COAL – 2011 Lincoln MKX – The Goldilocks SUV, Not Too Small, Not Too Big, Just Right

Our garage in 2015 contained my Fusion and the Subaru Forester as described in the previous COAL.  My wife, now gainfully employed at Ford, was driving the Fusion while I had the Subaru.  Meanwhile we had a teenager about to get his license, and looking forward to the day where we didn’t have to drive him and his brother to school, we were getting ready to add a third car to the stable.

We were going to play another round of automotive musical chairs.  My wife would get the new car, which would have AWD and heated seats of course.  I would keep the Subaru and son would drive the aging Fusion to school.  The requirements on the new vehicle were clear: it had to be a Ford product and have enough back seat room for two growing teenage boys and their stuff.  The Ford offerings with AWD we considered were the Escape (too small), Explorer (too big), and Edge (just right).  I had some reservations about the Edge’s styling; with its bulldog stance and air of a bar-room brawler.  But it drove well and had enough utility to fulfill our needs, so we decided to go for it.  At the last minute I spotted an ad for a 3 year old black MKX, the Edge’s upscale sister car, for about the same price as a regular Edge of similar vintage.  So we checked it out, and in true Lincoln fashion it was definitely upscale, with leather, heated and power everything, navigation, and a spectacular 14 speaker THX sound system with subwoofer.  

Owing to Lincolns’ terrible resale value, we got a good deal on this black MKX and brought it home.   Sitting in the evening twilight looking resplendent in all black with chrome wheels and that big toothy chrome grille, I started to appreciate the big Lincoln’s styling.  It was a perfect complement to the black and chrome Fusion next to it in the garage.  But my wife, after driving the MKX a few times, decided that she didn’t like the clumsy UI of its Gen 1 Sync system and the feeling of sitting in a bathtub, so she kept driving the Fusion.  The MKX became my car, the second time in 18 years of marriage that the Mrs takes my car and I get what she no longer wanted.

Our garage in 2015, with the MKX at center stage


But this time I didn’t complain.  The 2011 restyling did away with the original’s sad attempt at a retro-60’s style and brought a bold, confident in-your-face look that I appreciated.  I enjoyed the powerful 3.7L Duratec V6 engine, which rocketed the car with a grin-inducing 307 hp, accompanied by a sweet multicam V6 harmony that encouraged you to go heavy on the right foot.  The THX surround sound audio system was by far the finest mobile sound system I’ve ever heard, with bone-rattling bass and a concert-hall level soundstage that made any genre of music extremely enjoyable.  

My dad was quite the penny pincher when it came to cars, so my childhood was spent in the backseat of “base”, “stripper” vehicles, with sticky vinyl seats, AM radios (when there was a radio), and no A/C.  I inherited some of my dad’s thriftiness, moderated somewhat since I now usually went for the mid level trim on all the cars I bought.  Granted, nowadays the difference between top and bottom trim levels is much less than in the 1970’s, but it was nice to finally have a top of the line, fully loaded model with all the bells and whistles to enjoy for a change.  This Lincoln had all of that and more, including soft ambient lighting that you can adjust the color and intensity depending on your mood, heated front and rear seats, and a massive power moonroof.

The audio system was by far the best feature on the MKX, but it came with that dreaded 1st generation Sync infotainment system that was so aggravating, finding the most inopportune times to reset itself for a software update and give the driver the black screen of death every few months.  The worst part about these system resets is that they occur without warning, and you lose all infotainment functions – radio, climate control, navigation, and phone connectivity for 10 minutes.  I had to deal with that on a regular basis, once getting terribly lost because of losing navigation due to an untimely system reset.  Most ironically, there’s a badge below that dreaded infotainment screen proudly proclaiming “Sync, powered by Microsoft”.  It was no surprise, then, that Ford eventually ditched Microsoft when it came time to upgrade their sync system and selected Blackberry instead.  

Getting washed by the local fire dept

The Lincoln served as my daily driver for 6 trouble-free years.  It was a fine commuter car and also a comfortable and pleasant long-distance cruiser.  It was big enough to carry myself and a carload of teenage boys and their luggage to a church retreat on the other side of the state, and compact enough to cruise around town and slip into tight parking spaces.  When the pandemic hit, the Lincoln remained mostly parked except for the occasional grocery run.  With both kids home from college going to school online, and wife and I also working from home, we sought out Airbnb’s in more scenic parts of Michigan to relieve our growing cabin fever.  The MKX was tasked to take us and our two over 6 ft tall boys plus mother in law and a week’s worth of luggage and groceries to the shores of Lake Michigan for a week on the beach, twice that summer.  It was a tight squeeze but we could not have accomplished the same in the smaller Forester or Ford Escape which my wife was leasing at the time.  

Saying goodbye to the MKX on trade-in day. Two cars in the background give you a hint on what replaced it.

Shortly after, I made a major life decision to take a job in California which would necessitate us moving to the Golden State once the company brought its employees back to the office.  Around that time the ten year old Lincoln, with 138,000 miles on the clock, suffered its first major breakdown requiring new ball joints and steering tie rod ends.  10 years of Michigan potholes finally took their toll.  It was an expensive repair and we decided at that time that we were not going to take it to California with us.  The car’s 16 mpg would get pretty expensive in the land of $5.00 per gallon gas.  It was time to say goodbye to my faithful MKX.  The dealer gave us a very good trade and it cleaned up nicely when we brought it in.  The MKX shimmered proudly in the bright sunshine, looking as good as the day I brought it home, and I felt a twinge of sadness as I signed over the title and watched the driver take it away.  It was time for a new adventure with new wheels.