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BENCHMARKING

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Mon, Oct 13, 2008

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

© All photos by Harvey Schwartz

BENCHMARKING By Harvey Schwartz

Finally, Lincoln has come to market with a world-class, mid-luxury sedan that is competitive in all the right categories. This is the first Lincoln in a very long time that hits all the right notes, but is it enough music to sway luxury buyers away from Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi? Only time will tell but it is a very good start from a brand known for luxury. Lincoln designers and engineers knew that they had to produce a car that has eye-catching appeal and an interior with high levels of comfort, luxury, and the latest high-tech features and conveniences. On these categories, Lincoln has come through. Unfortunately, power and performance are still lacking against the competition but that should be taken care of in next year's model, which I will talk about later in this review. The most striking exterior design feature is the double-wing grille, inspired by the 1941 Lincoln Continental. The grille sweeps up into the jewel-like HID headlamps to form a single graphic element that further accentuates the facia. A bright chrome Lincoln star rests prominently between the wings. Key design cues include the sculpted hood and fast-raked windshield, which forms a sleek roofline. The broad-shouldered Lincoln MKS also features a beltline that kicks up slightly over the rear wheels, another modern tribute to classic Lincoln design. Below the grille are horizontal slats that increase airflow into the engine. Just below these is a black spoiler, and a deep wide black strip that travels all around the sides to the rear. Underneath each door is a beautiful aluminum strip while each front fender wears a Lincoln star fronting heat extracting mesh to remove excess heat buildup from the engine. Elegant details include a polished stainless steel side window surround that finishes with a wide flourish at the front end of the C-pillar-accentuating the tapered cantrail of the cantilevered roof. Stainless steel strips also run the length of the car, framing the available twin-panel moon roof and flowing into the tall decklid.

In the rear are beautifully detailed LED tail lamps that are accented by a vertical white light strip that runs along the edge of the decklid, and a horizontal chrome strip is inset with a Lincoln star. A rear decklid lip helps with increasing downforce at high speeds. Just below the bumper are two, 3in wide, polished stainless steel exhaust tips. From the front, side and rear, this is the best looking Lincoln to come down the road in a long time. Elegant and unique, the styling turns heads, and can hold its own against any luxury sedan on the market. Inside, the meticulously detailed MKS delivers a precision-crafted environment resplendent in hand-wrapped premium leather, real wood and metal accents. The instrument panel flows horizontally from door to door, its top portion is hand-wrapped in durable, eco-friendly leatherette with double-stitching. With all the leather surfaces Lincoln went further by using thicker, 30-weight thread, seven-stitches per inch, all double-stitched. The instrument panel is divided into upper and lower portions by a strip of sculpted wood highlighted by a line of chrome. Trimmed at the top in real wood, the power tilting/telescoping, leather-wrapped, steering wheel frames an elegant instrument cluster with gauges circled with delicate chrome rings. Details of the interior are also accented in sculpted aluminum. The inside of each door is trimmed in leather with a matching chrome strip. I would have liked to have seen a long, wide strip of matching wood in the middle of the door to add to the interior elegance. Elegant and flowing surfaces create the feeling that the interior has been sculpted, rather than constructed. The flow-through center stack is topped with an integrated information screen that also serves as the screen for the optional navigation system. Customers can choose from three distinct interior options, all set off by Lincoln's signature cool white lighting. A philosophy of 'guilt-free luxury' means MKS uses materials and processes that reflect the finer things in life but not at the expense of the world around us. This includes the leather for the seats by Bridge of Weir, the same Scottish company that supplied hides for the iconic Continental Mark II. Chosen for its high quality and its organic, chromium-free tanning, this is the softest leather I have ever felt in a Lincoln. Ebony wood, used for some models, reclaimed from furniture makers and other sources offers a beautiful and rare wood with minimal environmental impact. My test MKS came with dark burl wood trim. The MKS offers best-in-class interior volume of 105.9cu.ft. and best-in-class luggage space of 18.4cu.ft., nearly four-times larger than some competitors. There is only one problem I encountered with the trunk, which is truly spacious, it didn't have a power-opening option, and it had no handle or indentation to safely close the lid. I am looking forward to seeing that standard luxury feature in next year's edition.

