A luxury-seeking sedan
Lincoln's entry-level MKZ has been reworked - on and under its skin - to keep up with the times
Over the past decade, the Lincoln brand has been attempting to re-emerge into the thick of the automotive scene. One vehicle pivotal to their cause had been the MKZ: their entry-level mid-size sedan, which could have been their cash cow. But, so far, both the brand and the vehicle haven't seen the success they'd anticipated. To address the issue, Lincoln has been deliberately distinguished from the Ford parent company in numerous ways - they even have separate showrooms - to create a more prestigious brand image, critical for anything luxury. They are also revamping the range one at a time. Not too long ago, we drove the top-spec Reserve variant of the Lincoln MKZ and this is what we think of it.
DESIGN & AESTHETICS
The current-generation MKZ is a rework of the model first released in 2014. My initial impression of the car was that it's a neat-looking vehicle with a size that serves the purpose of family transportation and with styling that has a certain distinction. But a closer comparison makes me want to think of it as a lacklustre remake of the gorgeous Continental, the full-size sedan. In the design refresh, they have chosen to abandon the gracious split-wing grille for an upright chrome one, similar to its bigger sibling. The rectilinear light clusters have been borrowed too. But not all is new. The continuous and pronounced beltline remains, which gives some visual fluidity to its metallic form; so does much of the rear, including the LED luminaires that stretch along the whole width of the car. The good news is that it doesn't look anything like the Fusion, which it is based on; the bad news is the older car was much better-looking. In fact, it was amongst the handsomest sedans out there!
Inside, it's an iteration of a Ford Fusion story - but a good one, thanks to some Lincoln-style idiosyncracies and elegant touches. The steering wheel - a 3-spoke variety wrapped in Wollsdorf pure cowhide leather from Central Europe and the Alpine region - is a direct import from the Fusion, but with more restrained touches of chrome. The multi-function buttons are many, overcrowded perhaps, and could affect operational intuitiveness. Beyond it is a customisable 10.1-inch instrument panel with nice hues and graphics alongside the speedo.
The two-tone surfaces definitely lend it a premium vibe; add to that padded touch points, and you have the trappings of a genuine luxury vehicle. The centre console have been given a major revision as well. The setup with the then-innovative sliders for volume and fan speed has given way to a more conventional arrangement. With that, the innovative but unresponsive touch controls have thankfully disappeared! Unlike the Fusion with its conventional shifter, the MKZ gets buttons for transmission modes that are stacked alongside the screen. The Maserati-esque resemblance is nice, but each of those buttons don't have a distinct feel and, therefore, become cumbersome during three-point turns. Otherwise, it works well. This also frees up space in the lower console; which means more storage spaces to go along with the dual-level console - certainly a neat trick, but... you can't see what you pick out when you're driving. Over on the right side of the 8-inch infotainment screen are other buttons for 'Hazard' etc; the screen is set surprisingly farther away from the driver, when it should be the other way around.
I didn't have any grievances about the driver's seating position and its many degrees of adjustability - including 4-way lumbar support - but the sloping A-pillar swoops into your line of vision and some have noted spatial constraints for the left foot. Plus, the high parcel shelf in the rear does restrict rear visibility. In the rear, it's comfortable for two adults and a child. Three is a bit of a squeeze, but it's certainly more accommodating than some of the compact rear-wheel-drive German sedans that are priced similarly. The leather, sourced from Bridge of Weir, is supremely comfortable and can be had in grey, beige, brown and black.
POWERTRAIN & PERFORMANCE
Luxury is also defined by power, how it is delivered, smoothness, quietness, ride comfort and even handling. After spending a few hours behind the wheel, I can state the MKZ delivers all of that - but each to its own extent.
For the budget-conscious, the base model is more than sufficient, thanks to a capable turbo-charged 2.0-litre 4-pot that makes a respectable 250 horsepower. It will even save a few dirhams at the fuel station, thanks to its commendable claimed economy of 13.8km/L. But it has its shortcomings. Pinning down the gas pedal means you can experience some torque steer, be it in a straight line or a curve. But if you're thinking luxury, you deserve the Reserve model we drove with its potent turbocharged 3.0-litre V6. The mix of turbocharging and direct injection - once called EcoBoost - has been made redundant, but only in name. the tech remains!
Now, this thing is a bit of a sleeper: don't let the stately external appearance, which is its sheep's clothing, fool you - the 3.0T is all wolf under it! When you dip the pedal, the 6-speed kicks down quite leisurely - but when the 365 horses and 570Nm of torque come on, it's a wave of power beyond reckoning, especially for a family sedan. All this fury is tamed through an AWD system that transfers power also to the rear axle for a more controlled effort on speed. The transition is, of course, felt only when being pushed hard; under reasonable power applications, the MKZ delivers sure-footed handling. You can pick your ratios using those plastic paddle shifters which we wish were metallic or something else.
The MKZ rides well, with a slant towards comfort - thanks to Continuous Controlled Damping that senses the road ahead and alters damping accordingly. It also distances itself from the noise of the crowds and the vibrations caused by the tyres, making it rather serene on the inside. They've also managed to eke out an improved economy of 10.9km/L.
FEATURES & FUNCTIONALITY
One area the MKZ succeeds is features listing. As standard, you get tons of equipment that may justify its price tag. The infotainment is a SYNC 3 with an 8-inch colour LCD display, the on-screen controls are legible and graphics are vivid. You also have dual-zone climate control. The MKZ comes with both a push and remote starter. And while the audio system may be factory-fitted, it does have 11 speakers; you also get voice-activated navigation with pinch-to-zoom maps. Further up are three trim levels: Premiere, Select and Reserve. With the Reserve, you get blind spot system, power boot lid, auto fold mirrors, and revel audio with either 14 speakers and 12 channels or a top-spec unit with 20 of each, which is the real deal.
Boot space at 436 litres isn't exactly class-leading but it serves the purpose and you can split and fold the rear seats for more cargo flexibility. The optional technology package adds Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go, Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection, Enhanced Active Park Assist System, Lane-Keeping System with Driver Alert System, Forward Sensing System, Rain-Sensing Windshield Wipers and Windshield Wiper De-icer. This is a near autonomous system. I suggest you tick that box. Safety first always. It even has inflatable rear outboard safety belts!
The 2018 Lincoln MKZ is a car that marries overall sophisticated styling with plenty of tech features, reasonable space and plenty of power. It has a few ergonomical issues, isn't a sports sedan and has rivals that are more accomplished. But Lincoln makes it a more enticing purchase by helping you with the 20 per cent down payment.
Originally known as the Zephyr in some markets, which meant soft gentle breeze or checked cotton cloth.
Body type: 5-seater; 4-door premium mid-size sedan
Engine: Front-engine; twin-turbo 3.0 V6; all-wheel drive
Transmission: 6-speed SelectShift (automatic)
Peak output: 365bhp @ 5,500rpm; 570Nm @ 2,200rpm
0 to 100km/h: sub-6.0 seconds (estimated)
Top speed: 250 km/h (electronically limited; claimed)
Price: Starting at Dh173,000; as tested Dh240,000
AT A GLANCE
Pros: Great styling in parts; features listing; powerful turbo V6; general comfort
Cons: Rear headroom; some ergonomical issues; questionable residual value; pricey
Author's rating: 7/10