It is fitting that the front grille of the Lincoln MKX resembles the metalwork commonly found on the teeth of adolescents. As an all-wheel-drive luxury crossover competing with the likes of the Lexus RX350, the Infiniti FX35 and Volvo XC90, the MKX is not yet fully comfortable in its own skin. Competing with these vehicles, the MKX isn't quite part of the cool gang just yet. While it has most of the features and accessories you would expect of a luxury SUV in this price range, it just misses out in a few crucial areas.
The first thing that strikes me as I climb into the MKX is the roof - literally. The combination of high-set seating with a low cabin height means that, even being an average 178cm tall, my head was never far away from the roof lining and I was constantly expecting to bash my forehead against the sun visor. As I turn the key in the ignition - no keyless feature here - the 1,960kg weight of the MKX also becomes apparent, finding I need to depress the accelerator more than expected before rolling forwards and out of the car park of Lincoln's Dubai showroom. It looks quite sporty from the exterior, with a sleekly styled shell, including a subtle black spoiler above the electronically controlled rear tailgate, but its performance is less athletic.
Powered by a 3.5L V6 producing 267hp, the Lincoln lacks a bit of horsepower of its competitors. Granted, the Lincoln's Dh160,000 price tag is significantly lower than some others in the luxury SUV segment, but even next to the similarly-priced Lexus RX350 the MKX is about 8hp off the pace. Once underway, the MKX cruises quite steadily, working its way smoothly up through the gears of its six-speed automatic gearbox. While it has overdrive, it lacks a semi-manual option - and while changes are rapid enough at cruising speeds, it does struggle to keep up under hard acceleration. Having made my way onto a stretch of open, speed-camera free road en route to Hatta, I decided to overtake a slow-moving vehicle sitting in the right lane. After pushing the accelerator to the floor, it took about a second for the transmission to kick down and provide the necessary go-forward. Likewise, when returning to a more civilised cruising speed, the slow up-change leaves you in a lower gear for a little too long.
As the orange sand dunes sweep past on either side, the benefits of a vehicle like the MKX begin to become apparent. Engaging cruise control is easy thanks to the intuitive, wheel-mounted controls - located conveniently alongside the volume and other controls for the stereo, phone and voice-activated dialling - and the MKX floats along comfortably. The MKX's four-wheel independent suspension, with Macpherson struts on the front and four link independent on the rear, performs fine on the straight roads, providing a smooth ride as it soaks up uneven surfaces. But the floating alluded to earlier comes at the expense of some stability when negotiating bends, with a bit of body-roll evident once I reached the twistier roads past Hatta, and the off-ramps around Dubai.
Encountering traffic approaching a roundabout, I had the chance to play with some of the many buttons lining the centre console of the MKX. Deciding my passenger might be feeling a little cold, I pushed the passenger seat heating button three times to select the highest setting - judging by his surprised reaction, it worked. The interior of the MKX I drove featured attractive black leather seats with brown piping, but the quality here wasn't quite matched by the rather plain dark-grey dash and silver, plastic fascia of the stereo and centre console surrounds.
Using the Info button to flick through the various displays on the dash-mounted LCD, I found it slightly confusing to see imperial rather than metric increments on the "distance-to-empty" readout, but with a little scrolling around you can alter this to metric. There are other US-centric features to be found on the MKX - possibly a move to cut the costs of producing different-spec vehicles for other markets. The speedo displays both mph and kph, and curiously for the UAE market, it still has heated mirrors - perfect for those frosty mornings in Jumeirah?
Other features of the MKX include twin LCD screens for rear-seat passengers, linked to an impressive six-disc CD/DVD system with 12 speakers and THXII audio certification and expansive electric moon roofs front and rear. Safety elements are also well taken care of, with front and side-curtain airbags and seat-belt pre-tensioners throughout. Given that it was only introduced in 2007, it's fair to expect that, in time, the Lincoln MKX will evolve and earn its place among the popular gang. It's capable and does almost everything you could expect, just without the panache of other luxury SUVs. firstname.lastname@example.org