x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Lincoln-MKS

This sporty sedan lives up to Ford's promise to deliver both power and an impressive fuel economy for a V6.

The MKS is the first Lincoln completely at home at high speed, its motor willing and its chassis capable.
The MKS is the first Lincoln completely at home at high speed, its motor willing and its chassis capable.

Seven miles per gallon. Seven. Miles. Per. Gallon. Yes, they were those puny, anorexic American 3.785 litres that Americans call gallons. But nonetheless, it was hardly the kind of inspiring fuel economy we had been promised from Ford's much ballyhooed EcoBoost technology. Now, here's the real story. The reason I was getting such paltry fuel economy is that the Lincoln MKS I was in was hurtling along a huge 8km banked high-speed oval in Ford's Michigan Proving Ground, with its throttle pedal mashed and the speedometer pegged to the Lincoln's electronically governed 220kpm top speed. Yup, rocketing around at top speed, the MKS gets about the same mileage as a Range Rover stuck in traffic.

Driven at a more sedate 120kph, the MKS averaged about 40km per gallon. Indeed, fuel economy is the entire raison d'être for Ford's EcoBoost programme. Essentially a new range of V6 (for now, fours will be added later) engines that benefit from a combination of direct fuel injection and turbochargers, they offer the power of big displacement V8s but with the fuel economy of a small six (the fours will claim the power of a six with the economy of a four). Indeed, Lincoln's projected EPA numbers for the 3.5-litre EcoBoost-equipped MKS (29km per gallon in town and 39km per gallon on the motorway) are slightly higher than the 26/37 rating for the naturally aspirated - and far less powerful - all-wheel-drive version of the 2009 MKS 3.7L. More importantly, that's 6.5km per gallon than Infiniti claims for its V8-powered M45.

Of course, those fuel economy boasts only carry merit if the relatively small 3.5L V6 powering the new MKS does indeed emulate the urge of a V8. I'm happy to point out that, for the most part, the 3.5L EcoBoost V6 lives up to Ford's billing. In a few ways, it exceeds expectations, bettering even some of the sophisticated V8s (Cadillac's 4.6L STS and Infiniti's M45) that Ford brought along for a test.

The greatest surprise is that the turbocharged V6 is as torquey as both larger displacement V8s. In fact, more so. Thanks to Ford's decision to use two tiny turbochargers instead on one larger compressor, the turbines are able to "spool up" at lower engine speeds, providing more boost - and therefore more torque - at lower rpm. Indeed, Ford claims that the MKS's maximum torque of 475 Nm is available at a low, low 1,800 rpm.

The MKS feels plenty powerful off the line and in passing manoeuvres. There's virtually no "turbo lag", since those two small compressors react so quickly and there's plenty of urge to move the MKS, despite its somewhat portly 1944kg kerb weight. The same applies to passing acceleration; starting from almost any speed, the MKS rocketed forward with far more enthusiasm than either of the V8-powered competitors. And, while not quite soniferous as either of the two V8s, it is still very pleasing to the ear. It also feels very sophisticated, with none of the harshness common to V6s and some lesser V8s, even Ford's own Triton engines.

The only downside is that, despite a claimed 355 horses at 5,700 rpm, the EcoBoost V6 runs out of breath at high rpm. Both competitive V8s - exemplary examples of the breed - seem more eager at high revs. Blame those two turbochargers that help create that low-end torque. Small enough to react quickly to the exhaust gasses at low rpm, they are also small enough to cause a restriction at higher engine speeds, thus limiting maximum horsepower at peak revs. In turbocharging, as with most things, there is no free lunch.

As for the rest of the MKS, much is improved. In my first outing in the base 3.7L version, I enjoyed the car's interior but lamented the lack of urge and the original car's overly plush and mushy suspension. Lincoln has responded to these criticisms with an all-new suspension calibration for the EcoBoost MKS. Stiffer in every regard - bushings, springs and dampers - the boosted version is far more sporting. On the MPG test track, we tossed the MKS into high-speed turns that would have had the original tossing like a six-metre skiff in a Cape Horn typhoon. Instead, the turbocharged MKS remained flat and on line, more committed to handling high speeds than any Lincoln before it. It might not be a BMW, but the MKS now feels about as sporting as an Audi A6, an appropriate comparison since, like Audi's midsized sedan, it too features an all-wheel-drive power train.

The MKS' interior is also superior to the original's. There's a tan leather version that is positively European and some new faux leatherette used on the dashboard, door trim and door handles that is convincing enough that even some of Ford's public relations personnel could not be sure if it was real or not. There's some new faux "turned metal" trim bits as well and it's all finished - despite the fact that these were early production prototypes - quite well. Interiors have been a strength for Ford's luxury arm for a few years now and the MKS is no exception.

The US$47,760 (Dh175,400) MKS is the best Lincoln sedan yet. For a company that seemed doomed to making nothing but Town Cars a few years ago, the transformation has been amazing and an indication of why FoMoCo is the best situated of any of the Detroit Three. motoring@thenational.ae