2011 Lincoln MKX
2011 Lincoln MKX. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Chris Chase

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2011 Lincoln MKX

The Lincoln MKX was a late arrival to the luxury crossover scene in 2007, where it was pitched against established models like the Lexus RX, Acura MDX, Mercedes-Benz M-Class and BMW X5, to name a handful. It’s a competitive category to be in now, and it was then, too; Lincoln’s trump card was an MSRP thousands less than many vehicles like it.

The MKX’s downfall might have been its too-plain styling, a profile too similar to that of the Ford Edge (which the MKX was and is still based on) and an interior that lacked the high-tech touches that are de rigueur in luxury vehicles at the moment.

For 2011 then, the MKX gets a new engine, updated styling inside and out and a few technical enhancements that aim to push this former pushover closer to the front of the luxury crossover pack.

2011 Lincoln MKX
2011 Lincoln MKX
2011 Lincoln MKX. Click image to enlarge

The new front-end styling is a big change (I dare say an upgrade, too), with Lincoln’s now-familiar can’t-miss-it grille and sculpted front quarter panels that add some much-needed style. At the rear, the changes are less dramatic.

The interior is where the serious upgrades are found. The most obvious is the trick new centre stack, which has no hard buttons. Instead, all of the controls for climate and stereo functions are now touch pads that respond to body temperature at the touch of a finger. The volume and fan speed controls are the coolest bits: swipe your finger along them to make adjustments, and a white light traces your movement. As in many luxury cars, though, the dashboard controls are secondary to the ubiquitous touch-screen located above them. From here, you can control the stereo, the climate controls, mobile communications and navigation (when equipped). The redundancy is common; most cars with a touch-screen also have duplicate controls on the centre stack, but here, the question is how well the heat-sensitive dash controls will respond to a driver’s gloved hands in frigid winter temperatures. Even in more favourable conditions, the buttons and sliders are sensitive to where they’re touched; miss the sweet spot and you get nothing.

2011 Lincoln MKX
2011 Lincoln MKX
2011 Lincoln MKX. Click image to enlarge

“MyLincoln Touch” is another new addition to the MKX. This is a neat bit of tech, based around Ford’s SYNC system, whose interfaces are the driver-configurable instrument cluster with two 4.25-inch LCD screens flanking a central analog speedometer, and the eight-inch monitor in the centre stack. The instrument cluster displays can be toggled to show a variety of information, like radio settings, a digital tachometer, navigation prompts or a trip computer, most of which is available on the dashboard screen, too. The technology is adapted from hybrid models of the Lincoln MKZ and Ford Fusion sedans, and while I tend to prefer a traditional fully-analog gauge setup, putting all of this information at the driver’s fingertips (changing the display is done via steering wheel controls) actually works quite well. As for questions of driver distraction, the Lincoln folks said their research indicates that many drivers tend to set such displays one way and rarely mess with them after that.

Another ace up Lincoln’s sleeve is the ability to turn the MKX into a rolling Internet “hot spot” that can be used by up to five wireless devices at once. There are two USB jacks, video inputs and an SD card slot that can all be used to connect devices to the car, or upload files (like music) to the entertainment system. The SD card plays a secondary role, too, in allowing an owner to add voice-activated navigation to the car, at any time, for $700.

That navigation system is improved too, having been fined-tuned to understand more voice commands and eliminating the need to talk your way through menus and submenus to access the function you’re after. Where, previously in a Ford vehicle, you’d have to say “phone” and then “call Billy Bob,” now you can say “call Billy Bob,” “dial Billy Bob” or “phone Billy Bob.” It’s more intuitive and essentially means the technology has been adapted to how people operate, rather than forcing people to adapt to the requirements of the technology.

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