Tuesday

2010 Lincoln MKS Ecoboost review


Recently this site has posted a link and commentary to a Linocln-sponsored video called “6 vs 8.” link Because of the odd test conditions and glaring omissions of raw data in the video, many have questioned its legitimacy. I’ve driven the Quattroporte review, equal Jaguars to the XF, and the BMW M5 review, while Chris has driven the BMW 550i review; and if in any test a Lincoln can meet or beat one of those cars, it’s worth a serious look. In all fairness to Lincoln, I thought I should drive the MKS myself before writing my own comments about the video. So I went to a dealer to establish my own collection of hard data on the MKS.

I was privileged to find the exact MKS that was used in the “6 vs 8” test – an AWD V6 powered with Ecoboost. Now I’m still not entirely sure what “Ecoboost” means since I don’t really think a 355-bhp twin-turbo is economical, nor does the premium gas mileage suggest it is eco-friendly. But I did understand that I was looking at Lincoln’s current flagship, strutting its best stuff, base priced at over $47,000. Lincolns being Lincolns I didn’t really bat an eye at that. From the outside I can only echo Chris’ review of the MKS – a lot of “dis-“ combined with “proportioned.” I had really too much time to peruse the exterior as most salesmen did not seem inclined to help me. After some considerable time someone did come out (not one of the three standing at the door to the showroom watching me pace around the car), and this is what I told him in a nutshell: ‘I saw this video, the results surprised me, and frankly if this car is in any way better than the Euro-sleds it was up against, I will save myself $80,000 and buy it right here right now.’ (I did like the pearlized white paint). Now of course any salesman would be eager to hear such words and he immediately offered me the key fob. But he had not seen the video and was just as surprised at the results as I was. So to establish my first hard fact I asked him how many people come to his dealer in the first place to cross-shop a Maserati and Lincoln. The answer was as expected: “No one.” When I asked another salesman, the answer was, “I would say you don’t know what you want.” First bit of hard data. But it’s my money so I’m going to climb in.

Inside the car I was not any more impressed. The leather felt nice and a little cushy – I wouldn’t expect anything less from Lincoln – but it took some time to find a comfortable driving position. Despite the size of the rear mirrors the car was still too chubby in the body and too squinted in the windows to provide adequate views. The clear plastic gauges were interesting the first time I saw them if only because the LEDs in the needles provide an interesting effect. But get out and look at the badge and the sticker and you quickly realize clear plastic should not be anywhere on the instrument panel. As you get out, notice the “wood” trim on the doors. It is also plastic, and rather flimsy. A quick knock on wood so to speak answers a hollow, artificial response I would expect to hear on $20,000 cars. And the same “wood” is repeated across the dashboard. My MKS also had the dual sunroof but to access it, you must retract the motorized fabric shade. And the time required to do that is extraordinary. Thankfully, at the halfway point, the motor will finish the job itself, but it’s one more machine doing what I could do myself. And one more set of parts that can break.

I turned my attention to the onboard computer. Say what you will about iDrive (and I have), it is a much easier system to navigate than what was provided in the MKS. While Lincoln does not offer me hundreds of customization options, what it does offer is beyond my ability to know. The screen opens with the Lincoln logo and two “play” buttons on the screen. Touching the logo will take you to an interesting dialog… to organize your photos. My what? (Look further down the console to learn this computer is powered by Microsoft). The play buttons have no description whatsoever, but to save you the trouble: the left button opens the sat-nav screen, and the right will display two gigantic touchscreen icons. One says “Audio Off,” the other “Climate Off.” Both were already off in the car, so when I pressed one of buttons, it turned the respective system… on. And once both were on, the gigantic “Off” buttons disappeared entirely and I had to go to the dials on the console to turn them off. In fact, I later learned I can control both systems fully from the console buttons. So why do I have a touchscreen with cryptic and misleading buttons?

Last but not least, my MKS had a large section of the center console just under the climate controls that in any other car would open to some storage compartment for your change, sunglasses, ipod, or cell phone. On the MKS though, it was nothing. Pure, unadulterated wasted space… except for the “Lincoln” badge across it. If it did open, I never figured out how. Defeated again. In all, the interior design and functionality of the MKS is a far cry from the purpose-built attention to detail given to ALL of the European V8s it was compared to. Second bit of hard data.

