On the MKT

Before becoming design director for Ford North American Trucks & SUVs (which includes crossovers), Pat Schiavone was design director for Ford North American Car.

Before becoming design director for Ford North American Trucks & SUVs (which includes crossovers), Pat Schiavone was design director for Ford North American Car. And when he was dealing with that challenge, the work that has been created in salable sheet metal for Lincoln—as in the MKS sedan—was executed. And with his present role, there is the MKT full-size crossover that’s just taking to the road.

In fact, Schiavone was an important participant as Ford design staff set to work on creating a new design language for Lincoln, one that Schiavone characterizes as having the attributes that he believes those looking for American luxury are seeking: “Sculptural, expressive, and artistic.”

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Designer Pat Schiavone says that they went back through the history of Lincoln models of yore to determine the elements that once made the car a symbol of American luxury. Like strong C-pillars and cantilevered roofs, elements that will be part of vehicles from the division going forward.

If the transformed Cadillac design approach is “Art & Science,” how does Schiavone see Lincoln’s? “Sculpture & Sensuous Form” he responds. (OK. He didn’t respond with the capital letters and the ampersand.)

To get to what he calls the “new Lincoln DNA” with some trepidation—trepidation because he is concerned that genetic term gets bandied about so much as to become somewhat innocuous, if not completely meaningless—Schiavone says the design team went back to the history of Lincoln, all the way to an ad that appeared in 1923, one that described how Lincoln would deliver on “beauty” through good taste, purity in design, and quality. And as they worked their ways through various Lincolns through the years, they discerned that there were some design elements that they needed to recapture for the marque. There is the bow wave grille. There is what he calls the “powerful and dynamic beltline” that works up in the back to the “haunch.” The body sides are clean. There is the strong C-pillar (or in the case of the MKT, a strong D-pillar, as this is arguably a sport wagon). And there are the long horizontal tail lamps. All of these elements can be seen on both the MKS and the MKT (with the exception of the taillamps on the MKS, which are not as described because of a timing issue; one can be confident than on the refresh they’ll be there). This is going to be what Lincolns will look like going forward. But this isn’t going to be a matter of a cookie-cutter approach.

 

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Following the MKS sedan, the MKT crossover—or sport wagon—features the Lincoln design cues that will become characteristics of the products. Note, for example, the haunch formed as the belt line kicks up at the back. And compare it with the 1961 Continental.

That is, take the grille. The form will continue. But Schiavone says that the vertical bars aren’t necessarily the standard, that they’ll be investigating other looks, say, for example, more of a mesh. Similarly, there will be 2 experimentation with the tail lamps. But the clean sides with the slight kick up as the beltline moves from the rear door to the C-pillar. Schiavone explains that while the sides will remain clean, there is the opportunity to give them some form, albeit form that may be most evident in a plan view rather that seen straight on from the side.

While these elements may all work well for large vehicles like the MKT—it has an overall length of 207.6 in.—what about smaller vehicles? Does it scale? Schiavone argues that it does, and cites the 2009 Lincoln C concept that was done under the direction of Freeman Thomas at Ford’s Strategic Concepts Group, as evidence. (The Lincoln C, like the 1961 Continental, has no B-pillar and center-opening doors: could this be something that we’ll see from Lincoln?)

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The 2009 Lincoln Concept C: Proving that the new design language for Lincoln is scalable—not just about full-size cars and crossovers.

The MKT is, says Ron Heiser, chief nameplate engineer for the vehicle, a prime example of the “top-hat strategy” deployed by Ford. That is, the underpinnings of the MKT are (with the exception being some suspension bits that are deployed to modify the ride of the Lincoln) precisely those of the Ford Flex. They’re both built at the Ford Oakville, Ontario, manufacturing facility. But Heiser points out that there is no sheet metal or interior trim common to the vehicles (although they both utilize the same clever compressor-driven refrigeration system). These are two different vehicles.

Under the hood, there is commonality. There are the standard 3.7-liter 268-hp Duratec V6 (270 hp if you run it on premium) and the 3.5-liter 355 hp (premium fuel) EcoBoost. Both vehicles have six-speed transmissions. Both vehicles are front- or all-wheel drive.

Still, they are decidedly different vehicles.

Inside the MKT there is an extensive use of leather, including the cut-and-sew instrument panel trim. There is real wood. There is either six- or seven-passenger seating, with three variations on the second row, though in all variants two seating positions are heated. The driver’s and front passenger’s seats are heated, cooled, and 12-way adjustable with power lumbar. In the center stack there is a touch screen regardless of whether the optional navigation package is selected; in the non-navi vehicles, the screen is used for audio and climate controls, compass, and for the rear-view camera. It has SYNC. Models with the EcoBoost engine, which has Electric Power Assist Steering (the 3.7-liter vehicles have a standard rack-and-pinion steering), can be equipped with the ultrasonic sensor-based Active Park Assist system, which Frank Davis, executive director of Ford Product Development, points out is much easier to use than the system offered by Lexus.

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The MKT provides seating for six (as shown here) or seven, with the second row being a three-person bench seat.

Speaking of other car builders, the competitors cited by Ron Heiser for the MKT are the Audi Q7 and the Acura MDX, and he points out, for example, that compared to both of those vehicles the MKT offers a flatter driving experience when cornering, with less body roll and better roll damping.

While Lincoln seems to have spent the past several years in the shadows of not only the likes of Audi and Acura, but most certainly Cadillac, it seems that they’re finally getting their act together and are back out on stage, working toward the spotlight.

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