2014 Lincoln MKZ

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Elvis did it in ’68 – maybe Lincoln will pull it off now.MKZ lead

You know, make a comeback.

No other automotive brand in recent memory was doing so well – in the ’90s – and then tripped over itself so badly (in the early 2000s) as Ford’s luxury brand. Lincoln actually outsold Cadillac for a while back in the ’90s, mostly on the strength of the then-hugely popular Navigator. But then, a series of halted efforts (LS) and outright sales debacles (Blackwood, Mark LT) and it all went away.

Today, Lincoln is barely a blip on the screen vis-a-vis other premium-brand cars. Ford sells more Mustangs than Lincoln sells Lincolns.

Time to re-set and start over.MKZ center stack

Cars like the ’14 MKZ represent the future of Lincoln – and a new type of Lincoln. For openers, notice that it – and all the new Lincolns – are FWD-based and (in general) small-engined and very fuel efficient (the MKZ hybrid – which costs no more than the regular MKZ – is capable of averaging 45 MPG).

They are also deliberately more demure than flash-bang Cadillacs. More Audi – and Lexus-like. In fact, Lincoln seems to be trying to re-invent itself as an American-brand Audi or Lexus.

It could work – because there are probably enough people out there who want a nicer than run-of-the-mill car – who aren’t looking for too much car – and who would also like for it to be an American car.

WHAT IT ISMKZ side view

The MKZ is a mid-sized, FWD-based entry-luxury sedan based on the Ford Fusion.

Like the Fusion, it’s offered with a 240 hp turbocharged 2.0 liter four-cylinder engine.

Unlike the Fusion, it can also be equipped with a 300 hp V-6.

Either version is available with an optional AWD system – a feature unavailable in one the MKZ’s main targets, the Lexus ES.

Base price is $35,925.

There is also a hybrid version of the MKZ that pairs a version of the 2.0 liter engine with electric motors and a storage battery. This model is capable of averaging 45 MPG – but what stands out even more than its mileage is its price: Lincoln charges the same $35,925 for this model as it does does for the standard (non-hybrid) MKZ with FWD.

Lincoln is the first brand to offer the hybrid version of a given model without a price bump. Lexus – to cite a contrary example – wants $39,250 for the hybrid version of its ES series sedan – vs. $36,370 for the non-hybrid ES.

WHAT’S NEW MKZ  tail panel

The MKZ has been updated from the wheels up. New exterior, new interior – and new drivetrains, too. The base engine is now a turbo four instead of a 3.5 liter V-6. And the optional engine is now a 3.7 liter V-6, making 300 hp vs. 263 (for the previous 3.5 liter engine).

The hybrid version is also much more fuel-efficient: 45 MPG in both city and highway driving vs. 41 city, 36 highway previously.

WHAT’S GOOD

An appealing American-brand alternative to an Audi or a Lexus.

One of the best-looking tails on four wheels.

Pushbutton transmission range selector actually works better than standard lever-type shifter. It’s faster – and takes up no space on the center console because it’s located on the dashboard.

An appropriately soft (and quiet) ride.

Best-in-class front seat legroom (2.4 inches more than the Lexus ES)

WHAT’S NOT SO GOODMKZ front view

Hasn’t got Lexus – or Audi – cachet.

Resale/depreciation might be an issue.

Optional Collision Warning system can be peremptory, startling (sudden array of flashing red lights on dashtop) and can’t be turned all the way off.

Questionable baleen whale front end treatment.

“Haptic” finger-touch controls are slick looking – but can be fussy to learn how to use.

Three inches less legroom in the second row than Lexus ES.

UNDER THE HOODMKZ 2.0 engine

The MKZ is available with your pick of three drivetrains.

