2011 Lincoln MKX first drive review: New face and new tricks

2011 Lincoln MKX

2011 Lincoln MKX

Sometimes a restyling makes it difficult to remember the look of the previous design, but that’s now it is with the 2011 Lincoln MKX crossover. The Lincoln “split wing” grille fits the front of the MKX like it was designed first rather than its dramatic shape tailored to the MKX’s mostly preexisting shape.

A more striking change between the “old” MKX and the 2011 Lincoln MKX is the technology wrapped up in the new MyLincoln Touch that debuts with the new model. Standard on every 2011 Lincoln MKX, MyLincoln Touch is a suite of connectivity and controls that will send technology novices back to school. Indeed, our relatively brief exposure to the system left us wanting a serious sit-down with a professor of modern communication and other technological devices, or at least someone whose age hasn’t reach double digits.

One zoomy (literally) new feature we could immediately understand, or at least operate, are touch sensitive bars on the center stack. One controls audio volume and the other the ventilation system fan speed. To increase either, one slides a finger along the bar to the right, and to decrease either, slide to the left.  A tracer light follow finger movement.  However, as nifty as that technology is, one would expect automatic climate control to set the necessary fan speed and audio volume can be controlled by the steering wheel controls.

Speaking of which, the 2011 Lincoln MKX steering wheel controls go beyond simple rocker switches and thumb wheels. The steering wheel controls have five-way buttons configured to feel familiar to cell phone and MP3 players.

2011 Lincoln MKX driver seat

The leather treatment on the test 2011 Lincoln MKX had an unusal surface treatment.

The five-way buttons mimic the 8-inch touchscreen display on the center stack. We’re not going to begin to describe the operation in detail because, like we said, we’ll need time to become familiar with its operation. Let’s just say that it’s completely reconfigurable, depending on what function is desired.

MyLincoln Touch in the MKX is billed as an “intuitive solution (that) addresses  the infotainment evolution, taking vehicle interior design into the realm of popular personal electronics devices such as laptop computers, mobile phones and MP3 players.” To wit: A new media hub includes not one but two USB ports, video input jacks and an SD card reader.

MyLincoln Touch builds on Lincoln SYNC, the electronic info and communication system developed by Ford and Microsoft, that connects Bluetooth phones and digital media players with voice-activated operation. The MyLincoln Touch system adds traffic, directions and information for hands-free travel directions, traffic and information as well as business listings, news, sports and weather. The voice recognition has been improved as well, going from 100 “first level commands” to 10,000, making it easier to talk to the system, or at least for the system to understand what you want.

Also new on the 2011 Lincoln MKX is the world’s first implementation of iTunes Tagging in a factory installed HD Radio receiver. With a touch of a button, the radio will remember the song that was playing until it can be downloaded into an iPod, and from there the song can be purchased at the iTunes Store.

HD radio is optional. HD radio, broadcast in digital, improves the quality of sound, making AM radio sound like FM and FM sound like a CD. Of course, it’s also limited to areas where radio stations transmit in HD and while HD isn’t subject to fade, like satellite radio, it’s either all there or it isn’t.