DETROIT -- The redesigned Lincoln MKX being unveiled today takes much of the same formula that led to a successful first year for the MKC crossover and applies it to a larger package, at a time when utility vehicles are booming.
Lincoln says the MKX will arrive in U.S. dealerships this fall, followed by China and other markets. Its exterior, which its chief designer described as “less wedgy” than the first-generation MKX, closely resembles that of the MKC.
Inside, the MKX contains two new Black Label customized themes and the first in-vehicle audio system from Harman International’s high-end Revel brand, as part of a new 10-year partnership with Lincoln.
It’s the first Lincoln to offer a number of technologies, including adaptive steering, precollision assist and a 360-degree camera. A front camera deploys when needed from behind a retractable Lincoln star badge in the center of the split-wing grille.
“We are focusing on delivering engaging and refined luxury vehicles with innovative and thoughtful technologies,” Kumar Galhotra, president of Lincoln, said in a statement. “The all-new Lincoln MKX reflects that focus.”
Lincoln has not announced pricing. A 300-hp, 3.7-liter V-6 is the standard engine, with the option of a 330-hp, 2.7-liter twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V-6. Both engines are paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, Lincoln said, with optional Intelligent All-Wheel Drive.
Lincoln says an integral link rear suspension and improvements to the body structure and chassis will give the MKX better handling and a quieter interior than its predecessor. Optional Lincoln Drive Control, a package of ride-enhancing features, improves performance in various driving conditions.
The adaptive steering, a technology Ford announced last year, reduces the distance a driver has to turn the steering wheel at low speeds to ease maneuvering in parking lots and similar situations. The MKX, like the MKC, offers parallel and perpendicular parking assist, as well as park out assist, which automatically gets the vehicle out of tight parking spots.
Among the available options: 22-way adjustable front seats that use 11 air bladders to reduce muscle fatigue in the upper legs and lower back. The seats also have a power head restraint and power thigh extender, as well as a thigh bolster that automatically deflates to make exiting the vehicle easier and inflates after the driver or passenger gets in.
The MKX improves upon the MKC’s package of lighting and comfort features called Lincoln Experiences.
As a driver carrying the key fob approaches, the lower LED daytime running lights illuminate gradually, a “welcome mat” is projected onto the ground from the folded side mirrors and lighting in the door handles, coordinated with the exterior color of the vehicle, turns on. Interior lighting goes on and off sequentially rather than all at once.
“It just embraces you and welcomes you to the vehicle,” said Elaine Bannon, chief program engineer for the MKX. “We’ve spared no expense to deliver details luxury customers expect.”
When upgrading to the Revel sound system, buyers can choose from the 13-speaker system on the Select and Reserve trims or the 19-speaker Revel Ultima version, which is standard on Black Label editions and an option on the Reserve trim.
Four Black Label themes will be available, including two new ones that Lincoln says were inspired by 1920s Paris and Thoroughbred horse racing. Black Label is Lincoln’s new program offering top-of-the-line trim levels and enhanced customer service at select dealerships for an additional cost of about $6,000. Four Black Label themes, including “Indulgence” and “Modern Heritage,” were announced previously.
“This vehicle is a harbinger of Lincoln’s future success,” Matt DeLorenzo, managing editor for Kelley Blue Book’s KBB.com, said in a statement. “If it’s as well-received as the MKC, this midsize crossover will help build sales momentum much needed by Lincoln and is an important building block in the division’s long-term product plan.”
The MKX will arrive several months later than the second-generation Ford Edge, which shares its underpinnings. MKX sales in the U.S. trailed off as demand for the MKC ramped up last year. The MKC finished just 263 sales behind the MKX in the second half of the year and came less than 600 units short of becoming Lincoln’s most popular model in the fourth quarter.
But after the new MKX arrives, Matt VanDyke, director of Global Lincoln, said both crossovers can coexist peacefully.
“We believe we can play very effectively in both segments with very little impact on each other,” he said in an interview.
Big role in China
The MKX will be an important vehicle for Lincoln in China as well as the United States. Lincoln opened its first dealerships in China in November, and it held customer research clinics both there and in the U.S. as part of developing the MKX concept introduced last year in Beijing. The exterior of the production version is nearly identical to the concept.
Lincoln aims to reach annual sales of 300,000 vehicles between the U.S. and China by 2020, with the MKX and MKC representing a significant share. Lincoln expects midsize utility vehicles to rise from 36 percent of the global luxury utility market to 44 percent by 2018, citing IHS Automotive projections.
In the U.S., sales of premium crossovers rose 9.1 percent in 2014, according to the Automotive News Data Center, but MKX sales increased only 0.3 percent.