2008 Lincoln MKZ Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
August 18, 2008

The 2008 Lincoln MKZ is a credible luxury bargain, with all-wheel drive and heritage styling cues as its killer apps.

TheCarConnection.com's team of car experts studied reviews from reliable Web sources to put together this comprehensive review of the 2008 Lincoln MKZ. Editors from TheCarConnection.com also have driven the 2008 Lincoln MKZ, including examples fitted with all-wheel drive, to provide you with firsthand advice about this mid-size, entry-luxury sedan. This review also compares the 2008 Lincoln MKZ with other vehicles in its class to help you make the right choice in a new car.

The 2008 Lincoln MKZ is a traditional entry-level luxury sedan. To remain affordable, the Lincoln shares many components with the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan, but wraps them in a nicer package. This equation is followed by plenty of manufacturers, including Lexus creating models off Toyota platforms, and Infiniti developing cars out of Nissans.

The MKZ name came into being in 2007, but the model actually originated as the all-new 2006 Lincoln Zephyr. In an unusual marketing move that recognized the competitiveness of the automobile business, Lincoln canned the Zephyr name after it significantly upgraded the model to become what you see as the 2008 Lincoln MKZ.

Classic Lincoln styling helps the 2008 MKZ stand out from other luxury cars. The look is clean, crisp, and modern with just enough heritage to make the car immediately recognizable as a Lincoln without being slavishly retro.

Review continues below

The standard running gear for the front-wheel-drive MKZ is a 3.5-liter, 263-horsepower V-6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission. The 3.5-liter V-6 was recognized by a respected industry publication (Ward's) as one of the world's 10 best engines because of its design and ability to produce its power on regular unleaded fuel. All-wheel drive is an option. Standard safety features include anti-lock brakes, traction control, and side plus side curtain airbags. Performance in government crash tests is solid, but the IIHS side crash test only earned an "acceptable" rating. Electronic stability control is not offered, a curious omission for a car in this class.

Inside, the 2008 Lincoln MKZ is roomy and comfortable (Lincoln claims the roomiest in the class). Editors from TheCarConnection.com especially appreciated the standard front seats that included both heating and cooling settings. For Lincoln, 2008 was the year to make these seats standard, and while they were at it, they also added these items to the standard features list: a reverse-sensing system; Ford's SYNC system, which uses Bluetooth connectivity and a touch screen to control communications and entertainment; Sirius Satellite Radio; and a tire pressure monitoring system.

All of this equipment resides in an interior that looks and feels rich, a sensation helped by the nice leathers and genuine woods, as well as tight panel gaps. On the road, the interior is quiet, though the powertrain can get graunchy. Visibility is excellent.

Dynamically, the 2008 Lincoln MKZ handles well but unremarkably. Acceleration is quick in front-wheel-drive models, but the extra weight of the all-wheel-drive system slightly dulls throttle response. If you need to deal with snow where you live, this is a worthwhile trade-off.

The Audi A4 and Lexus ES 350 are both front-drive sedans (the ES is based on the Toyota Camry platform). The Audi is sportier than the Lincoln, but smaller. The Lexus is more sedate than the Lincoln, but that's the way Lexus buyers like their cars.

The rear-drive cars of this group are much more sporting in terms of driving personality and dynamics. The BMW 3 Series remains a performance benchmark that the 2008 Lincoln MKZ just can't match. However, the MKZ provides more room and value over the BMW--ditto for the fine-driving Infiniti G35.

7

2008 Lincoln MKZ

Styling

The 2008 Lincoln MKZ sedan intrigues TheCarConnection.com’s editors with its creased look and tall dash, but could be more distinctive.

Classic Lincoln styling helps the 2008 MKZ stand out from other luxury cars. The look is clean, crisp, and modern with just enough heritage to make the car immediately recognizable as a Lincoln without being slavishly retro.

The Lincoln MKZ carries a theme of “angular styling touches” throughout its sheetmetal and interior, Cars.com says. Edmunds agrees that the “exterior styling includes the familial Lincoln waterfall grille and tasteful chrome trim.” Car and Driver notes "the styling is plebeian," and the Washington Post finds that the Lincoln MKZ "looks dated, like something for little old people." Kelley Blue Book, though, remarks the Lincoln MKZ has a "casual, confident and more understated design,” and adds, “with its bold waterfall grille, jewel-like quad projector-beam headlamps, judicious use of chrome trim and low-profile tires on 17-inch, eight-spoke machined aluminum wheels, the 2008 Lincoln MKZ certainly looks the part of a credible midsize luxury sedan."

