FIRST DRIVE: 2013 LINCOLN MKZ - AUTOWEEK
By: J.P. Vettraino on 11/21/2012
No one at Lincoln minimizes the importance of the 2013 MKZ. The sedan is the first of four new Lincolns debuting over the next three years, and the starting point for an overhaul intended to remake the brand and return it to prosperity, or at least relevance. Lincoln’s management team understands that the clock is ticking.
This new MKZ is about five inches longer than the 2012 model, with five more inches between its wheel hubs. Its exterior dimensions approximate those of the Lexus ES 350, which Lincoln has identified as a prime target for conquest sales. Based purely on the size of its footprint, the new MKZ slots right between the Audi A4 and the A6.
Like its predecessor, this MKZ shares its foundation with the Ford Fusion, which is also all new for 2013. Yet the Lincoln is now much easier to separate from the Ford. Its 112.2-inch wheelbase is common, but other exterior dimensions vary measurably, thanks to the MKZ’s unique shell. With its swoopier roofline, the MKZ has seven cubic feet less volume inside, and a slightly smaller trunk. Every visible stamping, molding, panel or cover is different, inside and out, save the seat rail covers, according to Lincoln engineers. The MKZ has its own insulation package, acoustic side glass, standard magnetorheological suspension, larger brake rotors and calipers and other upgrades not offered in the Fusion.
The MKZ’s base engine is the Fusion’s line-topper: Ford’s 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder, generating 240 hp and 270 pound-feet of torque. That’s 29 hp and 22 lb-ft more than the base 2.0 turbo in the A4 and A6, and 22 lb-ft more than the 3.5 liter V6 in the ES 350 (or the ’12 MKZ).
The upgrade engine for 2013 is new to the MKZ, but not new to Ford. It’s essentially the 3.7-liter V6 that powers the base Ford F-150 and Mustang. In the MKZ, the V6 increases horsepower substantially, to 300, and torque marginally, to 277 lb-ft. Both engines come with a conventional six-speed automatic, and both are available with all-wheel drive.
The MKZ hybrid mates a 2.0-liter, 141-hp Atkinson-cycle four with a 47-hp traction motor with a continuously variable transmission. Lighter, more power-dense lithium-ion batteries replace nickel-metal-hydride cells, and the Hybrid now comes with the same V-rated all-season tires that come standard on other MKZs rather than extra-hard eco tires. With EPA ratings of 45 mpg city and 45 highway, the MKZ hybrid still surpasses any luxury-badged hybrid currently available, including the smaller Lexus CT 200h. It will be priced identically to the base MKZ 2.0 turbo, and it will be available with all the same options except 19-inch sport tires or all-wheel drive.
The adjustable suspension, called Continuously Controlled Damping, uses struts in front and a multilink arrangement in the rear. It was developed in-house with an algorithm for pothole detection, adjusting the rear shocks to minimize wham! if a front wheel drops into a pothole. CCD is part of a larger suite called Lincoln Drive Control, which incorporates management of the new electric power steering, throttle and transmission maps, traction and stability control and Active Noise Control into one switch with sport, normal and comfort options.
Active Noise Control? This morsel of electronic wizardry collects sounds in the engine bay, processes them “a couple decibels here and there” to enhance or inhibit, and then streams them through the audio system, even if the volume is down. Lincoln claims it has helped turn one of the loudest cars in its class into the quietest.
Other bits of new MKZ techno pizzazz include standard, all-LED adaptive headlights, rear reading lights hidden under the fabric of the headliner and a panoramic, Targa-style sunroof. (Wait—is that word trademarked?) The entire 15.2 square-foot roof panel slides down over the rear window like that on a Porsche 911 Targa. The MKZ also offers the full range of safety electronics, including adaptive cruise control with braking, blind-spot and cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping assist, auto parallel parking and rear-seat airbag belts. There’s a 700-watt, THX-certified audio upgrade.
Yet as Lincoln sees it, the new MKZ’s calling card is design. It’s the first car from the new, dedicated Lincoln Design Studio, directed by Aussie Max Wolff. From the vertically slatted, Simon Legree moustache of a “split-wing grille” to the LED bar across the tail, to the tall, open, shifterless center console inside, the new MKZ is—at the very least—a lot more interesting and emotive than the old one.
Lincoln understands that a value-laden price scheme could also get people’s attention, and the MKZ’s base price of $35,925 undercuts most potential competitors substantially. At that price, either the 2.0 turbo or hybrid come with Lincoln Drive Control, the LED headlights, remote start and three years of Lincoln Sync concierge services included. All-wheel drive adds $1,890, and the V6, $1,230
How’s it drive?
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