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2013 Lincoln MKS (Ford/Wieck)
2013 Lincoln MKS (Ford/Wieck)

Lincoln MKT and MKS

Refreshed, and hoping for a renaissance Add to ...

Lincoln is embarking on another “renaissance” attempt, starting with its refreshed 2013 MKS full-size sedan, as well as the Oakville-built MKT three-row SUV.

Lincoln is hoping that a mix of new technology, upgraded or all-new vehicles and higher-end dealer environments will buff up the brand’s weathered luxury image after years of corporate neglect as one small part of a multi-brand Premier Automotive Group, and then during the turbulent financial times that put two of Ford’s main competitors through bankruptcy protection.

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That will be a significant challenge, as the appeal of Ford’s luxury has been dulled by a generation of barely-changed Lincoln Town Cars, and vehicles that offered little more in the design and features department than high-end Fords.

All Lincoln dealers are at some phase of the upgrade project, Jamie Rae, Lincoln product marketing manager, told a half-day press presentation ostensibly about the refreshed for ’13 MKT and MKS, though he made it clear that the upgraded vehicles are rolling amuse-bouches for the upcoming all-new Lincoln MKZ coming by the end of the year, and four other all-new Lincolns.

Both the MKS sedan and MKT have tried to refine the imposing waterfall grille, replacing it with smaller and less toothy vertical grille-work. Both 2013 vehicles also receive significant hardware upgrades in Canada, with Lincoln making previously optional all-wheel-drive standard in the formerly front-drive MKS. The MKT receives what used to be the premium engine as standard now: a 3.5-litre, twin-turbocharged, EcoBoost engine, with significantly more power than last year’s base engine.

These features may align better with how most buyers want them, but it also means both Lincolns are slightly thirstier this year. Official Canadian fuel consumption figures are 11.6 city/7.5 highway for the MKS and 12.2 city/7.8 highway for the MKT, though in the more realistic U.S. EPA figures, the MKS and MKT average closer to 11.8 and 13.1, respectively, using the same EcoBoost engine. The MKS still offers a base engine, which has been upgraded to a 3.7-litre V-6 making a more powerful 305 hp, up 21 ponies.

There have been slight price increases for both models for 2013, but less than $1,000 in both cases. For the MKS with the small-e ecoBoost engine (since it brings more power, but is still thirstier than the base engine), the official MSRP has actually gone down by just more than $1,000.

Lincoln is pricing its cars aggressively, which is rare for extensively updated products. The MKS sedan’s $47,770 base price is notably lower as listed currently on Lincoln Canada’s site with current incentives, with an MSRP of $44,184 before taxes, a $1,600 freight charge and various dealer fees. The MKS with the upgraded EcoBoost engine is $52,200, or $48,256 with summer incentives that last to the end of August, before taxes and fees.

The one-trim MKT starts at $50,550 according to Lincoln, or $46,813 with Lincoln’s current rebates baked in, according to its site. Coincidentally, top trim versions of the Ford Taurus and Ford Flex, mechanical cousins to the MKS and MKT respectively, start at $34,879 and $39,575, according to Ford’s consumer site.

The MKS and MKT make up about 10 per cent of Lincoln Canada’s sales each, while the Ford Edge-based MKX makes up closer to 60 per cent of Lincoln’s sales in this country, Rae estimated during a drive in the MKT near a newly renovated Lincoln dealer close to the Oakville, Ont., factory where it was built. Combine the MKX and MKT with Canadian sales leaders Lexus RX and Acura’s MDX (that are also built in Canada) and you have lots of luxury SUV choices for flag-waving folks who would rather buy local.

Unfortunately, newer doesn’t always mean improved, as the original MyLincoln Touch instrument panel launched for 2011 had a number of issues. Yes, its touch screen surface was more modern and technologically elegant in this age of smartphone and tablet love, but it was much less sensitive in the winter, didn’t work with gloves, and prompted a quick revision last year. Consumer Reports gave it a failing grade, calling the system buggy even for tech-friendly folks.

The revised one here is much better, as I found on the similarly revised Flex earlier this year, especially with gloves. The hazard button is also a real button now, thankfully, but otherwise they’re sticking with touchscreen, voice and steering wheel settings – so no hard-button climate control knobs or station presets. This is not ideal for avoiding distractions, as the touchscreen means you need to shift one’s eyes off the road and hands off the wheel. The voice settings are better but still need practice and study to learn, and the steering wheel settings require eyes off the road, too.

For example, a simple task like cycling through radio stations involves tapping a steering wheel thumb button through a few menus to find the saved stations, and even though they are all listed nicely in a vertical row ready for scrolling, pushing the up and down buttons only highlights chosen stations, but doesn’t select them. For that, the driver also has to push the OK button in the middle of that thumbwheel.

Rae insists in his car that the system cycles up and down station presets with one touch, and the preset screen doesn’t revert back to other menus, as mine did. There may be vehicle settings that avoid this annoying and potentially distracting setup, but I couldn’t find it in our brief morning drive, or in a week of driving other MyFord or My LincolnTouch-equipped vehicles.

The MKS now has the same MyLincoln Touch system as standard equipment, as well as an electronically controlled suspension and upgraded brakes that were on full display in a parking lot autocross course – yes, for a Lincoln. Compared to a ’12 MKS also on hand, there was much better braking and more manageable if still plenty of body roll in corners, with the new standard electronically adaptive suspension. Compared to others in this class, it’s on the cushy side of the full-size luxury car handling spectrum.

It may be early to call it a renaissance, but Lincoln is moving in a positive direction. Unless you happened to have paid thousands last year for AWD in your MKS, or EcoBoost in your MKT.

globedrive@globeandmail.com

Tech Specs: 2013 Lincoln MKS

Type: Full-size luxury sedan

Base price: $47,700; as tested: $53,800

Engine: 3.7-litre V-6

Horsepower/torque: 365 hp/350 lb-ft

Transmission: Six-speed automatic with paddle shifters

Drive: All-wheel

Fuel economy: (litres/100 km): 11.6 city/7.5 highway; premium gas

Alternatives: Acura RL, Cadillac XTS, Chrysler 300C, Ford Taurus, Lexus ES, Volvo S80

Lincoln MKT

Type: Full-size six- or seven-seat SUV

Base price: $50,550; as tested: $52,150

Engine: 3.7-litre, twin-turbo, EcoBoost V-6

Horsepower/torque: 365 hp/350 lb-ft

Transmission: Six-speed automatic with paddle shifters

Drive: All-wheel

Fuel economy: (litres/100 km): 12.2 city/7.8 highway; premium gas

Alternatives: Acura MDX, Audi Q7, Ford Flex, Lexus RX, Mercedes-Benz R-Class

globedrive@globeandmail.com

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