You’ve got to admire Lincoln. They’re arguably the underdog in the luxury car market. While Cadillac has managed to reinvent itself with the help of rebranding, clever marketing, and some fantastic new rear wheel drive platforms, Lincoln is still finding its mojo.
The trouble, of course, is that Lincoln, like Cadillac, has to attract a whole new raft of younger luxury car buyers as their traditional base of loyal customers are now aging pensioners.
So in essence they have to introduce new models that are not only cutting edge, but also ones that are still true to the brand’s values of American luxury and comfort.
Through the MKZ, Lincoln hopes to capture a customer that is looking for a bit more style, luxury, and panache than that of the car’s Ford Fusion family sedan underpinnings. Fortunately, the Fusion is a good car and one that I actually like a fair bit, so the MKZ is starting off on the right “foot”.
There are a few signature options that set the MKZ apart from the Fusion. These include a 300-hp 3.7-litre V6, LED headlamps, adjustable shock dampening, an available THX-certified sound system, inflatable second-row seatbelts, and a massive retractable glass roof.
Since my MKZ tester was the hybrid model, I did not get to sample the 3.7-litre V6 engine. Instead, my front-wheel-drive car was equipped with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder Atkinson cycle engine combined with an 88-kilowatt electric motor and a 1.4 kWh lithium ion battery. This powertrain was designed as part of a technology swap between Ford and Toyota.
Having driven the Ford Fusion hybrid in the past, I was surprised to find that despite having essentially the same powertrain, the MKZ hybrid seemed to ease into full-electric mode at highway speeds more frequently than my Fusion tester. The result was more of the almost totally silent highway cruising experience that electric and hybrid owners covet.
The MKZ hybrid’s official fuel consumption ratings are 5.7L/100 kms in the city, and 6.0L/100 kms on the highway. I averaged 7.1L/100 kms in mixed city and highway driving, respectable for a mid-sized car.
Ride and Handling
Despite the large 19-inch wheels, the MKZ hybrid rides comfortably without any of the float that you might expect from Lincolns of yesteryear.
Surprisingly, the efficiency-orientated MKZ hybrid still comes with Lincoln’s three-mode Drive Control systems. These customizable settings noticeably alter the weight of the steering, suspension dampening, and transmission responsiveness as one toggles between Comfort, Normal, and Sport.
Whereas Comfort mode results in a cushy ride with early gear upshifts and low steering effort, Sport mode is significantly more dialled in and entertaining at the expense of some economy. That being said, the MKZ hybrid is never going to feel like a sports sedan.
Thanks to the smaller battery than the Fusion plug-in hybrid I’ve tested in the past, does not have the rear-ended boaty-ness over speed bumps which I disliked. Overall it feels like a stoutly sorted out front-wheel-drive car.
Inside, the MKZ, you’ll find a stylishly-shaped power leather seats that are suitable for long stints of cross-country jaunts. There is plenty of adjustable bolstering and proper ergonomic design to make almost any driver comfortable.
The driver’s instrument area is comprised of a centre speedometer with configurable LCD panels on either side of the analogue gauge. There is an abundance of layouts and information that can be displayed, almost to the point of overload.
I primarily left the right panel on the Ford/Lincoln efficiency display. This screen shows a virtual tree with leaves which grow or drop in abundance on the branches to reward responsible use of the throttle pedal. Call it gamefication in the name of efficiency.
The MyLincoln Touch infotainment system consists of a 8-inch touch screen powered by Microsoft’s SYNC system. While other iterations of the system (in Ford vehicles) have been laggy much to the chagrin of customers and auto journalists, I thought that this latest example was the best I had ever seen. However there was still the occasional delayed response or user-interface faux pas that caused frustration.
Moreover, despite the matte anti-reflective texture of the touch screen, it can still wash out in direct sunlight, revealing a plethora of unsightly fingerprints.
Those with attention to detail may notice the THX badging on the centre speaker and in the MyLincoln system’s start-up sequence. This audio system, not available of the car’s fraternal Fusion hybrid, comprises of 14 speakers backed by 700 watts of output from a 12-channel amplifier.
Audiophiles will enjoy the true 5.1 surround sound from DVD-Audio discs and DVD movies. The centre-channel THX slot speaker array provides better control of how the music is distributed, as well as a broader sound image.
There is also an effective noise cancellation system integrated into the THX system to quell the slightly gruff sounding Atkinson-cycle engine note when at full throttle.
On my final day with the Lincoln, a couple of teenagers leaving a Starbucks randomly told me that MKZ looked like a “cool car”. They particularly liked the white paint job and imposing metal winged grill. To be honest, this positive sentiment from the younger crowd caught me by surprise.
There doesn’t seem to be any other premium-branded four-door sedan that combines the interior space, fuel economy, hybrid powertrain, and sub-$44,000 price range. Buyers should note that the MKZ hybrid starts at $37,960, almost $6,000 less than its Japanese rival.
While the Lincoln badge has the history and pedigree to rival Cadillac, Ford hasn’t put up the investment to build-up a set of competitive rear-wheel-drive luxury car platforms. As such, the MKZ Hybrid feels premium, but perhaps falls short of being pure luxury.
With some clever new marketing from actor Matthew McConaughey, perhaps this may be all the company needs to continue its march onwards and upwards.