The news embargo is over on the Lincoln MKZ info I got at the reveal media conference last week. The MKZ is #2 of the 4 Ford World Premieres set for the LA Auto Show that opens on the 21st.
Of course all the blather and hype of a media conference doesn’t mean a thing until the blue silk cover is removed from the car. It is a show stopper. Clearly the elements that make it a Lincoln are there, the grill split is nice as it does remind me of the original Zephyr launched back in the 40’s. It certainly fits the design theme of the MKS launched earlier this year.The MKZ team includes a real, moto-crossing, car loving and racing guy. The industry norm is a 6 year “cadence” with a 3rd year freshening of the fascias. The MKZ got nearly all new sheet metal, a completely new (and in my not so humble opinion, very clean and classy) interior. Even the mechanicals of the car have been some significant changes. The base MKZ with front wheel drive benefits from suspension and stiffening changes that put it ahead of its competition for simple luxury qualities like smooth ride and quiet.
The “Sport” version with AWD has neutral handling that is slot car inspired and puts it knocking squarely at the InfinityG35 in terms of race track ability. That is what happens when car guys are involved in the process, cars that can compete in one of the most intense and crowded segments like the mid-size premium.
The interior is one of more clutter free I’ve seen in a while. Part of the direction Lincoln is taking is a move back to what they did many years ago best, using real materials not fake inside. Real leather, real brushed aluminum and wood, not plated and screened plastic. Soft to the touch plastics are used where artificial materials have to be used. All those materials added up to a substantial feeling of luxury as you sat in the car.
Technology is really packed into this car. The Sync system impressed me when I first saw in July. Very easy to use and voice capable without having to program your specific voice. The Nav system can be ordered as a stand alone or integrated with Sync. New this year is an accident avoidance electronic “blind spot alert” that alerts you if there are cars in your blind spot. The technology package even has available a “back up collision alert” that will let you know if there is traffic near you as you back out of your parking space.
I didn’t get a chance to drive the car and am frothing at the mouth to do so. Prior experience with the car a few years ago was all positive; certainly hit all the important qualities I look for in a luxury car. The original version certainly felt a lot more substantial and solid than a similar Infinity I35 I drove a few years ago. The power train remains essentially the same, but the 3.5L V6 and 6 speed auto tranny has been tweaked resulting in an improved power curve while improving efficiency. The much lauded 0-60 has been improved by a ½ second to 7.2 seconds. There has even been a “manual” paddle type automated gear selection option in the sport package for those of you who like that bit of control. The suspension changes made or available in the Sport package all sound good on paper and I am anxious to see how it all works together in the real world.
It is rare that a luxury car, even one at the entry level, doesn’t have some unique or interesting toys. The MKZ has quite a few little goodies to set it apart. Some are purely decorative like the illuminated “Lincoln” sill plate. Others are really useful like the capless gas tank “EZ Fill” for filling. This falls into the stupid easy category and you wonder why no one did it before. It is simply poke, pump to fill and off you go. Never have to worry about a gas cap again.
Fuel economy and emissions are a biggy for those of us living in LA. Our commutes and traffic put is in a position where we rarely see the chance to just cruise and get close to the EPA Highway numbers. With all the tweaks to one up the performance of its competitors the MKZ also has good mileage. 18/city and 28/highway is the preliminary number for the car and it does that while meeting ULEV emissions criteria. For you CO2 counters out there, the weight of the car and engine displacement earned it a good rating of 8.7/tons for the 2009 model year. (That is mid range on a scale of 3.5/best to 16.2/worst over at fuel economy.gov).
After spending time just sitting in this car I have to admit I am impressed. It certainly feels like a lot more substantial car, certainly oozes luxury to the touch. With pricing set to start in the high 30’s it certainly is competitive in the class. The promised goods if they meet their promises at launch this car will be in best in class in a lot of categories.
When Ford’s guy from Detroit, Mark Schirmer asked me if I would get one to replace my Dad car, the answer was an unqualified “absolutely”. I believe this newest iteration of the MKZ will continue to make conquests in its market and is the biggest leap yet for Ford in re-identifying the Lincoln brand as a serious player in the luxury market. It certainly is Lincoln’s strongest entry in the entry sport-luxury sub-group.
All of the pics are done by me. The lead pic is done with the use of High Dynamic Range imaging, the rest are simple shrunk down jpegs. They will get bigger with a quick left click. More will be in my Flickr 2010 MKZ set later in the day.