by Gabe Beita Kiser
While the Lincoln MKT has only been around for seven years, it certainly feels like a lot longer. This is primarily because the luxury midsize SUV has not evolved much over that time. It was subjected to a few much-needed facelifts, although Lincoln didn't do much to improve its aesthetics, and not enough was changed under the surface. Still, it remains strong in the areas where it has always excelled, with a powerful engine and plenty of space in the cabin, even if seating seven is a bit ambitious. However, as a daily driver it falls behind similar rivals like the Acura MDX, while German segment leaders like Mercedes, BMW, and Audi make it look like a complete fossil. The MKT has the advantage of being cheaper, especially if you consider its top trim against competitors but the price still seems steep for what you get. We can only hope that the redesign planned for the next generation MKT helps to close the enormous gap between the American and German SUVs.
For 2019, the MKT range drops the base V6 engine from the previous year in favor of a turbocharged V6 that comes standard on all trims. The standard sound system has been improved and the features from the Elite Package are now standard on the base MKT. This is the final year for this model before its planned replacement by the Lincoln Aviator.
The style of the MKT is certainly unique, but even after its facelift in 2017, it is not a particularly attractive SUV. The less overstated grille on the front fascia is still distractingly large, while the HID headlights are dwarfed by comparison. Fog lights come standard, along with LED taillights spread out over a solid bar across the rear fascia, split across the power liftgate that opens wide onto the trunk space. As standard, the MKT rides on 19-inch alloy wheels, with the upper trim receiving 20-inch variants.
Despite being classified as a midsize luxury SUV, the MKT sports quite exorbitant dimensions. It is 207.6 inches long, with a 117.9-inch wheelbase. Even with its mirrors folded, the chunky SUV is 79.9 inches wide. Naturally, like most crossovers, the Lincoln stands tall at 67.4 inches high. But, even when compared to similarly large SUVs like the Acura MDX, the Lincoln MKT is monstrously heavy at 4,943 lbs, compared to 4,350 on the heaviest non-hybrid MDX.
The SUV can be dressed up in any one of the eight colors on offer. Every paint option in the palette is metallic, with the standard choices consisting of Infinite Black, Ingot Silver and Blue Diamond. For an additional fee, you can also choose from White Platinum Tricoat, Iced Mocha, Ceramic Pearl Tricoat, Ruby Red Tinted Clearcoat and Burgundy Velvet Tinted Clearcoat.
While performance isn't usually a prime concern for larger SUVs, especially those designed for particularly large families or groups, the MKT does a relatively good job in this regard. With the turbocharged V6 engine now being standard, you have an impressive 365 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque at your fingertips. This is more than enough power to move even this 5,000-pound vehicle. What further astounds is that the powertrain can get the juggernaut up to 60 mph in around six seconds. The standard all-wheel-drive and adaptive suspension help to keep this power in check so as not to ruin driveability. Correctly equipped, the SUV can pull an additional 4,500 lbs of towed weight, this is slightly less than similar seven-seaters like the Acura MDX and significantly less than leading midsize SUVs like the Mercedes GLE, that can manage 7,700 lbs.
A single engine is available to the final edition of the first generation MKT. While it was an optional choice last year, the twin-turbocharged V6 engine is now the standard fare. Displacing 3.5 liters of regular gasoline, it develops an impressive 365 hp and 350 lb-ft. Regulating this power is a six-speed automatic gearbox, which sends power to all four wheels simultaneously.
While we would prefer a more refined transmission, the dated six-speed gearbox seems fitting. Still, the SUV doesn't feel its age on the road, easily accelerating its bulk around town and on the highway. It takes only a handful of seconds to get up to full speed, and pushing the engine for a bit of extra power on the highway is a simple enough task, making passing or merging a breeze.
Sporty driving or any semblance of agility is not where the large SUV shines. Apart from its large dimensions, the MKT is also incredibly heavy, causing it to lurch uncomfortably around turns, so taking them at anything higher than regular speeds is not advised. The adaptive suspension helps a bit, but this is by no means a nimble vehicle.
The steering doesn't help inspire confidence, featuring the same lightness we've come to expect from luxury SUVs. There is little or no communication from the wheels, so you will be relying more on the driver-assist features than hands-on drivers might prefer. But as a more family-oriented vehicle, the sharp steering is well-suited for low-speed maneuvers around town.
Despite all these negatives, the Lincoln redeems itself when it comes to comfort and ride quality. The suspension adapts to road conditions to provide optimum support over even shoddy surfaces without disturbing cabin occupants too much. Coupled with the very comfortable seats, this delivers a smooth and calming ride that is very much in-line with what we would expect from a luxury vehicle, allowing you to calmly enjoy the scenery as you cruise down the highway, since the interior is certainly nothing to look at.
