- The Washington Times - Friday, September 12, 2008

Forget the old, big Lincoln Town Car. Remember three letters instead: MKS.

New for 2009, the MKS is Lincoln’s full-size sedan flagship, and it’s way different from the tired, long-lived Town Car.

The four-door, five-passenger MKS has a roomy back seat and the largest rear-door openings of its class, but it’s not a big boat of a car. Its suspension and chassis provide such a stable feel, a driver might not realize he or she is driving a 17-foot-long car.

The MKS also doesn’t come with a fuel-gulping V-8. A naturally aspirated V-6 provides adequate power.

And the MKS offers all the modern amenities and technology conveniences - from heated and cooled seats to Ford’s Sync voice recognition system - that a buyer would want.

Best of all, the MKS is priced to undercut luxury sedan competitors. The starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price, including destination charge, is $38,465 for a front-wheel-drive MKS. The all-wheel-drive MKS starts at $40,355.

Lincoln has languished much of this decade as parent company Ford Motor Co. sorted out the brand’s future and place in the luxury car world.

The MKS, with its prominent, toothy, silver-colored grillwork, is the first car to show off Lincoln’s new design style. The modern body design is pleasant, if not original.

I appreciate that designers didn’t add side gills on the fenders aft of the front wheels. They’re featured on so many other vehicles; the design is getting gimmicky.

Company officials say the MKS grille is inspired by the 1941 Lincoln Continental.

The MKS is one of the few luxury sedans with front-wheel drive, going against today’s luxury trend of rear-drive.

The test car, though, had the practical all-wheel drivetrain, which worked well to keep traction on wet streets. Steering effort was good and not overly light.

The tested MKS rode smoothly over road bumps, and while the interior wasn’t quite as tomblike as that of a Lexus, it was quiet. I only heard the engine when I was accelerating.

The unfettered feeling inside the MKS is bolstered by all the amenities.

The THX II audio system put out awesome tunes in surround sound, and for extra comfort, I turned on the cooling fan for the driver’s seat cushion. Ah, now that’s the way to travel on a hot summer day.

There’s also a center console between the front seats that has a split elbow resting area that can move fore and aft in separate pieces - one for the driver and one for the front passenger.

Rear-seat passengers do not get seat coolers. They can, however, enjoy seat heaters, as well as 38.6 inches of legroom. The MKS has 18.7-cubic feet of trunk space.

The MKS instrument gauges are a bit ho-hum in their looks, but all controls are easy to reach.

The leather seat trim is worth noting because it comes from Bridge of Weir, the same Scottish company that supplied cattle hides for the iconic Continental Mark II. Chosen for its high quality and its organic, chromium-free tanning, this is the softest leather ever used in a Lincoln.

Another distinctive touch: Ford’s SecuriPad Keyless Entry Keypad that allows access to the vehicle by unlocking the driver door using a five-digit code.

This isn’t the clunky-looking keypad once found on Ford cars.

This next-generation system is flush-mounted to the car’s driver-side B-pillar and uses technology similar to that found on portable MP3 music players. So its heat-sensitive, backlit numerals become visible only when touched.

The MKS’ 3.7-liter, double overhead cam V-6 is a version of the 3.5-liter Duratec V-6 used in the Ford Taurus.

Horsepower in the MKS is 273, which puts it at the lower end of power in the segment. The V-6 in the Infiniti M35 produces 275 horses and the uplevel M45 V-8 supplies 325 horses.

Officials at Lincoln have been looking to add a turbocharged version of the V-6 sometime next year. Reportedly, it could boost horsepower to 340 and torque to 350 pounds-feet.

Meanwhile, MKS buyers get 270 pounds-feet of torque at 4,250 rpm on regular gasoline and a tad more - 276 pounds-feet - on premium gas.

In the test car, this was adequate power to move the more than 4,200-pound sedan easily. But there wasn’t any real rush or surge of power while driving. The sensation was more of a refined, smoothly powered machine.

Fuel economy isn’t great in this large car. City mileage is rated at 16 miles per gallon, while highway travel is rated at 23 mpg. The test car, in combined city/highway driving, barely got over 18 mpg.

Note that the MKS comes with Ford’s new capless fuel filling system.

Behind the fuel filler door on the fender is a self-sealing, flap-like cover over the fuel filler neck, so no fuel cap is needed. This eliminates the chance of leaving the fuel cap at the gas station and activating the engine warning light on the dashboard.

All safety equipment, including curtain air bags, anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control, is standard on the MKS.

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