal-minded mini-potentates should go for the center-row heated/cooled captain’s chairs with center console that includes a cooler. Third-row seats are completely power stowable with switches inside the rear hatch.
None of immortal Lincoln stylists could have imagined the technology suite that would come to their progeny decades hence. THX II® 5.1 audio via 14 speakers drenches with a freight train of sound – best enjoyed from Sirius Satellite Radio or from your iPOD through the USB port. MKT comes standard with Ford’s SYNC® voice-activated audio/nav/weather interface. Bluetooth connects cell phones to the vehicle’s controls while safety is enhanced by an array of airbags, Collision Warning with Brake Support (automatically slows the vehicle), radar cruise control, and blind spot warning. The MKT can even parallel park itself.
No matter the technology, MKT’s powertrain will chuck the bonanzas at lesser wagons. Entry-rung MKTs could whip a Continental’s elegant flanks with its 268-HP 3.7-litre V6 engine. However, to put Hot Rod Lincolns back on the trailer, check off the 355-HP 3.5-litre EcoBoost V6. As part of Ford’s product line greening, no V8s are available in the MKT. Fuel economy is rated 17/23-MPG.
Lincoln engineers looked to Sweden, borrowing much from the large Volvos. A four-wheel independent suspension system, speed-variable electric power steering, and available all-wheel-drive provide a smooth and secure ride. On the highway, the crossover feels tidy, hugging passengers in a womb of serenity.
The MKT looks American, drives European, and spoils like a Hong Kong hotel. Still a little controversial, the MKT is at least recognizably Lincoln, conveying a sense of understated luxury from first glance to the last mile. Gregorie, Bordinat, Engel, and even Edsel himself would likely approve. Lincoln has gathered its pieces, causing Cadillac, Lexus, Infiniti, and Mercedes to take notice. Prices start at $44,200 or $49,200 with EcoBoost.