While the midsize SUV's engine may be powerful, it is far from efficient. It is larger and quite a bit heavier than most rivals, so it is no surprise that the MKT gets quite abysmal fuel economy figures of 15/21/17 mpg across the city/highway/combined cycles. By comparison, the MDX and QX60 each get 19/26/22 mpg. Worse still, the Lincoln has a smaller tank, and with its 18.6 gallons of regular gasoline, it can only cover 316 miles between refuelings.
Much like the exterior, the inside of the MKT doesn't seem to have moved with the times. The styling is uninspired and bland. On the plus side, there is quite a bit of interior space, but don't expect to make much use of the third-row seats other than as extra cargo space. The Sync 3 infotainment interface is well designed, lending itself to easy operation, while a number of modern features come standard on even the base model. The comfort of the interior is top-notch, too, even if it doesn't look that good.
There is space for seven within the cabin on the comfortable and supportive seats. Naturally, those up front get a bit more space than rear passengers, but head and legroom in the second row are not that far behind. But, while you can easily fit a full-sized adult in the second row, even a homunculus would struggle to fit in the cramped third row. While the extra passenger space is one of the SUV's selling points, it isn't very functional. The front seats feature 12-way power-adjustability as standard, so it isn't too hard to find a good driving position, and a power tilt-and-telescoping steering column helps, too. Forward visibility is good, but, unfortunately, there are some large blind spots. Luckily, blind-spot monitoring comes standard. Despite the vehicle being quite high, entering and exiting are easy for the first two rows. Accessing the third row requires some creative acrobatics, even with the power fold-down seats.
Despite the interior showing a lack of creative design, the materials used are high-quality, and the build-quality matches this. But even with standard leather seats, the interior feels far from luxurious. The lack of choices when it comes to color furthers this feeling of substandard design. The leather can be presented in either Light Dune or Charcoal black, paired with Prussian Burl or Brown Swirl Walnut trim, respectively. The dash and door panels match the leather color choice, with the upper dash remaining neutral dark brown.
Despite the size of the vehicle, the MKT doesn't offer up much cargo capacity. While the 17.9 cubic feet of space behind the third row is better than the segment average, it still isn't great. Luckily, the third- and second-row seats fold down, freeing up a more useful 75.9 cubic feet of space in total. Still, the base trunk capacity is enough for most daily errands, but it will leave you wanting for more if you try to transport seven people and their luggage. With the third row folded down, there should be enough space for five people's luggage.
Small-item storage is adequate but not impressive, with the front passengers receiving a center console with an armrest, and two cup holders. There are also door pockets for the first and second rows, and a glove compartment up front.
For a luxury vehicle, the SUV interior comes relatively well equipped, but it still isn't up to par with segment leaders. Standard fare comprises keyless entry and ignition, remote engine start, tri-zone climate control, a 12-way power driver's seat with memory, climate-controlled front seats, heated second-row seats, a heated steering wheel, four 12-volt power outlets and one 110-volt power outlet. Built-in driver-assist features include a rearview camera, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, rear sonar, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. Features available on the upper trim include adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, brake support, lane-keeping assist, driver alert, and an automated parking assistant.
The infotainment suite on the Lincoln is pretty well-designed and comes with many of the modern features buyers expect from a luxury SUV. The standard eight-inch Sync 3 touchscreen interface supports Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and comes with built-in navigation. A 700-watt 14-speaker sound system plays your tunes, whether they be from the standard HD Radio, subscription SiriusXM, or your smart device. There are also two USB ports on offer and 911 Assist and SiriusXM Traffic come standard, too.
J.D. Power has not evaluated the Lincoln MKT for dependability, but the SUV has received no serious complaints across its lifespan. The 2019 model was recalled for potentially loose alternator and starter cables, and in 2017 for oil leakage from the turbocharger. Lincoln offers a 50,000-mile/48-month basic warranty, and a 70,000-mile/72-month drivetrain warranty. Free maintenance is available for the first 24,000 miles/24 months.
The luxury SUV has not been rated by the NHTSA but the IIHS has given it an overall rating of Good.
The suite of standard safety features comprises ABS, EBD, traction and stability control, and six airbags: dual front, front side, and side curtain. The driver-assist features include a rearview camera, rear sonar, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. Available on the upper trim is forward collision alert, brake support, lane-keeping assist, driver alert, and an active parking assistant.
