Lincoln MKZ: Contemporary cool, traditional elegance, plenty of class

17 Jul 2015 | 2,178 views | No Comment
By Don Hammonds Want subtlety in your next set of wheels? Want striking without the needless bling? How about a car that is as close to a prototype for the future as you'll get? Let me introduce you to the Lincoln MKZ. I can see you now--you take a look at the zoomily elegant fastback in front of you, and you're thinking, "No way!  That's not an MKZ. The MKZ has a squarish design. Looks like a fancy Fusion. But this  fastback looks like something out of the future." In response, I'd ask you, "Where have you been?" 2015 Lincoln MKZ/MKZ Hybrid Lincoln has exploded from commonplace to uncommon, thanks to the MKZ and more recently, the new MKC compact luxury crossover. Both are products that are distinctive, looking like nothing else on the market. Both are well-built, well-equipped, and quite well-received by the buying public. Even more exciting to me is that Lincoln has really discovered--or in some ways, rediscovered itself. Lincoln has always been a car for the fortunate few with not only bucks, but discreet, well-honed aesthetic sensibilities and tastes. For these folks, flashy Cadillacs are obscene.  BMWS are irrelevant.  These are folks whom I suspect  are  looking for American cars or do not care much about being impressed by a nameplate.  They ARE impressed by design exclusivity and elegance--both of which are longtime Lincoln hallmarks. Take a look at the 1961 two door Lincoln convertible, and you will know exactly what that means. I see Lincoln as now being on its way to being the purveyor of choice for those who are design oriented, technology savvy, and looking for something in their next car that isn't like everybody else is buying. These are buyers who go their own way, never mind what their neighbors are doing. But as anyone will tell you, marketing and creating an image is now just as important as the product itself. And customer services with special benefits is especially important to customer service. As a result, Lincoln has created a Black Label program that has an air of exclusivity and a banquet of goodies and perks for those who participate. While it is true that the MKZ is built on the same platform as the Ford Fusion, a family sedan that I believe ranks at the top of its class, the two products are light years apart, and at least to me, look nothing  alike. I can't believe people are even using that old saw anymore. Not too long ago, the brand  held a "Black Label at home" event which featured elegant, avant-garde interior desgni at a swank SoHo penthouse, and those invited to attend got a chance to test drive either the MKC or the MKZ for a week. We were able to test both the hybrid and conventional versions of the MKZ, and one of the cars was equipped with the Black Label designer package, which includes the alcantara headliner, ultra premium interior materials such venetian leather seating, and a host of very nice features. Lincoln says that 74 percent of competitive owners researched would pay for member privileges for their ability to save the client's time and be remote.  About 77 percent of competitive owners researched said they would pay for the tactile materials found in Black Label quipped models. Both of these cars struck me as resolutely futuristic--you won't find much of traditional old Lincoln interior design and presentation, nor will you see anything inside or out that speaks of "heritage."  This is a whole new page for Lincoln, and not a minute too soon. Even starting these cars is quite different. A flat-surfaced column of buttons is provided for you to select your gear instead of the usual console mounted shifter. You press a button to start the car, and before you take off, you release an electronic brake lever. And if you have ordered the self-park feature, all you have to do when you return home is find a space large enough, then sit back and let the car park itself. The inside view is quite striking, with a soaring, "floating" pedestal type center console that gracefully arcs over the center  of the  and is a centerpiece of the interior design. Talk about a look into the future! Our Black Label, which was pretty much the focus since we had tested a Hybrid MKZ before, came with a Chroma Couture Metallic paint color and an Indulgence-themed with a Ganache/Truffle interior. You can get your choice of several engines on the MKZ. A 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is the base engine, and it puts out  240 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque through a six-speed automatic transmission. This is the one that powered our Black Label MKZ. Fuel economy rating are 25 overall, and 22 city and 31 highway. The car uses 4.0 gallons for every 100 miles driven, and annual fuel costs is $2,100 based on 15,000 miles of driving every year on $3.50 a gallon gasoline. Front-wheel drive is standard, and all-wheel drive is optional. The optional 3.7-liter V6 generates 300 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque, and uses a six-speed automatic and either front- or all-wheel drive.  If you are interested in front-drive V6 models, expected  in EPA-estimated 22 mpg combined (19/28), while all-wheel-drive models achieve 21 mpg combined (18/26). As for the other car, Lincoln's  2015 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid , it pairs a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with an electric motor that combine to produce a total of 188 hp. The hybrid is front-wheel-drive only and uses a continuously variable transmission (CVT) to return 38 mpg combined (37 city/38 highway). I really loved both cars. Lincoln has lots to be proud of  with the MKZ. But as is often the case with some Ford products, the refinement was just a tad lower in the MKZ in terms of engine noise and smoothness, and the interior materials, while  beautiful, were still  not  at the level you experience with Cadillac's CTS or BMW 3 Series for instance. But they were definitely better than past models of  the MKZ, so Lincoln  only needs a little more  work on this in order to play with the big boys in this segment. The conventional model, surprisingly because most hybrid cars are extremely quiet underway,  proved to be a more  refined, quiet model than the hybrid, and an overall demeanor that might prove more soothing to the average driver. I will say that the conventionally powered Black Label MKZ performed with little noise, and seemed a bit closer to what I think many upper crust drivers want from  their luxury cars ---good performance, plenty of luxurious features, a softer grade of suspension, and a comfortable ride. It took some time to get used to all the futuristic features on the new  MKZ, and sometimes  I would do things like punch the wrong button on the transmission gear panel  until I got used to it. But clearly, the MKZ is well worth a spot on the shopping lists of  luxury car buyers everywhere. The brand has come a long way indeed.

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