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