Lincoln’s comeback bid has been a series of fits and starts. The new MKZ, a classic-looking — but very much a modern automobile — suffered a rather unflattering rollout that was punctured by vehicle unavailability and production glitches. Once that was underway, it took some time for the model to warm up and hit its stride, but as the only fully-redesigned model in the lineup, Lincoln was having trouble keeping its momentum up while it prepared its other new vehicles — such as the Ford Escape-based MKC that debuted this summer.
A revised Navigator SUV has also helped Lincoln shore up its sales numbers, though that technically wasn’t a full redesign of the aging vehicle. Only three vehicles in Lincoln’s stable are new through-and-through: the MKZ sedan, the MKC, and now, the MKX SUV, which is based on the Ford Edge — which is also getting a new model this year.
Mechanically speaking, the 2016 MKX will have an available twin-turbo 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 engine, which will produce 330 horsepower and 370 pound-feet of torque. That is the biggest new addition to the new MKX, which also has updates to numerous features. The engine in the current model — a 3.7-liter V6 — will still be the standard engine for the 2016 reboot. That engine delivers 300 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque.
“The new 2.7-liter EcoBoost adds a new level of performance to the all-new Lincoln MKX,” said Chief Program Engineer Elaine Bannon. “The focus is on delivering a total personalized luxury experience for our client: Performance, quiet ride, power and technologies that make life easier, all in an environment wrapped in rich materials.”
Rich materials is spot on, as the new MKX will have two available all-new Lincoln Black Label limited-edition designer themes. “We are focused on delivering engaging and refined luxury vehicles with innovative and thoughtful technologies,” said Kumar Galhotra, president of Lincoln. “The all-new Lincoln MKX reflects that focus.”
Lincoln’s MKX update announcement looks to be arriving at just the right time. As Lincoln says, the market for luxury midsize SUVs is expected to grow to 12% of all luxury sales worldwide between now and 2018. In the U.S., SUVs make up an even greater percentage of overall luxury sales.
But Lincoln isn’t the only one gearing up for the spring ahead. Mercedes also has announced the addition of a few new SUVs to its lineup within the next couple of years, lending even more credence to the notion that the luxury SUV market is quickly becoming an arms race. The question is whether or not Lincoln can keep up.
In order to set the MKX apart, Lincoln’s designers and engineers have gone out on a limb. For example, the new MKX will be the first vehicle in the Lincoln lineup to feature a Revel sound system, a high-end entertainment suite that should grab some attention, especially when coupled with the Lincoln Black Label package.
“They’ve never been in autos before, and this is going to be an absolute point of differentiation for us,” said Matt VanDyke, Lincoln’s global director, according to Autoblog.
At the end of the day, the rehashed MKX is simply another bullet in the chamber for Lincoln, which is trying very hard to climb back to respectability in the luxury market. But they’re up against what amounts to a murderer’s row — going up against foreign competitors in BMW, Audi, Mercedes, Lexus, and others — that make the company’s chances of becoming a major player as slim as ever.
According to figures put together by Good Car Bad Car, at the end of 2014 Lincoln only had 4.9% of the overall American auto market. For comparison, BMW is holding strong at 17.6%, and Acura is at 17.1%. But that doesn’t mean Lincoln is completely out of the running. The brand is still ahead of numerous other brands, including Porsche, Volvo, and Land Rover. Still, if Lincoln wants to become a viable competitor to, say, Cadillac (8.8%), the company still needs to double its sales.
The best Lincoln can do is continue to upgrade its lineup, keep chipping away at its rivals, and hope that customers come calling. Lincoln was a power at one time, and there’s no reason it can’t be again. Vehicles like the new MKX — with its new aesthetics, features, and shiny designer updates — should help it get there.