- 400-hp engine option
- Distinctive styling
- Sporty driving feel
- A technology flagship
- Hybrid's great mileage
- Driving modes don't do much
- Turbo-4 is a little coarse for a luxury car
- What brand is this?
- The Fusion feels awfully close at times
With available 400-hp, all-wheel-drive performance, plus a new face and more features, the 2017 MKZ could be an advance team for a different sort of Lincoln.
The 2017 Lincoln MKZ gets a slight freshening to bring it back toward the brand's understated, conservative, inward-looking take on luxury—one that backs away from the bold design statement the MKZ made when it debuted back in 2013. With the new Continental flagship launched this year, the MKZ gets a new nose with that family identity, plus a more powerful and refined V-6 engine. Trim levels include the base Premiere, the mid-level Select, and the better-equipped Reserve, along with the top-of-the-range Black Label package that bundles special interior themes with membership privileges.
Still, Lincoln has been juggling missions and design themes rapidly in recent years, and the MKZ still can't quite hold its own as a true luxury contender to the top brands among mid-size premium sedans. A few of its materials choices inside the cabin, a rough base engine, and a slightly tight rear compartment keep it from offering true luxury—although we have to admit its top trim levels have elegant interiors, for the most part.
We rate this year's MKZ lineup at 6.5 out of 10. It does well on performance and feature content, but is only slightly above average for design, quality, safety, and fuel economy. (Read more about how we rate cars this year.)
Design and comfort
In some ways, the Mexico-built MKZ is just a swoopier and better-equipped Ford Fusion. You'd never know that from the design, which shares a fastback shape but no panels with the mass-market mid-size sedan. This year, it traded in the twin-wing grille used by Lincoln for nearly a decade for a more ubiquitous mesh grille, with a rounded trapezoidal shape. It has Lincoln’s four-pointed enclosed star at the center and is flanked by slim LED headlamps that wrap slightly inward. Altogether, it’s a look that might be mistaken for something from Jaguar from a distance.
The side profile and rear styling of the MKZ haven’t changed much, and opinions seem to vary on whether the new and more formal front end matches up nicely or coexists awkwardly with the more daring, almost French-influenced rear styling, with its horizontal lights and a swoopy look that could be a fastback with a rear hatch.
Inside, the 2017 Lincoln MKZ keeps its pushbutton gear selector yet completely dumps what remains of the capacitive sliders—a functional flop that looked great from some feet away—in favor of hard switches and dials. The look is slightly warmer, though its spars with the brightwork (and even the satin finishes that Lincoln embraced in the not-too-distant past). At the very top of the lineup, the Black Label Chalet, Thoroughbred, and Vineyard themes offer a mix of coordinated trims and surfaces with some room for customization. Their materials are very, very nice.
The front seats are comfortable, but rear seat room is somewhat limited in both leg room and head room. The ride is smooth and quiet, but the base 4-cylinder engine is noisy and some of the interior storage is hard to access. Trunk space is good.
Performance and safety
What powers the 2017 MKZ is a new engine for the brand: a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 engine, making 400 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque with all-wheel drive, or 350 hp and 400 lb-ft in front-wheel-drive form. Just as the top 2.3-liter turbo engine in the MKC crossover isn’t offered in a Ford Escape, the 3.0-liter twin-turbo will remain a Lincoln exclusive—so it won’t be showing up in the Ford Fusion anytime in the near future. The top 400-hp V-6 AWD model can be ordered with an optional Driver’s Package that bundles Dynamic Torque Vectoring, for improved cornering ability without affecting ride comfort, continuously controlled damping to help fine-tune the ride-and-handling balance, and a sport-tuned suspension.
As before, the MKZ has a 245-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine in base models. The hidden-gem MKZ Hybrid carries over its 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine and twin-motor hybrid system, powered by a lithium-ion battery pack, from the previous year with few changes. EPA fuel-economy ratings for all models take a hit due to changes in the calculations for 2017. They range from 20 mpg combined for the powerful V-6 model with all-wheel drive to 40 mpg combined for the MKZ Hybrid, offered only in front-wheel-drive form.
