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Lincoln MKT Unparalleled in Parking Ease


If the U.S. runs 18.6 gallons short of gas this year, blame this scribe.

When the 2010 Lincoln MKT arrived for testing, we spent the day cruising the neighborhood for one simple reason: to find cars parked on the street so we could experience how MKT parallel parks itself. The game ended when the fuel supply did.

MKT was created by Ford designers as is Lincoln's derivative of the Ford Flex crossover without looking like it came from the same planet, much less the same company or platform.

What makes self-parking -- available in other Ford, as well as Lexus, models -- noteworthy is that MKT is no mini, but a large crossover, with three rows of seats that can hold up to seven people and all their gear. Squeezing a crossover 5 inches longer than Flex into the space between two other vehicles on the street would be no mean feat for a mere mortal motorist but is child's play for this machine.

The sculpted sheet metal and signature waterfall chrome grille give it a high-fashion appearance. While Flex looks more like a cartoon, MKT is stylish. It also gives Lincoln a seven-passenger companion to the five-passenger midsize MKX.

But the real beauty is Active Park Assist, which uses sophisticated sensors to so this Lincoln parallel park on its own. Look, Ma, no hands.

Press a dash button and the sonar sensors beep when you approach a parking spot that will hold MKT. The message center in the dash prompts when to stop alongside the car in front of the spot, engage reverse, gently press the gas pedal and watch the MKT direct itself into the space. The driver's job: brake and pull forward to straighten out once there.

It happens so fast, the novice looks like a veteran stuntman. The first time you let go of the wheel and watch it spin while MKT darts into the space in seconds without touching any sheet metal, it's nothing short of a miracle. Next up: Using the system to exiting the parking space on its own -- Stay tuned. and some day voice activation instead of the replace the push button.

If the parking spot is too small or if too far (more than 5 feet() or too close (1 foot or less() to the car alongside, the system won't operate beep and you have to keep hunting for a space. It's a $595 option that should be required for anyone who parks on the street. parking versus lots or driveways. It's available on MKT, MKS, EcoBoost Flex and Ford Escape/Escape hybrids.

MKT also deserves kudos for sporting the new twin-turbo, 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 offered in a variety of Ford and Lincoln products. This is the one that puts out the power of a V-8 (355 horsepower), with the mileage of a V-6 mileage: 16 city/22 highway with AWD in the base 3.7-liter non-turbo and 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6s.

The twin turbos keep it from limping up steep inclines or stumbling into and out of the passing lane, yet with the luxury quiet befitting a Lincoln.

The suspension and 20-inch all-season radials are tuned for blemish-free travel. Stability and traction control provide secure motoring, and with the AWD, keep the vehicle in the direction pointed regardless of surface. Though 4,800 pounds, it doesn't feel bulky in corners or turns, and steering response is precise.

As we've noted, MKT has three rows of seats for up to seven. Front row is cozy, well cushioned and supportive for long-distance cruising. Second row has adequate room and manual levers to flip and fold the seats for access to the third row, unless you pop $995 for power flip/fold and heating and cooling. But even $995 can't buy the third row the headroom needed for adults to hold melon upright. Third-row seats manually flip and fold flat for more cargo; power operation costs $595.

MKT with AWD and EcoBoost starts at $49,200, about $5,000 more than without either or about $3,000 more than with just AWD.

Goodies include side-curtain air bags; push-button start; power-adjustable pedals; rain-sensing wipers; capless fuel-filler system; rear-view camera; blind-spot detection; cross-traffic alert if something approaches from the side when backing up; AM/FM/satellite radio with in-dash single CD/DVD/MP3; auxiliary input jack and USB port; and Sync, the voice-activated communications and entertainment system that integrates Bluetooth phones and digital media players and notifies a 911 operator if an air bag deploys.

Nifty options are the second-row mini-fridge ($895) and DVD entertainment system ($1,995).

Three rows of seats, huge cargo hold, AWD security and 4,500-pound towing capacity -- so unless you need to tow 8,500 pounds, does Lincoln need Navigator?

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