2016 Lincoln MKZ Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Senior Editor
June 29, 2016

The 2016 Lincoln MKZ is missing some heritage, but this luxury sedan is no longer missing the sportier new direction that could do this brand some good.

No question, Lincoln has faltered over the past decade, during a time when Cadillac has successfully redesigned its brand from the ground up. Yet with better gas mileage, added sportiness, and modern technologies, the MKZ has been one of the few shining stars—bringing some younger shoppers yet essentially extricating itself from all that Lincoln used to stand for.

The 2016 Lincoln MKZ may be a glimpse into a future direction of all of the brand's products, but it's also an indication that there are many hearts and minds yet to win over—as well as a cohesive place in the market for the brand to claim as its own.

The look of the current MKZ, which was introduced for 2013, is even more distant from that past. Massive wings and Weber-grade grilles have been put out for tag sale. This MKZ has a subtler take on luxury, more along the lines of Lexus and Volvo than Cadillac. Lincoln heritage, instead, has been reduced to the handsomely scaled-down grille and to the font used in the badges.

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The lack of a shift lever is the eye-popping detail inside. A push-button transmission selector and dominant LCD touchscreen both play the modern card, for maximum impact. And "Lincoln" badging and heritage cues are surely played down within the cabin, giving this a European, almost French look that seems to go with some of the unusual contouring around the back of the car.

The 2016 MKZ is a sporty, enthusiastic performer. The base 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 is a strong straight-line performer and is rated at up to 33 mpg highway. An uprated, 300-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 returns, and it may be worth the cost of the upgrade for smoother performance alone. With either, the MKZ is truly quick, and the paddle-shifted automatic snaps off quick shifts.

Those interested in efficiency will want to consider the MKZ Hybrid, which now earns an EPA-rated 41 mpg city, 39 highway, 40 combined. A 2.0-liter four-cylinder hybrid drivetrain has lithium-ion batteries and a continuously variable transmission, with better packaging and lower weight than previous Ford hybrids. We've seen real-world results that beat the current ratings, and if you're okay with somewhat softened powertrain responsiveness, this model won't disappoint.

The MKZ comes standard with Lincoln Drive Control, which lets drivers adjust settings for shocks, steering, stability and traction control, and active noise cancellation. Lincoln says the result is better ride and handling with the adaptive settings, but the trade-off versus the Fusion's conventional shocks seems a zero-sum gain to us.

The MKZ has become a strong entry for safety, pulling together nearly every piece of technology that's been added to other Ford and Lincoln products over the past few years—everything from inflatable rear seatbelts, to features like lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control. The MKZ also integrates parking assist, which takes control of the steering and guides the sedan into tight parallel-parking spots, with the driver keeping control of braking. It's also done relatively well in IIHS crash tests, although it only earned an "Acceptable" rating in small-overlap crash testing.

One point of contention (frustration, to some) of the MKZ's interior is the MyLincoln Touch system. Ford has spent considerable time streamlining the controls here, and voice controls take the reins over secondary controls, with buttons on the steering wheel offering redundant ways into the complex system. Yet results from the system can still be disappointing—especially in the voice-control area.

In other respects the MKZ's luxury touches are fairly conventional. There's plenty of real wood trim around the interior, and leather is available. The finishing touch is a stunning one, though: a 15-square-foot available panoramic roof that slides back as one piece, exposing the new MKZ's cabin to the sun. It's the biggest roof of its kind ever offered, and you can tell when it's open, with the glass hanging what looks to be precariously over the rear window.

In many ways, the MKZ is just a swoopier Ford Fusion, which has been the recipe since it was called the Zephyr. But if you like the looks and features of this model—without concern about brand cachet—this one's a pleasant enough pick.

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2016 Lincoln MKZ

Styling

With its lean, soft silhouette, unusual details, and shift-free interior, the 2016 MKZ charms—if in a somewhat offbeat way.

The 2016 Lincoln MKZ wears more character in a single body panel than the previous version did in the entire vehicle. To say it's the most attractive Lincoln in recent history wouldn't be s stretch; yet at the same time, it's not for everyone, and it's not for the conservative, traditional buyer set that's kept the brand's products selling in recent years.

You might see a little Swedish (or is it French) influence in the rear decklid, along with a smooth, aerodynamic form from head to tow, plus an homage to the 1938 Zephyr in the way of the mustachioed grille.

The MKZ is elegant, not beefy, and it still wears a bulk that other Ford products don't carry at this point. The MKZ does glom onto the trend toward fastback rooflines, like that of Audi's A7, although the MKZ does so with a traditional trunk. Around, it the shut lines call attention to themselves a bit much—although we like how Lincoln is willing to buck playing it safe and try some daring design traits.