The MKZ aims higher than before with its set of safety features—and especially when you dig into the optional items you can end up with a vehicle that’s fully competitive with top luxury sedans from Germany. Adaptive cruise control with full stop-and-go functionality is available, as are Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection and adaptive LED lamps. There’s also an enhanced park assist system that allows the car to automatically steer itself into parallel or perpendicular spots while the driver modulates the accelerator and brake. The MKZ has also done well in IIHS crash tests, earning a Top Safety Pick nod from the agency.
Lincoln boasts of new concert-quality Revel audio, and the 2017 MKZ gets its own, Lincoln-esque version of Ford's latest and much-improved Sync 3 interface for entertainment, navigation, device connectivity, and the rest. Lincoln also claims, in the MKZ, to have the largest fully retractable panoramic glass roof available in a sedan—and it lights up the cabin like no other sunroof we've experienced.
2017 Lincoln MKZ
The 2017 Lincoln MKZ gets a new and more restrained nose leading off its fastback shape, and sumptuous materials in high-end interiors, but doesn't quite gel into a cohesive whole.
While the basic shape of the 2017 Lincoln MKZ remains the same as it has since 2013, it sports a new and surprisingly elegant front-end look. The large, twin-wing grille with vertical bars is gone, a somewhat more ubiquitous mesh grille, with a rounded trapezoidal shape. It has Lincoln’s four-pointed enclosed star at the center, and its mesh is made up of that same shape in staggered rows.
Flanked by slim LED headlamps that wrap slightly inward, it's a subtle design that borrows plenty of cues from the larger Continental sedan that's new for this year. It's not altogether clear that it coordinates with the thick fastback shape of the MKZ—the Continental is a more traditional three-box sedan—but from the front, it’s a look that might be mistaken from a distance for something from Jaguar.
The side profile and rear styling of the MKZ haven’t changed all that much. It's more daring than any other Lincoln model, almost French-influenced, with horizontal rear lights and a swoopy look that looks at some angles like it could be a fastback with a rear hatch. It's daring, but at the same time, it's not for everyone—among them the conservative, traditional buyers who've kept the brand in business during a lengthy rethink over its role in the larger Ford product range.
Inside, the 2017 MKZ is still defined by what's absent. There's no traditional shift lever on the console, but instead a set of black-plastic shift buttons that line the left side of the car's LCD screen. Without a lever, the screen takes over the cabin, and stylists have lowered the console and framed the screen with metallics. This year, thankfully, Lincoln has completely dumped the capacitive sliding switches—a functional flop that felt trendy in 2013 and deeply irritated many users—in favor of old-fashioned knobs and levers.
We like the cohesive look and glow of the gauges, but in its base versions, the MKZ still seems to lack the depth of personality that even some older Lincolns with mixed virtues laid right in the driver's lap. It's a little too cool and "modern," and while it's not exactly glitz and glamor, it's only in the upper-level Chalet, Thoroughbred, and top-most Black Label trim levels that genuinely rich-looking materials like diamond-pattern leather upholstery and actual wood trim convey sumptuousness. That's when those black-plastic gear selection switches start to clash with the more elegant feel Lincoln is trying for.
Overall, we give the Lincoln MKZ a 6 out of 10 for its design and styling. It gets an extra point for those higher-trim interiors, while the exterior lines that seemed daring four years ago now seem to clash with its new and distinctly more elegant big brother, the Continental. The new front end is a plus, but the different pieces of both the interior and exterior still don't totally gel into a cohesive single whole. (Read more about how we rate cars this year.)
2017 Lincoln MKZ
The 2017 Lincoln MKZ offers three powertrain options, from a smooth, fast new 350-hp V-6 to the 40-mpg Hybrid, along with responsive handling and roadholding.
The 2017 Lincoln MKZ gets a new high-end engine option this year, swapping its old 300-horsepower 3.7-liter V-6 for a new, turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 that puts out 350 hp. As before, there's also a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder as the base engine, and an MKZ Hybrid model with vastly higher fuel economy. All-wheel drive is an option with the two conventional engines, but not on the Hybrid.
We rate this year's MKZ at 7 out of 10 for performance, adding one point each for the smooth speed of the new V-6, and another for the availability of a really good hybrid system that should approach its 40-mpg combined rating—remarkable for a heavy mid-size luxury sedan. (Read more about how we rate cars this year.)
The Lincoln MKX continues to share core underpinnings with the higher-volume Ford Fusion sedan. It benefits from that model's nicely weighted electric power steering, although the strut and multi-link suspension setup gets adaptive shocks with three settings from which the driver can choose. 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.
