How do you reboot a brand?
If the brand have been around for a very long time, it could be as simple as looking back at your storied past, bless it, create new product and move on. Or, you would have to go through a more complicated route through experiential marketing, creating images that mean something to the brand and hopefully connect with a new set of buyers.
Lincoln did both – actually. The output of this rebranding is their new MKZ mid-sized sedan. The Ford Fusion-based luxury sedan is now tasked to be the beacon for the next chapter in Lincoln’s 90-year history.
Is it up for this task? One look at the Lincoln may draw various reactions. A few familiar design tenets are there – the split-wing grille recently re-introduced to the brand, attached headlights and the star emblem. From that point, the MKZ is very different – unlike any Lincoln imagined. The high beltline props up a six-light side glasshouse and a fastback rear. The rear roof’s slope creates an additional design layer on top of the decklid. You might say it is a 21st Century “Continental Kit” – something akin to a Continental Mark III through VIII. The MKZ finishes off with a narrow full-length tail lamp cluster that is both clean and controversial.
This tester – an all-wheel drive model with Ford’s 2.0litre Ecoboost turbocharged four-cylinder – did not come with the optional panoramic roof that is the largest piece of moveable glass ever made for an automobile. This is considered perhaps the controversial piece of design on the MKZ yielding plenty of concerns about the mechanism and the potential of issues with the glass panel. The biggest concern is about rearward vision with the panel open, where the glass could create a distorted view in the back.
Inside the MKZ provides more of an interesting mix of modern and classic touches. In front of the driver and on the center stack, you will find the elements of modern Ford design – TFT screens that are interchangeable and the big MyLincoln Touch screen in the middle. Controls are shared with the Ford Fusion and other OneFord products worldwide, bringing a sense of familiarity of those with experience with such vehicles.
There is one set of controls that provided enough controversy onto itself. Inside the MKZ, you will not find a gear lever of any sort – unless you count the paddle shifters on the steering wheel. Instead, you can change the automatic transmission by a series of button along the side of the MyLincoln Touch screen. The last time Ford used a push-button transmission was on the Edsel – in 1958. Though response from the switches is quick to the gearbox, it makes the work of switching from Park to Reverse to Drive a bit cumbersome.
Seating is quite good, with enough bolstering for occupants up front. The driver will have to work the adjustments to get a good position behind the wheel. Tall driver, in particular, will end up driving from a coupe-like position – not exactly ideal in a sedan. Rearward vision is hampered by the roofline and the neo-Continental Kit on the trunk. Taller rear passengers will be cramped in finding both head and legroom to settle in. Medium-sized adults should be fine in the back seat.
Sounds for the MKZ comes from the Lincoln Premium Audio System through MyLincoln Touch and SYNC. You can choose from AM and FM with HD Radio frequencies, SiriusXM satellite radio, USB and Bluetooth connections for your devices. Hands-free telephone connectivity and sound quality are excellent – thanks to key improvements to SYNC and MyLincoln Touch.
Right now, Ford’s Ecoboost engines are garnering huge accolades for their mix of performance and efficiency. This MKZ has the 2.0litre version of the turbocharged four-cylinder engine; good for 231-240 horsepower – depending on what fuel you pour into the tank. The power is immediate from the throttle with no turbo lag at all, yielding a torque rating of 270 pound-feet. The six-speed push-button automatic transmission has plenty to do with this quick response. An all-wheel drive system takes care of facilitating power down to the wheels.
Overall, the MKZ drives pretty well. This is due to the Lincoln Drive Control that you could select the settings you need to tune it in. The best setting of all is Sport, but you having go through the menus on the TFT screens in the instrument panel to lock it in. You could also choose to have your MKZ in drive in Comfort or Normal.
In Sport, the ride and handling feels more compliant. You will find some roll and lean in the curves, but solid elsewhere. The ride is quiet, but not on coarser surfaces. Bumps are absorbed extremely well through some excellent dampening from the suspension. The steering action is quick with a solid feel. For better steering response and control, you should put the Lincoln Drive Control in Sport. Braking is fantastic in both normal and panic stops.
With the MKZ riding on the Ecoboost as its primary engine, there is an emphasis on fuel economy. However, the 2.0litre engine is so powerful, it does not induce light driving, The result was a fuel economy average of 19.7MPG If you are looking for better economy, you cannot go wrong with the Hybrid version.
Lincolns are very competitively priced against their competition. The MKZ starts off just over $36,000. This tester, equipped with the Reserve Equipment group and Technology package came with a sticker price of $45,550. An MKZ could be fully equipped for just over $50,000 with the V6, all-wheel drive and the panoramic roof.
The MKZ is rather intriguing. As the designated model to save Lincoln once and for all, there are some things that work well in doing so. It is a fine driver with polarizing styling inside and out. The way things are sounding from inside Ford, this might just work out for the brand after all.