Posted Wednesday, Feb. 06, 2013
Liberated from the now-defunct Mercury nameplate, the newly renamed Lincoln Motor Company is still a division of Ford Motor Company, but the intention of both organizations is clear: Restore the Lincoln luster.
It's a tall order, given that the nameplate is pretty much synonymous with "glorified airport taxi." Remember, too, that Ford's management of Jaguar, Volvo, Land Rover and Aston Martin ended with a giant global whimper.
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But America is nothing if not the land of second chances. And with a massive advertising blitz (and a Super Bowl spot) around classic iconography like the '60s-era Continental, Ford is declaring that the boldly redesigned 2013 Lincoln MKZ is a rebirth of the brand's legacy of stylish innovation.
The look certainly says so: The swoopy horizontal split grille deliberately evokes the 1941 Continental and flows into the angular headlights, while multiple hood strakes add dimension. From the side, the high line resembles much higher-priced European sedans and the back end, with its bazillion LED lights running horizontally across the tail, looks appropriately tailored yet futuristic.
Inside, the cozy cabin is decked in high-quality leather, metal and wood, and the ritzy center console's got lots of storage options, thanks to the center-stack mounted gear push-buttons: a fun, retro touch. Next to the shift buttons is the 8-inch MyLincoln Touch screen, a distinctly Ford product, as is the turn-signal stalk: Both could and should be upgraded ASAP. The enormous panoramic sunroof is a $3,000 option and, while nice, seems almost too big in both price and vista.
Performance-wise, the new MKZ is a pleasant surprise, probably the best-performing Lincoln ever. Clad in Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires, the front-wheel drive MKZ corners with aplomb, handles city driving with spunk and sits down well on the highway, which one would expect from a 4,000-pound vehicle. (All-wheel drive is an option.) Crisp acceleration comes from the excellent engine shared with the Ford Fusion, a 2.0-liter EcoBoost turbo-four with 240 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque mated to a six-speed automatic. A hybrid version is available at no extra charge. A 300 horsepower 3.7 liter V6 is optional at $1,230.
In feel, the MKZ has the Lexus ES 350 squarely in its sights. But in fact, the Fusion might be the MKZ's closest competitor. Sticker-wise, the base MKZ starts where the fully-loaded Fusion Titanium ends, around $36,000, but includes the Lincoln Drive Control chassis system, which adjusts the suspension, steering, transmission, and traction and stability control. Options will ratchet the price slightly north of $50,000. The MKZ also boasts a power-adjustable tilt and telescoping steering wheel (which can also be heated), heated rear seats, LED headlamps and a super-nice THX sound system.
The MKZ also comes with what the suits at Lincoln Motor Company promise will be a level of service well above that of a traditional Ford dealer. Think Lexus and you get the idea: bend-over-backward attention and complete customer satisfaction long after the sale.
Can Lincoln rekindle the passion? Stranger things have happened. A decade ago, Cadillac was all but dead when the brand's image and market share were resuscitated by the CTS. The MKZ makes a compelling, if not yet overwhelming, argument for Lincoln's redemption: reasonably priced, well-equipped, luxurious, fun enough to drive in the city and a reassuring presence on the highway. Add to that a post-sale service differentiator and you've got a combination that can work ... presuming today's über-jaded car-buying public is willing to give a venerable icon that oh-so-American good ol' second chance.
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