But I was not deterred! The drive would be exceptional and all would be forgiven, right? That’s what the video suggests, right? I took the fob and went on my way.

Don’t think for a moment that the two paddles on the steering wheel went unnoticed – I’ll discuss those right now. Now I’ve driven a number of “paddle-shift” transmissions, everything from the gimmicky, slushy automatics to the dual-clutch F1 tranny from Ferrari. The MKS is as far on the “gimmicky” side as any car I have ever driven. The response time is the slowest I’ve ever seen and the shift itself is characteristic Lincoln – geared entirely for comfort and not at all for performance. The computer takes so long to shift from second to first you think the car is not even listening to your requests. In fact, the paddles themselves do not work as I expected. In all examples I have driven, the right paddle is pulled for upshift, the left for downshift. Let me say first that Lincoln made it near impossible to pull the left paddle. The turn signal stalk is directly and squarely behind the paddle and I could barely get my scrawny finger between the two to grip the paddle. Try that in the middle of a hard run. But as it turns out, none of that matters, because pulling the left paddle does not downshift the car – it upshifts. As does pulling the right paddle. Did I mention redundancy in the onboard computer? Downshifting requires you to PUSH either paddle. Again, Lincoln had to reeducate me on everything I’ve ever known on a car – more than once I was coming up to a turn, managed to pull the left paddle and ended up shifting into fifth. Add to that the paddles being mounted onto the steering wheel itself, meaning that in any corner the paddles move about the car. When you already don’t know how they work, moving them around does not help, though it does inadvertently solve the location problem of the left paddle. Here’s your tip kids: to use the left paddle in the MKS, turn the wheel.

I mentioned the steering wheel, so let’s talk about the handling. I became a little concerned before I even left the dealer as I needed to pull a U-turn to get the MKS to the dealer exit. I had a space not much less than the width of a suburban street and the MKS couldn’t make the turn. Oh well, a Mercedes SL Black would have similar trouble. My next surprise came on an exit ramp S-curve. I settled the MKS and gave it some power in third gear and I was rewarded with instant understeer. The car nearly went in a straight line though I was barely crossing 50 mph. I’ve taken a BMW 335i through the same corners at higher speed and had room for more. Or a better comparison: I’ve taken a Maserati Quattroporte review through significantly tighter turns at the same speed with 0 trouble – no understeer, oversteer, or cries of pain from the tires. How the Maserati “lost” a jaunt through a mountain road to the MKS I have no idea. But apparently neither do the people who made “6 vs 8.”

Steering the car in general became a matter of luck, not skill. In any exciting corner I was playing a guessing game – the wheel simply could not tell me where the Lincoln would eventually go. Whatever I had learned in physics class or in another car had to be unlearned in the MKS. There were no rules. Only panic, uncertainty, and a new definition of physics brought to you by Lincoln. Some have written that the Lincoln is “light and nimble.” Yeah, like a dog is light and nimble on a newly waxed floor.

But maybe I’m being too hard on the car. I mean, it’s a Lincoln, not a Maserati, right? Do you see a pattern developing?

Straight line performance was not much better. Sure I knew the car was going straight, but again, reliance on road communication or laws of physics was no help. After driving the top-of-the-line engine in the top-of-the-line Lincoln, I could care less what its performance numbers are. I have never been so bored and out of touch with a twin-turbo engine in my life. I don’t even recall the sound of the turbo whine if it existed. If robots simply needed to get from 0-60 in 6 some-odd seconds, then this is the car for them.

One thing that does require your attention and forethought, however, is the shifting. I found that flipping the paddle up had to be done nearly 1000 rpm prior to the expected shift to take place. I was pulling the up-trigger at 5000 rpm so the MKS would shift just short of the 6000 rpm limiter. And don’t dare pull the paddle near 6K, because this is what could happen: the engine computer will get scared knowing how long it takes to pull off a shift and attempt to shift the gears for you (it is an automatic). Then you pull the paddle near the same time and suddenly the computer is confused. ‘Do I shift one gear? Two gears? Where’s the tach now?’ So in the eternal seconds it takes the computer to sort itself out, the car hangs on redline in gear. Unacceptable. Try that on a high-speed run. Try that on a mountain pass with turns and plunges that will kill you. This is the final piece of data, or as I am now calling it, the nail in the coffin.