Standard equipment is Ford’s “EcoBoost” 2.0 liter turbo four, paired with a six-speed automatic. This engine makes 240 hp and is capable of getting the car to 60 in about 7 seconds flat with FWD – a bit over 7 seconds with the optional AWD system. The 2.0 liter engine is also very fuel-efficient: 22 city, 33 highway with FWD and 22 city, 31 highway with AWD. This is among the very best in this class. The new BMW 320i, as a contrary example, comes standard with a 180 hp 2.0 liter four that only just barely out-MPGs the 240 hp MKZ, with a 23 city, 36 highway rating – while the hp-equivalent (and higher-priced) BMW 328i with the 240 hp version of the 2.0 engine registers 23 city, 33 highway.

However, one of the MKZ’s main competitors – the Lexus ES350 – comes standard with a 3.5 liter, 268 hp V-6 that delivers a 6.5 second to 60 time and also manages 21 city, 31 highway.MKZ 3.7 V-6

Lincoln fires back with an optionally available 3.7 liter, 300 hp V-6 that’s 32 hp stronger and matches the ES350’s s 0-60 run. You can also order this engine with AWD – a feature Lexus doesn’t offer at all in the ES350.

But the Lincoln’s big gun – so to speak – is its optional hybrid powertrain. As mentioned already, there’s no additional cost. Lincoln charges the same $35,925 for this version of the MKZ as they do for the non-hybrid version of the MKZ.

Lexus jacks you for $2,880 more – $39,250 vs. $36,370.

BMW wants $49,650 for the hybrid version of the 3 Series.

The ES300 hybrid is slightly quicker than the MKZ: Zero to 60 in about 8.2 seconds vs. about 8.4 for the hybrid Lincoln. But the Lincoln is much more economical to operate: 45 MPG in both city and highway driving vs 40 city and 39 highway for the Lexus.MKZ hybrid engine And you’ll pay $3,325 less for it up front.

That’ll buy a lot of gas.

The hybrid BMW, meanwhile, isn’t even in the same ballpark: 25 city, 33 highway for nearly $50k. (In its favor, though, is quickness. It’ll do the 0-60 run in just over 5 seconds – furious speed for a hybrid. But arguably beside the point.)

ON THE ROAD

Ford – and Lincoln – like a growing number of car companies is making the case that four is plenty.

And that six may well be superfluous.

Go back just three or four years and you’d have a tough time finding any premium-brand car powered by less than a six.

Excepting Audi (and Saab, RIP) fours were – mostly – for economy cars.

But Lincoln – like BMW, like Land Rover, like Audi, like Cadillac - sees a big future for little engines. Goosed, of course, by turbochargers to make big (or at least sufficient) power on demand while not demanding overly frequent refills at $4 a gallon. These less-consumptive engines are also a political necessity as the federal government continues to ratchet upward its mandatory-minimum MPG requirements – which rise to 35.5 MPG beginning in 2016.MKZ on the road

These new-breed turbo fours also achieve what many automakers have been working toward for decades but never managed to sort out before now: Turbocharged engines that don’t behave like turbocharged engines. That aren’t lifeless at low RPM – but snap (briefly) like an angry rattlesnake once aroused. That’s fine (and fun) in a high-performance sports car, where a sudden jolt of turbo thrust is exactly what’s wanted. In a car with a manual transmission, which the owner uses to work the engine and keep it in the sweet spot of its narrow powerband. But in a luxury car with an automatic such characteristics are as unwanted as Carlos Danger’s text messages (and pictures).

What is wanted is smoothness, quietness – and (most important of all) confident acceleration at any engine RPM and road speed.MKZ exhaust tips picture

The 2.0 Ecoboosted engine delivers on all counts. The low-inertia turbocharger differs from older designs in that it “spools up” – i.e., delivers boost – almost instantaneously. The dreaded dead spot – followed by a sudden, furious infusion of power – that formerly characterized small-displacement turbocharged engines – these are non-issues. The 2.0 four pulls with the easy authority of a 3-ish liter V-6. The only thing, in fact, that betrays the engine’s four cylinder status is its sound. It’s not an ugly sound. But it’s not the purr of a six – or the throb of an eight. There’s very little of any sound at all, actually. The 2.0 MKZ is almost electric car quiet, in fact.

