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Lincoln MKX cries out to young

Car ownership in the United States used to be part of the socioeconomic climb. Depending on which brand they were loyal to, drivers moved from Ford to Mercury to Lincoln, or from Chevrolet to Buick to Cadillac.

It was oh-so-American. Not any more. Many buyers with decent money now shop overseas brands as well.

Which is why today's test car, the 2007 Lincoln MKX crossover, represents more than an attempt by Lincoln to keep loyalists in the fold. It is, in fact, the start of a campaign to lure the younger buyers who are opting for the luxury of Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, Mazda, and Acura, among others.

While Cadillac, which used edgy design and high performance to make over its entire line, has succeeded in attracting young first-time buyers, Lincoln has lagged in that area.

The MKX could help turn that around.

Yes, it is a derivative of the Ford Edge and Mazda MX-9 crossovers. And it does start with a base price that is more than $8,500 above the Edge, a fine Ford product.

But this is not a mere rebadging -- slapping a fancy moniker on what is essentially the same car and jacking up the price to make more money.

The MKX, with its large, boldly raked windshield and pinched side glass beneath a roof that drops dramatically to the rear gate, has the aerodynamic lines that have become familiar because of the modern crossover.

But add a grille that is as big as the grin of Batman 's nemesis The Joker, give it a distinctive vertical Lincoln badge and broad, thin headlamps, and the Lincoln stands out from the pack.

Inside, there is subtle luxury. The leather seating for the five passengers is spacious, though a bit more base to stretch out up front would be an improvement.

Controls at the center dash pod are large and easy to use, and the touch-screen controls for the navigation system were some of the easiest to figure out and manipulate I have come across.

The all-wheel-drive system was transparent, never showing off as it transmitted power where needed, even during some hard cornering in water deep enough for hydroplaning.

The ride was softer than what I experienced in the Edge, probably because this car is aimed at a market that prefers rides on the fluffy side, rather than the tactile and sharp response of a stiffer suspension setup.

The only engine available for the MKX is a 3.5-liter V-6 that produces a respectable 265 horsepower and is linked to a six-speed automatic transmission that efficiently moves up and down the bands. It's plenty powerful for this model's prospective buyers.

Standard safety equipment includes side air bags and a front-to-rear "safety canopy" of bags. There is also electronic stability control and tire pressure monitoring.

Eighteen-inch aluminum wheels are standard, as are halogen headlamps, fog lights, heated power mirrors, dual chrome tips for the exhaust, eight-way power front seats, dual zone electronic climate control, leather seating, and wood trim, and a six-year, 70,000-mile powertrain warranty.

The base price of nearly $36,000 got close to $44,000 in our test model with the addition of an "elite package" that, for $4,795, included a panoramic roof, Sirius satellite radio, DVD navigation with center screen, and upgraded audio. Another $1,995 added heated and cooled front seats, 18-inch chrome wheels, adaptive headlights, and power side mirrors. A towing package and heated rear seats added an additional $600.

The MKX is not necessarily a car you would expect from Lincoln, but the company hopes to sell it to some folks who wouldn't necessarily buy a Lincoln.

Royal Ford can be reached at ford@globe.com.

Shop it against:

2007 ACURA RDX It features Acura's first turbocharged engine and is closest to a sports car in this group . The inline-four-cylinder engine delivers 240 horsepower and you can shift with paddles on the wheel . Priced in the mid-30s to around $40,000.

2007 BMW X3 The bigger X5 gets you well out of the price range of this group . The X3 will do at about $40,000 with a 260-horsepower inline-six. Advanced stability control system is world class.

2007 LEXUS RX 350 Also available in hybrid form as the 400h, the RX 350 (priced between $40,000 and $48,000) is the beast to beat in this group, though the Acura, with turbocharged four cylinders and an attractive price, provides heady competition.

2007 MAZDA CX-7 AND CX-9 Sporty, turbocharged . Prices from the mid-20s to $40,000. The CX-7 has a 244-horsepower inline-four turbo . The CX-9 will have a 250-horsepower V-6 and a third row of seating.

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