The Lincoln MKZ is easily the best Lincoln this author has ever driven. Outstanding design and technology features make the MKZ stand apart from anything else coming out of Detroit this decade, and getting to know the new Lincoln over a week was endlessly surprising.
This car handles with a fantastic AWD balance of my personal Subaru Legacy GT, carries a charming and unique design that is cutting-edge and futuristic unlike anything else on the road. Dozens of preconceptions went out the ultra-sleek moonroof as we cruised to Atlanta with the Active Cruise engaged, the massage seats on full blast, and the all-LED lighting elements lit up proudly.
Even while admiring the MKZ's style before driving the car, it was hard to escape the feeling that a loaded Ford Fusion might offer better value and similar size to this Lincoln. Are the upgrades just skin-deep revisions? The truth is: they go far beyond anything we could have expected. Is it perfect? Are there any places where the Lincoln falls short of the Cadillac CTS and Lexus ES350, not to mention the Mercedes-Benz C-Class or Audi A4?
The answers to these questions... might surprise you as much as they did this driver and every passenger. But, as we will see in the below article sections (Exterior, Interior, Performance, Pricing and Summary), the MKZ falls short of a perfect score in a few critical areas.
Brand baggage does not come much heavier than the Lincoln Town Car, a machine whose jumbo scale and livery all-star status still makes it a big part of the Lincoln brand to many, even more than two years since the big girl was retired from the Lincoln price list.
After all, what stylist or engineer could overpower the Town Car in shoppers' minds with it still sharing a showroom with this next-gen set of models like the MKZ and the new MKC.
So the first steps of Lincoln consideration are pretty tall and steep, but the rewards are great.
In terms of design and style, the MKZ is one of the best-looking sedans at any price. The MKZ 3.7 AWD sits low and very chic on its charcoal rims and Pirelli P-Zero Nero tires, with proportions that say 'Audi A7' far more than they say Fusion.
Set back-to-back with the Fusion, the MKZ not only shares no exterior panels, it has a larger windshield, shorter front overhang, a more flowing hoodline and even a different windshield-wiper setup versus the Ford. All this confirms how different the cars actually are.
Nowhere is this more clear than in the lighting elements of the MKZ, which are 100-percent LED front and back. The low-beams, high-beams, blinkers and DRL's of this Lincoln are all bright, clear and clean LEDs -- and are unlike anything from German or Japanese luxury marques. This might be a veiled critique for the old Lincoln, but that is emphatically false here.
We love LED lighting, and the wide and low impression is always a big part of the MKZ's style from all sides.
The nose design seems a bit polarizing; it is the hardest of the angles to really fall for. The grille might seem too large at first, bit grows on you. It recalls a bird's wings in flight - and sets a unique tone from minute one.
In profile, the MKZ is luxuriously long and lithe. Dark window surrounds and a chopped rear roofline is combined with a tall rear quarter-window cutout very elegantly.
In back, the KAMM tail design brings a deep and tall rear trunk edge, much like an integrated spoiler born from racing wind tunnels. Each corner of the trunklid is crisp and lean, framing the LED brake light nicely.
That solid red bar of brake light is the MKZ's most-incredible feature. At night, the MKZ looks like a cocnept car on the highway. Under braking, the bright LED creates a slim and wide impression that is unreal. Pure and beautiful; a fantastic design element.
The cabin of the MKZ is defined by a half-dozen major strengths, and two major weaknesses:
MKZ CABIN STRENGTHS
-- Extremely silent on the road. The MKZ felt every bit as quiet as the ES300h we took on the same road trip a few weeks ago. This comes from a huge amount of NVH insulation, giant quadruple door seals as thick as a Rolls-Royce's
-- Easy to use buttons for selecting PRDNL; with good tech features that are seamlessly built into the MyLincoln Touch control screens -- both the dash touchpanels and the gauge displays that are operated by the steering wheel buttons.
-- Fabulous moonroof. Is this the coolest roof outside of the Porsche 911 Targa? No its is much better than any Targa generation of sliding roof glass. This tinted panel is the entire roof - no joke - from windshield to backlight. This slim piece of curved glass has a one-touch shade and one-touch open/close functions. No more holding that button down while it motors open.
When open, a subtle mesh wind baffle pops up from the front of the roof -- making roof-open cruising on the highway totally free of buffetting or aero issues.
So where does this gorgeous roof go when slid open? It clamshells right over the rear glass in an elegant waterfall. Visibility is barely hurt when the rear glass is a two-layer affair -- but the sense of openness and light is unreal in a luxury car. This is a showstopping feature.
