Just because you're buying on a budget doesn't mean the vehicles you're considering have to be the same size or class. If you're looking for a new crossover, for example, you might want to get a smaller vehicle from a luxury brand or look at a larger vehicle from a mass-market manufacturer. To see how this equation can work out, we're going to compare the midsize 2017 Lincoln MKX with the full-size Ford Explorer.

2017 Lincoln MKX vs Ford Explorer

Styling

If you want the practicality of a crossover but the presence of a large luxury sedan, the 2017 Lincoln MKX is a good place to look. The styling is handsome, reserved, and not too blingy, but it's certainly distinctive enough with the new dual grille to not be mistaken for anything else in the market. It's not particularly sporty, but perhaps too many crossovers are going that way anyway.

Speaking of sporty, that's exactly the route Ford has gone down with the Explorer and the sport appearance package for lower trims only further emphasizes the fact. Apart from a little more bulk, the Explorer could easily be mistaken for a Ford Edge. It's an attractive vehicle, but the more distinctive look of the Lincoln gets our vote.

Power & Performance

A certain level of prestige and luxury is exemplified by the fact the midsize Lincoln MKX doesn't bother with a four-cylinder engine, and instead sticks with a pair of powerful V-6 engines. The standard 3.7-liter unit puts out a healthy 303 horsepower, while the bigger engine option is an outstanding 2.7-liter twin-turbo developing an impressive 335 horsepower and 380lb.-ft. of torque. Front-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission are standard, but all-wheel drive is available for both engines.

The Explorer is a bigger, heavier vehicle than the Lincoln but it does have a four cylinder, although the other two engines are V-6s. The non-turbo 3.5 V-6 and the 2.3-liter EcoBoost inline-four are both down on power compared to the base engine in the MKX, but the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V66 is the most powerful unit.

Interior Comfort & Luxury

The comfort and luxury of the Lincoln is emphasized by the fact the Lincoln ignores the temptation to squeeze a third-row into the MKX. The result is the maximum possible space for the five people it's designed to accommodate. This no-compromise approach is reaffirmed by an interior that's every bit as stylish, comfortable, well-made, and luxurious as it should be with a luxury model.

You'll get about 40 percent more passenger volume inside the Explorer than in the MKX, which is fine if that's your main concern. The front seats are comfortable and supportive, but the second row isn't as welcoming. The interior is well put together, but the Explorer, even at the top trim levels, is no match for the Lincoln in terms of luxury.

Fuel Economy

The V-6 engines in the Lincoln MKX are not just V-6s, but powerful V-6s, so we shouldn't expect too much from them in terms of fuel economy. They're not terrible, though, with the EPA rating the more economical, and more powerful, of the two engines at 17 mpg in the city, 26 mpg on the highway and 21 mpg combined.

Some might expect the turbo-four in the Explorer to be better on gas, and it is, but not by as much as you might imagine. Because it has more size and weight to cope with than the V-6 in the MKX, the best the Explorer with the 2.3-liter EcoBoost can manage is 19 mpg in the city, 27 mpg on the highway and 22 mpg combined.,/a> That's enough for a narrow win, but only just.

Learn More about the Lincoln MKX

Buying with a particular budget actually gives buyers far more of a range than what you might imagine. When you compare them, head to head, the 2017 Lincoln MKX gives you better styling, power, and interior comfort. If you want or need a bigger vehicle than the MKX, though, and don't mind a less posh interior, the Ford Explorer offers a solid three-row option. In this comparison, though, we're recommending the Lincoln.

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