But the larger point is the increasing irrelevance of sixes – let alone eights. They are enjoyable to have, of course. Just as it is enjoyable to have more food than you can eat – and a bigger house than you really need. But as people become hip to the power/performance – and economy – of modern fours like the MKZ’s Ecoboost 2.0 engine, they may come to view them as unnecessary.MKZ pushbutton gear selector close-up

Kudos also to Ford (to Lincoln) on the push-button gear selector. Like turbos, this is not a new idea. But Lincoln is the first to have sorted it out. There is no annoying delay between input and reaction – as is the case with every other electronic gear selector I’ve tried out (and I’ve tried every one of them). You tap the button for Drive – and immediately, the transmission is in Drive. No waiting for circuits to complete, actuators to actuate. Just select – and go.

Same for Reverse, Park and so on.

This system actually works better than a conventional pull-it-forward-or-backward gearshifter on the console. And by mounting the PRNDS keypad on the dashboard – it’s off to the right of the main instrument cluster – space is freed up on the console. Added plus: You’ll never have to worry about grit – or spilled coffee – gunking up the works.old pushbutton

The only reservation I have about it is potential e-glitches (and repair/replacement) costs down the road. But drive-by-wire controls aren’t new. And – so far – they seem to be pretty reliable.

AT THE CURB

Chris Bangle got truckloads of grief over the “look” he designed for BMW a few years back – and the same truck is now backing up in the driveway of whomever it is over at Lincoln that came up with the krill-sifter front end treatment that’s the new Lincoln look.

It’s not that it’s ugly. It’s just not beautiful. On the other hand, it is extremely distinctive – and these days, the days of look-alike everything – that’s commendable. You can tell a new Lincoln at a glance.MKZ lower side view

The tail treatment, meanwhile, is beautiful. The solid sheet of thin-line (and LED lit) brake/taillights with L-I-N-C-O-L-N script in widely spaced chrome lettering above it is simply striking.

A Zephyr, this isn’t.

More importantly, a Fusion this isn’t. No offense meant. The Fusion is a fine car. But a Lincoln needs to be a clearly different car. There’s kinship, sure. Deep down in the bones. But Ford – oops, Lincoln – has layered on so much more that the DNA connection is no longer obvious. The Fusion doesn’t get the MKZ’s elegant dasboard – nor its graceful center stack (and haptic controls). And it does get a conventional on-the-console  gear selector.MKZ interior view

The MKZ also offers non-Fusion features such as a massive panorama sunroof that runs almost the entire length of the roof (15.2 square feet), full LCD instrumentation  – including the speedometer and tachometer needles – an auto-adjusting suspension (CCD) and automatic parallel park assist. Another non-Fusion feature is the air bag-embedded rear seatbelts.

Ford’s Sync voice command and MyTouch electronic interfaces are also included, as is a premium 11-speaker audio system, 8-inch LCD display in the center stack and the full array of power amenities. Navigation is, however, extra cost – bundled with the Reserve equipment group that also includes Blind Spot Warning system, power tilt/telescoping steering wheel and heated/ventilated leather-trimmed seats. You can upgrade all that to include heated rear seats and a 14-speaker audio system – part of the Preferred equipment group.MKZ center stack

Size-wise, the MKZ is a larger – and in key categories, a roomier – car than the Lexus ES. The Lincoln’s 194.1 inches long overall – vs. 192.7 for the Camry-based ES – and rides on a longer 112.2 inch wheelbase vs. 111 for the ES – which makes it look more substantial, more impressive. The MKZ is more genuinely mid-sized than the ES – and not just in terms of its footprint. On the inside, the MKZ has 44.3 inches of driver and front seat passenger legroom – vs. 41.9 in the ES. It also has a slightly larger 15.4 cube trunk vs. 15.2 for the ES.

However, the Lexus still has the edge in terms of rearseat legroom – which stands at 40 inches vs. 37 for the Lincoln.