Beneath that, the MKZ feels a bit too spartan: the winged grille and walnut trim are everybody's idea of understated elegance, and the pushbuttons are a clever detail. Otherwise, the MKZ doesn't have the depth of personality that even some ancient Lincolns with mixed virtues (Mark VIII LSC, anyone?) laid right in the driver's lap. There's a need for more glitz and glamor, and a bit too much use of the word "modern."

It's what's absent that really distinguishes the MKZ's interior. There's no traditional console shifter for the transmission, but instead a set of shift buttons that line the left side of the car's LCD screen. Without the lever, the screen takes over the cabin, and stylists have lowered the console and framed the screen with metallics. Although the dueling displays of MyFord Touch aren't any design wonder, we like the cohesive look and glow of the gauge set in the MKZ.

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2016 Lincoln MKZ

Performance

Turbo and V-6 engines provide plenty of gusto, and the firm ride bucks luxury --but the firm ride doesn't feel very luxurious.

The MKZ goes in an entirely new, sportier direction for Lincoln. If you're still expecting something along the lines of a Town Car—or even a Navigator—you're in for a shock, as the MKZ feels responsive and downright entertaining.

The Lincoln MKX shares its core underpinnings with the Ford Fusion, including that model's nicely weighted electric power steering, although the strut and multi-link suspension setup gets adaptive shocks with three driver-selectable settings. The ride is rather taut, although we liked the Sport setting more of the time, as it feels the most natural of any of the settings. In the other modes, the MKZ struggles for that level of composure, as its ride then instead takes a more traditional soft control set. 

There's a choice between three powertrains on the 2016 Lincoln MKZ, and which you should choose depends on how you plan to compromise between performance and fuel economy. There's a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 at the base level, coupled to a 6-speed automatic with paddle shift controls, with either front- or all-wheel drive. It produces 240 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque, leading to a 0-60 mph time of about 7 seconds; so even this base MKZ is a performer. Yet, some coarse engine sounds keep this choice from feeling up to the luxury task. The noise-cancellation system helps somewhat, but it can't contend with the sound the engine makes at full throttle; oddly, this engine seems more refined in the Fusion.

There remains a V-6 version, featuring a 300-hp, 3.7-liter and a choice of front- or all-wheel drive, with the same carryover 6-speed automatic transmission controlled by dash-mounted push-buttons, one of a host of new touches Lincoln's using to distinguish the MKZ from the Fusion. Because of its smoother power delivery and calmer tone compared to the base 2.0-liter, we'd recommend considering the extra cost of the V-6, even though you'll see a (slight) real-world fuel economy penalty.

In the 2016 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder hybrid drivetrain has lithium-ion batteries and a continuously variable transmission, with better packaging and lower weight than previous Ford hybrids. It earns ratings of 41 mpg in the city and 39 on the highway, and is offered with front-wheel drive only. This is the least-exciting model in terms of raw performance—there's less grip, lighter steering, and a little more pause in the powertrain—but it's smooth and quiet, and it makes efficient driving feel like a reward in itself with the smart, engaging displays.

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2016 Lincoln MKZ

Comfort & Quality

The interior of the 2016 Lincoln MKZ is premium, but not lavish.

The 2016 Lincoln MKZ isn't quite as roomy as the Ford Fusion that it's closely related to, and there are a few refinement missteps and functionality flaws inside.

The MKZ is 194.1 inches long and rides on a 112.2-inch wheelbase—which makes the MKZ a generous mid-sizer by American standards. While the trunk is identical with the Fusion, the MKZ skimps a bit in rear headroom to accommodate the swoopier roofline.

The seats are fit and Euro-firm, and they're surely part of Lincoln's new direction. The previous MKZ softened up its Fusion ride firmness with plush cushions covered in Bridge of Weir leather; this MKZ drops the pretense entirely, adopting sleeker, less forgiving chairs that can be upgraded to multi-contour seats that inflate and deflate cushions selectively as the car corners. Now, it seems, the MKZ's gone into full Teutonic mode. It's a subtle change felt before it's figured out.

Last year, Lincoln replaced the standard leather seating with what it calls Lincoln Soft Touch seating surfaces. We haven't yet had the opportunity to sample the material.

In front, it's better, even with a sunroof—we've only experienced the single-pane sunroof, not the huge panoramic roof that's also offered. Rear-seat leg room isn't as expansive as in the new Lexus ES, but thinner seats have helped carve out an inch or two of space for six-footers to sit behind other six-footers.

It knits together better from outside than inside, we think. Somehow, the lack of a transmission shifter, the dominance of LCD touchscreens, the presence of four-cylinder noise even with active sound cancellation, and the occasionally cheap button don't render the idea of quality as well as might have been hoped.

Wide plastic panels across the console feel and fit inexpensively, and are an obvious flaw. The touch of the transmission buttons is another. Chrome and mother of pearl are too retro, piano black is too passe—all granted—but a calling-card feature deserves better treatment than the thin, grey-on-grey buttons that click the MKZ into drive and park.

