Lincoln has rolled out a more luxurious and powerful MKX for 2016, giving the midsize SUV features such as massaging front seats that rival any luxury vehicle's and an optional EcoBoost turbo V-6 engine that generates 335 horsepower.
The turbo engine produces 32 more horsepower than the base MKX non-turbo V-6 and 40 more than the naturally aspirated V-6 in the 2016 Lexus RX 350 SUV that's a top luxury competitor.
New safety offerings for the five-passenger, 2016 MKX include cameras that can show 360-degree views around the vehicle and that extend these views out to 7 feet from the car's exterior, which is invaluable for parking situations.
There's new pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection that can stop the SUV if a collision appears to be imminent and the driver hasn't taken action.
And with Lincoln being a brand of Ford Motor Co., the MKX offers the Ford-exclusive inflatable rear safety belts on second-row outboard seats. They are a $250 option and help distribute crash forces and cushion a passenger's body to minimize injuries during crashes.
Best of all, the 2016 MKX earned the government's top five-star rating for front and side crash tests and is a recommended buy by Consumer Reports, which predicted its reliability will be good.
Another notable attribute: The MKX has an impressively quiet interior.
The cost of a 2016 MKX is on par with other luxury SUVs of its size, with a starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, of $39,185 for a base model with front-wheel drive and a 3.7-liter non-turbo V-6 engine that produces 303 horsepower. Meanwhile, the lowest starting MSRP, including destination charge, for a 2016 MKX with all-wheel drive is $41,680.
The price of a new MKX can exceed $60,000, though, with all the bells and whistles added. For example, the 2.7-liter, Ecoboost engine is a $2,000 option and the massaging front seats, which have 22 power adjustments, are $1,500 extra.
Even with the upgrades for 2016, the MKX still has a six-speed automatic transmission, which has fewer gears than the eight-speed automatic in the RX 350.
Still, the older-style transmission performed without a hiccup in the test-driven all-wheel drive model, delivering good power and mostly smooth and pleasing shifting.
The 380 foot-pounds of torque available at 3,000 rpm from the EcoBoost V-6 allowed the hefty, 4,400-pound SUV to pull away quickly at stop lights merge seamlessly with traffic, with no turbo lag.
Best of all, even with aggressive driving, the test-driven SUV averaged the federal government's fuel economy ratings of 17 mpg in city driving and 24 mpg on highways for an overall average of 19 mpg. As a result, it had a travel range of just over 350 miles on a single tank of regular gasoline, and it didn't require premium gas.
The ride is distinctive because it can feel softer or compliant compared with the firm ride characteristics of German luxury SUVs. MKX drivers choose from three settings — normal, comfort and sport — for suspension settings as well as transmission shifts and engine. But even in sport, the test-driven model seemed less firm than many competitors.
Combined with the sound-proofed interior, pretty ambient lighting, massaging leather seats, panoramic "vista" sunroof, power-down second row seats, power liftgate, rich-looking carpeting and great sound from its Revel audio system, the MKX conveyed soothing luxury.
There's no gearshift lever. Instead, drivers shift by pushing buttons on the dashboard, which can feel awkward. And unfortunately, the 2016 MKX has the old, slower version of MyFord Touch controls.
The 2016 MKX has been the subject of one U.S. safety recall involving only five vehicles whose trim covering in the back seat might interfere with anchors for installation of child seats.