2018 Lincoln MKX

By October 1, 2018

For the 2018 model year, the Lincoln MKX changes little aside from newly available paint colors and several additional apps for its Sync 3 infotainment system.

Updating for the 2019 model year includes a fresh design direction, along with a name change: from MKX to Nautilus.

Lincoln offers the 2018 MKX in four trim levels: Premiere, Select, Reserve and, topping the lineup, a Black Label edition. All versions come standard with a 303-horsepower 3.7-liter V6 engine and front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is an option. So is a twin-turbo 2.7-liter V6 that develops 335 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque. Though robust, the twin-turbo engine falls short on frugality. A 6-speed automatic transmission mates with either engine.

Conservatively shaped but handsome sheetmetal strives to conceal the Lincoln crossover’s close relationship to Ford’s Edge. Taken as a whole, the MKX can be seen as a contender rather than the visual champion in its category.

In addition to more features and luxuries, the Black Label edition includes some uncommon perks, such as free car washes and an annual detailing of the vehicle.

Only the Lincoln model comes with an adaptive suspension, including three driving modes. Lincoln limits such advanced safety technology as automatic emergency braking to Reserve and Black Label trim levels. Bundled with other collision-avoidance features, it’s an expensive option.

Crash-test ratings have been good, from both the federal government and an insurer-backed agency. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the MKX five stars overall and for frontal and side-impact crashes. Typical for taller vehicles, the calculated four-star rollover rating is based on the vehicle’s center of gravity

The MKX earned Good scores on crash tests performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. A Superior rating for frontal crash avoidance is valid only when equipped with optional automatic emergency braking. It’s included in the $2,250 Driver Assistance package, available only for upper trim levels. The IIHS deemed standard MKX headlights Poor, while adaptive LED headlights in the Driver Assistance package were considered Marginal.

Lincoln’s Driver Assistance Package also includes active lane control, adaptive cruise control, and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection.

Model Lineup

Premiere ($39,035) has the 3.7-liter V6 and front-wheel drive, with 18-inch alloy wheels, 10-speaker audio, heated front seats, Sync 3 infotainment, reverse sensing, a rearview camera, and HID headlights. Upholstery is “soft touch” synthetic leather. Substituting the 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6 adds $2,000 to the price. (Prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)

Premiere AWD ($41,530) substitutes all-wheel drive.

Select ($42,550) adds leather-trimmed seats, wood interior trim, a hands-free power liftgate, and machined 18-inch wheels. Navigation, a panoramic sunroof, and blind-spot monitoring are optional.

Select AWD ($45,045) replaces standard front-drive with all-wheel drive.

Reserve ($46,560) comes with navigation, heated/cooled front seats, a panoramic sunroof, and blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert.

Reserve trim permits addition of the Driver Assistance package. The Technology Package includes a parking function that needs no driver intervention.

Reserve AWD ($49,055) gets all-wheel drive.

Black Label ($54,250) includes upgraded leather, 20-inch black/bright wheels, Revel Ultima 19-speaker audio, and a choice of interior design themes. Lincoln’s most advanced safety features are optional even at this level.

Black Label AWD ($56,725) has all-wheel drive.

Exterior

Externally, the MKX boasts several luxury-vehicle elements – but lacks a few other indicators of poshness. Premium upscale, for sure. Yet, considering its price, Lincoln’s MKX doesn’t quite reach far enough into full-luxury motoring.

While sharing engines and its foundation with the Ford Edge, the MKX differs considerably in appearance. Details stimulate delight, highlighted by the Lincoln’s voluptuously curvaceous shape. Modest application of chrome trim sets the right tone.

Interior

Comfortable and expressive, the MKX cabin feels admirably upscale. With its large dashboard elements, the cockpit breaks defiantly away from its Ford Edge cousin.

Instead of a traditional gearshift lever, Lincoln’s crossover employs pushbuttons along the center stack to change gears – an exercise in frustration.

Seating space is ample for four occupants, but a fifth might feel cramped. All MKX versions feature heated power front seats that adjust 10 ways.

Second-row seats also are spacious, though adjustments are minimal and the bench is on the flat side. Seats in all but the base Premiere trim level are trimmed with genuine leather.

A choice of interior design themes helps give the Black Label edition an especially expressive appearance. The Thoroughbred package, for instance, blends black and chestnut-hued leather with maple wood.

Lincoln’s intuitive Sync 3 infotainment system responds promptly and includes Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility. The 8.0-inch display screen is bright and easy to read.

Cargo capacity comes to 37.2 cubic feet with second-row seatbacks upright, expanding to 68.8 cubic feet when the second row is folded flat.

Driving Impressions

Refinement takes precedence over driving excitement. Cool and composed on the highway, this premium midsize crossover conveys a suitably upscale aura.

With its standard adaptive suspension and relatively long wheelbase, the MKX blends satisfying ride comfort with composed handling prowess. European crossovers might promise sharper responses, but few drivers are likely to feel shortchanged.

Base-engine power is sufficient for strong acceleration. Though the optional 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6 isn’t much more powerful, its more intensive yet smooth flurry of torque might be worth the additional cost. In additional to feeling more upmarket, the twin-turbo responds more effectively for highway passing. Lincoln’s 6-speed automatic transmission works nicely, yielding both smooth upshifts and prompt downshifts.

Selecting Comfort mode may remind some drivers of the light steering feel of old Lincoln models. Sport mode adds some heft, though precision doesn’t change as much. All-wheel-drive models have a three-way suspension adjustment that feels best in Sport mode, never turning stiff but conquering harsh pavement. Brakes deliver drama-free halts, even when five passengers are aboard.

Less efficient than expected, the MKX falters in fuel economy. With front-wheel drive, the base 3.7-liter V6 is EPA-rated at 17/25 mpg City/Highway, or 20 mpg Combined. All-wheel drive drops the estimate to 16/23 mpg City/Highway, or 19 mpg Combined.

The more powerful twin-turbo V6 is slightly more fuel-efficient, EPA-rated at 18/25 mpg City/Highway, or 20 mpg Combined. All-wheel-drive lowers that estimate to 17/24/19 mpg. Both engines use regular-grade gasoline.

Final Word

In addition to a classy cabin, the MKX promises a somewhat athletic road feel. Except for synthetic leather and matte plastic trim in the base model, each version feels appropriately posh, topped by the more costly Black Label edition. Most advanced safety technology is optional, and extra-cost features can send the total price upward in a hurry.

Driving impressions by Andrew Ganz, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.