I’ve lost interest in the MKS at this point and have returned it to the dealer. Again, maybe I am being too hard on the car. Surely the dealer will have some insight, some wisdom, some gem I have not yet considered. I am welcomed with a smile and a question: “Did it pass the test?”

“No,” I say. And while you may think the story is over, I’ve come to the best part.

What followed my “no” was an acknowledgement from my salesman, “yeah that’s what some of us thought.” Really? I was escorted into the showroom and ended up having a lively conversation with him and one other salesman inside. I related to them everything I’ve related here to you. Regarding the handling: they agreed. Regarding the performance: they agreed. Regarding the transmission: they agreed. In fact, there was not one remark made to me in defense of the MKS. More shocking than that: one of the salesman I was talking to drives a BMW 330i coupe; the dealer owner: a Maserati GranTurismo. All in the conversation seemed more content (and better able) to discuss BMWs and Maseratis than the Lincoln. And once we started talking about European cars, Lincoln never came up in conversation again. Once the salesmen knew what I had driven and what I look for in a car, they were unsure of why I was even there. The 330 driver strongly encouraged me to look at the 550i review.

Mission accomplished. Lincoln’s front line does not believe the “6 vs 8” test. Do you?

“6 vs 8” was bogus and Lincoln agrees. Not only does the MKS (in any form) not compare with the European V8s, it’s quality raises serious alarms about its lesser-bred sister, the Taurus SHO. If there is a gem in the car anywhere, you’re getting a LOT of baggage with it. In one aspect, though, the “6 vs 8” video does succeed. It got someone who would never have before considered a Lincoln to walk into a dealer ready to drop hard cash on its flagship.

Unfortunately for Lincoln, that was a very bad idea.

5 comments:

Chris said...

Wish I could say I'm surprised but I'm not.

Lincoln, it's sad when your own sales reps don't buy into the hype, much less put their faith in your products with their own money. I'll admit it - when Boz told me that the Lincoln staff in his area drove a Bimmer and a Maser instead, well, I just haven't had that good of a laugh in a long time.

Thanks for another great and thorough review Boz.

Drake Hollander said...

Best. Review. Ever.

Having driven the V6 AWD version myself, I can honestly say that none of the performance-oriented maneuvers I've tried in other more competent vehicles (such as the Bimmer) could ever be sanely considered with the MKS. The outcome of "6 vs 8" is about as believable as Sarah Jessica Parker playing the role of an "attractive female."

Chris said...

^ lol

Welcome to Melted Rubber, Drake.i

Anonymous said...

Come on, this was really only a hollow exercise in countering some marketing hyperbole, not a vehicle review. You could do this sort of hack job on any product that tries to aspire to a level or 2 above its station in life. On its own, the MKS w/EB stands up pretty well to Lexus, MB, and Caddy. That's really where Ford fails -- positioning.

Boz said...

^ interesting

I am inclined to think a "hollow... hack job" is to a) watch some marketing hyperbole and believe everything outright, buy an MKS, and brag to your buddies that 'my car runs with the best;' or b) categorically dismiss all of it as rubbish, adding some explitive or two to really show how you feel. Either way, the result is a baseless opinion. The intent of this vehicle review from paragraph 1 was to add some legitimacy to the "marketing hyperbole." I wanted to be impressed with the MKS. Ford has made remarkable steps in their positioning and have weathered the great American carmaker storm far better than its rivals. But just to say that "On its own, the MKS w/EB stands up pretty well to Lexus, MB, and Caddy" - signed anonymous - without any supporting evidence is by definition hollow. This is precisely why I took the time to drive the MKS.

I have been shocked too many times (in a good and bad way) by how one car compares to another - regardless of price point, target market, or some other "station." And if someone goes out and actually drives the Lincoln, Merc, BMW and Maserati and the guts to write his take on them, especially unswayed by brand loyalty, ads or sponsors, I consider that anything but a hollow hack job. Difference of opinion certainly, but not hollow.

The only adjustment I would make to this review is my doomsaying of the new Taurus SHO. Chris has driven this car and confirmed from from his drive and from Ford itself that the SHO was engineered 1000 times better (watch that marketing hyperbole) than the MKS. And it showed. Hopefully a review is forthcoming. Aside from that, the MKS was unfortunately one of the biggest letdowns in my driving career, with or without the marketing.

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