New Lincoln front bucket seats are very comfortable, were developed first for the MKS, and feature side bolster support designed for spirited driving fun. The standard heated and cooled, 12-way power driver and front passenger seats offer four-way lumbar (up, down, inboard and outboard) for added comfort on long trips. Rear seat passengers also enjoy a luxury that begins as they enter the cabin via the largest rear-door openings in its class, and offers segment-exclusive standard heated rear seats. Recessed into the front and rear door openings, cleverly-designed hidden rocker panels allow for a lower step-over height, making it easier to enter or exit the vehicle. This design shields the rockers from the elements, reducing the chances of soiling shoes or pants when entering or exiting the car. Also, above each passenger door is a grab handle to further enhance ease of entry and exit. The all-new MKS offers the largest selection of comfort and convenience technology features of any mid-level luxury car in its class, including: Adaptive Cruise Control; Intelligent Access with push button start; Securi-Code Keyless Entry which is a next-generation keypad that should be familiar with Lincoln owners as the new system is now flush-mounted to the car's driver-side B-pillar, using technology similar to that found on the MP3 music players to create heat-sensitive, backlit numerals that become visible once they're touched; Adaptive Headlamps with standard HID lamps; Auto High Beams that automatically switch to high beam intensity when no other vehicles are in range and automatically revert to low beam intensity when they detect other vehicle lights: Rain-Sensing Wipers uses an advanced optical sensing system to detect how hard rain or snow is falling and determine when to activate windshield wipers and how fast to run the wiper motor. The Forward Sensing System uses four hidden sensors mounted in the front fascia and audible beeps to help drivers determine how close they are to objects in front of the car when parking; the Rearview Camera System works in conjunction with the vehicle's reverse sensing system and uses the navigation screen as a display; Easy Fuel Capless Fuel-Filler System is an industry-exclusive feature that provides owners hassle-free, odor-free and more-consistent seal than a manual fuel cap. When fueling is completed and the nozzle is removed, the system automatically seas shut.

The system also has an invisible benefit, too-fewer evaporative emissions; SYNC is standard on an array of 2009 Lincoln vehicles. This award-winning, industry-exclusive, voice-activated hands-free communications and entertainment system developed by Ford and Microscoft, fully integrates most Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones and digital media players into the car; Voice-Activated Navigation System with SIRIUS Travel Link offers a host of convenient features including more than 150-hours of music storage. Users can browse the music juke box via touch-screen or by using voice recognition. The system also integrates the climate control and SIRIUS satellite radio into easy-to-use, smudge-resistant, 8-in. touch-screen display. Users can even upload personal pictures from CD to be displayed on the system's home screen. SIRIUS Travel Link provides users access to up-to-the-minute information including real-time gas prices at the closest stations as well as movie listings and sports scores through the vehicle's navigation system; THX II Certified 5.1 Surround Sound Audio System delivers true 5.1 surround sound from DVD movies and DVD-Audio music. A 12-channel, 600-watt 'smart amp' delivers digital sound to the system's 16-specially-placed speakers, including 10in. and 8in. subwoofers. The precision-tuned system sues state-of-the-art digital technology to turn the cabin into a theater or concert hall. The new MKS sedan offers exceptional quietness and comfort. The body structure of the MKS was optimized for strength and stiffness using high-strength steel, 6-millemeter-thick laminated windshield and side glass, sound-absorbing carpeting and acoustic headliner, and tire and bushing development focused on further tuning out low-frequency road noise and vibration. The high-end sound package centers on a new technology that a first for Lincoln and the MKS-an injection-molded rubber dash panel that runs from the floor, just under the carpet, up to the top of the dash and back over the cowl to block unwanted wind or powertrain noise. The same technology is used inside rear wheel wells.

