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ROAD TRIP: LINCOLN MkZ HYBRID

2014 Lincoln MkZ Hybrid

Price: Base $37,960, as tested $50,500
Engine: 2.0 Atkinson in-line four, plus 70 kW electric motor
Fuel Consumption: Measured average over 3.400 km 5.8L/100 km
Power: 188 horsepower, torque N/A
Competition: Lexus ES300h, Ford Fusion hybrid, Camry hybrid
What’s best: Fuel economy, comfort, distinctive looks
What’s worst: Touchscreen and slide controls lack feedback
What’s interesting: Can go in electric mode up to 100 km/h

A different view of the Garden State

A journey through New Jersey in a luxury sedan reveals the area’s picturesque beauty

Reality television portrays New Jersey as dirty, rundown cities full of drunken louts with the morals of alley cats.

But get away from the cities and certain areas of the coast and it’s quite picturesque, with lots of trees, farmlands and quaint villages.

New Jersey is also one of only two U.S. states where it’s illegal to pump your own gas and gas was cheap: $3.39 a gallon, or about 88 cents per litre.

Our chariot for the trip was a 2014 Lincoln MkZ Hybrid and, after living with the four-door luxury sedan for over 3,300 kilometres, the MkZ is definitely not your grandfather’s Town Car.

Lincoln has a history of huge, willowy land yachts where you select ?flank speed? and ?right full rudder? just to make a turn.

They had suicide doors, stretched half the length of a city block, and were large enough to have their own gravitational field.

The nicely sized $37,960 MkZ hybrid is actually a rebodied Ford Fusion hybrid with soft, comfy leather and upgraded infotainment and convenience features.

A 2.0-litre Atkinson cycle four-cylinder gas engine with an auxiliary electric motor combines for 188 horsepower. Its front wheel drive and the CVT transmission is one of the smoothest and most efficient I’ve sampled.

The battery pack intrudes on trunk capacity but the hybrid still has a relatively spacious 314 litres, down from the standard MkZ’s 436 litres. The battery pack and electric motor also add an extra 90 kilograms to the curb weight, 1774 kg vs. 1684 for the standard.

Push the start button and you get a ?ready to drive? icon on the instrument panel, as the hybrid always starts out in silent electric mode. There’s no gearshift lever, just a row of PRNDL buttons on the left side of the centre stack. Select ?D? and you’re gliding away, the electric motor moving you quietly along, all the way to 100 km/h if you use a light touch (a very light touch) on the throttle.

A heavier foot engages the petrol engine and acceleration is adequate, if not neck snapping. The instrument cluster allows the driver to call up a variety of info regarding the hybrid’s energy consumption and four-way thumb switches on the steering wheel control most functions while keeping eyes on the road. And, in current fashion, almost everything can also be voice activated.

After an effortless border crossing at Niagara Falls, we pointed the double-winged grill of the MkZ to Hershey, Penn., where we had tickets to see Bruno Mars in concert. If you watched the NFL Superbowl in February, Bruno’s halftime performance was the only highlight of the entire game. In Hershey, he put on an amazing, high-energy show and, even though the stadium venue had great sound, we had to park at least two kilometres from the stage and traffic both in and out was a nightmare.

We spent some time in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania’s state capital, where we thoroughly enjoyed the U.S. Civil War Museum, which provides a very interesting unbiased view of the issues that touched off the War Between the States. One day, vintage fire trucks lined the banks of the Susquehanna River, putting on a display of firefighting techniques through the years.

On through Amish country, with lots of horse-drawn carriages and quaint shops in towns with odd names such as Bird in Hand and Intercourse (insert your own punch line here).

Getting to New Jersey required going through Philadelphia and we couldn’t pass through without seeing the Liberty Bell (it’s still broken) and Independence Hall, where the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were debated and adopted.

As soon as we crossed the Delaware River into Jersey, it was appropriate to plug Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA into the MkZ’s awesome sound system.

We spent four days in south central New Jersey and really enjoyed it ? not once did we hear ?fuhgedd-about-it.? Lots to see and do including various bird and nature sanctuaries, historical lighthouses and the Museum of American Glass at the Wheaton Arts and Cultural Center for on-site glass blowing demonstrations.

Cape May is particularly beautiful with hundreds of restored Victorian style houses and long stretches of gorgeous beaches with virtually nobody on them, even in mid-July. Heading for home, we took a quick detour through Atlantic City (summed up with ?ugh?), carefully avoiding the metropolitan mess of New York and Newark and on through the Catskills in southern New York state.

Through a number of twisty roads, I’d describe the MkZ’s handling as deliberate, composed and competent rather than sporty or playful. Steering was light with decent feel and feedback and responsive without being twitchy at freeway speeds.

In Woodstock, we were disappointed that the famous 1969 festival was actually held in Bethel, almost 100 km out of our way. Still, the town cashes in on its fame with numerous tie-dyed facades sporting the famous peace symbol.

Our total trip encompassed just under 3,400 km and the measured fuel consumption was a sparkling 5.8L/100 km (48.7 miles per Imperial gallon for us old-timers). Overall, we were very impressed with the Lincoln MkZ hybrid as a comfortable, quiet and economical tourer.

LINCOLN MkZ HYBRID

The vehicle for Steve Bond’s road trip was provided by the manufacturer. Email: wheels@thestar.ca.

  • ROAD TRIP: LINCOLN MkZ HYBRID
  • ROAD TRIP: LINCOLN MkZ HYBRID
  • ROAD TRIP: LINCOLN MkZ HYBRID
  • ROAD TRIP: LINCOLN MkZ HYBRID

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