2012 Lincoln MKZ

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2010 Lincoln MKZ: Review

This 2010 review is representative of model years 2010 to 2012.
By Tom Wilson of MSN Autos
Rating: 9.0

Bottom Line:

The freshening of the 2010 Lincoln MKZ, previously a middling performer in the midsize luxury market, propels it into the class-leading group. Attention to detail and new electronics are the reason, making Lincoln’s midsize sedan quieter, more poised, more luxurious, more Lincoln.
Pros:
  • Major all-around improvement
  • Distinctly quieter
  • New transmission works with you
Cons:
  • Instrument cluster design a bit simplistic
  • Baleen-esque grille is polarizing
  • Handy, satisfying, but not exciting

Lincoln lovers are all "Mark" lovers these days as Ford's luxury division strives for a cohesive presentation of its lineup; hence, the similarly named, upcoming MKT utility vehicle, the flagship MKS sedan and this, the MKZ entry-level luxury sedan. Based on the well-regarded Ford Fusion platform, the MKZ has been a middle-of-the pack player — until now. For 2010, strong interior and exterior freshening plus a new 6-speed automatic transmission enter the most affordable Lincoln into the race for class supremacy.

Model Lineup
Offered strictly as a midsize, 4-door, 5-passenger sedan, the Lincoln MKZ comes in two flavors: front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. Both are available with the Sport Appearance Package, which has a stiffer suspension and cosmetic enhancements.

A cosmetic makeover brings the MKZ decisively into the modern Lincoln family. The car's new front end features a trademark Lincoln waterfall grille, making it a near-copy of the larger MKS. Also new are the rear decklid and LED taillights. In addition, the automaker has sprinkled chrome accents throughout; the bright stuff can be found on the door handles and elsewhere. Standard wheels are 17-by-7.5-inch painted and machined-finished 9-spokes with P225/50VR-17 all-season tires. A nearly identical chrome 17-inch wheel with the same tires is optional. A 10-spoke 18-inch polished aluminum wheel is standard with the Sport package and otherwise optional on non-Sport iterations.

Besides the larger wheels, Sport versions boast body-color door handles, darkened headlights and a slightly different grille. Inside, contrasting piping on the leather seats, thicker floor mats and aluminum trim add some pizzazz, while outside, improved brake pads, larger sway bars and noticeably firmer shocks and springs enhance handling.

Under the Hood
While Lincoln has done little to change the 263-horsepower 4-cam 3.5-liter V6 engine from the previous generation, it has swapped out last year's 5-cog automatic transmission for a 6-speed automatic, which lops almost a half-second off the MKZ's sprint to 60 mph. It also delivers better fuel economy, which is rated at 18 mpg city/27 mpg highway using regular-grade gasoline.

Understandably, there is no manual transmission option. The so-called Select-Shift computer control, however, works intelligently to provide smooth cruising or higher-rpm shifts when driving aggressively. The algorithms also hold gears between corners on mountain descents, a huge improvement over the somewhat arbitrary shift schedule in the previous MKZ.

Designed for inclement weather, the AWD MKZ automatically shuttles power to the rear tires when necessary, and sometimes a little before. This increases stability and driver confidence. Coupled with a host of computer stability controls, the AWD Lincoln promises fine winter-driving security.

To increase utility and ride comfort, Lincoln updated the suspension tuning, relocating the rear lower control arms and even tightening the turning circle by 3 feet. The power steering was also refined for better feel and easier parking.

Inner Space
While the MKZ's exterior is substantially updated, the roomy interior is entirely new. Where the previous MKZ cabin was plain with a few ornaments, the new MKZ interior is authentic luxury cohesively executed. As Lincoln says, "the leather is leather and the aluminum is aluminum," not some vinyl or plastic copy. The design is less blocky and more organic to avoid the sleepy heaviness of some luxury cars. Since Lincoln MKZ purchasers are relatively youthful for the luxury market, and half come from brands other than Lincoln or Ford, the Blue Oval's luxury brand was eager to improve the MKZ's interior friendliness.


Behind the design is extra sound control. The MKZ was already hushed, but Lincoln wanted it undisputedly ahead of the competition; plus, a quieter car better supports the new voice-controlled electronics. Hence, there are new engine-intake noise resonators, improved subframe cushions, a new windshield laminate, better body seals, updated rubber isolators, new "stuffers" in the roof pillars and fenders, a completely dampened floor pan and an acoustic headliner.

Electronics and convenience aids are luxury must-haves, and Lincoln hasn't missed an electron. The standard sound system talks through 11 speakers, while the optional THX sound system pumps 600 watts through 12 channels and 14 speakers for a premium audio experience. Naturally, the HID headlights steer, the cabin air is filtered and the doors automatically unlock after airbag deployment. That, and Lincoln logically fitted the highest version of Sync for voice activation of the entertainment and navigation systems, along with Bluetooth connectivity. To put the MKZ ahead, there is a blind-spot radar system that gives an alert to objects in the driver's blind spot or cross traffic in parking lots when reversing out of a parking spot. Both are class exclusives.

On the Road
Our test drive was in a front-wheel-drive MKZ with the Sport Package. It quickly demonstrated good ride manners and pleasing agility. Clearly, the MKZ boasts a great chassis that's a pleasure to drive everywhere from the parking lot to mountain roads. Acceleration is also markedly superior to last year's model, and the new, intelligent Select-Shift 6-speed automatic transmission shifts quickly, smoothly and right on cue. Lincoln says the MKZ hits 60 mph in 7.1 seconds, tying such luxury-class sprinters as the Lexus ES 350 and just besting the Acura TL.

And yes, it's quiet. Not like a tomb, but generously insulated from the rude outside.

When you add all of that to class-leading passenger room, the MKZ is a fit tourer. Overall, the car is sporty in the sense that it's maneuverable and generally willing, but is more comfortable than athletic in the sports-sedan sense. It certainly presents an urbane persona, making the right muted sounds, cushioning the bumps of real-world pavement and offering a sophisticated interior environment wrapped in a touch of exterior class.

Right for You?
It's easy to get used to luxuries such as heated and cooled seats, and the same is true of the handy-sized MKZ. It's as refined as other midsize entry-level luxury car leaders, with advantages in the electronics and interior room departments. It's a good choice for tech-savvy buyers of significant stature or for those who value rear-seat room.

The new MKZ starts at $34,965, including destination and delivery. The AWD starts at $36,005. Well equipped, either FWD or AWD versions can still easily add $3,000 to $5,000 worth of options, so expect mid-30s to a tick under $40,000 at full sticker. The MKZ AWD is a low-$40,000 car with a good number of bells and whistles.

Longtime Road & Track contributor Tom Wilson's credits include local racing championships, three technicalengine books and hundreds of freelance articles.

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BB01 - 7/26/2014 8:57:54 AM