published Saturday, August 24th, 2013

Test Drive: Lincoln MKS carries the flag proudly

The Lincoln MKS is a full-size luxury car with plenty of style and extra layers of comfort. 
Staff photo by Mark Kennedy
The Lincoln MKS is a full-size luxury car with plenty of style and extra layers of comfort. Staff photo by Mark Kennedy

FAST FACTS

* Model: Lincoln MKS

* Exterior color: Platinum Dune Tri-coat

* Interior color: Light Dune, premium leather

* Engine: 3.7 liter V-6

* Horsepower: 300

* Transmission: six-speed automatic

* Fuel economy: 28 mpg highway, 19 mpg city

* Dealer: Mountain View Ford Lincoln

* Price (as tested): $50,455

Whipping down Ochs Highway in the Lincoln MKS — in a driving rainstorm, no less — reminded me how mass inspires confidence.

A big American sedan like the MKS cuts through the elements like a scythe, its wind-tunnel tested sheet metal effortlessly shedding sheets of rain.

In the luxury class, preference is largely a matter of taste, and for those aspiring to American-made products the MKS is a tasty choice.

Last week, during one of our gully-washers, we tested a Platinum Dune model -- a new color for 2014, according to Mountain View Ford Lincoln sales consultant Ron Elliott. The MKS got a major update for the 2013 model year and carries on largely unchanged for 2014.

STYLING AND FEATURES

Just as GM is trying to reposition its Cadillac brand to appeal to younger buyers with edgy styling and stout powertrains, Lincoln too is looking for ways to attract the under-50 crowd.

The MKS is a sleekly-styled, full-sized sedan with fluid body lines and an attention-grabbing winged grille that has become the hallmark of the brand. Squint at the profile and what jumps out visually are gorgeous, 14-spoke, 20-inch wheels and just-right dashes of chrome on the doors and window frames.

Inside, the MKS -- as do all new Lincolns -- has an uncluttered center-stack that is mercifully devoid of switches and dials. Slide your fingertips across a small silver band and the fan speed changes. Do the same on another chrome strip and the radio volume rises and falls.

The deeply-cut front bucket seats are covered in buttery Light Dune (sand colored) leather. Our tester's seats are both heated for cold weather and ventilated for sun-baked summer days. As you'd expect in a roomy, full-size car, backseat passengers can kick back in comfort.

The instrument cluster is dominated by a traditional speedometer flanked by LED screens that can be modified to show different functions such as time, temperature, fuel economy and trip mileage.

All MKS trims come with the infotainment interface SYNC with MyLincoln Touch. Our MKS tester is so smart that it can set the cabin temperature by voice command. When matched up to your smart phone, the car will even read your texts out loud.

The MKS also has optional active park assist -- a must if you do much parallel parking. Ultrasonic sensors scan for suitable parking spaces and then steer the big car into the opening automatically. Meanwhile, the driver maintains control of the accelerator, break pedal and gear shifter. Pedals are adjustable using a button on the dash, a slick feature.

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

Our test MKS came with a standard 3.7-liter V-6 engine that makes 300 horsepower. For those looking for a bit more mustard, there's a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 available that produces 365 horsepower. It's the same engine that's found in the Taurus SHO.

We found the base MKS motor to be completely adequate for everyday driving needs. Our test car merged onto Interstate 24 without any stress or strain. The car is well-composed, as it should be. With Lincoln's new "continuously controlled damping system," sensors monitor 46 separate suspension motions, and automatically optimize steering and breaking every two milliseconds. There are three driving modes: Comfort, Normal and Sport.

BOTTOM LINE

The MKS line starts at about $40,000 but add a few goodies and the price can crest $50,000. Our test car carried a sticker price of $50,445 and included such add-ons as navigation, interior wood trim, special paint, adaptive cruise control and a lane-keeping system that sends a gentle vibration through the steering wheel when you cross a highway line.

For luxury-minded customers who like the idea of an American-made product, the MKS is an easy choice.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.

about Mark Kennedy...

Mark Kennedy is a Times Free Press columnist and editor. He writes the "LIfe Stories" human interest column for the City section and the "Family Life" column for the Life section. He also writes an automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for ...

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