Lincoln has been on a revival path for the past decade. However, despite being the sole premium brand remaining under Ford Motor Company’s umbrella – which in the past also included the likes of Jaguar, Aston Martin, Volvo and Mercury – it hasn’t been able to reclaim anything close to its past glory. There hasn’t been a single model yet that made a giant stride towards reinventing the brand’s image. Despite past failures with badge engineering, the Detroit carmaker’s strategy seemed to have been to base every Lincoln model on mainstream Ford foundations.
And our trysts with these cars have, to a certain degree, convinced us that this is the right thing to do. After all, the reason behind Ford’s premium brands failing in the past were not the badges, but the poor quality of the Blue Oval’s mechanical fundamentals. Things have turned around dramatically in the past decade, with reasonably priced Ford models like the Explorer and the Edge nudging premium territory when it comes to mechanical and technological brilliance.
It’s not a bad thing then, that the 2016 MKX crossover still shares much of its architecture with the new Ford Edge, which itself received a thorough redesign last year. Anyway, unlike Cadillac, the other American premium badge that’s also reinventing itself, Lincoln isn’t after German rivals and their performance-oriented engineering. Instead, it’s focusing on what Lincolns have been best at; offering its passengers a smooth, dignified and plush ride. And the 2016 MKX is a way more convincing attempt at achieving this than the lacklustre first-generation model that debuted in 2007, with more sophisticated styling, a more spacious interior, a new turbocharged engine and an adaptive suspension system.
The sheet metal has been significantly revised, with the split-wing grille now slimmer and stretched horizontally, and flanked by new, redesigned LED headlights. These styling changes give the MKX an impression of added width. A larger version of the signature full-width tail light that made its debut in the MKZ saloon adds to the crossover’s overall upmarket look.
Inside, the MKX’s gear shift lever has been replaced by a push-button system like the one in the MKZ, placed on the centre console. This has freed up space in the centre tunnel, but Lincoln designers decided to get creative and make a suspension bridge there, which instead of having the intended effect of giving a feeling of open space, makes it more claustrophobic. However, the hollow created inside the centre tunnel could come in handy to keep a small bag or pouch without it robbing space from the footwell.
Gone are the unresponsive and temperamental capacitive touch controls, with proper physical buttons taking their place. It’s also heartening to see that below-par materials, which detracted from the previous model’s cabin, have been upgraded here to better-chosen and better-crafted ones. Ambient lighting has also been tastefully done.
The MKX remains a five-seater, and is one of the most spacious in its class, with generous levels of legroom in the front and back and plenty of cargo space to boot. The ventilated leather seats are also extremely comfortable and are good for fatigue-free long trips. Improved insulation and active noise-cancellation system lead to a much more isolated cabin, which shuts out tyre roll and wind noise completely.
But the best change in the 2016 MKX is the new turbocharged 2.7-litre V6, which now joins the 3.7-litre six-cylinder. The smaller displacement engine makes 335bhp and 542Nm of torque, which is a significant bump over the old engine’s 303bhp and 379Nm of torque. The six-speed auto is smooth in its power delivery to all four wheels and the spike in torque is evident in the MKX’s acceleration, as well as cruising and passing abilities on the highway. Although with two cogs less than the ’boxes of most of its rivals, performance is not lacking, with quick, crisp shifts.
The speed sensitive variable-ratio steering provides extra boost at lower speeds, making it easy to slot the crossover into parking spots and negotiating traffic, while firming up at higher speeds to offer good feedback and impressive on-centre feel. The brakes, however, are a bit grabby, taking away from the overall refinement and polish.
While the suspension tuning is clearly comfort-oriented, the adaptive dampers in the all-wheel-drive model stiffen things up and help the MKX keep its composure around corners and highway off-ramps. The list of standard safety equipment is also long and impressive, and includes anti-lock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front, side and curtain airbags, a blind-spot monitoring and alert system, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning with active intervention featuring adjustable sensitivity levels, as well as forward collision warning and mitigation with automatic braking, among others.
Overall, the 2016 MKX is by far Lincoln’s most convincing shot at restoring the brand’s lost prestige. With significant improvements over the previous version and most other Lincolns to date, it’s a great crossover with refinement and dignity that justifies a premium badge, and is available with the turbocharged 2.7-litre engine starting from Dh215,000. However, it remains to be seen if all these changes are good enough to sway a customer who has among his options brilliant rivals such as the BMW X3, Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLC and the Lexus NX.