WAYNE, MI – Ford Motor Co. says the ’11 Lincoln MKX cross/utility vehicle will receive a new grille similar to that found on the MKS luxury sedan and MKT CUV in an effort to create a family resemblance.

First launched in 2006 as an ’07 model, the MKX was Lincoln’s first foray into the CUV segment.

Sales of the MKX have been respectable, but not spectacular. The vehicle posted its best year in 2007, with 37,953 deliveries. Lincoln sold 29,076 units in 2008 and 21,433 in 2009, Ward’s data shows.

But with the ’11 model, receiving the split-wing grille in place of the outdated egg-crate design, Lincoln officials are hopeful the model will get a sales boost.

“As Lincoln gets a consistent look, feel and DNA and greater awareness with the product launches we’ve had over the last few years, we’re seeing more and more customers coming into the showrooms we haven’t seen before,” Marketing Manager Jason Mase tells Ward’s at a product preview event here.

Despite the MKX’s lukewarm sales, Mase says the CUV has been successful in drawing conquest buyers to the Lincoln brand, a trend he expects to continue when the new model debuts this summer.

“Our research found import customers, in particular, were not aware Lincoln had made this move to increased levels of technology, and it was very appealing,” he says. “So we expect to see more of a pull from that group than in the past.”

The ’11 MKX will be available with Lincoln’s version of MyFord Touch driver-connectivity technology. The system builds on the capabilities of Ford’s Sync, which allows voice-activated use of MP3 players and Bluetooth-equipped cell phones.

MyFord Touch gives consumers greater control over vehicle functions such as climate, audio and navigation, while also minimizing driver distraction. “MyLincoln Touch adds a new dynamic folks haven’t seen yet,” Mase says.

In addition to the new grille, the ’11 MKX gets updated light-emitting diode taillamps that are separated into two pieces, rather than the 1-piece lamps found on the outgoing model. The CUV also receives 4-in. (10-cm) chrome exhaust tips, new 18- and 20- in. wheels and other exterior modifications.

The fender line, with the raised arch over the front wheel, as well as the lower rocker detail with tapered bright detail that runs the length of the vehicle, makes a dramatic difference in the side view,” says Doyle Letson, chief designer on the MKX.

Inside, the MKX gets a significant makeover, with all-new leather trimmed seats, aluminum appliqués and accents, and two available steering-wheel wood accents: Olive Ash and Walnut Swirl.

To cut down on exterior noise, the MKX features an acoustic headliner, laminated windshield and acoustic glass in the front doors. Additionally, baked-on expandable foam baffles in the fenders and D-pillars keep out road noise, Lincoln says.

Under the hood is a 3.7L V-6 with twin independent variable camshaft riming that produces 205 hp and 280 lb.-ft. of torque (380 Nm), all the while achieving highway fuel economy of 25 mpg (9.4 L/100 km), which Lincoln says is best-in-class over V-6 competitors.

The engine is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission that allows drivers to manually select gears.

Primary competitors for the 2-row ’11 MKX include the Lexus RX350, Infiniti FX and Acura MDX, Mase says, noting Lincoln is keeping an eye on the new ’10 Cadillac SRX SUV, as well.

“We will continue to watch the SRX now that it’s going from a 3-row to a 2-row setup,” he says.

The ’11 Lincoln MKX will be assembled alongside the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKT CUVs at the auto maker’s Oakville, Canada, assembly plant. Pricing will be announced closer to the launch date.

bpope@wardsauto.com