Successful luxury automobile brands include BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and the Japanese contingent of Honda (Acura), Toyota (Lexus) and Nissan (Infiniti). Note that there is not an American manufacturer in the bunch.
Historically, that has not always been the case. Although it hasn’t received much acclaim for nearly a half century, there was a time Ford offered some great luxury models in its Lincoln brand. Over the past 50 years or so, import-brand vehicles have ruled the luxury division.
However, over the past few years Lincoln has begun getting itself back in the picture again with a variety of offerings – sedans, wagons and sport utility vehicles.
One of those vehicles is the Lincoln MKZ. The 2014 MKZ is not perfect by any means, but it has begun making a little noise in the luxury class.
2014 Lincoln MKZ
* Performance: 2.0-liter turbocharged, four-cylinder, 240 horsepower; 3.7-liter, V6, 300 horsepower; 2.0-liter, four-cylinder, 188 horsepower
* Mileage estimate: 22-33mpg; 18-26 mph; 37-38 mph
* Estimated price: $35,190-$37,080
* Warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles; drivetrain: 6 years/70,000 miles; roadside assistance: 6years/70,000; corrosion: 5 years/unlimited
Car experts unanimously hail the MKZ as improved, yet still lacking the overall refinement when compared with some of its chief rivals, like the Lexus ES 350 and ES 300h (hybrid), Acura TL, Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, and the Volvo S60.
A complete redesign in 2013 introduced a classic exterior look for the Lincoln MKZ. It’s now sleek with distinct styling after introducing an appealing split-winged grille and full-width LED taillight panel. But the interior doesn’t match the exterior innovations – the electronics is frustrating and the MKZ lacks overall interior roominess.
A midsize luxury sedan, the MKZ has two trim levels: MKZ and MKZ hybrid. The hybrid model was driven here for a week and was definitely impressive in several areas – solid handling, performance and gas mileage (37-38 mpg).
In looking over the MKZ, potential buyers will not only have a sedan and hybrid to consider, but also three engine choices as well. The MKZ comes standard with front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive as an option.
The standard MKZ engine is the 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder that produces 240 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. Another choice is the optional 3.7-liter, V6 that produces 300 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. It travels 0-60 mph in 6.7 seconds.
The MKZ hybrid comes with a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder with an electric motor that offers a combined 188 horsepower. The hybrid features a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and registers a much slower 0-60 mph time of approximately 8.4 seconds.
Lincoln made a real effort to improve the driving experience and succeeded. The sedan offers the quiet, smooth ride that one expects in a luxury sedan, and has fine handling as well. One note of caution – the hybrid’s regenerative braking system takes a little practice before getting used to its delicate touch.
The MKZ’s interior design has been criticized for being too unique because it lacks the usual knobs and buttons. Another downside is the cabin utilizes too much plastic for a luxury car. The MyLincoln Touch infotainment system continues to be unpopular for most people.
A high sitting center console constricts overall interior space and the roof line is low and not conducive for taller people. But the MKZ does provide good leg room in both the front and back seats.
While it’s inspiring to see Ford make progress with the overall Lincoln brand, improvements still need to be made to the MKZ if it can truly compete with its impressive list of rivals.