I like its sense of style, especially the retro-binnacled interior, but I wasn't entirely a happy camper after a brief weekend in the 2008 edition of the Lincoln MKZ.
The MKZ is more of the same, but the deep sunroof on my test car was more noticeable than any I'd tested lately. I powered the seat down, and the backrest back -- but when I got comfortable headroom in place, my hands were stretching for the steering wheel.
That said, the MKZ still looks like one of Ford's more convincing badge-engineering efforts. It's a Ford Fusion underneath, but the MKZ's finishing touches show a clearly defined Lincoln look. There's no Euro-dilettante pretension at all in its big slatted grille, in the nicely stamped decklid, and mostly, in the tall and squared-off dash.
The stock 263-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 is a decent improvement in acceleration over the old Zephyr engine I last drove in 2006. It does growl a bit too much in this application, and Lincoln's automatic transmission still doesn't give you manual detents for shifting yourself. But even the all-wheel-drive model gets 17/24 mpg on the highway, thanks to those six well-spaced automatic gears.
Back-seat room is big enough for adults, and the trunk has more than enough space for weekend bags for a quartet. I know the golf-bag analogy is more readily absorbed, but I fit two tennis bags lengthwise and a bunch of boxes from the UPS store in back and closed the trunklid without hearing an awful crunching Prince sound.
The all-wheel-drive MKZ I tested wore a pricetag of almost $38,000, including that deep-dish sunroof, aluminum interior trim, a navigation system and Sync. Not many cars in this niche offer that traction option, so it's worth a look if you're shopping the Lexus ES and the like. Just make sure to get a haircut first.