With Lincoln MKZ, luxury is relative
It takes more than good genes to survive almost 100 years in the auto business. It requires grit, stamina, courage and, in the case of Lincoln, a tremendous amount of chutzpah to “introduce” a company that's been around longer than the light switch. Like 111-year-old geriatric Cadillac and the even more elderly 114-year-old Buick, Lincoln is part of an automotive old folks club that refuses to go gently into the night.
With its 2013 MKZ, Ford's luxury division kicks off a four-model reinvention strategy designed to appeal to buyers who are younger than the brand's 65-year-old median age but still AARP-eligible. Unusual as it seems to reboot a legacy brand with a redo instead of an entirely new model, the MKZ makes a certain amount of sense. In the seven years it's been on the market, the midsize sedan has become Lincoln's best-seller, part of the fast-growing, entry-level luxury segment.
What luxury means, of course, is relative. In the case of the MKZ, it forgoes dramatic exterior design for creature comforts and safety features in a vehicle priced ever-so-slightly out of reach of mere plebes. The version I tested cost $49,585.
The first vehicle to emerge from Lincoln's dedicated design studio in Detroit, the 2013 MKZ sports a slightly more aerodynamic and edgy style than the outgoing model with a large panoramic roof, LED brake lights that extend across the entire rear end and a split-wing grille vaguely reminiscent of a Beemer. Still, its most significant innovations are technological.
The base model MKZ is powered with a 2.0-liter inline-four cylinder engine. I was driving the 3.7-liter V-6, which was responsive off the line and felt completely comfortable cruising the carpool lane at speed. It did, however, yield an abysmal 21.7 mpg. A hybrid model more than doubles fuel economy to an EPA-estimated 45 mpg and is priced the same as the gas model, which starts at $36,800.