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Not crossing far enough

The Lincoln MKX tall wagon offers a smooth ride but lags behind its peers in seating and cargo capacity.

February 28, 2007|Warren Brown | Washington Post

We have another tall wagon, the 2007 Lincoln MKX. To prevent head-scratching for the remainder of this review, I'll explain the name upfront.

Lincoln is the luxury division of Ford. In the past, it was fond of naming its premium automobiles "Mark," as in "Mark VII."

But Ford's adherence to the past crippled its present. To help secure its future, Ford jettisoned many things of old, including its former chief executive, William Clay Ford Jr., its old vehicles and its old vehicle names -- or at least the longer versions of those appellations.

"MK" now stands for "Mark." You might think "X" reads as the Roman numeral "10," but banish that thought. "X" here is shorthand for the new automobile industry term "crossover" -- a name indicative of nothing except the industry's refusal to call "crossover" vehicles what they are: tall wagons with sport utility vehicle pretensions built on passenger-car platforms.

The MKX, base price $35,770, is one of the most luxurious and prettiest of the lot. Alas, that does not make it the best.

Here's the problem. Nomenclature aside, tall wagons have one major goal: to haul people and their stuff safely and comfortably over long distances.

My assistant, Ria Manglapus, took an eight-hour, round-trip drive from her home in Arlington, Va., to Blacksburg, Va. She covered 540 total miles carrying her two sons (ages 11 and 16), a teenage cousin and all of their stuff. A long drive with three active boys is enough to drive any adult crazy.

But the MKX rode so smoothly, "they slept most of the trip," Ria said. A vehicle's ability to make passengers sleep, especially passengers who seldom settle down, "is my gauge for comfort," she said.

It also helped that the tested MKX came with video screens and other electronic entertainment systems to help keep passengers happy.

I drove the Lincoln MKX, the luxury iteration of the Ford Edge, 200 miles with members of my family. Our experience was similar to Ria's. All passengers were happy with ride comfort.

But that is where the good MKX report ends, because as good as the MKX is, it is not yet good enough to hold its own against tall wagons in General Motors' group: the Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook. Nor does it have the panache to take on the likes of the Acura MDX or Lexus RX 350.

Look at GM's tall wagons. All have three rows of seats and ample space for eight passengers. The MKX comes with two rows and space for five. The GM group offers a maximum 117 cubic feet of cargo space with the second- and third-row seats down. The MKX, available with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, gives you up to 69 cubic feet with the second-row seats lowered.

The MKX is worth serious consumer attention, especially from shoppers who neither need nor want room for eight people. It is a good wagon. But "good" won't do in the fight to take market share away from talented foreign rivals such as Honda and Toyota. In that battle, GM's tall wagons are better.

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