Lincoln MKT brings luxury to Ford D3 platform

  • 29-Jan-2009 09:44 EST
2010 Lincoln MKT rear 3quarter.JPG

Based on Ford’s D3 (Flex) platform, MKT offers most of the attributes of the giant Navigator in a seven-passenger unibody CUV with available AWD and turbocharged V6.

One year after AEI reported on the Lincoln MKT concept’s debut at the 2008 NAIAS, Ford unveiled the production version. The 2010 MKT is due to enter production at Ford’s Oakville, Ontario, assembly complex this summer.

The large crossover with three-row seating remains faithful to the show car in its layout and intent. It is aimed at traditional SUV owners who want improved fuel efficiency but do not want to sacrifice their truck-based utilities’ many functional attributes—including easy ingress/egress, interior flexibility, and hauling capability.

MKT, known internally at Ford by its D472 code, is based on the company’s D3 (Flex) platform, itself derived from the Volvo S80 architecture that underpins the MKS sedan. The new model’s "T" nameplate stands for Touring, and the vehicle will be built in both front- and all-wheel-drive versions.

“We started development with a center section common with Flex,” explained Chief Engineer Ron Heiser. “Senior management committed to the necessary Ford/Lincoln product differentiation. They wanted a clear visual separation between the Flex and MKT ‘top hats,’” he noted. At Ford, the term "top hat" is used to describe unique upper body sheet metal built on common structures.

Dimensionally, MKT fits into Lincoln’s lineup above the Ford Edge-based MKX midsize CUV, which has two seat rows. At 207.6 in (5273 mm) long overall, with a 117.9-in (2995-mm) wheelbase, its footprint is nearly equal to that of the F-150-based Navigator.

Curb weight, however, is substantially less than Navigator’s 5555 lb (2520 kg). The base front-drive MKT is 4499 lb (2041 kg). EcoBoost models with AWD will tip the scales at 5018 lb (2276 kg).

Heiser noted that helping to keep the primarily steel-bodied vehicle within its targeted weight class is a cast-magnesium liftgate inner panel. Supplied by Meridian Magnesium Products, it is one of the largest single magnesium parts currently in automotive production.

The mag inner panel saved more than 20 lb (9 kg) versus the same part in stamped steel. The vehicle also boasts a cast-magnesium front aperture, which carries the front fascia and headlamp module.

“Magnesium was specified in the original program; it’s not a late ‘band-aid’ of any kind,” Heiser explained.

Styling chief Gordon Platto kept exterior surfacing and details similar to the MKS. With a bustleback rear end and ample tumblehome, the overall look is substantial and premium. It will ensure MKT stands out among competitors, which Heiser listed as the Acura MDX, Audi Q7, and the new Cadillac SRX.

MKT’s base powerplant is the 3.7-L Duratec 37. The naturally aspirated DOHC V6 is expected to deliver 268 hp (200 kW) at 6500 rpm and 267 lb·ft (362 N·m) at 4250 rpm, when final SAE ratings are completed. The V6 features a two-speed fuel pump and Ford’s Aggressive Deceleration Fuel Shut-Off (ADFSO) control. Combined with optimized six-speed transmission and final-drive gearing, they are designed to allow this engine to deliver what Ford hopes will be segment-leading fuel economy. (The transmission features paddle-shift levers for a degree of manual-shift control.)

The optional powerplant is a twin-turbocharged 3.5-L EcoBoost V6. This direct-injected unit is designed to provide the power of a naturally aspirated V8 with six-cylinder fuel efficiency. Ford is aiming for a class-leading 355 hp (265 kW) at 5700 rpm and 350 lb·ft (475 N·m) at 3500 rpm. EPA fuel economy is expected to be in the mid-20-mpg (10.6 km/L) range when certification is completed.

All-wheel drive will be optional on 3.7-L models and standard with the EcoBoost 3.5-L engine.

Ford Vice President of Global Product Development, Derrick Kuzak, challenged the MKT body-engineering team to raise its body craftsmanship to new levels. They extensively benchmarked Acura and Audi in particular and are confident that the Lincoln’s production panel-to-panel gaps and consistency will exceed those brands’ best efforts, Heiser said.

The program also executed what Ford calls a "hand-tool pilot launch" in the plant during the prototype-build phase, which Heiser asserted will enable a smooth production launch.

Topping it all, MKT offers two "panoramic vista roof" choices as pioneered on the MKX—standard fixed glass with power-assisted front and rear sunshades or an optional power-sliding version.

Inside, there is about 160 ft³ (4531 L) of total interior volume. MKT will launch with a manual-stow rear seat, Heiser explained. Shortly after start of production, a power fold-and-stow seat will arrive. Seating can be configured to accommodate six or seven passengers with two second-row setups. MKT also gets the Flex’s innovative refrigerator console fitted among the second row, the seatbacks of which carry an available dual headrest audio/video system with twin 7-in DVD screens.

Heiser’s team focused on finely balancing the MKT’s ride comfort and driving dynamics. Suspension development and tuning included minimizing front end lift on acceleration, offering direct steering and controlled handling characteristics. Rear suspension dampers feature a linear-response “one for one” damper ratio providing a stable baseline for suspension tuning. The suspension also enables the use of 20-in wheels.

MKT’s chassis also features Electronic Power Assisted Steering (EPAS), which enables the optional Active Park Assist. Lincoln gets a North American market exclusive on the active-park technology for 2009. The Valeo-supplied system (first launched on Volkswagen Group vehicles in Europe where it’s known as Park4U) employs ultrasonic-based sensing rather than a video camera-based system as found on competitive vehicles.

Another major program bogey was achieving best-in-class NVH levels. Using virtual modeling tools including CFD, along with various scale wind-tunnel tests, helped engineers optimize the vehicle’s aerodynamic performance. Development included special sound deadening mats placed in the body’s bulkhead; extensive exhaust system isolation; and an acoustic windshield augmented by dual-layer front side glass aimed at reducing wind noise around the A-pillars.

The list of safety-and-convenience-related technologies offered on MKT includes a radar-based blind-spot and cross-traffic alert system; collision warning; post-crash alert; a reverse camera linked to the navi screen; adaptive cruise control; remote starting; adaptive headlamps with standard HID lamps; and the ubiquitous Ford/Microsoft Sync.

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