CarsDirect Articles: ML350 vs Lincoln MKT

As an aside that would otherwise go unheard, I’m putting out blogs of my work versus my own thoughts, as they are two different things.

Originally Written: The Lincoln MKT and Mercedes ML350 are two very similarly powered utility vehicles for not-so-different prices.  Don’t let the similarities fool you, though, as these are two different breeds of luxury utility.

Where the MKT shines over the ML is the seating: seven seats are standard.  The base price is also lower by $5,000 unless using the Mercedes web comparison tool, which nets another $15,000 in options.  Beyond that, the Lincoln is a competent vehicle that doesn’t have the versatility of the Mercedes.  Regardless, the 3.7L V6 makes for a solid performance with 303-horsepower and 278ftlbs of torque– 1hp/5ftlbs above the German rivals’ output.  Even with more power and having “only” a six-speed automatic, Lincoln’s big CUV still gets around 25mpg highway when front-wheel drive.  There’s the looks that need to be discussed: a winged grille and rear light bar evoke past successes.  Yet why go retro on a vehicle not attached to the great Zephyrs and Continentals of yore?  Instead the MKT comes off a bit like a mustachio’d hipster up front (marine mammal comparisons are passé), and tailed by a red unibrow for the rear lighting fixture.  The interior is showing its age compared to the Mercedes.*

The Mercedes ML350 may only seat five, but it’s also not the largest of the brands fleet of Ute’s.  Essentially matching power to the MKT, the ML can still tow 6,600lbs—that’s more than three times the MKT’s 2,000lbs limit.  Cargo capacity of the M-Class is also a huge difference to the MKT with a total of 38 cubic feet with seats up; 80cuft seats down—consistently near 20cuft more over the Lincoln. That’s certainly worth the extra $5,000 in base price, alone.  There’s even a transfer case and skid plates for those who really leave the pavement.  Remaining is still that pesky irregularity from the Mercedes pricing for an additional $15,000.  Part of that can be attributed to the Lincoln’s standard leather, while base ML350’s are simulated hide.  A simple luxury of memory seats is another such option that the Lincoln gives without blinking.

Each vehicle compromises in this comparison, with the MKT giving up towing and cargo space while the ML350 lacks a few frills at the base price.  But when considering that whether calling these two machines a CUV or an SUV, the “utility vehicle” is an ever present theme.  For that the towing, cargo, and equipment list to truly off-road gives the ML350 a clear win.

My take:  *They did throw in the comparison to it looking like a hearse, which I never stated… just one more example how they may or may not interject their own wording into mine.  This is actually the exact premise for blogging my original and the edited published examples with links to compare.

A friend of mine on Facebook wasn’t thrilled with the idea of the Lincoln losing, especially since he knows that I don’t even get to personally sit in or drive either vehicle (I’ve tried to see about such detailed reviews/comparisons, but I’m told it’s too costly and time consuming for the level of information assigned).  For his sake, I tried to bring up the standard leather and other such niceties of Lincoln, while still giving it a gracious loss only as an SUV, not as a more car-like CUV.  That shone through in the published version, at least.

That friend of mine also wasn’t thrilled at my insinuating that the MKT was a Volvo form 1998, either.  But indeed, deep in the DNA, the 1998 Volvo S80 sits under the Ford Fivehundred sedan of 2005, and the current Taurus.  From there the genes have extended to the CUV’s like Flex, Explorer, and thus the MKT.  Unfair, sure, but nonetheless fact.  This evolutionary chart/meme showing “dirt” before the ancient Volvo probably didn’t help.

In any case, I had to write about the ML350 against fellow German rival, the BMW X5, with the BMW being the winner.  At that point, I figured the CUV theme of on-road performance and seating capacity should be the defining win.  To make up to the Mercedes here, I reversed that and figured that if we look at Crossover Utility Vehicle or Sport Utility Vehicle, no matter what it’s a “Utility Vehicle,” which is where the Mercedes won out.  Obviously my conclusion in the original version was leaning a little deeper on the differentiation of an SUV and CUV, but the published version made no mention of the sort.  In fact, they made it a CUV comparison specifically, highlighting the section “Which is the better CUV” and then putting “The Lincoln includes more standard equipment at a lower price. But the Mercedes-Benz offers a better mix of performance and utility. In an all-around sense, the ML350 is the stronger choice.”   Can’t win ’em all.


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