Lincoln may still be a few years ago from truly distinctive vehicles, but the big wings and ridges on the 2011 MKZ's nose are a distinctive sign of the future.
Last year, the MKZ adopted the twin-wing grille and slimmer headlights that are becoming the brand's signature look. From the side, though, the MKZ still is more mainstream, even Japanese. The glass and doors haven't been changed as notably as the nose and tail, which means the MKZ shares the Fusion's profile--and both have carried the look for five years running. There's not much the MKZ can do, without a total makeover, to shatter the perception that it's an upstyled Fusion. And yet, that's no faint praise, since the basic proportions still look attractive.
The MKZ's interior is a happier distance away from the Fusion's cabin. There's a wide band of wood or aluminum trim against dark, tightly grained plastic, framing a big LCD screen for audio and entertainment features. Thin ribbons of metallic trim frame big panels of dash in a look harking back to the heyday of Lincoln in the 1960s, while they also recall Ford's work with the Land Rover brand it no longer owns. It's an improvement for sure, though less of a design stretch. The Bridge of Weir leather seats and real wood trim on the dash (unless you choose a metallic finish instead) are lustrous to the touch, if the plastics facing the console are not.