2009 Lincoln MKS
2009 Lincoln MKS. Click image to enlarge
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First Drives
2009 Lincoln MKS, by Jil McIntosh

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Ford/Lincoln Canada
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2009 Lincoln MKS

Oshawa, Ontario – In one of those sweet little ironies of the automotive industry, arch-rivals Lincoln and Cadillac both trace their origins to a single man. Henry Leland founded Cadillac – built from the ashes of one of two companies Henry Ford unsuccessfully started, before finally hitting paydirt with the third – and eventually sold it to General Motors. In 1917, at the age of 74, he began another company, which he named for the U.S. Civil War-era president for whom he’d cast his first-ever vote.

Both companies had some glorious years, but both seemed to lose their way in the last few decades. Recently, though, both nameplates have made an amazing comeback, with some models that meet or exceed the performance and quality of the imported rivals that knocked them off their thrones. For 2009, Lincoln’s flagship sedan becomes the all-new MKS, with the venerable Town Car relegated strictly to taxi and limo fleets. The new model is currently the only Lincoln that doesn’t have a corresponding model in the Ford line-up (or with Mercury in the United States).

2009 Lincoln MKS
2009 Lincoln MKS. Click image to enlarge

I first became acquainted with the MKS on its introduction to the media, when I drove it for a day on some very winding rural roads. As much as I liked the car otherwise, I found it wobbly when driven on twisting roads, with a tendency to lean hard in the corners, and to roll back on-centre, rather than snap back crisply. I haven’t changed my opinion on that, but after a week with it in a more urban setting, I’ve seen it in its natural habitat, where less strenuous driving translates that luxury suspension tuning into a supple and very comfortable ride. In short, Lincoln may want to portray the MKS as a sports sedan – something it achieved with the late and lamented LS sedan – but it ain’t. Instead, it’s an extremely nice luxury liner.

I’m still not used to a flagship Lincoln running its power through the front wheels, a version that will start you off at $45,599. My tester was outfitted with all-wheel drive, for a base price of $47,799. Slippage will send up to 100 per cent of torque to the rear wheels, while the stability control will shift it from side to side if necessary. I really like that the difference between the two is all in the drivetrain; many manufacturers also force you to take a list of additional and completely unrelated features should you want to move from FWD to AWD.

2009 Lincoln MKS
2009 Lincoln MKS. Click image to enlarge

Both versions use a 3.7-litre Duratec V6 engine, making 275 horsepower and 274 lb-ft of torque (when on premium fuel; regular juice brings it down to 273 horses and 270 lb-ft, which is still more than sufficient), mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode. This is an extremely well-done engine, so smoothly powerful that you’ll find yourself at the upper end of the speedometer almost without realizing it, although buyers might want to give some thought to waiting on the EcoBoost engine that Ford said will make its debut in the MKS and Ford Flex, probably during calendar year 2009. According to the company, that incoming powerplant’s direct injection and twin turbochargers will increase the MKS’ power and torque to that of a V8, with fuel economy comparable to that of a V6. At any rate, against published figures of 12.9 L/100 km in the city and 8.8 on the highway for the AWD, I averaged 13.0.

Overall, the MKS’ ride is big and silky, but not marshmallowy; there’s enough stiffness in the suspension that you will feel the really nasty potholes, but that’s about it. What’s most noticeable is what isn’t: there simply isn’t any noise. There’s so much sound deadening, and it’s so effective, that this cabin could all but double as an isolation chamber.

2009 Lincoln MKS
2009 Lincoln MKS
2009 Lincoln MKS
2009 Lincoln MKS
2009 Lincoln MKS
2009 Lincoln MKS. Click image to enlarge

The seats are extremely comfortable, with heating and cooling functions in the front ones; the back ones are more like limousine seats, with soft but supportive cushions and spacious legroom, and they heat up. They don’t fold; instead, there’s a pass-through, but the huge 122-cm-long trunk should swallow up pretty much anything you need to bring home. The trunk liftover’s quite high, though, so be prepared to work those biceps.

