Lincoln MKZ

2016 Lincoln MKZ

The Lincoln MKZ is a star for the brand, sporty, responsive, enthusiastic and entertaining. Some might see it as just a swoopy Ford Fusion because its built on the same platform, but its more than that. For one thing, the MKZ comes with Lincoln Drive Control, with three modes to set the dampers, steering response, stability and traction control, and active noise cancellation. Front-wheel drive is standard, all-wheel drive available.

The standard engine is the EcoBoost 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that is reasonably quick most of the time, and gets an EPA-estimated 33 Highway miles per gallon with front-wheel drive. It makes 240 horsepower and is mated to a paddle-shifting 6-speed automatic transmission.

Then there is a more Lincoln-like 3.7-liter V6 making 300 horsepower that gets 26 mpg Highway.

At the other extreme theres the MKZ Hybrid that gets 40 mpg Combined, and many have topped that on test drives. It uses a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine combined with lithium-ion batteries that are lighter and packaged better than on previous Ford hybrids, and a CVT.

The MKZ can be equipped with inflatable rear seatbelts in addition to the latest safety technology, including adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist and collision warning with braking. Theres also parking assist, which takes control of the steering and parks the car for you.

2014 Lincoln MKZ

Lincoln is Fords luxury brand, with a distinguished history during the stewardship of Edsel Ford, and a bumpy record after Mr. Fords death during World War II. Although there have been some bright spots during the years after WWII, the division has been in decline since the turn of the current century, a slide that the parent company seeks to reverse with new products that will restore the brands prestige.

Thats what the Lincoln MKZ is all about. With slick styling, and new underpinnings, the Lincoln MKZs mission is to put Lincoln back on mid-size luxury car shopping lists, a la Cadillacs dramatic Art and Science design breakthrough that began with the CTS sedan a decade earlier.

Launched as an all-new model for the 2013 model year, Lincoln MKZ is unchanged for 2014.

While its not nearly as radical as the original CTS, we think the MKZs styling does manage to stand out in a crowd, with the kind of contemporary good looks that should please an owners eye every day. And its dynamics should do the same, long hauls or short, back roads or freeways.

But the question is whether good looks and dynamic competence are enough to give the MKZ an edge in a very competitive luxury class. Well come back to that question. First, the fundamentals.

The Lincoln MKZ is based on the same foundations, and shares its powertrains with, the Ford Fusion. Much has been made of this in various reviews, many of them negative. The reasoning: the MKZ is essentially just a fancier version of the Fusion, and not really luxurious enough to justify its higher pricing: about $5000 more for our test subject than a comparably equipped top-level Fusion Titanium with all-wheel drive.

This oft-repeated theme is not entirely fair. Shared platforms and powertrains are common in todays industry, and employing Fusion bones for the MKZ unibody is not at all a bad thing. The chassis rates well in terms of structural rigidity, which is the fundamental starting point for all vehicle dynamics.

Thats an area where the MKZ measures up quite well versus some esteemed members of the luxury establishment, a noteworthy achievement for a front-wheel-drive design in a segment dominated by rear-wheel-drive cars. To mitigate this, MKZ is available with all-wheel drive, but even front-wheel-drive versions inspire confidence, thanks to Lincoln Drive Control, a semi-active damping system with three pre-sets (Comfort, Normal, Sport) that produce noticeable differences in handling response. Its a feature you wont find in a Fusion.

There are three power options: a 240-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder called EcoBoost, a 300-horsepower 3.7-liter V6, and a hybrid with a 141-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder augmented by a 118-horsepower electric motor. The turbo four and the V6 are paired with 6-speed automatics, while the hybrid transmits propulsion to the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

Like the exterior styling, the MKZs interior design cant be confused with that of the Fusion, with different looks, different materials, although one may question whether the materials are significantly more luxurious. On the other hand, the MKZ does have some unique interior elements. The power moonroof could double as the main hatch on a Great Lakes freighter, the transmission responds to pushbutton controls set in a vertical dashboard housing flanking the instrument pod (as well as steering column paddle shifters), and rear seatbelt airbags are available.

Fuel economy ratings are adequate for a car in this class, though unexceptional. With all-wheel drive, MKZ gets an EPA rating of 22/31 mpg City/Highway. The hybrid, predictably, does much better: 45/45 mpg, but it comes with tepid acceleration. If 0-to-60 mph is a priority, the V6 is the MKZ champ, sprinting to a mile-a-minute in just over six seconds, at the expense of fuel economy (18/26, according to the EPA).

On the up side, the MKZ is a generally smooth operator, exceptionally quiet, with a level of fit and finish worthy of this category. That, plus stylish good looks, may be enough to make it at least a plausible alternative in a very strong class.

2013 Lincoln MKZ

An all-new 2013 Lincoln MKZ enters the midsize luxury segment later this year. Calling it a milestone in the brands reinvention, Lincoln revealed the new MKZ at the April 2012 New York International Auto Show.

When it set out to design a replacement for its midsize MKZ, Lincoln knew it needed to break with the past. But the design sitting in stylist Max Woolfs studio just didnt seem to come together. Not until he had the almost heretical idea of abandoning Lincolns classic waterfall grille.

The new, horizontal look was influenced, says Woolfe, by an eagles out-stretched wings, one of the most dramatic design elements on the all-new 2013 Lincoln MKZ. The other eye-catching feature is the all-glass retractable roof. Its a concept far beyond the oversized panoramic sunroofs that have become popular these days, turning the MKZ sedan into an instant convertible.

Lincoln clearly needs to break new ground to revive its once-vaunted reputation. These days, potential buyers more likely recognize the slab-sided 65 Continental on the HBO series Entourage than the latest Lincoln sedans. But the MKZ is a stunning achievement that wont get lost in the crowd.

Significantly, while sharing its underlying architecture with the 2013 Ford Fusion, there are no common body panels, a break from recent Lincoln strategy helping justify its premium price tag. Like Fusion, and other current Lincoln sedans, the 2013 MKZ retains a front-wheel-drive layout.

Under the skin, the new Lincoln MKZ features a 2.0-liter EcoBoost inline-4 replacing the old 3.5-liter V6 and, while delivering more muscle, will boost fuel economy by as much as 6 mpg. The target is an EPA-rated 27 mpg Combined. A hybrid-electric version, akin to the one in the new Fusion, will push the mileage number to 47 mpg, which would mean a midsize Lincoln delivering about 4 mpg more than the latest-generation Toyota Camry Hybrid.

For the moment, there is no talk of also adding a plug-in hybrid, as the Ford side will get with the Fusion Energi, but the driveline could readily fit into the MKZ should Lincoln decide to go there, as well.

While exterior styling and fuel economy are two of the most important factors when it comes to getting a motorist into a new vehicle, interior design plays a key role in maintaining customer satisfaction. The new Lincoln MKZ will feature a design strongly influenced, according to Woolf, by suspension bridge design, most obvious in the form of the floating center console which adds a layer of additional storage underneath.

With its elegant, high-gloss finish, the center stack wraps around a large touch screen display which operates many key vehicle functions, though Ford engineers and designers have this time struck a careful balance to ensure that those buttons and switches a driver frequently accesses are back on the displays surround so you dont have to wade through several distracting menus to, say, adjust the interior temperature.

The main gauges, visible through the steering wheel, are actually part of a 10-inch-wide reconfigurable LCD. But the concept and production car both place another layer of acrylic rings over the key instruments, the speedometer and tach, to give the gauges a three-dimensional look.


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