Inside, it’s a similar theme. Edmunds observes a “distinctive, retro-look interior design” for the MKZ. Cars.com reports the MKZ Lincoln features "satin nickel trim," while "the dashboard features electroluminescent gauges." Kelley Blue Book catalogs "generous portions of real wood, satin nickel and chrome accents." Edmunds says its interior shapes "look like nothing from the European and Asian manufacturers, for better or worse." The Washington Post simply states the Lincoln MKZ interior is "a work of squares and circles reminiscent of wooden geometric forms used to teach shapes to kindergartners." Motor Trend notes there are “two interior treatments from which to choose: one looking clean and tech-like, with real aluminum inserts, and another, more traditional cabin treatment with maple trim that comes from actual trees.”

7

2008 Lincoln MKZ

Performance

The 2008 Lincoln MKZ earns kudos for its handling and engine power, but it’s a bit softer than some sport sedans in its class.

The 2008 Lincoln MKZ sports a high-output V-6 engine and all-wheel drive—something Lincoln fans might not be accustomed to seeing in their car.

The 3.5-liter V-6 was recognized by a respected industry publication (Ward's) as one of the world's 10 best engines because of its design and ability to produce its power on regular unleaded fuel. The MKZ’s updated V-6 engine impresses most reviewers. Cars.com reports "a 263-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 that makes 249 pounds-feet of torque," which ConsumerGuide says "has sufficient power for most any situation and is confidently strong in highway merging and passing." Critical in other areas, Washington Post declares that the MKZ Lincoln's "3.5-liter, 263-horsepower V-6 engine is capable, decent." The only negative comment about the Lincoln MKZ power plant comes from Edmunds: “despite having more power than the original 2006 Zephyr, the MKZ's 3.5-liter V6 is merely adequate." Yet in a separate review, they note it “provides enjoyable power throughout its rev range.” Motor Trend measures a 0-60-mph time of 6.8 seconds and avers “the engine sounds and feels good, and while not as polished as Toyota/Lexus or Honda V-6s of the same size, it's class competitive.”

AutoWeek reports that the Lincoln MKZ's "six-speed automatic transmission go about [its] business without frenzy; shift changes are smart but without a kick." ConsumerGuide is in accord here, saying that the "transmission is generally smooth and prompt," but notes that the MKZ "does not offer a manual shift gate." Motor Trend observes, “The transmission is a willing player, offering a gear for every occasion and smooth shifts, although there's no manual control over its six ratios.” All-wheel drive is an option on the MKZ.

ConsumerGuide establishes "19.4 mpg in city/highway driving, 23.2 mpg with more highway use," adding that the "MKZ uses regular-grade gas." The EPA rates it at 17/24 mpg for AWD versions, and 18/28 mpg for front-drive MKZs.

Most reviews approve of the 2008 Lincoln MKZ handling and overall road manners. AutoWeek says "the steering has ample boost at low speeds and becomes noticeably tighter on freeway jaunts...the chassis and suspension combo softens moderately rough pavement, yet it is stiff enough to keep the MKZ on an even keel through turns." Car and Driver assures prospective buyers that it is "not the floaty Lincoln of old...[it's] taut, firmly sprung, and pleasant enough to drive...a fully independent suspension that makes this the best-handling Lincoln in a long time." ConsumerGuide calls it "a good blend of firm control and bump absorption, though...not as composed overall as the class leader." Edmunds notes, "Around turns, the car's steering is smooth and linear, and the body rolls slightly but in a progressive, predictable manner that's more than acceptable given the MKZ's relatively plush ride.” Motor Trend agrees: “Where the old car felt soft and uninspiring, this feels more energetic and better pinned down, with improved grip front and rear.”

8

2008 Lincoln MKZ

Comfort & Quality

Those who are nostalgic for the "good old days" of super-sized American luxury cars will find something to like about the 2008 Lincoln MKZ.

The 2008 Lincoln MKZ sports a cabin with better room than expected, but some interior trim isn’t in the Lexus league.

