- What’s Best: Smooth rider, Skydome-worthy sliding roof, steep depreciation a value play
- What’s Worst: Outdated six-speed transmission, anemic hybrid powertrain, faulty door latches
- Typical Used Prices: 2013 - $19,500; 2017 - $42,000
Having whistled through the graveyard of defunct automobile brands – with headstones bearing familiar names such as Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Plymouth and Mercury – Lincoln is motivated to stay relevant.
Ford’s luxury division is doubling down on lucrative sport-utility sales to keep its banner flying high. The bigger, redesigned Navigator has been a hit with buyers, and the upcoming Aviator and Nautilus (which replaces the MKX) utes are expected to do well, too.
But after betting the farm on the re-introduction of the Continental luxury sedan last year – which looks fetching but hasn’t set sales records on fire – Lincoln has had little luck with its cars, a shame considering this is the company that built iconic luxury sedans in the 1960s.
“It’s a very American flavor of luxury. Unlike many of the other non-German luxury cars, this one doesn’t seem to want to be like them. I can dig that,” wrote one observer of the new Continental.
It wasn’t actor, existentialist and Lincoln pitchman Matthew McConaughey’s quote, but it could have been.
Before the reconstituted Continental came the MKZ, Lincoln’s entry-level car, to draw younger buyers into the fold. The first-generation MKZ was little more than a tarted-up Ford Fusion; both were riding on the Mazda 6’s front-drive platform back when the two automakers were sharing hardware.
The second generation MKZ, launched for the 2013 model year, was no longer just a rebadged Fusion, but got some distinctive styling of its own – most noticeably, a “fastback” backlight that enhanced aerodynamics along with full-width LED taillights that could not be mistaken for the Fusion.
The cabin appeared rich and tasteful with a sweeping double-wing dashboard that featured a digital LCD instrument cluster in front of the driver and a touch screen in the centre stack, which utilized the latest version of Ford/Lincoln’s Sync telematics that can be operated via voice commands.
The car’s high beltline and sleek roof conspire to make the cockpit a little claustrophobic, however, with a back seat that’s less spacious than the segment average. And while they created a favourable first impression – there’s colour-adjustable ambient lighting and “responsibly harvested” wood trim – the interior furnishings did not always wear well over time.
“I’ve had several panels fall off, and squeaks and rattles have been a chore for me and my Lincoln dealership to iron out,” reads a common online lament about the assembly quality. Like the Fusion, the MKZ is put together in Hermosillo, Mexico.
Base models employ Ford’s now-familiar 2.0-L EcoBoost turbo four cylinder, rated at 240 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque. Groomed for the luxury segment, the MKZ also offered a 3.7-L V6 good for 300 hp and 277 lb-ft, an optional engine that does not grace the Fusion lineup.
Both engines are coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission, supplied by Aisin, and both are available with front- or all-wheel drive. The traditional mechanical shift lever was replaced with a pushbutton gear selector.
The gasoline-electric hybrid model features a 141-hp Atkinson-cycle 2.0-L four-cylinder engine tied to a 118-hp electric motor that together makes 188 hp. The combo works through a continuously variable (CVT) automatic transmission turning the front wheels only, and draws on a 1.4-kWh lithium-ion battery pack.
U.S. government crash testing awarded the second-gen MKZ five stars out five for overall crash safety, with four stars for side-impact protection. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) tests, the MKZ earned a second-best score of “Acceptable” for its small overlap frontal-offset test, but “Good” overall.
After three subsequent years of next to no equipment updates, the MKZ got a thorough reworking for the 2017 model year. The most obvious change was the restyled exterior that traded the split-wing grille for a new Bentley-like diamond grille that adorns the Continental.
Inside, the MyLincoln Touch climate and infotainment system was replaced by the latest Sync 3 interface, along with new physical buttons for many of the audio and climate controls. Replacing the optional 3.7-L V6 is an aluminum 3.0-L turbocharged V6 that cranks out 400 hp when fitted with the optional all-wheel-drive system, or 350 hp with front-wheel drive. The base turbo four received slightly more power (245 hp, 275 lb-ft), while the hybrid powertrain remained unaltered.
DRIVING THE MKZ
In its quest to appeal to younger buyers, Lincoln tried to keep the Fusion’s fun factor intact in the MKZ, but with variable results. The base turbo four pulls the weighty sedan from zero to 97 km/h in an unremarkable 7.4 seconds; opt for the V6 and the acceleration time comes down to a more respectable 6.3 seconds. Impatient types should locate a 2017 or newer model with the 400-hp V6 turbo and all-wheel-drive; thusly equipped, it can attain 97 km/h in just 4.8 seconds.
At the other end of the scale, the hybrid model can muster no better than 9.4 seconds to reach highway velocity. With just 188 combined horsepower and nearly two tons to launch, the MKZ hybrid is nowhere near as quick as it looks.
Unfortunately, the hybrid didn’t make up for its mollusk-like performance with anything resembling stellar fuel economy. One magazine averaged 37 mpg (7.6 litres/100 km), nowhere near the EPA’s 48-mpg combined rating, which itself was revised downward from the advertised 54 mpg when the hybrid was re-introduced in 2013.
In other ways, the MKZ rewards everyday drivers. The electrically boosted power steering is quick and accurate, though it could be more informative, especially on-centre. Braking performance is adequate for a mid-size sedan shod with all-season tires, and 0.84 g of skidpad grip is actually slightly better than the class average.
What Lincoln established in the MKZ is a thoroughly modern sedan that could go toe-link to toe-link with competing entry-level luxury fare such as the Lexus ES and Volvo S60. Buyers talk about the car’s eye-catching profile, snazzy interior, huge panoramic sunroof, sophisticated drivers’ aids and other high-tech features, and the turbo four’s propensity to save gas – in addition to the available hybrid model.
The second-gen MKZ has not garnered a lot of complaints, although there’s a not-uncommon surprise that’s raised some eyebrows: “Around 7 am in rush hour traffic my left passenger front door swung open. I had to swerve out of traffic to miss hitting a vehicle next to mine.”
As we’ve noted previously with the Fusion, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has pressed Ford to recall the MKZ and other models for faulty door-latch pawl springs. The automaker is spending $640 million to replace door latches on nearly 2.4 million vehicles. If a door latch is not engaging well, take the vehicle to a dealer.
Ford is also recalling 1.3 million 2014-18 Ford Fusions and Lincoln MKZs for potentially loose steering-wheel bolts that could result in the steering wheel detaching from the column, increasing the risk of a crash. Key fobs have been recalled for falling apart in drivers’ hands.
Some owners have noticed that the MyLincoln Touch interface can become unresponsive or reboot at the most inopportune times. A few have seen the fuel gauge take 10 minutes or longer to display the correct fuel level.
In addition, there have been some complaints about stalling while underway, an affliction that has been traced to a telltale Ford problem: faulty throttle bodies. And a few transmissions have displayed hard shifting between certain gears, requiring a rebuild.
Despite the reported hiccups, the MKZ is a better car than it used to be as Ford has worked overtime to address weaknesses in the powertrains and technology. Best of all, being an American luxury brand, the Lincoln MKZ is prone to steep depreciation, which is music to the ears of used-car bargain hunters.
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