Test Drive: Lincoln MKZ gives brand excitement infusion

Test Drive: Lincoln MKZ gives brand excitement infusion

March 9th, 2013 by Mark Kennedy in Business Diary

The split-wing style grille adds flair and character to the new MKZ from Lincoln. Staff photo by Mark Kennedy

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FAST FACTS

Model: Lincoln MKZ

Exterior color: White Platinum Metallic Tri-Coat

Interior color: Light Dune

Engine: 2.0-liter, four-cylinder turbo

Horsepower: 240

Transmission: six-speed automatic

Fuel economy: 33 mpg highway, 22 mpg city

Dealer: Mountain View Ford

Price (as tested): $48,285

We've had good luck lately snagging new vehicles as soon as they hit the ground in Chattanooga, and we scored again this week with a showroom copy of the brand-new Lincoln MKZ, an important car as the brand competes to regain market share.

Doug Cawood, new car sales manager at Mountain View Ford Lincoln, said our White Platinum tester was only the second 2013 MKZ delivered to his store so far and the only one still in stock. (More are in the pipeline.)

I'm still getting used to Lincolns and Cadillacs coming equipped with turbocharged, four-cylinder engines, but the truth is that they are fully adequate power-plants with superior fuel efficiency. These aren't Granny's old eight-bangers. They are modern, fun-to-drive sedans with enough power to rise up and kick you in the bottom.

STYLING AND COMFORT FEATURES

The new MKZ is built on the same platform as the new Ford Fusion, which means it has to turn heads in a family that already has a beauty queen (the sexy new Fusion).

Some auto writers have pointed out that a fully optioned Fusion may actually snatch buyers from Lincoln, but to me, they look and feel like two completely different mid-size cars.

The design signature of the 2013 MKZ is a double-wing grille that blends into swept-back headlights. The Lincoln badge is so small that even car enthusiasts may do double-takes.

The rear of the MKZ is also distinctive with a down-sloping roofline that melts into a rear spoiler. LED tail- and brake-lights wrap the tail in a continuous bar, and trapezoidal chrome exhaust tips are integrated into the rear bumper panels.

Inside, the MKZ, much like the Ford Taurus, has an elevated center stack that divides the cockpit and isolates driver and passenger.

There are two cool features of the MKZ's interior. The first is a massive panoramic roof (a $2,995 option), built with a single slab of glass that actually slides back and overlaps the rear window of the car. Lincoln also has eliminated dials and switches on the MKZ's dash and has replaced them with iPad-like touch controls and scroll bars for a clean, futuristic effect.

Our test vehicle came with an option package that includes a rear-view video camera, a back-up warning system, a navigation system, heated seats and premium audio.

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

We took our test drive during a March thunderstorm, and the MKZ's whisper-quiet cabin isolation was evident on our drive around the foot of Lookout Mountain. The Light Dune leather seats were comfortable, but perhaps a little narrow for full-framed front-seat occupants.

Meanwhile, the 2.0-liter four cylinder turbo-charged engine, which has become the powerplant of choice in many premium Ford products, proved strong and capable. It has the power to pull our mountain roads with ease. A six-cylinder option is available, but the four-cylinder will likely be the volume leader.

BOTTOM LINE

Our MKZ test car has a base price of $35,925, and options bring the bottom line to $48,285, which is in line with such competitors at the Audi A4, Cadillac CTS, Infinity G37 and Acura TL. Expect 33 miles per gallon in highway driving and 22 mpg in city traffic.