Its Fusion underpinnings take the MKZ in an entirely new direction from earlier Lincolns. If your idea of the brand is something along the lines of a Town Car—or even a Navigator—you're in for a shock. The MKZ is responsive and can be downright entertaining behind the wheel.
Picking a powertrain
Which of the three powertrains you should choose depends on how you plan to use the car, and how you prioritize performance against fuel economy. The base 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine is coupled to a 6-speed automatic with paddle shift controls, available with either front- or all-wheel drive.
With 240 hp and 270 pound-feet of torque, even this base MKZ is a performer, leading to acceleration from 0 to 60 mph in about 7 seconds. Still, some coarse engine noises keep this choice from living up to the luxury niche the MKZ is trying for. Electronic noise cancellation helps somewhat, but it just can't quell the engine's full-throttle volume.
The top gasoline engine is new for Lincoln, a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 engine, making 400 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque with all-wheel drive, or 350 hp and 400 lb-ft in front-wheel-drive form. It too powers the front wheels, or all four, through a 6-speed automatic transmission. Ford says this engine will stay unique to the brand; the top-end Ford Fusion has to make do with a 2.7-liter turbo V-6. In its most powerful form, it's fast, smooth, and puts down the power in a controlled manner.
The new V-6 can spin an inside front wheel accelerating around bends, and when fitted with the all-wheel-drive system, it never once betrayed its behind-the-scenes shifting of torque among wheels. An optional Driver’s Package offered only with the 400-hp V-6 and all-wheel drive, the MKZ will offer Dynamic Torque Vectoring, for improved cornering ability without affecting ride comfort. That includes continuously controlled damping to help fine-tune the ride-and-handling balance, and a Lincoln Drive Control selector to let the driver choose among comfort, normal, and sport modes.
The MKZ Hybrid remains a hidden gem within the lineup, with an EPA combined rating of 40 mpg this year. Its 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine is paired with a two-motor hybrid system and a lithium-ion battery pack that's lighter and smaller than in the previous generation of Ford hybrids. 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. The hybrid model makes efficient driving feel like a reward in itself with smart and engaging energy and operating information displays, but it's only available with front-wheel drive.
2017 Lincoln MKZ
Comfort & Quality
The 2017 Lincoln MKZ has fine materials in its top-of-the-line edition, but misses the luxury mark on some details of fittings, engine noise, and even rear-seat space
The 2017 Lincoln MKZ is a generous mid-size sedan by U.S. standards, but it's not quite as roomy inside as the Ford Fusion from which it shares its underpinnings. Lincoln's worked to fix a few functional flaws and missteps in refinement in an update for 2017, but it remains half a step below true luxury brands in the premium segment, despite prices for top-end models that reach above $60,000.
We rate the 2017 MKZ at 6 out of 10 on our scale for comfort and quality. We give it a point for the refined cabin and elegant, luxurious materials used in its top-of-the-line models, although lower-line versions with the base engine miss on refinement—as do the cheap plastic drive-selector buttons on any model. (Read more about how we rate cars this year.)
The front seats of our most recent MKZ test car, a top-of-the-line Black Label model, were superb. Well-bolstered, highly adjustable, and slightly firm, they felt just this side of too narrow, but proved excellent for long driving stints. These were the multi-contour seats that inflate and deflate cushions selectively as the car cornered; while that took a bit of getting used to, it worked well in practice. We haven't recently tested the sleeker, possibly less-forgiving base seats, now covered in what the company calls Lincoln Soft Touch seating surfaces.
Front cabin room is ample for two large people, but the rear-seat leg room isn't as expansive as in the new Lexus ES. Rear head room is also slightly less than in the Fusion (which wasn't great itself), due to the MKZ's fastback roofline. Thinner seats help carve out an inch or two of space for 6-footers to sit behind other 6-footers, but the MKZ simply isn't as capacious in the rear as competitors.
Trunk space is average to above at 15.4 cubic feet. Shorn of its shift lever, the console's interior storage is ample but slightly hard to get to. The slim stack of controls leaves room for storage under and behind the top surface of the console, an idea Ford lifted from Volvo when it owned that company. But in the Lincoln, the console shape blocks some access to that space and not all of it is immediately obvious or visible from the driver's seat. The optional panoramic sunroof is large and makes a cabin with light-colored upholstery a bright, warm, and welcoming place indeed.
