SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- On Scottsdale Boulevard we're cruising through the posh suburb of Phoenix in a new Limited Edition version of MKX, the sleek mid-size crossover utility vehicle (CUV) from Lincoln.
This is one stunning vehicle, seemingly all bright chrome and glossy sheet metal arranged in a way-slick package designed to catch the eye and invite the question: What goes there?
The lines of MKX, hunkering in a sporty stance with a chrome-plated prow and low arching canopy, are so smooth with uncluttered slab sides and a graceful sweep of the bowed front and rear roof pillars which defy the erect stance and squared corners of the usual two-box sport utility vehicle (SUV).
Lincoln's CUV uses the rigid unibody structure of a car rather than the body-on-frame truck platform of a SUV.
On dry pavement, all of the engine's power goes to the front wheels which also steer.
Having the front wheels both turn and steer -- when combined with a stiff unitized structure and lively suspension -- makes the MKX uncommonly nimble when driven through a set of curves.
A generous wheelbase length of 111 inches and the wide wheel track of 65 inches set up a long and broad platform which brings stability when turning.
And MKX carries fully independent suspension components -- MacPherson struts and an isolated subframe up front and a four-link design in back also with isolating subframe and monotube shocks for precise suspension tuning -- to deliver car-like smooth ride sensations.
The easy-to-handle driving traits and a low seat position for easy entry to the cabin mimic a conventional four-door sedan, but the five-door cabin configuration functions like a sport-utility wagon.
Brakes on every MKX consist of a disc at every wheel and linkage to an anti-lock brake system (ABS).
MKX's rigid monocoque structure serves as the first line of defense for passengers, surrounded by a safety cage rigged with force-deflecting energy management zones fore and aft plus reinforced side panels and doors.
Riders in the front buckets have dual two-stage frontal air bags, plus seat-mounted side air bags and seatbelts with load-limiting retractors and pretensioners.
Then there are curtain-style air bags stretching for the length of the cabin above outboard seats front and rear, and the AdvanceTrac anti-skid device with Roll Stability Control (RSC) is on the list of standard equipment.
Power for MKX is derived from a thrifty dual-cam 3.5-liter V6 tied to an electronically controlled six-speed automatic transaxle with standard front-wheel-drive (FWD) or optional all-wheel-drive (AWD) traction.
It generates 265 hp at 6250 rpm plus torque of 250 lb-ft at 4500 rpm.
MKX's optional AWD equipment -- the Control Trac system from Ford paired with a traction control system (TCS) -- also relates to safety, as the mechanism has an automatic mode that monitors grip for all wheels and can selectively distribute traction front-to-rear as well as side-to-side even before wheel slippage occurs in order to maintain a constant tire bite on wet and slippery pavement.
MKX also has an adaptive lighting system (ALS) where a pair of swivel headlamps -- keyed to the angle of the steering wheel -- rotates during turning maneuvers to keep a light shining on the vehicle's forward trajectory.
Within the cabin, MKX seems generous in scale with reasonable room for riders -- including best-in-class legroom for rear seats.
Decor for the cabin in MKX is understated in a retro-Lincoln theme with luxurious materials in satin aluminum, soft leathers and real wood plus occasional bright glints of chrome.
The layout pitches a pair of bucket seats up front divided by a multi-function console and followed by a bench for three that's split 60/40 and folds on the seatback to expand the rear cargo area.
Front buckets can be heated and cooled, while the rear seats offer heat elements. The rear seatback sections recline at angles of up to 15 degrees for comfort, or the sections fold down manually via a single-hand release lever or an electro-mechanical remote tab positioned in the cargo bay.
Cargo capacity adds up to 32 cubic feet of space with rear seatbacks raised, or 69 cubic feet with the seatbacks folded down.
This rig consists of a tilt-and-slide front roof panel followed by a fixed rear glass panel measuring 27 by 29 inches, plus power-operated cloth shades over both portals to block glare.
* The Limited Edition package installs a bold chrome grille up front with four exterior paint choices including Brilliant Silver and White Platinum Tri-Coat. Also aboard are 20-inch chrome-clad wheels, ebony wood trim in the cabin, plus premium leather covering seats in Charcoal Black with Medium Light Stone inserts and piping.
* The Ultimate Package brings 18-inch chrome-clad wheels, ALS, adaptive lighting, EasyFold second-row remote seat release, premium leather on seats with contrast piping and a below-floor cargo compartment.
* Lincoln Sync provides voice-activated control over in-car phones, media players and USB storage devices.
* Voice-activated navigation with Sirius Travel Link brings real-time traffic data via the navigation system.
MSRP figures for the 2009 MKX begin at $37,335 for FWD and $39,185 with AWD, with the new Limited Edition package listing at $1,095.