2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid: Elegance, economy, but style updates needed

5 Jul 2011 | 2,464 views | No Comment
By Don Hammonds There's something for everybody out there when it comes to luxury cars. Want brash, in your face elegance? Try Cadillac. Want torrid performance served up with your comforts? Infiniti or BMW would love to see you. Want charisma and instant props when you get behind the wheel? Mercedes and Jag have just the cars for you. But if you want subtle, below the radar elegance that puts you far from the madding crowd, you should check out Lincoln. Always a brand for classic, understated styling for a select few, Lincolns still have that certain air about them when you get behind the wheel. This month, we had a peek at the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, a car that combines both subtlety and almost unbelievable fuel economy.  How about an engine that costs you about $998 a year to drive, based on 15,000 miles at $2.60 per gallon driving. And with its jet black looks, chrome tipped ehaust and 17 inch nine spokes aluminum wheels, this car seems perfect for an executive who disdains being "just like everybody else."   The 2.5 liter, 191 horsepower four cylinder hybrid engineand generator driven system  is rtated at 41 city and 36 highway, and we averaged about 34 miles per gallon  in mixed driving. It provided smooth, quiet performance, and surprisingly lively acceleration. Forget about what you've heard about all hybrid cars being poky.  MKZ Hybrid is an exception to that rule, which doesn't surprise us because, having driven the Ford Fusion Hybrid, we know how good Ford has gotten at the hybrid game. Our car had a base price of $34,330, which included such standard goodies as 10 way power driver seats with lumbar, and the same set up[ for front passengers. There were also heated and cooled front seats, smartgauge with ecoguide, satellite radio, and reverse sensing system, traction control, Mykey,which allows parents to govern speed and stereo volume for their teens, regenerative braking system, electronic stability control,  and a number of other items. The MKS had as options a rapid spec package that invluded navbigation, with voice activation, a BLIS system with across traffic alert,, rear view video camera, and a THXII sound system.  With those options plus delivery, the price topped out at $38,775. Perhaps the most important thing you should know abut the MKZ Hybrid apart from its sterling economy, is that it has a solid reputation for quality and fit and finish. It's won plenty of awards from consumers and independent rating agencies alike, and that was reflected on our test car. Not a screw was loose, not a thread was hanging and everything fit together perfectly. As we mentioned earlier, the MKZ Hybrid is brimming with technology from its cross traffic alert--a boon to urban drivers everywhere--to the rear camera system and the snazzy hybrid exclusive dashboard with the cool graphic that shows more flowers everytime you drive economically. Every possible facet of performance is carefully gauged for you and displayed if you want it--and we recommend a sit-down with your owners manual before you do anything with this car. But we are afraid the technology is no use when it comes to the MKZ's biggest issue: styling and presentation.  The MKZ is clearly ready for a complete makeover, and is simply hasn't kept up with anyone else on the market in remaining fresh.  The grille doesn't count.  Yes it's the Lincoln family trademark, but it simply looks weird and out of place on this car. The emblems have a weird placement on the flanks of the car, and the whole car still looks too much like a Fusion to demand the asking price.     Inside it's even worse, despite the dashboard.  The styling, materials and presentation look outdated, and simply don't measnure up even to some middle sized family cars like Hyundai's Sonata and plenty of others.  It almost makes you wonder if the Lincoln brand is now on life support. We at Automobile Journal weren't the only ones concerned about the current state of the MKZ. Our friends at Edmunds. com had this to say about the MKZ: "The problem, of course, is that it takes a lot more than a few exterior styling tweaks and interior upgrades to compete in a category full of excellent luxury sedans, which ultimately leads us to conclude the MKZ just doesn't compute. This is especially true when you consider just how many excellent cars there are to choose from in this price range. Specifically, we'd recommend comparing the MKZ to the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Cadillac CTS, Hyundai Genesis, Infiniti G37, Lexus ES 350 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, all of which show more attention to detail and a greater degree of engineering excellence. In sum, the 2012 Lincoln MKZ is a good car that represents the best of the Ford Fusion's attributes, combined with a compelling array of luxury features, but it just isn't the equal of its competition." Handling was so-so at best, with plenty of body lean and wallowing around corners and down curvy streets. It feels like a luxury car of yesteryear instead of a contemporary sports sedan, which is what it's supposed to be.    It's time for Lincoln to step up to the plate and invest heavily in a redo for this respected model before it winds up on the critical list.

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