– Good ride and handling
– Competitive engine
– As rare as a Ferrari
– Not enough gadgetry
– No rear a/c vents
– Rare due to dull design
When we reviewed the value-for-money Ford Five Hundred, we mentioned that the 3.5-litre V6 in that car is impressive for a car designed by accountants. That simple remark attracted comments from offended people who responded with questions of whether we were tea-boys, questioned our college degrees, insulted our nationalities, and went on with similar nonsense along ethnic lines. Being anonymously heckled by racist accountants with egos — that’s a new one even for us.
While ignoring the ignorant, we’d like to point out that the V6 motor from the Ford has also found its way into the midsize Lincoln MKZ, and it’s all the better for it. The confusingly-named MKZ is simply the luxury version of the previous Ford Mondeo, with which it shares a modified platform, similar to the game that Toyota plays with Lexus. Yet again, accountants decided that it would be cheaper to reskin an existing car than build a totally new one, although we’d like to point out that the poor engineers did a rather good job of differentiating this Lincoln from its Ford brethren.
The new-for-2008 MKZ has a sharp-edge thing going on all over. The exterior is a simple three-box shape with a shiny Lincoln grille, huge tail-lights, and numerous chrome bits. It looked interesting enough for people to walk over and have a closer look, but they were probably just wondering what kind of car it was, rather than actually admiring the dull design. It really is that rare.
The interior continues the edgy theme with upright boxes defining the truck-like dashboard. Cabin materials are high-quality for the most part, with soft-touch materials for upper door panels and dashboard top, although a bit more of the soft stuff could’ve been added to the lower panels, considering this is a luxury car. The light wood-and-metallic fittings were nice. The comfy leather seats have just enough bolstering to stop you from sliding off, but the driver’s seat surface in our tester was already cracking at less than six months old. Everything else in the bright nearly-white interior was solid. As pleasant as the light-coloured cabin is, it might be a bit tough to keep it all clean in the long run, so buyers might want to opt for darker hues.
Legroom and headroom are ample both front and back. Along with the useful storage cubbies, the practical luggage trunk is rather big and flat. Keeping occupants sweat-free is a decent automatic a/c, although the spring weather wasn’t really that warm. But our tester would not be the car for gadget lovers. While the CD stereo sounds good, the basic head unit in our tester had no Bluetooth or navigation capability, although those are available in other markets. Hinting further at its economical Ford roots are its coverless cup-holders, no rear a/c vents, and a total lack of “fancy” features such as powered rear blinds or starter buttons. But alongside the usual electric features such as seats, mirrors, windows, sunroof, keyless entry, rear parking sensors, HID headlights and cruise control, we liked small touches such as the back-lit steering wheel buttons, the multiple airbags, and the analogue clock. Even that cheesy Ford-specific keypad entry thingy is there on the door.
But getting back to the engine again, the 263 hp 3.5-litre V6 is a good enough powerplant to help MKZ drivers keep up with fellow accountants showing off in their Lexus ES350s and Audi A6s. With power peaking at 6250 rpm, and 337 Nm of torque maximised at 4500 rpm, the car can unceremoniously charge up from zero to 100 kph in 7.6 seconds. We were wondering why we couldn’t induce wheelspin, until we remembered the “AWD” badge on its butt. The quick-acting all-wheel-drive system kills almost all slips of the tyres very well, and it is standard for the GCC market. The six-speed automatic is smooth, but there is no real manual-shifting capability, and it has to downshift numerous times when the throttle is suddenly pressed. Fuel consumption came to about 14.7 litres per 100 km, which is a bit high for a V6. Believe it or not, but this midsize Lincoln is slightly heavier than the fullsize Ford Five Hundred, which accounts for the MKZ’s slightly slower acceleration and slightly higher hunger for petrol.
The standard all-wheel-drive is one thing that raises the MKZ above its front-wheel-drive competition, because it felt tighter around corners than it should, given the average amount of controlled body roll it displayed. The car rides rather comfortably, and it has no more body roll than, say, the firm-riding “sporty” Nissan Altima V6, so we’d put down its above-average grip around the twisties to the meaty 225/50 tyres caressing the 17-inch chrome wheels, along with the AWD system. It can go a bit faster around most corners than its front-driven brethren before its tyres start protesting. The ABS-assisted disc brakes work well, with good pedal feel, but factor in that stability control isn’t offered even as an option on the “luxury” MKZ, and we were even more appreciative of the all-wheel-drive and strong brakes.
Driving the MKZ is largely easy, with not-too-soft steering, good all-round visibility and a decent size. The comfortable suspension doesn’t bounce over bumps like the Lexus ES350 does, and the MKZ is just as quiet, if not more so. A minor niggle is the low positioning of the side mirrors, obscuring the lower part of the view, but a major fault is the wide turning circle, making U-turns a tighter proposition than it should be.
Designed with a tight budget in mind, the Lincoln could be considered a pretty good effort for the price. While it doesn’t come close to offering the ultimate refinement of a Lexus, the MKZ has it beat in terms of drive and overall value. However, those attributes may not be enough in a class of automobile that puts brand perception above all else. At least those who buy this Lincoln will enjoy the same level of exclusivity as a Bugatti owner.