DETROIT – Ford Motor Co.’s Lincoln MKT cross/utility vehicle to be unveiled here at the North American International Auto Show today rides on the same platform as the forthcoming ’09 Ford Flex CUV but sports dramatically different sheet metal.

Peter Horbury, executive director of design-The Americas, says his team referred to the MKT as the “Learjet of the road” during the design phase.

Target customers will range from “business executives to families,” he says. “It shows the versatility of (Lincoln) DNA.”

Unlike the 7-passenger Flex, the MKT provides seating for four, with a cavernous bustle-back cargo hold behind the second-row seats. The cargo area can be separated via a power-lift system that raises and lowers a series of rails.

“The classic look provides massive storage capacity, crucial for any trip,” Ford says.

Rear-seat occupants get the full executive treatment, courtesy of heated and cooled thigh supports that deploy from under the seats. Backseat passengers also have the ability to fully recline thanks to footrests underneath the front seats.

The MKT’s oversized seats are meant to emulate those found in first-class aircraft cabins, as is the abundance of legroom provided by the cabin configuration.

Ford says the concept’s interior boasts soothing tone-on-tone colors, eco-friendly materials, ambient lighting and flexible storage.

The center stack features a new solid-state lighting technology that allows projections –

previously relegated to flat surfaces – onto contoured surfaces in 3-D, Ford says.

Instrumentation also is decidedly high tech, with light-emitting diodes positioned so light appears to emanate from the center of three circular dials.

Ford makes use of a number of “upcycled” materials in the MKT, including Valox iQ and Xenoy iQ, resins produced from discarded soft-drink bottles and other polyester waste. The resins are supplied by SABIC Innovative Plastics and are used in the body panels, energy absorbers and wire bundles. These components traditionally required heat protection, Ford says, but the resins negate the need for such protection due to their inherent chemical composition. The resins also help dampen noise and vibration.

The MKT’s long, low and wide exterior evokes a limousine-like appearance, while wide C-pillars provide a degree of privacy for rear passengers, the auto maker says.

The rear of the MKT is adorned with full-width LED taillamps stretched from side to side, which Ford says makes it instantly recognizable as a Lincoln. A glass roof allows in ambient light.

The all-wheel-drive vehicle is powered by a turbocharged, direct-injection EcoBoost engine that is E85-compatible. The unique setup allows the driver to switch back and forth between premium gasoline and a blend of 15% gasoline and 85% ethanol.

The MKT’s 3.5L engine produces 415 hp and 400 lb.-ft. (542 Nm) of torque and is mated to a 6-speed transmission.

While the MKT is a concept vehicle, Horbury says it is as “realistic as any production vehicle.”

bpope@wardsauto.com