Even on the top-of-the-line 19-inch alloy wheels with low-profile tires, the ride was relatively smooth. The noise level from the 350-horsepower V-6 engine remained low except on full acceleration, when a growly exhaust note increased to add a pleasantly sporty feel. Despite active noise cancellation, however, the 4-cylinder can be harsher and noisier than a powerplant in any luxury vehicle should be.
The materials of the Black Label edition include diamond-pattern leather and suede-like trim, real wood, and muted metal finishes. All of them are elegant and soothing, and if you don't look at the dashboard, the passenger cabin of a top-line MKZ feels luxurious indeed. But those fine fittings clashed with a few plastic panels and, most obviously every time we drove the car, the touch of the transmission drive-selector buttons along the left side of the touchscreen display. Those black-plastic buttons don't say "quality" or "luxury" at all; they say "mass-market sedan." Even the brushed-silver rotary knob on mainstream Chrysler products is more elegant.
2017 Lincoln MKZ
The 2017 Lincoln MKZ gets good safety ratings and is a Top Safety Pick, but it's not perfect.
The 2017 Lincoln MKZ moves into a new model year with just a few blemishes on what's been a good safety record, overall. It earns one point above average for being chosen as an IIHS Top Safety Pick, although it didn't receive the higher Top Safety Pick+ rating that indicates superior active-safety systems and highly rated headlights. Overall, the 2017 MKZ earns 6 out of 10 points on our safety scale. (Read more about how we rate cars this year.)
The IIHS has tested the MKZ and given it the Top Safety Pick nod, with the new model earning top "Good" scores in all categories—including the tough small-overlap frontal test, where last year it was only "Acceptable." The MKZ's headlights, however, only rated as "Marginal" in this year's newest IIHS test.
Federal testers rate the MKZ at five stars overall, with a five-star rating for side-impact protection, and four-star scores for both frontal-impact protection and rollover resistance.
A rearview camera is standard, along with the usual stability- and traction-control systems and airbags, plus Bluetooth connectivity and parking sensors. We recommend the MKZ Reserve package, which adds blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alerts, especially useful in a larger sedan with thick rear roof pillars. Another option is inflatable seat belts for the outboard rear seats, essentially very small airbags to reduce the impact on a rider's chest. Ford claims the belts can reduce injuries to backseat passengers, but as of yet, it's the only company using them.
The MKZ can also be ordered with a camera-based lane-departure and lane-keeping system. It not only identifies when the car is drifting out of its lane, but helps correct the cornering line (as long as the driver keeps hands on the wheel).
2017 Lincoln MKZ
The 2017 Lincoln MKZ offers impressive standard features on all models, lovely interior treatments on the top models, and a high degree of customization.
The 2017 Lincoln MKZ premium mid-size sedan spans a wide price range, and while Lincoln's mid-size sedan doesn't compete directly with the established luxury brands, it may appeal to those who are a little more value-minded—and anyone who wants a lot of features for the money. Even before you start ticking off options, the MKZ offers more features than most other vehicles in the premium class.
We rate this year's MKZ at 8 on our feature scale. It gets one extra point each for its high level of standard equipment even in the $36,000 base model, a high degree of customization from its wide variety of trims and option packages, and the very nice materials and colors in the top-level Black Label interiors. (Read more about how we rate cars this year.)
Trim levels include the base Premiere, the mid-level Select, and the better-equipped Reserve—and then there's the top-of-the-range Black Label. Each of the three main trims comes standard with the base 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder engine and front-wheel drive. The more powerful new 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 is an option, as is all-wheel drive with each of those engines. The MKZ Hybrid can also be ordered in each of the three trim levels, though it stays front-wheel-drive only.
The list of standard features included on any MKZ is rich. Whether you choose a conventional gasoline model or the MKZ Hybrid, it includes power windows, locks, and mirrors; leather-trimmed seats and steering wheel; wood dash trim; power heated front seats; automatic climate control; an 11-speaker audio system with a CD player and satellite radio; adaptive LED headlights and LED taillights; adaptive suspension; keyless ignition and remote start; Bluetooth; and steering-wheel multi-function controls.