BACK SEAT AND TRUNK
In back: HVAC vents, heated-seat controls, a third power socket and even a 110-volt plug is available for normal three-prong plugs.(There are two cigarette-lighter plug sockets in the front seats).
With the standard household outlet in back, feel free to charge that laptop on the move, you back-seat kings!
Legroom is good back there, and the front seats are pretty narrow and offer good sculpting for super-tall legs. The window controls and door handles are Audi-beating in their quality. But a bit of trim rattle came from the doorhandle's inner piece in our test car.
The trunk is *huge* and power-operated. Good stuff in back of the Lincoln, to be sure.
-- SEAT MASSAGE is swanky and helpful, comfortable and relaxing. The seat massage is available for both front seats, with unique controls and three massage strengths. Driver and passenger can each select which setting they like, and the humming flow of each massage element makes long drives very easy and relaxing.
MKZ CABIN WEAKNESSES
The biggest two weaknesses inside are pretty serious issues, but admittedly are subjective and might fit some bodies better than ours.
The seats have a very pleasant cooling and heating option, plus what must be 36-way air-managed adjustments. Four lower seating levels make the seats firmer or softer, narrower or wider, each with touch-controlled adjustments on screen. The backrest then has four sections: side bolsters and three unique lumbar areas to be inflated or softened at the touch of the seat controls or on-screen.
So, while these air-controlled adjustments are nice -- and the massage function is fantastic -- the actual seats are uncomfortable. They are too narrow, the base is too short, and the headrests are not soft or luxurious-feeling versus competing luxury cars. Despite all the air-managed adjust-ability, it is hard to find one setting that feels as good as a standard BMW seat. The MKZ's air-adjusted seating is an optional feature, and we would skip it.
-- STEERING WHEEL
The steering wheel is too cheap and awkward to love, also. It has a very skinny rim that is wrapped in less-than-soft leather that feels more like leather-ette. A triangular blob of airbag cover is not sporty enough, considering how well the MKZ actually corners. Steering feel, meanwhile, is very good!
Performance, in a Lincoln! My how times have changed!
The MKZ drives really well. Bringing the V6 that is not available in the Fusion is a major asset for the MKZ.
The Lincoln is firmer and not as floaty as the Lexus ES, and the steering is world's better than the Lexus. The MKZ handles really, really well and corners with a great sense of balance. The AWD option is a great choice for this balance and smooth power delivery. We could not get the front wheels to slip whatsoever, even deliverately, which is a testament to the quick-reacting AWD setup. Much more pure than any previous Ford AWD system, in our experience.
The MKZ 3.7-liter V6 is quick and revs very high to deliver is power to the road. Steering-wheel paddles offer individual fear choices but are not as snappy as those in the Lexus IS250C, for example.
The six-speed automatic is easy to drive quickly on the paddles, but is a bit of a weakness versus the best eight-speed ZF auto in the Jaguar XF or BMW 435i. The transmission revs out the 3.7-liter V6 far into a redline beyond when it feels like it is gaining steam. A quicker upshift might make use of the torque better, as the engine runs out of puff at the top of the tach.
Brakes and steering feel are okay and very good, respectively. The brakes are not as firm as a sports-car might be, which you really online notice because of how well the MKZ corners. Great steering.
Here is the rub with the MKZ 3.7 AWD: the tested model carried an as-equipped price of $52,000 with many options.
A base front-drive turbo four-cylinder is about $20,000 less -- and maintains much of the design and style and LED appeal. In addition, the MKZ EcoBoost is not much slower than this V6 version to 60mph: approximately 7.5-seconds plays about 7.1-seconds for the loaded AWD V6.
The MKZ Hybrid is also on the table, while a 3.7-liter V6 with front-drive is also offered. We recommend taking a few out for drives before choosing.
What the V6 lacks in sheer pace it definitely makes up for in smoothness. But it does sound a bit too much like the old Vulcan engine under power. 'Farty' was our note about the exhaust sound, unfortunately.
The MKZ is so stylish, so tech-tastic and such a great handler that after a week, we craved even more.
What about a super-powerful version of this car with the Taurus SHO's twin-turbo!! That would be a car to make all Town Car brand memories fade into the rear-view mirror rapidly!
As it is, the MKZ is avante-garde and a great achievement for Lincoln.
For those seeking concept-car style for the road, excellent handling and industry-best LEDs and glass targa tech: put the MKZ 3.7 AWD at the top of your test-drive list.
Build your own MKZ and explore the trim options at the below link!
2014 Lincoln MKZ Photographed on location at the Cassique Club in Kiawah Island, SC