There's some fiction at work with the MKZ's console design. The slim stack of controls leaves theoretical room for storage under and behind the console. It's an execution Ford knows too well from Volvos it produced in the past. But in the Lincoln, the console shape blocks some access to that space.

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2016 Lincoln MKZ

Safety

Safety scores are mostly top-notch for the MKZ, and it's easy to pile on the active-safety items.

The 2016 Lincoln MKZ carries forward with only a few blemishes on what's been a good safety record, overall.

Standard equipment includes all the usual stability control and airbags, as well as Bluetooth connectivity, a rearview camera system, and parking sensors. The MKZ Reserve package adds on blind-spot monitors with cross-traffic alerts—they're a feature that offers enough useful information to earn our recommendation. Lastly, the MKZ offers rear-seat, outboard inflatable seat belts. Ford claims the belts can reduce injuries to back-seat passengers, but as of yet, it's the only company using them.

In addition, you can get a lane-departure warning and active lane control to help correct its progress when it crosses the driving line.

Federal safety officials rate the MKZ at five stars overall, with a five-star rating for frontal-impact protection, and four-star scores for both side-impact protection and rollover resistance.

The IIHS has given the MKZ mostly "Good" scores, except an "Acceptable" rating in the small-overlap crash test.

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2016 Lincoln MKZ

Features

The 2016 MKZ is as technology-loaded as more expensive luxury sedans, although its infotainment system won't please everyone.

Although the 2016 Lincoln MKZ might not compute if you're trying to compare it to mid-size luxury sedans, it definitely makes sense to those who are a little more value-minded—or anyone who wants a lot of features. Even before you start packing on the options, the MKZ offers more features than most other vehicles in its class.

Standard content is rich for the MKZ—and that holds true whether you're going for the MKZ or MKZ Hybrid. In both cases, it includes power windows, locks, and mirrors; automatic climate control; an 11-speaker audio system with a CD player and satellite radio; leather-trimmed seats and steering wheel; wood dash trim; power heated front seats; adaptive LED headlights and LED taillights; adaptive suspension; keyless ignition and remote start; Bluetooth; and steering-wheel multi-function controls.

Major powertrain options include the V-6 (on gasoline models, it's a $1,300 upgrade), while you can specify all-wheel drive with either engine.

Several option packages let you replace what's essentially a premium car with one that has the true feature set, item by item, of a high-end luxury model. The Select package adds HD radio and wood steering-wheel trim, while the Reserve brings navigation with real-time traffic; blind-spot monitors; a power trunklid; and a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel.

The top Preferred package adds 19-inch wheels; heated outboard seats; a heated steering wheel; heated outboard rear seats; a 700-watt, THX II-rated audio system; and either a single-pane sunroof or a massive piece of retractable panoramic glass measuring more than 15 square feet. Although we like the light it brings the cabin, we think that the Reserve package is probably best from a value standpoint.

MyLincoln Touch controls infotainment, climate, navigation, and secondary vehicle systems with voice commands, touchscreen taps, or steering-wheel toggling. Our usual caution applies here; MyLincoln Touch is a complex system with a steep learning curve, and in our experience, only about 75 percent of the voice commands make it through to actual execution, whether it's finding a track name from an audio source or hitting the right destination from the navigation database. Screen layouts and response times have improved a bit, but Ford's new Sync 3 system is due to be subbed in soon for what should be major improvement in the interface.

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2016 Lincoln MKZ

Fuel Economy

The MKZ Hybrid remains a surprisingly great efficiency pick—and it doesn't sacrifice comfort for it.

The 2016 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid is a particularly strong alternative to gasoline versions of this model, especially if you tend to drive more in town than on the highway. 

The Hybrid is now rated at 41 mpg city, 39 highway, 40 combined. It's worth noting the widespread reporting of lower-than-predicted fuel economy in Ford's latest hybrids. We've directly observed 41.6 mpg in the related Fusion Hybrid, with stretches of an observed 45 mpg.

Adaptive cruise control isn't as much a convenience feature as it is a fuel-saver, we think: on MKZ Hybrids, a tap of the resume button can be a big boost to fuel economy, and a more finely tuned input than the driver's foot.

The 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder in the base MKZ delivers EPA-rated fuel economy just shy of that of the Fusion. It's 22/33/26 mpg in front-drive MKZ sedans; in all-wheel-drive form, it's pegged at 22/31/25 mpg.

The V-6 is Lincoln's own exclusive engine offering in the MKZ, and predictably, its gas mileage numbers are lower—but not by that much. The EPA figures put it at 18/27/22 mpg combined for front-drive models; the all-wheel-drive version is set at 17/24/20 mpg.

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8.6
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Styling 8
Performance 8
Comfort & Quality 8
Safety 9
Features 10
Fuel Economy 8
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