2013 Lincoln MKZ
by John Davis
One of the biggest marketing problems facing a mainstream brand like Ford is how to keep customers in the corporate fold throughout their car buying life. As a customer becomes more affluent, they often want a car with a bit more prestige. That’s where captive premium and luxury brands come into play. Chevrolet has Buick and Cadillac, Toyota has Lexus, Honda has Acura, and of course Ford has Lincoln.
But, for decades Lincoln has lumbered along with the widely held consumer impression that it simply offers fancy versions of the same car sold under the Ford brand. This badge engineered perception has kept Lincoln from standing out in a crowd, let along grabbing true upmarket status.
Ford says that is now going to change and the all-new MKZ is the first step of what is to be a total transformation of Lincoln. Granted, the mid-size MKZ is based on the mechanicals of the similarly sized Ford Fusion. But, that’s not an unusual practice. Much more important is the character, style, and feel of the MKZ. Is it truly different from the Fusion?
Well in the looks department we would have to say “yes”. Though it rides on the same wheelbase as Fusion, the MKZ’s overall length is more than 2-inches longer. Body panels are completely different, and Lincoln wears its own face with the best rendition of the brand’s historic split-wing grille yet. Plus, when it comes to really distancing itself from the Fusion, the MKZ can be ordered with a huge retractable glass roof not offered at the Blue Oval. So, all in all, it is the most original Lincoln since the Jaguar derived LS.
Inside there is even more difference between MKZ and Fusion. There is a true splash of modern in the MKZ with features such as Push Button Shift and MyLincoln Touch. There’s also decent material quality and a much more flowing, more expressive gauges, and seats that have a custom feel. Overall, the environment is luxurious in a non-showy way.
Also unlike the Fusion, a V6 will still be available, a 3.7-liter, and only one of many powertrains to choose from. Ford correctly noticed that many upscale buyers prefer a V6 over a 4-cylinder. Transmission is a 6-speed automatic with Lincoln’s Drive Control system to alter response based on conditions. All-wheel-drive is also available.
Still, most MKZs will be delivered with Ford’s front drive 2.0-liter EcoBoost I4. It’s plenty powerful, but makes a bit too much noise for a luxury car. There’s also an MKZ Hybrid, sharing the 2.0-liter I4 system used on Fusion Hybrid.
As for high-tech “keep up with the Jones’” features, there’s self-parking and a hidden rear dome light that senses when you want it to come on. Also, a whole suite of camera and radar based safety aides are available such as Lane Keeping, Collision Warning, and Blind Spot monitoring.
Our first driving impressions also scored better than expected. MKZ handling proved to be quite agile with a surprisingly delightful touch of oversteer. Brakes also responded well to panic stops.
The 2013 Lincoln MKZ makes a strong statement about a revitalized Lincoln. It’s not the Lincoln we were expecting. It’s much better and more in line with other premium brands. Now we’ll have to see how many buyers are still listening.