2013 Lincoln MKZ AWD

New Lincoln MKZ‘s crisp style shows flair, staying power

More than three years have passed since I last tested a Lincoln, which tells you a lot about how stagnant Lincoln’s lineup has been.

The Lincoln at least has a nose you might recognize again when you see it.
The Lincoln at least has a nose you might recognize again when you see it.

Lincolns have been little more that gussied up Fords for some time, but that may be changing as Lincoln gets serious about competing with a surging Cadillac and the bevy of luxury makes from Lexus to Mercedes-Benz.

The new dark metallic blue gray (smoke quartz) Lincoln MKZ AWD I just tested is a big step forward. It looks and feels luxurious and is about two light years more refined than any Town Car or Continental of bygone days.

Styling is crisp with a wingspread grille and thin taillights that deliver a flair that sets the Lincoln apart from other makes. Once you’ve seen one, you’ll recognize its looks, and there are a lot of luxury cars that blend in these days. This one has some styling staying power.

Riding on a 112.2-inch wheelbase it also has some interior room and comfort. Four adults fit easily and the trunk is a generous 15.0 cubic feet.

What got me is how much fun this 2.0-liter, direct-injected, intercooled turbocharged I4 engine is. It develops 240 horsepower and you feel it every time you mash the gas pedal. Cruising around town the car delivers silky smooth power and barely noticeable shifts from the 6-speed automatic. Decide to pass on the highway, or demand some ponies to hit highway speeds and the MKZ responds with vigor.

There’s no turbo whine and only slight turbo lag as you get on the gas. Oh, and by the way, the Lincoln is happy to drink regular fuel. Bonus!

While the car feels substantial, at 3,874 lbs. its weight is moderate and the sedan handles like it weighs even less. There’s virtually no body lean during hard cornering and MKZ is easy to keep between the lines on the highway.

OK, I’ve got to admit that keeping it between the lines is made easier by the addition of Lincoln’s spectacular lane keeping system, part of a $2,250 technology package. I’ve driven many cars with lane departure systems that sense when your car is getting too close to the side of the road, or about to cross the center line. Most ring an alarm that could easily cause you to overreact and not necessarily keep you safer.

This system gently tugs the car’s steering wheel back toward the lane’s center, no matter which road boundary you’re getting near. Bravo! It works well too. I only found one road, in Brookfield, where the line by the shoulder was so worn that the system didn’t sense its existence.

The tech package also adds adaptive cruise control that slows the car as you approach a slower moving vehicle while cruise control is engaged, and active park assist, which sadly beeps like crazy any time you pull into a parking space and there’s anything on either side of you. That still needs work.

I like the light bar across the MKZ's tail.
I like the light bar across the MKZ’s tail.

Ride could use a little help too. While well controlled the MKZ delivers a stiffer ride than many luxury cars. There’s independent suspension all around, but softening the shocks and dampening could make it appeal to a broader buying demographic. I fully understand that Lincoln is trying to escape its “old guy” image, but with all the technology on the car, it might be wise for the company to offer two or three electronically controlled ride levels.

Braking from four wheel discs is superb and there’s traction and stability control, plus this model had an all-wheel-drive system to aid traction in sloppy weather or road conditions.

Gas mileage also was a pleasant surprise. The EPA rates the MKZ 22 mpg city and 31 mpg highway. I got 24.9 in about 60% highway driving and I was admittedly a little lead-footed with this one because it was such fun to get a kick from the turbo.

The test car also added 19-inch polished alloy wheels, a $750 upgrade, along with 19-inch tires.

Inside, the Lincoln was quiet and looked great with a black textured dash and black perforated leather seats. The dash featured elegantly shaped and pewter-look trimmed wood inserts that extended slightly into the doors. The fine-edged pewter-look trim encased the center stack too and the roof liner was gray.

This dash is clean and modern with an all-touch surface that puts the Lincoln in a different league for styling and looks. I prefer knobs and buttons for my radio and climate controls, but there’s no denying this looks elegant.

Lincoln’s dash gauges were well laid out and easy to see and really the navigation/radio screen was simple to work, in spite of its touchscreen. My real concerns were the bar across the stack for radio volume and climate control temperatures. I found myself hitting the wrong one for the wrong function a lot, and slight adjustments weren’t as intuitive as you’d think.

The interior is stylish and plush.
The interior is stylish, plush and quiet.

Another bit that took a while to become accustomed to was the push-button transmission. Heck, our 1963 Plymouth Valiant had that, but these buttons, along the left side of the center stack, next to the screen, seemed too easy to push and I didn’t always trust that I was in Park after the first tap. It all worked fine, but I always felt a bit sheepish using the buttons.Obviously the buttons eliminate the need for a shift lever, so free up the console and allow for cubbies and two cupholders on the console. Overhead the visors slide and I like the car’s power tilt/telescope steering. But I despise the giant key fob, the largest I’ve seen in years.

Seating is comfortable and well contoured, matching the car’s sporty luxury nature. Both front seats had power and there were three memory buttons for the driver’s seat, plus a powered lumbar support. Front seats also are heated and cooled.

The test car, which started at $37,815, also added a $3,150 equipment package that included a rearview camera, reverse sensing system, reserve equipment group and a single CD player with high-def system along with navigation and cross traffic alert.

The car’s sparkling tricoat paint job also added $495 and rear inflatable seatbelts another $195, plus $895 delivery. Total for the test car was $45,550, a moderate luxury sedan price.

A front-wheel-drive model and the front-drive hybrid both start at $35,925. The hybrid is rated at 45 mpg city and highway.

All told, the MKZ (think Mark Z) is a delight to drive, a great looking car and brings Lincoln back into the luxury sedan discussion. It also may help save Lincoln from extinction!

The optional sunroof is comprised of a large sliding glass roof panel.
The optional sunroof is comprised of a large sliding glass roof panel.

FAST Stats: 2013 Lincoln MKZ AWD

Hits: Stylish car with plenty of power, good handling and a quiet luxury feel. All-touch dash appears high-tech and interior is modern. Well fitted seats creates comfortable interior for four adults, plus heated and cooled front seats, backup camera, power tilt/telescope wheel and best lane-control system yet.

Misses: Fairly firm ride and the all-touch dash can be confusing at times, a few knobs could simplify things. Sensors area sensitive, so beep a lot whenever you park and the key fob is huge.

Made in: Hermosillo, Mexico

Engine: 2.0-liter, I4 DI Turbo, 240 hp

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Weight: 3,874 lbs.

Wheelbase: 112.2 in.

Cargo: 15.0 cu.ft.

MPG: 22/31

Base Price: $37,815

Dealer’s Price: $35,924

Major Options:

Equip. Group 105A (Rearview camera, reverse sensing system, reserve equipment group, single CD w/tuner/hd, navigation system, cross traffic alert), $3,150

Smoke quartz tricoat paint, $495

Technology package (active park assist, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping system), $2,250

19-inch polished alloy wheels, $750

Rear inflatable seatbelts, $195

Delivery: $895

Test vehicle: $45,550

Sources: Lincoln, www.kbb.com

Photos: Courtesy of Lincoln

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