The 2014 Lincoln MKZ: Strong luxury car contender

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Maybe you’d rather have a Lincoln. The 2014 Lincoln MKZ sedan turns heads, and it’s been a long time since this automaker has built a car that does that.

MKZ is part of Lincoln’s attempt to put it on the lists of more luxury car buyers. It has the looks, ride and handling to make it competitive with some Cadillacs and foreign luxury car models. Steering is sharp, an adaptive suspension makes the ride comfortable, and the car handles as well as some top-line European and Asian luxury sports sedans. The brake pedal has a good feel and causes the anti-lock brakes to bite early and surely.

So why hasn’t Lincoln offered a car such as the MKZ several years ago? Unfortunately, Ford Motor let its Lincoln division slide into mediocrity for a long time, and it will take time to regain Lincoln’s old reputation, despite more competition than it has ever faced.

Many don’t know that Lincoln’s limited-production 1956 Continental Mark II was America’s most expensive car and outdid all Cadillac models and that it’s cleanly styled 1960s models were considered exclusive.

Lincoln MKZ: It Ain’t No Fusion

While many past Lincolns were just tarted-up Fords, the 2014 MKZ I tested, which is virtually unchanged for 2015, is striking out on its own and is a definite leap in the right direction. Yes, the MKZ is partly based on the excellent Ford Fusion sedan, but component sharing has become common in the auto market and the MKZ is no upscale Fusion. It has an especially distinctive, but rather low, front end and even such things as artfully shaped twin exhaust outlets.

My test MKZ’s assembly quality seemed flawless, so it seemed odd the outside hood latch wouldn’t let the hood open after the inside hood release lever was pulled. (The owner’s manual didn’t help here.)

The Lincoln media test site is vague on details, but sources say the MKZ has list prices of approximately $35,090 to $38,080. It has either a 188-horsepower gas-electric hybrid system, a 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 231-240 horsepower and a 300-horsepower V-6. I ‘d opt for the V-6.

The MKZ has standard front-wheel drive (FWD), but all-wheel drive (AWD) is offered for extra money on all models except the Hybrid, which comes only with FWD. The transmission for the gas models is a smooth six-speed automatic with paddle shifters, while the Hybrid comes with a CVT automatic.

Lincoln MKZ: Hybrid Ratings Adjusted

My test car had AWD and the 300-horsepower V-6, which was potent for in-town and highway driving. It provides an estimated 18 miles per gallon in the city and 26 on highways. The base four-cylinder model delivers 22 city and 33 highway with FWD, while Lincoln says the hybrid has a rating of 41 city and 39 highway. (Car and Driver magazine says the Hybrid’s numbers have been lowered to 38 city and 37 highway.) Go easy on the gas pedal, and the Hybrid is said to go to 62 m.p.h. in electric mode only.

My test MKZ had a $38,080 list price, but it was loaded with options that raised the price to $51,215–or to $52,110 with an $895 freight charge.

The extras included striking $495 Ruby Red clearcoat finish, the $1,230 300-horsepower V-6 and a $2,250 Technology Page that has active park assist, adaptive cruise control and a lane-keeping system for sleepy or inattentive drivers. The car also had a huge $2,985 panoramic sunroof, $595 multi-contour ultra supportive seats and $135 rear inflatable seatbelts.

Other options for my test MKZ included a $5,375 Equipment Package that contained a rearview video camera, reverse sensing system, navigation and crosss-traffic alert systems, premium audio system and rear heated seats.

This isn’t to say a Lincoln MKZ buyer couldn’t live comfortably with just standard equipment. It includes dual-zone automatic climate control, power front driver and passenger seats with leather covering, and a push button start. Shifting is done with five square buttons on the center stack at the head of the console. I found the buttons easy to use quickly.

Safety items included plenty of airbags up front and a safety canopy for side protection.

The Lincoln MKZ has four large door openings for easy entry and exit to the quiet interior. The large front console has room for two large beverage holders and a deep console bin, but the console eats up a fair amount of front-seat room.

Moreover, the nicely appointed interior has gimmicky controls, including distracting touch-sensitive controls for audio functions and a stylish but too-thin sliding dashboard lever for the climate control system fan.

Rear seat room is very good, and a large backseat armrest contains twin cupholders.

The cargo floor is a bit high, but the trunk is especially large.

Ford Motor seems serious about returning Lincoln to top-drawer status. The MKZ strongly indicates that this can be done.

Pros: Sleek. Roomy. Powerful VG-6. Agile. Nice ride. Available all-wheel drive. Fuel-stingy hybrid.

Cons: Gimmicky controls. Rather high truck opening. Defective hood latch.

Bottom Line: The most accomplished Lincoln in a long time.

Dan Jedlicka has been an automotive journalist for more than 40 years. To read more of his new and vintage car reviews, visit: www.danjedlicka.com.

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