AutoWeek notes that "Lincoln MKZ seats are supportive without being too stiff or soft," while "six-footers get ample headroom and legroom" according to ConsumerGuide, which adds that "seats are a rewarding blend of soft padding and comfortable backrest contours." Most impressive to TheCarConnection.com’s team of auto experts is the backseat; Kelley Blue Book reports "rear-seat space is surprisingly generous, with more than three feet (!) of legroom."

The Lincoln MKZ doesn't skimp on storage space, either. Cars.com reports "the 60/40-split rear seats fold to provide access to the 15.8-cubic-foot trunk." It's not all perfect, however; ConsumerGuide says "the MKZ Lincoln cargo area is useful in shape and volume," but is "ill suited to tall boxes and lined with cheap-feeling material." Nonetheless, Kelley Blue Book calls the Lincoln MKZ trunk "best in class."

The use of real wood inside the MKZ impresses some reviewers, but abundant silver-finished plastic turns others off. ConsumerGuide says "the interior is let down by unconvincing plastics designed to look like metal...other MKZ Lincoln cabin materials disappoint as well, trailing premium competitors in richness." Edmunds contends, though, that “interior materials are high in quality and come in either dark or light color schemes. Dash and door panels are adorned with genuine wood and available nickel satin accents.” Motor Trend points out “plastic bits are somewhat low rent,” but adds “it's a pleasant place to live and ride.”

Noise is no problem, however; according to ConsumerGuide, Lincoln MKZ tires "are heard only on the coarsest surfaces. The engine has a pleasant hum while cruising but has a slightly ragged growl in rapid acceleration."

8

2008 Lincoln MKZ

Safety

There are sport sedans with better crash ratings and features than the 2008 Lincoln MKZ, but it performs well enough.

The 2008 Lincoln MKZ gets reasonably high crash-test scores and comes with a wide array of standard safety features.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the MKZ a four-star rating for front impacts, side impacts, and rollover resistance. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rates the MKZ “good” for front impacts, but only “acceptable” for side impacts. Edmunds notes these are "rather average crash ratings for a car in this class."

Safety gear, Cars.com reports, includes "all-disc antilock brakes, side-impact airbags for the front seats and side curtain airbags," but "an electronic stability system isn't offered" on the 2008 Lincoln MKZ. That’s an omission that costs the MKZ some points and, no doubt, some customers.

Edmunds notes that the Lincoln MKZ "head airbags include a 'roll-fold' feature that helps to keep the airbag against the glass even if the occupant is out of position."

Visibility issues are not addressed in any of the reviews normally consulted by our team of experts, but in TheCarConnection.com’s editorial experience, the MKZ suffers from a somewhat short glassy area and deeply set seats; combined with the tall dash, the driver and rear passengers don’t have the panoramic view out offered by some taller, glassier vehicles.

9

2008 Lincoln MKZ

Features

The 2008 Lincoln MKZ scores some points on the competition with available all-wheel drive and SYNC.

The 2008 Lincoln MKZ offers the kind of features expected in this class—plus a couple that are rarer in the second tier of sport luxury sedans.

Edmunds reports “17-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery, wood trim, heated and cooled power front seats with driver-side memory, dual-zone automatic climate control and a seven-speaker CD stereo with satellite radio and an auxiliary audio jack” are standard on the MKZ. Car and Driver says "for the money, it offers an impressive list of standard equipment."

Some of this "impressive" standard Lincoln MKZ equipment includes "a hands-free communication and entertainment system [which] integrates mobile phones and media players using Bluetooth and USB technology...and a reverse-warning system that beeps at drivers to warn of things behind the vehicle," according to Cars.com. Edmunds notes that this "Lincoln SYNC" system allows a "cell phone's address book...[to be] wirelessly and automatically transferred to the vehicle."

Cars.com reports the "interior options include a navigation system and a premium audio system with 14 speakers." Kelley Blue Book says "among the many Lincoln MKZ options are chromed wheels, a power moonroof, High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlamps and DVD navigation." A THX-certified audio system is offered as an upgrade, and reverse parking sensors are also available, as is all-wheel drive—a scarcer feature among front-drive, luxury sport sedans.

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7.8
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Expert Rating
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Styling 7.0
Performance 7.0
Comfort & Quality 8.0
Safety 8.0
Features 9.0
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