New & Used Lincoln MKZ: In Depth
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The Lincoln MKZ is a rival for the Volvo S60, Lexus ES, Buick LaCrosse and Acura TLX. The entry-level MKZ was introduced for the 2006 model year but received a dramatic redesign for 2013. That makeover further separated it from the mid-size four-door Ford Fusion on which it is based.
With today's MKZ, Lincoln has a true rival for those entry-level luxury four-doors. It didn't start out that way, though. The MKZ name was introduced in 2007, after essentially the same vehicle had already appeared for the 2006 model year as the Lincoln Zephyr--which had replaced the rear-drive Lincoln LS sedan in the luxury brand's portfolio.
The Zephyr was a very thinly veiled version of the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan twins, adding just a touch more luxury inside and enough design modifications to differentiate it from the other models. Though it did not offer an entry-level four-cylinder powertrain like the Mercury and Ford, the Zephyr did use the 3.0-liter V-6 those cars shared, including it as standard equipment. While the exteriors of all three cars were very similar, Lincoln went its own direction with interior design; the brand's two-binnacle dash layout was used, leaning on themes that originated in Lincoln models of the 1960s.
For 2007, the Zephyr was renamed MKZ, carrying over the same mechanicals and chassis until 2009. The 2007 model year also brought with it an upgraded engine, with a 3.5-liter V-6 making 265 hp replacing the original 3.0-liter; the MKZ was also offered with optional all-wheel drive. This was the start of Lincoln's renaming spree, which has now touched everything but the Navigator SUV. The naming scheme was supposed to recall the older "Mark" cars, with pronunciation to match, but Lincoln soon gave up on that fight and reverted to saying each letter individually.
The MKZ got a heavily revised interior with improvements to its materials and sound quality for the 2010 model year. The excellent new interior and subtle changes elsewhere sharpened its luxury focus, but the MKZ still couldn't match European sport sedans like the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class for crisp driving responses. It still was more a luxury touring sedan along the lines of the Lexus ES 350 and Volvo S60 and Buick LaCrosse. The big back-seat room was an MKZ selling point, and so was the raft of interior goodies like Ford's SYNC entertainment controller and THX surround sound.
For 2011, the Lincoln MKZ added a Hybrid model to its lineup. Mechanically similar to the Ford Fusion Hybrid, the gas-electric Lincoln sedan posted fuel-economy numbers as high as 41 mpg, and allowed electric-only operation up to 47 mph. The sedan had gauges that helped teach efficient driving, using flowers as a clean-driving metaphor. It also offered standard SYNC and 10-way power front seats with heating and ventilation, putting it at the upper end of the MKZ range.
For the 2013 model year, the MKZ received a complete redesign, adopting a new architecture that again is shared with the Ford Fusion, but distancing itself even more strongly from that sedan with distinctive styling and features.
The new MKZ arrived in mid-2012 with a trio of powertrains that include a base 2.0-liter turbo four with 240 horsepower, offered with front- or all-wheel drive, and good for up to 33 miles per gallon highway; a front-drive hybrid model that is now rated at 38 mpg combined; and a V-6 with 300 horsepower, front- or all-wheel drive, and gas mileage of up to 26 mpg highway. New features include a pushbutton transmission; updated MyLincoln Touch voice and touch-screen controls; and an optional huge retractable glass roof with a single, 15-square-foot panel, the largest in the industry.
Since its last major redesign, the MKZ has stayed much the same. One important note, however, pertains to the fuel-economy ratings of the Hybrid model. While nothing changed mechanically on that model, Ford was forced to adjust its fuel-economy ratings from 45 mpg city/highway/combined to 38/37/38 mpg as a result of complaints from buyers who were unable to achieve the lofty numbers. Ford also adjusted the numbers for several other hybrid models at the time, citing errors in initial calculations, and offered cash payments to owners based on how much they'd driven their cars up to that point.
As part of its attempt to remain relevant in the American luxury market, Lincoln has launched a Black Label program that is first being applied to MKC crossover and MKZ sedan models. For an extra $5,995, buyers get a "curated" palette of colors and trim options, using finer materials and offered in a handful of design themes, as well as a host of special extras, including in-home ordering and an annual detail of their vehicle.
An update to the MKZ is likely for the 2016 model year. The design will take cues from the recently unveiled Continental full-size concept, a car that will soon take up the top tier in Lincoln showrooms. Lincoln brass have also recently discussed reversing the name trend and going back to actual words for their cars, which could coincide with the unveiling of the new version of the car currently known as MKZ.