Executive wheels: Lincoln hits a homer with power and elegance

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What with all that’s been going on in the automotive world over the last couple of years, I am like many Americans and I want to see the old-line American nameplates do well. That, of course, entails two things: that they sell, and that they are worthy of a sale beyond an All-American attitude. And when it comes to all of these considerations, I – born and bred a GM man – am particularly pulling for Ford (Lincoln is a Ford division) because Ford didn’t take the bailout money even though an eager Washington was more than insisting that they should. My admiration went sky high.

And then the cars start to come and my admiration has gone straight into the stratosphere.

I work on the fringes of downtown Denver, in a neighborhood that sports a ton of gentrifying professional types getting back to their city roots, along side of a slew of the less fortunate for whom car ownership is a dream delayed until after they can find a place to sleep. Didn’t matter. The professionals and homeless alike who walked by the 2010 Lincoln MKS said it was “handsome,” “beautiful,” “sharp” and – the absolute most-used word – “elegant.” Americans, no matter what their economic status, know class when they see it, and the Lincoln MKS exudes class.

Now this Lincoln isn’t one of the historic large Lincolns that were among the iconic luxury cars of the 1960s. It is in the new “mid-size” category, although it is on the larger end of the scale if you consider the Mercedes E Class, the Jaguar XF, the Audi 6, the BMW 5, etc. But trust me – not only does the MKS belong in this company, for the first time in many, many years, I truly believe that people setting out to find something of this ilk would put the MKS among the leaders. This car is destined to be on the short list and garner not a few #1s, as in purchasers. I have driven everything in the class just mentioned, many of them just lately, and I can tell you right now I would have a very difficult time picking between the Mercedes E350 and the MKS, and those others, while great cars, would go off the list.

Okay, this car had everything. It beeped at me so many times – like when someone was passing me, or got too close – that it is a little disconcerting, but to be honest I got used to it. One of the coolest things about the car are the headlights – first of all, the are bright, and do the job, but they also move side to side as you steer, more than any other moveable headlights I have ever experienced, and while it was weird for the first couple of days, I not only got used to it, but ended up loving it. They literally turned the corner for you, found the parking space, lit the way. Amazing.

The MKS has everything – heated seats (even in the back!) navigation, a wonderful sound system – everything you’d expect in a luxury car.

So let’s talk about a couple of small negatives before a big finish. First – and this bugged me the whole week I drove it – the car had amazing heat and defrost, which I needed constantly since it was so damn cold the week of my test drive, but for some reason the heat coming out at your feet (you can adjust to many different configurations) was awful; there just wasn’t any heat at your feet. Second, like many luxury cars this one had keyless entry and push-button start, so you rarely need to even to use the real key fob; just have it in your pocket. But because Ford (and Lincoln) has this coded keypad on the door that opens the driver’s door, you can only open it with the code or the key fob. Any other luxury car all you have to have is the key in your pocket and the door opens; not here, and it’s a pain.

But the good far outweighs the bad. Huge trunk – a four golf-bagger – power ports all over the place, 12-way power driver’s and passenger’s seat (in the front) which could be adjusted for anyone from Kareem Abdul Jabbar to Tiny Tim and Quasi Moto, and so much leg room that you could have an octopus for a friend. Three of them; and they would love you.

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But here are the best things.

First, this car comes in all-wheel-drive, and I drove it in the snow and ice and can attest to its drivability and safety-ness. Yes, you can get AWD in Mercedes and BMW and Audi, but any of those models with AWD and all of the stuff here are going to cost more money – a lot more. This might be – no, it is — the most economical mid-sized AWD luxury car on the market.

Second, this is the best engine around. The base models of the MKS – the FWD at base $41,270 and the AWD at $43, 160 — come with a 3.7-liter, normally aspirated V6 with 273 hp. Respectable.

The one I drove features a 3.5-liter V6 with EcoBoost and AWD — that means you get an economical, energy efficient, powerful engine. While the other (AWD) MKS is rated at 16/23 mpg (city/highway) this EcoBoost is rated at 17/25 – and it features a turbopowered engine putting out 355 hp. They say it’s like a V8; I say it’s like a V12 – this is a fast, powerful car that is very fun to drive. The EcoBoost thing makes it sound like it’s a hybrid or something, but it is really a V6 that is tricked out to a V8 power-wise while giving up nothing of the economy and fuel efficiency of a V6. Loved it.

Elegance. Power. The lowest price in the mid-sized luxury range. Have I got your attention?

Good. The base price here is $47,760. On my test-drive model they added a $3,500 package which included the dual panel moonroof (huge), navigation, voice activation, surround sound audio (awesome), and a rear-view camera, another $535 for active park assist (one of the things that constantly beeps), and another $1,310 for adaptive cruise control with collision warning. (The collision warning is interesting. There is a break light, of sorts, in the heads-up display area that comes on if you get too close to the car, or a wall, in front of you, and the literature says you get extra-sensitive breaking and the engine slows down. Also, the cruise control will automatically slow itself down and speed itself back up if the traffic warrants).

With $825 in destination charges, the bottom line here id $53,930. Now, I realize that is a lot of money, but the other cars mentioned and in this class, with all this stuff, are more money. Lincoln has a winner here.

RATING: 4 WHEELS (OUT OF 4).

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