- The Washington Times - Friday, November 14, 2008

For the past couple of years, I have wondered where Lincoln was going with some of their products.

Their flagship used to be the Navigator, an overstyled SUV that drank gas like a tanker truck was in your driveway for immediate refueling. The Aviator was a decent mid-sized SUV offering, but never caught on. The MKX Crossover has showed promise, but again, it has not burned up the sales charts. Lincoln has put forth a solid effort of late, but still needs a shot in the arm to accelerate sluggish sales. After a week of testing the 2009 MKS, that needed “shot” has been delivered.

With a base price of $37,665 for front-wheel drive versions and $39,555 for all-wheel drive, the MKS is a solid buy in the near luxury class. Why? Because it does everything well, and it looks great doing it.

Lincoln really stepped outside of the box when they penned the MKS’ design. Though it shares running gear with a host of Ford family products, including the Ford Taurus and Flex and Volvo S80 and XC90, its distinctive styling separates it from the rest of the herd. Significant styling cues include the first use of Lincoln’s new “waterfall” grille design, and a rear end styled like a high-end Italian sedan. The rear deck is very high though, and combined with very thick “A,” “B,” and “C,” pillars, front side, side, and rear and vision is a bit of a challenge when changing lanes and parking.

Road performance is stellar. No longer can you buy a V8 engine in Lincoln’s top sedan offering, but you’ll hardly miss it, as the 3.7-liter, 275-horsepower V6 powers the MKS with authority. The engine is smooth, although a bit noisier than a V8 under full throttle. The MKS returns decent 17 city/24 highway mpg for front-wheel drive and 16/23 mpg for all-wheel drive (AWD) models. The test vehicle was fitted with AWD, and handling was very impressive. MKS underpinnings include a re-tuned front suspension with coil-over shocks and a reinforced chassis. I was able to drive the MKS as aggressively as I wanted to with little chassis or tire fuss. It’s surprising to say that a 4.300 pound sedan is “tossable,” but that’s exactly what it is. This is a fun car to drive at any speed.

Safety also aids the driving experience, with “Advance Trac” electronic stability control with traction control standard. Dual front, dual side, and side curtain airbags are also standard.

Inside, you’ll find loads of luxury. My favorite interior feature is the “Sync” voice-activated telematics system. Want to change to your favorite Sirius Satellite Radio channel? Tell Sync and the mission is instantly accomplished and you even can select a verbal confirmation. Need directions? Tell Sync the state, city and address and you’re there. Sync is part of the standard AM/FM/MP3 six-disc CD audio system with eight speakers

The test Lincoln enhanced Sync with the optional THX-II Certified Audio System with 5.1 surround sound. The audio upgrade was part of the $5,715 “Ultimate” Package, which includes the Technology and Navigation Packages; 19-inch premium wheels; a dual-panel moonroof; adaptive HID headlamps; and rear view camera, among others features. Price as tested was $46,265 including destination charges.

Overall, the 2009 is a well built, well appointed, fun to drive sedan. It should go a long way in reversing declining sales numbers for Lincoln.

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