Standard equipment not mentioned above includes rear window defroster, power locks, remote keyless entry with trunk release, two-person memory for the seats, steering wheel, outside mirrors, power steering, tire pressure monitoring system, power, one-touch/up and down windows all around, fog lamps, manual fold, power adjustable/heated/self-dimming, side mirrors, 18in. bright, machined aluminum wheels, premium AM/FM in-dash 6-CD/MP3/Clock and 6-speakers, dual-zone automatic climate control, front center armrest with two separate leather tops that each move fore and aft 6in. with storage bin/dual cup-holders and storage with sliding security covers, overhead console with map lights and sunglass storage, rear reading lamps, thick-cut pile carpeting, front/rear floor mats, 3-12-volt power plugs, illuminated door and steering wheel switches, courtesy lamps, auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass, rear fixed pass-through with pull-down armrest and two cupholders, leather-wrapped shifter, universal garage door opener, and visors with illuminated mirrors. Key options include all-wheel-drive, 19-inch premium painted aluminum wheels, 20-inch polished aluminum wheels, SIRIUS satellite radio, THX II Certified sound system, voice activated DVD navigation system, rear-view camera, adaptive cruise control, dual panel power moonroof, all-weather floor mats, power rear sunshade, and Power-Code remote start. This is quite a list of standard and optional features befitting the best mid-luxury sedan in the segment. Under the skin, the new MKS offers exceptional quietness and comfort and a confident driving experience, providing intuitive feedback to drivers along with a secure feeling behind the wheel. The car puts you in command. Its chassis provides isolation from road noise and harshness but doesn't isolate you from the road. Steering is precise and responsive, requiring little input from the cockpit. The beefy, 4-spoke steering wheel feels perfect in your hands with the perfect reach and angle that the power tilt/telescope features. The MKS comes with a new, fully independent, multi-link rear suspension that has been designed and tuned to deliver a perfect balance of performance, handling and comfort. A unique design places vertically mounted, coil-over shocks at the outboard end of the suspension arms, near the wheels. This configuration increases the motion ratio of the suspension allowing for more precise tuning while also facilitating the larger wheels and tires that are desired by today's luxury customers. This setup significantly increases the efficiency of the shocks, allowing Lincoln to tune the suspension more finely across a wider range of attributes and deliver the optimum in both handling and ride comfort. The MacPherson strut and rear-facing L-shaped lower control arm front suspension was designed to maximize suspension travel and tuned to work in harmony with the rear suspension. It attaches to the body with a subframe to minimize noise, vibration and harshness. When I lifted the hood to photograph the engine it was good to see that Lincoln engineers mounted a strut tower brace to enhance front suspension performance. Together, the new front and rear suspension design can accommodate available, class-exclusive 20in. wheels and tires without compromising ride comfort.

