Is the new MKZ good enough to re­store Lin­coln’s lost pres­tige? wheels’ Sony Thomas finds out

Friday - - Motoring -

Last year I drove the MKT cross­over and I re­mem­ber think­ing that the peo­ple­mover, along with the MKZ mid-size sa­loon, had the po­ten­tial to help Lin­coln re­claim at least a lit­tle bit of its past glory. So now the MKZ has ar­rived, I am keen to see what’s on of­fer in the model, which is touted as a show­case for the ail­ing Amer­i­can pre­mium mar­que’s fu­ture de­sign lan­guage and tech­nol­ogy.

Will this mid-size sa­loon live up to Ford’s high hopes of re-es­tab­lish­ing Lin­coln as a no­table pre­mium badge?

True to its tra­di­tion of badge en­gi­neer­ing, the 2014 MKZ shares its ba­sic ar­chi­tec­ture with the Ford Fu­sion, but this has been deftly dis­guised by the sig­nif­i­cantly re­vised sheet­metal, which lends the MKZ a de­cid­edly up­mar­ket look. Up front, the sig­na­ture split-wing grille has been re-imag­ined, now sport­ing a sleeker look than the over­sized one seen in the MKT.

There’s noth­ing ex­tra­or­di­nary about the front, but the side pro­file and the rear im­press with sleek and el­e­gant de­sign em­bel­lished with taste­fully ar­ranged LED light­ing. The sin­gle, crisp crease that runs the length of the car adds char­ac­ter to the MKZ, while the Charger-es­que rear is eye-catch­ing, es­pe­cially at night with all those LEDs lit up. A quick walk around is all it takes to see that Lin­coln has made huge ad­vance­ments in de­sign and styling.

Un­for­tu­nately, the in­te­rior of the car does not live up to the prom­ise made by its stylish ex­te­rior. While even ri­vals like Cadil­lac have upped their game to a com­pletely dif­fer­ent level here, the Lin­coln dis­ap­points with be­low-par ma­te­ri­als and un­ex­cit­ing de­sign in the cabin. Al­though it’s tried keep­ing things mod­ern and in­no­va­tive with ca­pac­i­tive touch but­tons for most of the con­trols, these only de­tract from the over­all ex­pe­ri­ence with their poor re­sponse.

Add to this the fact that you have to dive deep into a host of menus to get to ra­dio and cli­mate con­trols, mak­ing the most of what­ever tech­nol­ogy Lin­coln’s packed in be­comes a chore. Also, de­spite the MKZ’s gen­er­ous pro­por­tions on the out­side, rear pas­sen­ger space is be­low aver­age, es­pe­cially when com­pared to the Lexus ES 350. The up­rated, 300bhp 3.7-litre V6 re­turns su­per smooth per­for­mance com­bined with a crisp-shift­ing six-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion and feels as re­fined as any other en­gine in its class. How­ever, if you’re ex­pect­ing a plush ride like in the olden-day Lin­colns, you’ll be in for dis­ap­point­ment, as the ride is any­thing but com­fort­able or lux­u­ri­ous.

Sharp and well-weighted steer­ing mean this is one of the best-han­dling Lin­colns

On the upside though, this means, with its sharp and well-weighted steer­ing, the sus­pen­sion helps make it one of the best-han­dling Lin­colns around. To put it into a broader per­spec­tive, it han­dles slightly bet­ter than the Lexus ES, but falls way short of the phenom­e­nal dy­nam­ics of the Cadil­lac ATS. Opt for the top-spec ver­sion, and you’ll get a bevy of fea­tures and giz­mos in­clud­ing lane-keep­ing as­sist, adap­tive cruise con­trol, park­ing as­sist and a panoramic sun­roof.

So is the MKZ the one model that will rein­vent the brand? It could well have been, if Lin­coln hadn’t missed the op­por­tu­nity. While ri­val Cadil­lac has taken gi­ant strides in rein­vent­ing its brand im­age, Lin­coln seems to have lost its way some­where down the line. The MKZ looks great, but still doesn’t have the charm of a Cadil­lac, its cabin is not as well-ap­pointed or spa­cious as that of the Lexus ES, and its han­dling char­ac­ter­is­tics are much in­fe­rior to that of the ATS, leav­ing a bit too much for the smooth 3.7-litre V6 to redeem it­self.

Rear pas­sen­ger space is be­low aver­age

A se­ries of but­tons re­places the gear lever on the MKZ

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