THE REST2013 MKZ warning light

I am not a fan of the MKZ’s optional (thank the motor gods) Collision Warning system. In theory, it alerts you to an object in your path you may not have noticed  – because you are on your cell phone – with a series of flashing LED lights and audible warning beeps. In actual practice, the system often triggers for no apparent reason – unless you count trees close to the side of the road (or tall grass or earth berms). This happened to me several times. No car in my path – nothing at all in my path, in fact. Yet the lights – and chimes – would sometimes just go off. The effect is startling – like a defibrillation you weren’t expecting. And more to the point, didn’t need.

The system would also sometimes go off when a car up ahead – well up ahead – was turning off the road. I could see the car had its signal on and the driver was clearly intending to turn off. Hence, no need for me to come to a stop – because by the time I reached the place in the road where the car up ahead was, it would be gone. Off the road. But the MKZ’s computer intelligence cannot make this distinction. It “sees” a car up ahead that appears to be a fixed object in its path – one that it thinks will still be there in the 10 seconds or so it will take for the MKZ to reach that point – and so it sounds the alarm. The series of bright flashing lights and beeps is both annoying and itself distracting – ironic, given that its purpose is to avert accidents  . . .caused by distracted driving.distracted driver

Worst part? You can’t turn it completely off. The most you can do – via steering wheel-mounted input pads – is adjust the sensitivity. This helps some, but – at least in my experience – the system still needs some sorting out. Too many false positives. Too pre-emptively nannyish.

The good news is you can skip it entirely.

The “haptic” controls for the AC and other functions also takes some getting used to – if you’re used to conventional knobs you turn and buttons you push. Instead, you gently swipe your finger over the controls – kind of like a flat-screen touchpad. You can tap, too. The good news here is that once you get used to it – and your brain/fingers intuit the amount of touch necessary to get the desired result – it works well enough and (like the pushbutton gear selector) offers the advantage of a flush/flat surface that should be easier to keep clean – and much easier to keep from getting gunked up in the first place.MKZ hybrid sideview

I can’t say enough in praise of Lincoln’s not charging extra for the hybrid MKZ. There is no other deal like this on the market right now – and it’s a brilliant strategy. Hybrids are, after all, supposed to save you money. If the thing costs thousands more to buy than an otherwise equivalent non-hybrid – like the ES hybrid – it doesn’t do that. Because the savings at the pump are negated by the cost to buy. No such issues here. The only negative to buying the MKZ hybrid over the non-hybrid MKZ is it’s a bit slower. Bit it’s not slow. Eight seconds to 60 is well within the Zone of Acceptability for normal,everyday driving.

And 45 MPG average just rocks.

THE BOTTOM LINE

The new MKZ is the first Lincoln in years that’s got a real shot at reclaiming some of the cachet the brand has lost over the years – if enough people give it a look-see.

I recommend you do.

Throw it in the Woods?

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  23 comments for “2014 Lincoln MKZ

  1. MikePizzo
    August 17, 2013 at 9:13 pm

    Pretty nice car.

    Lincoln however, is like a boxer who, in the last couple of rounds, is way behind on all the scorecards. They need a knockout to turn things around.

    The MKZ is not a knockout.

    • August 17, 2013 at 9:51 pm

      “The MKZ is not a knockout.”

      That’s a good assessment, Mike.

      I think, if Lincoln were a smaller independent brand, it’d be not long for this world. But Ford has the resources to carry it for a long time – rebuilding gradually even as it’s not making any real money. Give them 5 years. I think they might be able to turn it around.

      After all, Cadillac did!

      • Brandonjin
        August 18, 2013 at 1:14 am

        Indeed they did. Lincoln NEEDS a CTS competitor. I’d also like another alliteration of the Mark series coupe, Mark IX I suppose.

        I want to like this car… I find it hard to though: 40k car with a 4 cylinder? A mostly button-less center console? At least the collision warning is optional. And, at least they’re attempting to be innovative.

        • August 18, 2013 at 9:52 am

          Definitely!

          Cadillac has made a remarkable comeback. As recently as the early 2000s, Cadillac was a moribund Old Man’s car, purveyor of starter caskets to the Wilfred Brimley set. Look at them now. Night and day.

          Lincoln could do it, too.

