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Since it's shed Volvo, Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin--not to mention Mercury--Ford has been voicing bigger plans for its Lincoln brand. More luxurious cars are on the way, with more distinctive powertrains and even higher technology, we're promised.
In the meantime, Ford has a Lincoln lineup that owes plenty to similar Ford-brand products. The MKZ sedan is the best example of how close today's Lincolns can seem to current Fords, while still delivering about as much differentiation as a Lexus ES 350 does from a Toyota Camry.
The MKZ wears a front end all its own, and it's drama-infused. The wings and ribs contrast deeply with the traditional luxury-car dash and its bands of wood and swaths of Scottish leather. The LCD panel in the center can be a jarring note--but it's also the window to a bundle of electronics that keep drivers in SYNC with music and callers while they're keeping both hands on the wheel.
With its more tidy proportions, the MKZ doesn't have the kind of spread-out space you'll find in a bigger Buick or Chrysler, but the same scale works to its advantage in handling. The MKZ's electric power steering feels almost natural, and its ride quality just firm enough, more so with a Sport package and 18-inch wheels.
Then there's the MKZ Hybrid, which Ford pitches at the same price as the conventionally powered V-6 MKZ. It keeps the 41-mpg city fuel economy of the similar Fusion Hybrid, but instead of rewarding green drivers with leaves, it shows its appreciation for gentler driving with...flowers.
With jazzy style, the luxury goods it needs and a new outlook on what luxury actually means to non-cigar-smoking, non-McMansion-dwelling urbanites, the MKZ Hybrid is a clear marketing win as Lincoln specs out a somewhat opaque future. To our testers, the Hybrid makes eminently better sense than the less imaginative MKZ--at zero cost added.