Lincoln is hard at work reasserting itself in the luxury realm and while this rebuilding effort won’t cause much midnight oil to be burned in either Stuttgart or Munich, the brand is finding a way to carve out its own unique identity in the upscale market. Case in point is the 2016 Lincoln Black Label MKX, a midsize crossover SUV that in the span of a model year has gone from forgettable to notable thanks to a mid-cycle revamp.

A big part of the refresh is a more subdued and sculpted take on the “bow-wave” grille theme that goes from toothy to intriguing. It’s what this look should have been from the beginning but a word of caution -- it probably will have a short run as it appears that Lincoln is transitioning to a squarer, mesh grille sported by new vehicles in the line, primarily the upcoming Continental and refreshed MKZ.

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Black Label: More than a name

The Black Label branding is more than just rich looking trim or uplevel equipment, it also brings along a host of concierge services that include free pickup and delivery of the vehicle for service visits, free regular car washes and access to special events. But the stuff you get on the vehicle itself is also pretty special. The Chrome Quartz Silver Metallic paint scheme (a $1,750 option) is something to behold in person -- it’s rich looking with a lot of depth. Combined with the sexier curves on the restyled flanks of the MKX, the crossover SUV looks more sporty than utility -- a big improvement over the boxier appearance of the previous model. The inside carries the same attention to detail as the exterior -- you really get the feel that you are travelling a class above thanks to touches like an Alcantara wrapped headliner and Venetian leather trimmed seats.

But beyond the luxury trappings, the mechanical package impresses with a 335-horsepower twin-turbo 2.7-liter V6 mated to a sweet-shifting 6-speed automatic. The MKX is swift, impressively insulated and comfortable to drive. It’s not a sport sedan (or a sport crossover), but it has a solid feel that never puts a foot wrong in the daily drive. The high seating position adds to that confidence with its command of the road visibility.

Also: See the New and Redesigned Cars of 2016

Multiple assist systems available

With a base price of $55,810 (plus $895 destination), the Black Label MKX is equipped with a long list of standard features. On top of that, our test vehicle had another $11,225 worth of options that included a full suite of driver assists and cameras, including rear, front and all-around views that aid parking maneuvers. Not that the MKX is that difficult to wheel around on its own -- as a 2-row crossover, it offers front and rear passengers nearly the same amount of room as a full-size SUV, but without the length that can make it cumbersome in traffic and parking lots.

The other assists include things like adaptive cruise control and a parking/blind spot warning system that was a bit too aggressive for my tastes both in the loudness of the warnings and their sensitivity. While I was in a left turn bay, the left side sensors were sounding off for a traffic sign that was a good foot and half away from the door. A big challenge ahead with assists will be tuning their sensitivities and warnings to be consistent with the cabin environment. As serene as the Black Label MKX is, it felt oddly jarring to have such strident warnings when a gentle alert would be more appropriate.  Still, the 2016 Lincoln Black Label MKX says a lot about where Ford’s luxury division is headed and if it’s an indication of what we can expect from the Continental, there’s a bright future in store. 


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