2014 MKZ makes impressive showing for Lincoln

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The new MKZ shows a unique style and excellent driving dynamics that put it in the running for real. Things are looking up for Lincoln.

The MKZ is still based on the Fusion mid-size sedan, but the Fusion’s a very good car to be based on. From that starting point, Lincoln has completely reskinned the car in its style, and added a full complement of the latest technology.

The MKZ’s design is handsome and subtle. The first car from the “dedicated Lincoln Design Studio” at Ford is a simple design that encourages the constant discovery of new curves and light planes. Hopefully this is the direction future Lincolns will take because it’s elegant, combining the best of Lincoln’s recent styling explorations with the simplicity that made many of the brand’s best cars iconic. The split “waterfall” grille is still in evidence, but with finer lines and a deeper dip into the bumper that gives the MKZ a hint of drama up front.† Narrow headlamps and a contoured hood sweep back into a sleek coupe-like body.

The rear backlight is dramatically sloped, and full-width LED tail lamps are mounted flush to the body, with just hints of chrome ringing the daylight openings. The rear window and flank are one of the car’s best angles. LED signature lights are used front and rear to provide a unique light signature at night. New colors for 2014 dress up the exterior.

Unlike many of its competitors, the MKZ’s 15.2 square-foot full-length sunroof actually opens, sliding down over the rear window. When open, there is more moonroof than there is roof.

The MKZ shows that a car can be luxurious without having to be huge. The interior’s comfortable and opulent; the MKZ has a sleek, high-tech look inside that features just enough wood trim and elegant surfaces to set it apart from the average premium sedan. Active noise canceling keeps the interior serene as well.

The front seats are comfortable, with available heating and cooling, and with luck you’ll never notice the inflatable seatbelts installed for the outboard rear-seat passengers. The tall console has two levels, sporting a handy tray below. The instrument panel is a 10.5-inch LCD screen. The traditional shift lever has been replaced by a cool pushbutton shifter that blends perfectly into the center stack.

The highly automated, smartphone-like MyLincoln Touch system is convenient and will appeal to technophiles but needs a bit more development. We were surprised to see there were only limited options for the system to work via Bluetooth; at the moment MyLincoln Touch requires some learning to use. At least the familiar THX sound system provides 14 speakers and 700 watts of awesome sound.

The MKZ is available with a choice of 2.0 liter four-cylinder and 3.7 liter V6 engines, with a choice of front- or all-wheel drive. The four-cylinder is a high-tech EcoBoost engine, with direct fuel injection and a turbocharger providing 240 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. It returns 22/33 fuel economy in front-wheel drive format. Need more power? The V6 provides 300 horsepower, turning the MKZ into a responsive and entertaining performer. Smooth six-speed automatic transmissions are standard with both engines.

Though the MKZ will still get criticism for being similar to the Fusion, it does confer some really good driving dynamics and confident handling. The suspension uses MacPherson struts in the front and a multilink rear, and Lincoln’s new Continuously Controlled Damping active suspension provides active suspension benefits, keeping the body level in turns and offering rapid response.

The new Lincoln Drive Control system is standard, and combines the suspension, steering and active noise control to provide a unique and comfortable ride. The MKZ is responsive without being stiff, and feels more inviting than competitors from Acura and Cadillac. The brakes are strong and the standard stability control keeps things confident.
The MKZ bodes well for Lincoln.

It’s hard not to be skeptical, though, because we said the same thing about the LS back in 2000, and that didn’t turn out so well. This seems to be a more serious change, however. Perhaps what’s most significant is that the MKZ isn’t trying to emulate anything else, and that’s where Lincoln’s always found its spirit.

Is there a place for Lincoln in the modern luxury market? If it keeps building cars like this, the answer is yes. For 2015, Lincoln has a follow-up in the form of the MKC crossover; if it’s as good as the MKZ, the marque’s detractors just might be silenced for good.

MKZ pricing starts at $36,190.

Christopher Jackson – MyCarData

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