Yes, I know you’ve read numerous reviews of the Lincoln MKZ. Before you skip this one, to keep readers (and myself) interested, I made a promise to myself that while reviewing the car that the terms “Ford” or “Fusion” wouldn’t exist in my consciousness. That’s because I’m sick of hearing those words mentioned throughout every MKZ review I’ve read in newspapers, magazines, and websites, and frankly, the Lincoln people are too.
Full Disclosure: After my article a few weeks ago which appeared on the front page of Jalopnik, Lincoln reached out to me and wanted to discuss my perception of the Lincoln brand. As the MKZ is intended to show the new direction Lincoln is going in, I asked for an MKZ to evaluate. I was almost certainly the only person in my age group (defined by sociologists as “those darned millennials”) short of dealership or rental car agency employees to be driving an MKZ Hybrid. Lincoln covered the insurance and one tank of gas during the time I had the car.
First off, I have to discuss styling. In my case, it looks good from certain angles. Primarily, the front 5/6ths angle where you see most of the front end and only a smidgen of the side. And the White Platinum Tricoat paint on my test car looks amazing, especially when paired with the dark-painted 19-inch wheels. I cumulatively spent an hour looking at the car in the driveway contemplating if the styling had grown on me in between wondering why Gillette had named their five-blade safety razor simply the “Gillette.”
However, I turned out to be the anomaly because almost everyone else I encountered had a soft spot for the styling. My mom said it looked “luxurious.” (Unfortunately, I think she’d have said the same thing if a Kia Cadenza had been in the driveway.) My karting buddy thought it was beautiful and was prompted to do a photo shoot with it. On the highway, a lot of people in cars with Aston Martin-like front grilles always gave my car a look. (Pity about the oval-shaped recessed holes on the hood and trunk.)
As for driving the MKZ, the ride is extremely comfortable, but it handles. I found out the latter bit during my first day with the car, when I was throwing it into curves without braking and the car was gripping without tire squeal on the backroads. Once I returned, I made sure to check the tires and they turned out to be V-rated 19-inchers. It seems Lincoln truly anticipates what automotive writers will do with their cars.
The MKZ is not intended to be “sporty” though, which I know since there’s no sport button anywhere on the car, as is the norm. In fact, the gear selector is on the dashboard, with P, R, N, D, and L buttons on the left side of the navigation screen. I ended up making up for the lack of performance by going karting twice in one week with the MKZ, which is two times more than I usually do. So the MKZ won’t do it for the performance enthusiast.
It will come into its own on long trips. I did one to Sonoma and Napa with the MKZ, so I played with MyLincolnTouch and SYNC. Unsurprisingly, they worked well. (Though the word “Asian” appeared twice when scrolling through distinct cuisines in the navigation system, which I found odd.) The adaptive suspension absorbed all the bumps. I knew what the steering was doing. The steering wheel controls and the screens beside the speedometer minimized distractions.
The interior was a good place. Unlike other Lincolns, the MKZ doesn’t have Bridge of Weir leather, though it does have fantastic heated and cooled seats. I don’t like turning air conditioning on when I’m driving, because fuel economy is important to me above all else (except when I think it’s absolutely necessary), so whoever was my willing passenger appreciated the feature tremendously. The seats were indeed comfortable, and supportive, but not enough to warrant removing my desk chair in favor of them.
And since I did test the hybrid, I must discuss fuel economy. In the city, it was exceptional. When I took it to my dentist, I got 60 mpg on the trip. On the way home, since, I got less than half that. But on the highway, I realized a hybrid wasn’t for me. My strategy for highway driving can be roughly defined as “Be second-fastest on the road.” However, since this is Northern California, being second-fastest entails driving between 70 and 80 mph. As a result, I was lucky to get over 35 mpg after highway driving.
But there was a wrench thrown into the “comfortable cruiser-ness” of the car. It was the THX® II Certified Audio System which should’ve been excellent, but was horrible. During the first two days, I gave the system many chances, inserting my Regina Spektor CDs, listening to every Sirius radio station imaginable, attempting to stream podcasts from my phone, and tuning to the local HD radio stations. It didn’t work. The final straw came when Vampire Weekend’s “Unbelievers” was on the radio, but sounded horrible. After that, I listened to the Sirius comedy stations.
Also, Lincoln made sure that there was enough equipment on the car to ensure I was a) safe and b) make sure I didn’t crash the car. This involved features like adaptive cruise control (which I never used, it would’ve warranted distracted driving), rear inflatable seatbelts (this would’ve involve my insurance going up), and the active park assist (I tested it on the streets of Berkeley, it worked well only once). The blind-spot monitoring and reversing camera were features I did use, because who wants to put that much stress on turning their neck around?
Now, it comes down to whether I would recommend my nearly $47,000 (though the base price is around $37,000) test car to other people. So I have to think of other cars in that price range. The Buick Regal comes to mind. So does the Avalon. The Lexus ES is considered a direct competitor. All of these cars have a hybrid version (which is more expensive than their normal gas version). The MKZ is definitely a car they should consider. Unfortunately, these are what people in Indianapolis would consider.
I’m in Silicon Valley, so customers in that price range would compare it to the Mercedes C-Class, BMW 3-Series, Audi A4, Lexus IS, or even the Hyundai Genesis. People considering those cars wouldn’t consider Lincoln (though I think the upcoming MKC might change things), when a foreign luxury brand can be had for the same price. These, after all, are people who buy Louis Vuitton merchandise (which, let’s be honest, isn’t all that exclusive anymore) and look down on anyone using a Motorola phone.
So overall, what would I think of it? For a start, you should start ignoring the comparison ads on television. You should also ignore those cars with the oval-shaped holes and Aston Martin-wannabe grilles on the adjacent lot when you’re test driving an MKZ, especially if ride is extremely important. And if you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, consider buying American for once, though you might have to travel further to the Lincoln dealer than the Mercedes store.
But do give the MKZ a chance. Lincoln will even let you have the car for a day and pay for a $100 dinner for you to do so. You might find yourself surprised by how good it is and what others think. For that alone, it’s worth it.
Just make sure you aren't a nuclear engineer for a living.