Lincoln MKT THX II Sound System Page 2

Test #3: The Coryells

Audiophile recordings of jazz and classical music are made to sound good on a high-quality home system; in a car, they often sound awful. That's why I was so surprised when I played "Sentenza del Cuore: Allegra" from the Chesky CD The Coryells. This track, with jazz great Larry Coryell and his sons Julian and Murali all playing acoustic guitars, is one of the most spacious and delicate ever to appear on the Chesky label.

Normally, the Coryells sound horrendous in the car, because the speaker placement messes up the stereo soundstage and the road noise obscures most of the sonic details. In the MKT, though, the THX system arrayed the three guitars much as my home system does. The sound had a gratifying depth; the castanet that punctuates the recording seemed to come from a spot about 10 feet directly in front of the car.

I assume that the quality of the imaging and soundstaging results mostly from the THX Slot Speaker: two 2-inch midrange cones and one 1-inch tweeter, all hidden inside a slot that itself hides under the system's center speaker grille. Fincham explained that the Slot Speaker carries a mix of left and right channels, adjusted to make the soundfield natural for all listeners. Only extreme left and right signals emerge from the speakers built into the car's front pillars.

"We made the soundfield as near as possible symmetrical, so the driver and passengers all get much the same experience," he explained. "The Slot Speaker also keeps the sound balance consistent no matter what your height."

Thanks to the MKT's super-quiet interior, I could actually hear most of the details in The Coryells recording without cranking up the volume. According to Lincoln, the MKT is loaded with features that minimize road noise, including an acoustic belly pan, acoustic glass, and acoustic treatment in the pillars supporting the roof. I'm no car expert, but it sounded pretty quiet to me.

Test #4: Whatever

After I went through all my faves, I started just messing around with the system to sample the other entertainment options. Although I did get stuck a few times trying to tune a specific radio station-and even just trying to turn the system off-I eventually figured out how to do everything I wanted to do. Good thing, too, because this factory-fresh MKT was missing its owner's manual.

This car offers a lot of entertainment options. Besides the USB stick/iPod connection capability, it also offers Sirius satellite radio, AM/FM radio, and a DVD/CD player that rips your CDs to an internal hard drive. The car is also compatible with Sirius Travel Link, a subscription data service that gives you current info about things like nearby gas stations (complete with fuel prices), local movie theater listings, weather, and sports scores.

The MKT I drove was equipped with a $3,000 upgrade package that includes DVD-Audio playback (remember those?), 5.1 playback, navigation, collision detection, and an indicator that tells you if someone's in your blind spot. The standard THX package with no 5.1 or DVD-Audio runs a reasonable $700.

Although I'm not here to talk about the MKT per se, I do have to mention one great option that's kind of techy: a real compressor-driven refrigerator in the backseat console, which holds up to seven cans of soda. According to Lincoln, it freezes liquids faster than a SubZero home refrigerator. Unfortunately, I got so wrapped up in the audio system I neglected to give the refrigerator a thorough evaluation.

There's one last feature I have to mention, one that McKenna says is new to the MKT: a THX demo mode that displays the THX logo and plays the famous "Deep Note" crescendo that ends the THX theater trailers. Silly? Perhaps. Show-offy? Absolutely. But still, I must have played it 20 times over, reveling each time in the power and overall coolness of the system.

Of course, you probably wouldn't buy a car just because you like the sound system, but I can promise that you wouldn't not buy this car because you didn't like the sound system.