Vail Valley: Lincoln’s MKZ a worthy competitor to the Europeans
Vail, CO, Colorado
Lincoln’s MKZ is close to its European targets
Mid-sized sedan has an all-wheel-drive option, plenty of power
By Andy Stonehouse
Vail Daily Correspondent
It’s been quite a spring for U.S. automakers, and talking about their respective place in the world is kind of like talking with your beleaguered neighbors.
Ford’s the guy at the end of the block who’s back at the top of the heap, actually selling cars, and doing well – his kids look like they’re eating regularly, and are those new sneakers? General Motors did a happy dance when it announced – disingenuously, it turns out – that it had paid back its federal loan, but subsequently took the foreclosure sale sign off its front yard. Chrysler, a further $4 billion in the red, came by and asked if he could borrow your lawnmower, which (along with the neighbor) you suspect you will never see again. But you never know.
With Ford leading the way these days, it’s fitting that my recent time in the saddle with one of Ford Motor Company’s premium products, the Lincoln MKZ, was a pretty upstanding experience.
MKZ is the new name for the Zephyr, Lincoln’s own variation on the three-brand, mid-size sedan (it’s most closely related to the Mercury Milan, and very close to the Ford Fusion), and truthfully, it does come pretty close to the Europeans in terms of luxurious detail, finish and reasonably refined driving experience.
Lincoln’s variation on the vehiclular theme adds a ginormous chrome split grille, unmistakable brake lamps and attractive, 10-spoke, 18-inch wheels (as a slightly higher-end option). On the inside, you get a luxurious re-do of the bits and pieces found on the other two automobiles.
The two-tone leather seating from Scotland’s Bridge of Weir specialists is spiffy and super-comfortable (as well as being nicely and sportily bolstered), and the front seats are also heated and cooled, as you wish.
A rubbery dash cap, leather-wrapped steering wheel, door panels and even leather-shrouded shifter and parking brake also seem pretty classy. The vehicle comes laden with high-tech parts including automatic power-sliding seats, blind-spot detection lights and parking proximity sensors, plus a new generation of Ford’s “SYNC” information system.
George Lucas gets a check somewhere in the mail as his THX II-certified sound system can indeed create noises in the range of an IMAX cinema; the touch screen, voice-activated navigation system is also better each time, although without an active Sirius Live Traffic account, you do not actually get live traffic or weather information, which somewhat defeats the purpose.
In the optional all-wheel-drive variation, MKZ’s 263 horsepower gets even more firmly nailed to the ground, and even with a set of all season tires, I plowed along with great aplomb. You’ll notice a tad heavier steering feel than you’d expect, but it’s still pretty subtle; the six-speed Selectshift automatic transmission would greatly benefit from some wheel-mounted paddles, as a tap on the center console shifter automatically drops the MKZ by two gears before allowing you the full range, up or down. Drive in a civil and law-abiding fashion and you’ll get as much as 24 mpg on the highway.
Suspension, steering and braking felt tight, and ride was considerably more quiet than its two sister automobiles. I’d go all crazy and try to convince them to wedge in the more powerful EcoBoost turbo engine, but at $36K for base and $43,245 as tested, I suspect that might get a little spendy.
Do all of the European comparisons hold up? You’ll notice that MKZ’s doors are still very light. The plastics have been mostly well hidden but a few of the details (the rough trunk metal finish, or even the exposed pipes and tubes on the radiator, visible inside the grille) still aren’t quite to the level of Audi or BMW. So it goes.
A new hybrid version of the MKZ, capable of 41 mpg on the highway and all-electric travel up to 47 mph, was launched this spring at the New York Auto Show, part of the company’s ongoing strategy for fuel-efficient vehicles.