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2013 Lincoln MKS. (Ford)
2013 Lincoln MKS. (Ford)

2013 Lincoln MKS AWD EcoBoost

Lincoln MKS is transformed Add to ...

The last time I reviewed Lincoln’s MKS luxury sedan, I said it lacked distinction and character, but so far this year 690 Canadian car buyers have purchased one – perhaps spurred by the worthwhile revisions that arrived with the 2013 model in February that add a bit of both.

That number, tallying MKS sales through September, may not sound impressive, but it is 60 more than the MKS managed during all of 2011 when sales slid almost 36 per cent. This may mean that the changes to the MKS have struck a market chord and that Ford’s efforts to rekindle enthusiasm for its luxury brand are making headway.

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Lincoln is in the midst of a major product range re-do that includes the all-new entry-model MKZ and a marketing makeover designed to woo buyers with concierge-class services. Of course, all this may just be reading too much into an incremental gain.

Perhaps providing a little perspective though is that, according to trade publication Canadian AutoWorld figures, the MKS ranked fifth in the luxury high segment in 2011 – which accounted for 12,451 cars – behind the 3,898 Mercedes-Benz E-Class and 2,963 BMW 5-Series sold, and in the ballpark with the 743 Mercedes-Benz S-Class and the 669 Audi A6s sold. But ahead of 16 other nameplates, which indicates the Lincoln brand is a contender in many Canadian luxury buyers’ minds.

Let’s not forget, too, that with a starting price of $52,200 and a few options thrown in, that number likely represents a minimum value of at least $40-million. Not a bad number to add to any car company’s annual sales total.

The MKS arrived as Lincoln’s new flagship model for 2009 and is available for 2013 starting at $47,700 for the 304-hp, 3.7-litre V-6-powered version and $52,200 for the model equipped with 365-hp, 3.5-litre, twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V-6. Both have all-wheel-drive.

The MKS is based deep-down on the Ford Taurus, which isn’t a bad thing, as that platform and its powertrains still incorporate much of the latest high-level thinking on everything from safety and emissions to handling and performance, including fuel economy.

In MKS form, all this is clad in sheetmetal that, as of this past spring, was much improved with the addition of Lincoln’s latest “look,” alterations that affect everything visible ahead of the A-pillars. Highlighting its lower and wider appearance are an integrated grille and headlight assemblage that looks like the spread wings of an eagle. It’s dramatic without looking contrived and, hey, eagle wings surely have a classier connotation than twin kidneys, a grille form that has fronted BMWs for decades.

The changes up front are counterpointed by alterations to the rear fascia and new LED taillights and there are new wheel designs. And, this being a Lincoln, there’s still enough chrome to make things sparkle. Overall it’s, yes, more distinctive than the last one I reviewed.

Interior changes aren’t as dramatic as those up front, but the redesigned dash is attractive with flowing lines that sweep up and outward from the centre stack and a central speedometer flanked by a pair of information screens. Upgrades include the MyLincolnTouch infotainment system, expanded Sync capability, heated steering wheel, newly available multi-contour seats that can be had in Bridge of Weir leather, and new trims in Prussian Burl and Brown Swirl walnut.

The test car’s almost $10,000 in options included the new seats and heated wheel, power rear sunshade, memory adjustable foot pedals, rear-view camera, updated to great audio system, a dual panel sunroof, voice-activated navigation, heated rear seats and Active Park Assist, which slots you into parking spots quickly and effortlessly.

The interior, which is roomy front and back (with a large trunk in the tail), has also been made quieter and the test car’s interior felt more elegant – the fingerprint smears on the touch-screen aside. Spending time in an MKS is, in most ways, a pleasant experience.

This technology-laden model also came with Blind Spot Monitoring, Adaptive Cruise Control with Collision Warning and Lane Keeping systems. The latter warns when you drift from your lane with vibes through the steering wheel, nudges you back before you cross the line and also detects when you’re drowsy.

While adding all this style and electronic trickery, Lincoln didn’t forget that, for the new breed of buyer it is hoping to attract, actually driving the car may also be important.

To this end, the 2013 MXS has been equipped with a Continuously Controlled Driving system that replaces the previously employed fixed rate shocks with a system that reads 23,000 inputs per second to actively calculate the optimal damping rate for whatever the car is doing. An adjunct is Lincoln Drive Control that monitors suspension, steering, engine and transmission function at all times, but which can be switched to comfort and sport modes to fine-tune response to suit driver requirements.

Working with these systems is a new quicker-ratio electric power steering system that is claimed to up the response rate by 25 per cent, and upgraded brakes.

The 3.5-litre, twin-turbo, EcoBoost V-6 gained 10 hp for 2013, now totalling 365 hp and produces 350 lb-ft of torque, which a six-speed automatic delivers to the all-wheel-drive system. Lincoln-esque boulevardier style motoring is accomplished with relaxed ease, but step into the throttle hard and the MKS turns into the quickest Lincoln yet.

And this engine produces Eco along with its Boost, with improved fuel economy ratings of 12.2 litres/100 km city and 7.8 highway compared with the previous 12.4 city/8.1 highway; I recorded an average of 10.3 litres/100 km and 8.7 at highway cruising speed, which is good for this stretch of road.

This potent engine and the new suspension, steering and braking systems improve the car’s driving dynamics and overall feeling of competence to the point they actually provide some of the “character” that was lacking in the previous iteration.

This MKS may not pose a serious threat to a 5-Series Bimmer, but it’s a significant improvement in the driving experience. In terms of luxury amenities and style, some might find it better suits their tastes and requirements.

globedrive@globeandmail.com

Tech specs

2013 Lincoln MKS AWD EcoBoost

Type: Luxury sedan

Base Price: $52,200; as tested, $63,630

Engine: 3.5-litre, DOHC, V-6

Horsepower/torque: 365 hp/350 lb-ft.

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Drive: All-wheel

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

Alternatives: Cadillac XTS, Jaguar XF, BMW 5-Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Hyundai Equus, Lexus GS

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