The 2016 Lincoln MKX is luxurious, inside and out.

The 2016 Lincoln MKX is luxurious, inside and out.

I’d been anxious to drive the redesigned 2016 Lincoln MKX since it hit showrooms last year, mostly because of its sleek styling. When the MKX arrived for testing, I was pleased to discover it looks as good inside as out.

The interior is distinctive, attractive and inviting. I loved the Cappuccino (reddish-brown) upgraded ($375) leather and the way the center stack flows from the dashboard in a Volvoesque sort of way. If Salvador Dalî had he been a road engineer instead of an artist, he would have built bridges that look like this Eager to see if the MKX drives as good as it looks, I adjusted the seat, steering wheel and mirrors, then started it up. More accurately, I tried to … searching in vain for a starter button.

 

 

I checked the usual places: the steering wheel column and the dashboard just to the right of the column. Looked at the center console too, where a few vehicles have them.

My futile search was embarrassing. What kind of auto writer needs to refer to the owner’s manual to start a vehicle? Nevertheless, I’d begun reaching for the glove box when I spotted the starter. It was cleverly camouflaged on the center stack just to the left of the radio volume knob.

Really, Lincoln? Why?

What happened next was even more disconcerting and embarrassing. I couldn’t figure out how to get the car out of park. Seriously. There was no shift lever in sight; not behind the steering wheel, on the center console or even sticking Prius-like out of the dashboard. There was no Ram truck-style shift knob, either.

Again, I was about to resort to the owner’s manual when I spotted a row of vertical buttons with the familiar “PRNDS” lettering. They were camouflaged as well as the start button, and bordered the LED display and dashboard air vents.

I didn’t mention any of this when I asked my wife, urRonda, if she wanted to take the MKX for a spin. She settled in behind the wheel but soon began searching as if she had lost an earring. After 30 seconds or so, she turned to me and asked, “How the heck do you start this thing?”

Pointing to the start button, I chuckled as she shook her head in bewilderment, jabbed the button and started the MKX. I laughed again a few seconds later when she gave me a dirty look and said, “OK, wise guy, now how do I get it into gear?”

The last vehicle I drove with a push-button transmission selector was my first car, a hand-me-down 1962 Chrysler Newport. That beast was so humongous, I drove it to Rhode Island once and got to Providence while my backseat passengers were still in Massachusetts.

It also happened to have the most eclectic (a nice word for ridiculously unconventional) instrumentation and controls ever conceived. The steering wheel was oblong, not round. Gauges protruded from the dashboard and resided under a clear plastic dome. The turn signal switch was a small stick protruding from the dashboard; the transmission gear selector a row of buttons to the right of the steering column.

Those buttons were as inconvenient to use as they were difficult to find. That’s not the case with the MKX’s transmission selector, which may be camouflaged but is actually quite convenient to use once you stop reaching for a conventional shift lever that doesn’t exist. The same is true of the starter button.

I never did get in the habit of reaching in the right place for either during my seven-day evaluation, but I suspect it won’t take owners long to get used to both. They may even like the buttons’ easy access and visibility.

So consider my musings about the MKX switchgear an interesting anecdote rather than a complaint. My only real complaint about the roomy (especially the back seat and cargo area) and luxurious cabin is that a few bits and pieces on the center stack feel a bit plastic-y compared to the rest of the interior trim.

In fairness, those parts don’t make the MKX cabin any less pleasant a place to spend a few hours. A primary reason is because it is so quiet. That can be attributed at least in part to one of the best active noise-cancelling systems this side of Bose headphones. I suspect it’s also due to Lincoln engineers spending more than a little effort reducing noise, vibration and harshness.

That’s evident even in the smoothness of the optional ($2,000) twin-turbocharged 2.7-liter V6 engine that our test car was equipped with. Rated at up to 335 horsepower and 380 pounds-feet of torque, the engine produced enough thrust to accelerate the MKX from zero to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds on our stopwatch.

Its delivery of that power was refined, like nearly everything else about the MKX. The entry price for that refinement is around $40,000, but our top-trim test car started at $47,550. Based on the long list of options on its window sticker, we suspect most buyers will spend closer to its $60,105 list price than the MKX’s base price.

That buys tons of technology, loads of luxury and competent handling, along with scintillating styling. But there are several luxury SUVs that offer comparable appeal. Would-be buyers need to decide whether the Lincoln name has the cachet to command that kind of money.


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