When behind the wheel in the city and on the open road, I found that this blend of performance and comfort performed well at damping when traveling over poorly paved city streets, and remained flat when cornering. On the open road at speed, the feel was rock solid with no drift or direction disturbance when traversing over different road surfaces. The MKS is powered by a new 3.7 liter DOHC, VVT, all-aluminum V6 engine. It pumps out a healthy 273hp and 270lb.ft. of torque, and doesn't require premium fuel. The engine is tuned to maximize the increased torque band and improve performance where you need it most, in standing acceleration and when passing. While the V6 performed well at slow or high speeds, it took to long to get there. The MKS weighs 5,250lbs. for the front-wheel-drive system and 5,400lbs. for the AWD model. What it needs now is more power-a minimum of 300hp for the FWD, and 400hp for the AWD model. These figures are industry standards found in the competition. Right now Ford is developing their Hurricane twin-turbo-charged V6 engine and it should be ready for next year's edition. I hope so because it should boost sales of the MKS. This car looks great like it was taken from a solid piece of metal. It is very contemporary in styling, and is geared to sell to younger buyers from M-B, BMW and Audi owners. All of the styling and interior amenities mean nothing if not backed up with more power for crisper and quicker acceleration and passing power. The V6 engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with Select-Shift that delivers smoother shifts, better fuel economy and acceleration as well as enhanced performance feel. Select-Shift, making its Lincoln debut in the MKS, allows you to select gears manually when desired. The all-wheel-drive system provides for a more confident driving experience in all weather conditions. The unit uses a sophisticated system of clutches to quickly distribute torque between front and rear wheels-up to 100 percent in either direction-as needed, to avoid wheel slip. All models come with standard traction control and electronic stability control to enhance your control during severe maneuvers. Quickly slowing the MKS down from speed are large, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, and Brake Force Distribution for correct braking bias during emergency braking. Up front are 12.25in. vented discs clamped with dual-piston aluminum calipers, and 12.75in. solid discs clamped with single-piston aluminum calipers. Driver and passenger safety is of the utmost importance at Lincoln and they come through with industry standard and new technologies. Using computer-aided engineering, engineers and designers have developed the MKS for optimal strength, stiffness and superb crashworthiness. Its energy-absorbing front structure-with octagonal front frame rails, tunnel rails and 'shotgun' front structural members-is designed to absorb and redirect crash forces away from the passenger compartment. The MKS also features the class-exclusive Side Protection and Cabin Enhancement Architecture designed to optimize side impact protection. The body structure features ultra high-strength boron steel in the B-pillar for added protection in a side impact and improve roof strength. The side impact door beams also have been configured to provide optimal protection. Standard safety features include dual-stage driver and front-passenger airbags, seat-mounted side airbags, safety belt pretensioners and load-limiting retractors and driver seat positioning sensor. Other key safety features include adaptive collapsible steering column, safety canopy for front/rear outboard passengers, Advance Trac stability control system that sensors yaw, the vehicle's speed, throttle position and steering wheel angle and selectively applies individual brakes to help correct skids. Like I said before, the all-new 2009 Lincoln MKS is the best luxury sedan that Lincoln has produced in a very long time. It has great, eye-appealing looks, a very comfortable, luxury equipped cabin, but needs more power to run successfully with the competition. I hope that next year the MKS will come with the optional 400 horsepower Hurricane V6 engine. Prices for the base front-wheel-drive MKS starts at $38,465.00 and $40,355.00 for the base AWD model.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT This Lincoln MKS successfully hits multiple marks: Great eye appeal, sportiness, comfort, and better economy than what you'd expect from a luxury car. © Words and pictures by Harvey Schwartz For more information about Lincoln products, go to www.lincoln.com More photos from Harvey Schwartz can be found at www.autofotos.com

SPECIFICATONS Name of vehicle: 2009 Lincoln MKS Price: $38,465.00 to $40,355.00 EPA mileage specs: FWD - 17mpg/city, 24mpg/highway AWD - 16mpg/city, 23mpg/highway Engine: 3.7 liter DOHC, all-aluminum VVT V6 Horsepower: 273 at 6,250 rpm Torque: 270lb.ft. at 4,250 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine/Front-Wheel-Drive All-Wheel-Drive (optional) Transmission: 6-speed automatic with sequential shifting Front suspension: Independent, MacPherson strut and rear-facing L-shaped lower control arms with isolated subframe, 26mm stabilizer bar, strut tower brace Rear suspension: Independent, multi-links, coil-over shocks, stamped steel lower control arms, cast upper control arms, stabilizer bar Wheels/tires: 18X8 standard/19X8 and 20X8 optional/235/55R18 standard/255/45R19 and 24545R20 optional Brakes: Front: 12.25in.vented discs, dual-piston calipers Rear: 12.75in. vented discs, single-piston calipers ABS, BA, Traction Control, Electronic Stability Control Total length: 204.1 inches Overall width: 75.9 inches Overall height: 61.6 inches Curb weight: FWD - 5,250 pounds AWD - 5,400 pounds

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