That's the spec for the base MKZ Premiere, for which Lincoln offers only a single option: aluminum trim on the door, instrument panel, and steering wheel. The MKZ Select level adds HD radio and wood steering-wheel trim, while the MKZ Reserve brings navigation with real-time traffic; blind-spot monitors; a power trunklid; and a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel.
Black Label's themes
At the very top, the Black Label trim offers what Lincoln calls "a curated collection of interior themes and a host of exclusive membership privileges." In the MKZ itself, that translates to different selections of higher-quality interior materials, finishes, and color palettes. Those themes are entitled Vineyard, Chalet, and Thoroughbred. Our test car's Chalet interior, for instance, blends "Espresso and Cashmere Venetian leathers" with silverwood trim, meant to "evoke the contrasting pleasures of pulse-raising mountain slopes and the warm comfort of an après-ski lodge." And so forth.
After those three basic levels, several option packages on the upper Select and Reserve trims let you replace what's essentially a premium car with one that has close to the feature set of a high-end luxury model, item by item. The packages have been reshuffled since last year, and a new top-of-the-line Black Label model has been added as well.
The Technology package wraps together numerous electronic active-safety features, including adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, pre-collision assist, pedestrian detection, active parking assist, and rain-sensing wipers. The Climate package wraps together a heated steering wheel, heated rear outboard seats, rain-sensing wipers, and automatic high-beam headlights. The Select Plus package (for MKZ Select only) bundles a blind spot monitors and cross-traffic alert system with a voice-activated navigation system.
The top trim level, the MKZ Reserve, gets two additional options, one of them a Luxury package that bundles a 20-speaker Reveal Ultima premium audio system with adaptive LED headlights.
Top powertrain Driver's package
The other is a Driver's package (only available with the V-6 engine and all-wheel drive) that adds Dynamic Torque Vectoring, for improved cornering ability without affecting ride comfort, along with a sportier suspension tune, continuously controlled damping to fine-tune the ride-and-handling balance, and special 19-inch alloy wheels. This comes with some additional trim enhancements, too, including a different grille texture and painted brake calipers outside, with multi-contour seats and an ebony interior with white accents.
Other standalone options include, but are not limited to, a power moonroof or alternatively a huge single-pane retractable glass panoramic sunroof, and a power rear-window shade. The only options we felt were missing were the most advanced of the active-safety systems, and a head-up display, which we expected but didn't find on our top-of-the-line Black Label test car.
Finally, all 2017 MKZ models get a Lincoln-ized version of Ford's new Sync 3 infotainment system. Replaced the much-criticized and often loathed MyLincolnTouch, the new interface is simpler and, crucially, responds more quickly to more commands.
Prices on the 2017 Lincoln MKZ range from just over $36,000 including delivery for the base Premiere trim to the mid-$60,000s for a fully equipped MKZ Black Label with the big engine, the panoramic glass roof, and the Driver's, Technology, and Climate packages.
2017 Lincoln MKZ
The 2017 Lincoln MKZ lineup has one low-volume 4-cylinder model; the rest come in between 20 and 23 mpg combined.
The 2017 Lincoln MKZ lineup spans a wide range of fuel-economy ratings. At the low end, the 400-horsepower, turbocharged V-6 model with all-wheel drive comes in at 20 mpg combined, while the MKZ Hybrid doubles that, with a rating of 40 mpg combined.
But we rank cars on our fuel-economy scale based on the models that sell best, so we rate the Lincoln MKZ lineup at 6 out of 10—meaning the high-volume versions have combined ratings between 21 and 25 mpg. (Read more about how we rate cars this year.)
The 2017 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. It's now rated at 41 mpg city, 38 highway, 40 combined, and offered only with front-wheel drive. In the real world, we've found that hybrids built by Lincoln's parent company Ford have struggled to make their estimates.
Conventional MKZ models have been hit by adjusted EPA algorithms for 2017, and so their numbers are lower than they were last year. The base engine is a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that's now rated at 21/31/24 mpg when fitted with front-wheel drive. In all-wheel-drive versions of the MKZ, it's pegged at 20/28/23 mpg.
Finally, the more powerful 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6 versions of the MKZ come in at 18/27/21 mpg with front-wheel drive. Adding all-wheel drive lowers that to 17/26/20 mpg respectively. All MKZ versions use regular gasoline.