          I agree on the idea of a new Mark V series. You’re too young, probably, to remember the ’80s-era Mark VII LSC. That car was slick. Basically, a GT Mustang in a Brooks Brothers suit. Not an old man’s car. But, they screwed it up with the Mark VIII – and instead of fixing it, dropped the entire car.

          On the four: I’ve come around.

          I’ve driven the current four cylinder BMW 3, the Range Rover Evoque and the GM cars with the 2.0 turbo. They all have more power/performance than some of the muscle cars I drove back in my high school and college days in the ’80s.

          But they get twice the mileage.

          One thing I would do if I were The Decider over at Lincoln is offer a manual transmission option with the MKZ. The Fusion offers a manual, so it should be fairly easy to arrange. And it would give Lincoln an infusion of youth – which is what it needs more than anything else.

          Hell, even Buicks can be had with manuals these days!

          • Garysco
            August 18, 2013 at 11:02 am

            Hey now, I was pretty happy with my ’95 Cadillac STS Northstar stealth mobile. :} Unfortunately Linc has never made a car most youngsters would want to own.

          • August 18, 2013 at 1:56 pm

            I like the STS also!

            And, it’s too bad that Cadillac dropped the Northstar program. I have nothing but praise for the “corporate” 3.6 V-6 and the Chevy LS-series V-8s used in current Cadillacs. But they’re not Cadillac engines. Northstar was unique to Cadillac.

            As far as younger buyers (mid-30s and 40s; anything younger is probably too young for a luxury brand) and Lincoln:

            Something like the Marauder I think could have worked if executed properly. Also the old RWD Mark VII.

            This MKZ has potential. I mentioned offering it with a manual transmission. It also ought to offer a higher-hp version of the 2.0 Ecotec engine. But the main issue as I see it as far as attracting younger buyers is that krill filter grille.

          • Brandonjin
            August 18, 2013 at 7:09 pm

            Eric:
            What didn’t you like about the Mark VIII? I think I’d buy one if I found one with low miles, and in good shape. The whole idea of a powerful midsize coupe, (RWD, American, and luxury being nice bonuses) greatly appeals to me. I have yet to see a Mark VII.

            Garysco and Eric:
            Reliability-wise, I’ve heard nothing but bad things regarding GM’s Northstar V8. Though their current 3.6 is definitely one of my favorite engines. Have any info on the reliability of the shortstar 3.5 (Predecessor to the 3.6, Successor to the 4.0) found in the olds intrigue?

            Eric, I’ve tried three times over 2 days to post a comment to the EPAutos is dead column but my comment does not appear. :/

          • August 18, 2013 at 7:34 pm

            Hi Brandon,

            The Mark VIII had a great drivetrain – the four cam 4.6 V-8 (vs. the Mark VII’s 5.0 pushrod engine). But it looked like a lozenge. Ugly in the way the F-trucks of the late ’90s were ugly – because they, too, looked like someone had melted them in the oven. But the F truck survived because people buy trucks for work and the F-truck is the mist popular truck on the road. The Mark VIII didn’t have that buyer base to fall back on. The new look alienated the people who like the Mark VII – and didn’t attract enough new buyers.

            The Northstar was a much more complex engine than the current (pushrod/OHV) Chevy-sourced engines. It was also a room-hog that was difficult to fit into the engine bay – and later on, difficult to work on. Especially in transverse FWD applications. I speak from experience – having abused my knuckles (and crushed my spirit) working on my father-in-law’s Northstar-powered deVille.

            Thanks for the heads up on the posting issue – we are looking into it!

          • Garysco
            August 19, 2013 at 3:37 am

            @Brandonjin I can’t remember the exact engine 3.? something. Amazing “pinned you to the seat” power when I wanted it, 20-24 MPG everywhere and handled better than it should have. I never had any problems with it in nearly 100,000 miles. But I take care of my toys. I sold it when it started using oil and my engine rebuild buddy described the nightmare of rebuilding the exotic cylinder heads etc.