It wouldn't be hard to see that, with its host of advanced safety features and superior interior comfort, the MKT was almost certainly a great car - once upon a time. However, it hasn't weathered the years well, looking a lot older than its seven years of production would suggest.
What does still keep the MKT in the running are the few things that it does do quite well. The interior is well-built and spacious, aside from the tight spacing of the third row of seats. These could conceivably be used for toddlers or very small children, but will most likely serve as extra trunk space.
Standard features abound, especially in this final year of the MKT's lifespan, but newer rivals still offer more features that are more up-to-date, too. The Sync 3 infotainment system is easy to use and manages to stay relatively current, but it doesn't offer Wi-Fi like most modern luxury SUVs.
The low price tag, when compared to rivals like BMW or Mercedes, is appealing until you consider that the Lincoln gets pretty terrible fuel consumption figures, but with this being the final year of production, you may be able to get an even better deal on it. But based on the SUV's track record, it may be better to look at more modern competitors, although the Lincoln Aviator may be able to recapture our attention.
The MKT is reasonably priced for a midsize luxury SUV, with the base model starting at $49,500. Pack-leaders ask for a few thousand more on their introductory trims. The upper-tier trim doesn't increase the price by much but, considering how little it adds, it can feel like a cheeky price hike. The starting MSRP on the Reserve is $52,500. These prices exclude tax, licensing, registration, and the $995 destination charge.
The 2019 Lincoln MKT can be had in two trim levels: the Standard MKT or the upper-tier Reserve. Both models share the same 3.5-liter turbocharged V6 engine, which directs 365 hp and 350 lb-ft to all four wheels as standard. Rowing the gears for this powertrain is a simple six-speed automatic transmission, although paddles mounted to the steering wheel allow for a degree of manual control.
The entry-level MKT comes equipped with 19-inch wheels, HID headlamps, fog lights, and a power liftgate. Keyless entry and ignition, remote start, tri-zone climate control, a climate-controlled 12-way power driver's seat, heated rear seats and a sunroof come standard. Advanced driver-assist features include a rearview camera, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and rear sonar. An eight-inch infotainment interface offers navigation, Bluetooth interaction, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and voice control over the 14-speaker sound system, which comes with HD Radio and SiriusXM radio and traffic alert.
For a modest bump in price, the Reserve trim upgrades to 20-inch alloy wheels while adding several extra driver-assist features. These comprise a driver alert system, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, forward collision alert with brake support, and an automatic parking assistant.
The aging MKT doesn't offer much in the way of customization beyond the standard features. Available to both the MKT and Reserve trims is the Class III Trailer Tow Package, which equips the SUV with a hitch receiver capable of towing 4,500 lbs, a wiring harness, and trailer sway control.
There is very little cost difference between the base MKT and the Reserve, but the upper trim offers a few extra advanced driver-assist features. So, it's no surprise that we recommend going for the top trim. Passing up on the lane-keeping assist and automated parking assist would be a big no-no.
Mechanically, the Ford Flex is identical to the Lincoln MKT. But the differences become more apparent inside the cabin, where the lower quality of the Flex becomes obvious. While it also seats seven, the cloth-appointed seats tell you that luxury is not the focus here. The front seats feature only six-way power-adjustability, and the infotainment screen is half the size of the MKT's. The sound system is less advanced and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto don't come on the base model. But the Flex does beat the MKT in one regard; it is more spacious and offers more cargo space, thanks to its boxier design. Almost all the Ford's shortcomings drop away when you upgrade to the top-most trim, however, leaving a near-luxury-level wagon with more space than the expensive Lincoln variant. If you are really comparing these two vehicles, then opting for the most expensive Flex trim shouldn't be an issue; and if that's the case, we suggest it over the Lincoln MKT.
As the slightly smaller sibling to the MKT, the 2018 MKX has quite a bit to recommend it. Apart from simply looking better than the larger SUV, it offers significantly more cargo capacity due to the lack of a third row of seats. Interior space is less, but negligibly so, and at the higher trim levels, the MKX is just as luxurious as its big brother; but, the price tag can exceed the top-tier MKT if you're not careful. The MKX gets a choice of two engines, with the more powerful turbo 2.7-liter V6 still producing less power at 335 hp and 380 lb-ft, but the much lighter SUV can match the twin-turbo V6's acceleration and offers significantly better handling and maneuverability on the road, without sacrificing on ride quality. With a long list of standard features that match the quality on the MKT, and advanced safety features available quite early in the trim levels, the Lincoln MKX seems to be the better and more affordable daily driver, unless you really need the extra seating in the MKT.