DETROIT -- Lincoln hopes to do what Cadillac couldn't: Draw owners of big SUVs to a crossover with three rows of seats.
The 2010 Lincoln MKT is a front-drive crossover that seats up to seven, competing with such three-row models as the Audi Q7, BMW X5 and Volvo XC90. MKT sales begin in late summer.
The MKT is entering a small and pricey segment: premium crossovers with six or more seats. Through April, the segment had 30,476 sales, down 38.9 percent from the same period last year. The overall U.S. market fell 37.4 percent in the four months.
Cadillac has abandoned its seven-seat SRX. The redesigned 2010 SRX, which arrives this fall, seats five. But Lincoln is optimistic.
"We see the premium crossover segment growing, mostly on the backs of customers moving out of traditional truck-based SUVs," Scott Tobin, vehicle line director of cars and crossovers, said at a press event at Ford Motor Co.'s proving grounds in suburban Detroit.
"They still need utility, primarily space, three rows of seats -- and they want a vehicle that is more refined" than an SUV, Tobin said.
The MKT has much in common with the Ford Flex crossover, such as the powertrain. The MKT has different sheet metal, interior, and ride and handling than the Flex, which has been criticized for a high price and boxy styling.
The base price of the upmarket 2009 Flex Limited with all-wheel drive is $37,585. The MKT's base price is $44,995. All-wheel drive is standard on the MKT with the EcoBoost V-6, which has a sticker price of $49,995. All prices include shipping.
The MKT's styling abandons the Flex's boxy look for curves and a massive front split grille.
"Flex has a different statement about it. It is kind of in your face. It causes attention just by the sheer fact that it looks like nothing else," said Kate Pearce, the MKT's marketing manager.
The MKT is one of four 2010 Ford Motor vehicles offering the new EcoBoost 355-hp, 3.5-liter, turbocharged direct-injection V-6 engine.
The company says the EcoBoost provides the performance of a V-8 with the fuel economy of a V-6. Ford estimates fuel economy at 16 mpg city/22 highway.
The base MKT engine is a double-overhead-cam, 273-hp, 3.7-liter V-6 producing 276 pounds-feet of torque.
The MKT's ride and handling is aimed at import intenders rather than Town Car owners, who typically seek a cushy ride.