  2. Swamprat
    August 18, 2013 at 11:20 pm

    I like the MKZ’s looks. I hate the fact that it’s FWD. They need to just shovel the engine in differently and install a driveshaft behind the transmission. That’s the only way I would buy this particular car. I wonder what the Hybrid mileages is cruising at 80 mph on the freeway.

    • August 18, 2013 at 11:39 pm

      Hi Swamp,

      That’s the enthusiast perspective – which of course I understand (and share). But it’s also a minority perspective. Even in the luxury car class, where FWD-based cars like Audis are very successful and most RWD-based cars are either AWD or the RWD is, er, assisted with numerous electronic aids specifically designed to limit what guys like you and I love – throttle-modulated wheelspin, tail-out powering through a tight turn…

  3. joeallen
    August 19, 2013 at 4:43 am

    The dash shifter idea comes from Chrysler in the 60s. Uncle of mine had one in his 65 Coronet. Neat idea, now with the electronics and mechanical tech we have today will work much better.

    Is it true that the Ford Focus US made has an irreplaceable air filter that comes in a sealed unit? I’ve heard this and that the cost to replace the air filter, which you cannot inspect, is over $400 US cause you have to replace the filter, cannister, intake hose and the sensors placed in it. Great sustainability. Beware of companies that use the term “sustainability”. Can anyone enlighten me on this? I know zilch about fords other than they are damned hard to service, having owned one briefly 30 year ago.

    • August 19, 2013 at 10:13 am

      Hi Joe,

      That’s news to me about the filter – but I won’t be surprised if it’s true. I’ll look into it and see what I can dig up….

  4. August 19, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    “Lincoln charges the same $35,925 for this version of the MKZ as they do for the non-hybrid version of the MKZ.”

    Ford could wreck the market (in a good way) if they did this with all of their models.

  5. Robert
    August 19, 2013 at 8:01 pm

    My biggest problem with Lincoln is the name. Why would I want a car named after a ruthless dictator? I’d just as soon drive a Hitler or a Stalin. And their recent ad campaign, with the stovepipe-hat-wearing Lincoln look-alike, is embarrassing. The survival of this brand just contributes to the Lincoln mythology perpetuated by our public schools. To the Lincoln Motor Company I say: Death to companies named after tyrants!

    • August 19, 2013 at 8:25 pm

      It’s a solid point, Robert.

      I try not to think about the name much… but it’s pretty in your face and hard to ignore.

      • September 6, 2013 at 9:33 am

        The surname “Lincoln” sometimes derives from an ancestor from that city, and sometimes from an ancestor dumped as a foundling at Lincoln’s Inn, one of the Inns of Court in London, and named after it – which means, derived from the charity of those who saved the foundlings.

  6. Dave
    August 19, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    The Ford Focus air filter is a “lifetime” filter and does cost about $400 to replace. There is an airflow gage that you can check to see if it needs replacement. It doesn’t seem to be much of a problem though. My 2004 Focus has 240,000 miles on it, and is still on the original filter.

    • August 19, 2013 at 11:25 pm

      Hi Dave,

      Wow. That’s just jaw-dropping.

      Ah, progress.

      My ’76 TA’s paper filter costs about $18 – and lasts for 2-3 years…

  7. August 20, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    I have a 2010 MKZ and have been very happy with it. One repair problem (bad battery of all things) after 57K miles.

    Has anyone seen what used MKZ’s are going for? Probably the best deal in the near-luxury category.

    Based on the depreciation, I’d definitely wait to get a used 2014 if I were inclined to get one.

  8. August 20, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    Eric, I’m relatively new to this site.

    Have you commented on buying a new car versus a used one? Do you have an opinion on Carmax?

    • August 20, 2013 at 12:57 pm

      Hi Neil,

      Welcome!

      Yes, I have – I’ll try to dig up the link and post it.

      On Carmax: It’s a chain dealership and has its pros – and its cons.

      Pros include: Lower cost (potentially) by dint of volume – also more selection in one place.

      Cons: It’s a chain dealership. Caveat emptor. Exercise due caution. Have the vehicle looked over by an independent third party prior to purchase and as a condition of sale.

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