A lot of thought has gone into the dash, which was designed with as few “cut lines” as possible, for a more cohesive appearance and no need to fit panels together. In most places that’s admirable, but it’s a bit of a letdown over the glovebox, which has a huge lid for a smooth finish, but opens to reveal only a small storage area. The door pockets and the console box are generous, but a panel ahead of the shifter that looks like a covered cubby is actually fixed in place. The front cupholders are two different sizes, so you’ll have to figure out if it’s you or your passenger who opts for the small java.

The MKS has several new features, but by far the best is Ford’s Easy Fuel “capless” fuelling system. Instead of a gas cap, there’s just a flapper valve in the filler neck, which pushes out of the way when you insert the gas nozzle (the spring’s too strong to open with your fingers). No gas on the hand, no dangling tethered cap, and no “check engine” light from a cap that isn’t tightened sufficiently. It’s being rolled out across Ford’s entire line, and it’s simply brilliant.

I also like the SecuriCode system, the company’s name for the keyless entry keypad that’s been a Ford feature for more than 25 years. I always wondered why anyone would still want it in these days of ubiquitous electronic fobs, until I went on a trip in a vehicle equipped with one. My passengers loved that they could access the vehicle without waiting for me to show up with the keys when they wanted to pack items inside. The MKS’ system is extra cool, since it uses an infra-red system instead of the usual row of buttons. The B-pillar is simply a glossy black panel until you wave your hand over it, and that’s when the numbers appear as if by magic. The system also works in conjunction with the proximity key and opens the doors if you walk up and tap any number spot on the keypad with the key in your pocket, but oddly, it doesn’t work the other way, and you have to hit the fob to lock the car. That’s tougher at night since all of the remote buttons are black.

My car was outfitted with a “Vision Package”, for an extra $5,000, which added a navigation system, backup camera, THX-II audio system and adaptive cruise control. That last system detects vehicles in front and adjusts the vehicle’s speed to maintain a consistent distance. I don’t like it on any vehicle, and I’d like to be able to set it to plain, ordinary cruise control, as can be done with some models. The system also needs a “cancel” button.

2009 Lincoln MKS
2009 Lincoln MKS
2009 Lincoln MKS. Click image to enlarge

The list of standard features is lengthy on this vehicle, and it includes adaptive xenon headlamps that swivel when the wheels turn, and automatically dip the high-beams when traffic approaches; Sync, which lets you operate the stereo and your cellular phone with voice commands; rain-sensing wipers; real wood trim; power tilt and telescopic wheel; parking sensors; auto-dimming mirrors; and an SOS post-crash alert system, also migrating across the Ford line-up, that operates the emergency flashers and honks the horn if the vehicle’s involved in a crash.

I wasn’t all that keen on the MKS’ styling when I first saw it, but it’s grown on me. According to the company, many of its cues, including its grille and slab-side doors and fenders, will show up on other Lincoln models down the road. I did find that the heavy C-pillar and the swept-back roofline did take its toll on rearward visibility, though.

Despite a few missteps, Lincoln has done a good job on this car, especially looking at its core audience. Company representatives have said they’re targeting nameplates such as Lexus and Infiniti, and while I think this car can stand up to them, I doubt there will be an immediate migration; instead, the MKS is primed for those who’ve always appreciated big domestic sedans and have had to make do with second-best for too long. Henry Leland built some pretty good cars in his day. It’s nice to see that it’s finally happening again.

Pricing: 2009 Lincoln MKS AWD

Base price: $47,799

Options: $ 7,280 (Block heater, $80; dual panel sunroof, $2,200; Vision Package of adaptive cruise control, voice-activated navigation system, rearview camera and THX-II certified surround sound audio, $5,000)

A/C tax: $100

Freight: $1,300

Price as tested: $56,479
Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives

Specifications
  • Specifications: 2009 Lincoln MKS

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