2017 Lincoln MKZ 3.0T
– Strong fuel-efficient engine
– Fair cabin space and tech
– Good ride and handling
– Gearbox needs more speeds
– Some ergonomics issues
– Appeals to limited niche
With the Lincoln Continental stealing all the thunder for the brand (mostly because it has a proper name), it might be easy to forget that Ford’s luxury arm already has a full range of other models with names beginning with the letters M and K. The midsize sedan of that range is the MKZ, that last letter coming from the time when it used to be called the Zephyr about a decade ago. Now in the latter half of its second-generation, the Ford Fusion-based MKZ has received a substantial facelift, taking on Lincoln’s latest corporate face that debuted with the Continental.
To be more specific, the facelift is only undertaken from the front bumper till the front edge of the doors, leaving the rest of the car looking exactly like the pre-facelift model. Since we’re very familiar with the older model’s pointy face, this new one’s rounded front-end looks like a mismatch to the edgy rear and C-pillar of the car. But to someone who’s never seen the rare older model, the new MKZ would indeed appear to be an elegant design. Our top-spec test car even had a roof made entirely out of glass.
Inside, the sloping dash with the cascading centre-console remains unchanged, with massive pass-through gaps underneath the console acting as stylised storage spaces. The gauge-cluster cowl and the dash-top speaker both get a floating effect, while the gear-shifter is conspicuous by its absence, replaced by a column of buttons placed right next to the multimedia touchscreen. A full set of physical a/c and stereo buttons reside below the screen causing a bit of a clutter, but are wholly welcome as Ford abandons their experiments with distracting touch buttons. Build quality was off in a couple of places, but that could be down to our car being an early test car.
There’s generous use of padded soft-touch surfaces and leather upholstery even down to where your knees would touch the centre-console, leaving very little cheap hard-plastic bits (possibly remnants from the Fusion) but you’d have to truly put some work into finding the latter. Indeed, there seems to be almost no parts-sharing on the surface with its more plebeian cousin, aside from seatbelts and touchscreens.
Stepping into the car is made convenient by low-opening doors, although this also makes them riskier to open when parked next to a high curb. It’s fairly spacious inside, with pretty good rear legroom and headroom, in line with class standards. It feels airy inside thanks to that gigantic one-piece glass roof that can lift up and slide open to park itself over the rear window, giving a somewhat convertible-like experience.
The leather-clad ventilated seats are very comfortable and highly power-adjustable, although not as fancy as the ones in the Continental. The boot is sizeable, with more useable space than some full-size luxury sedans. There’s also the obligatory numbers of covered cup-holders, door pockets and seat-back slots, as well as those aforementioned shallow “shelves” underneath the centre-console.
The top MKZ is packed with Ford’s usual tech, crowned by the new SYNC3 capacitive touchscreen that’s more responsive and easier to use than ever, using larger icons and sharper graphics, although it may be a bit too simplistic in terms of visual flair compared to German systems. You can certainly customise things though, like what shows on your partly-LCD gauge cluster and the colour of mood-lighting in the cabin.
Other features include smart keyless entry and start, remote start, adaptive cruise control, auto parallel-parking, blind-spot monitor, lane-keeping assist, pedestrian detection, rear camera and all-round parking sensors, power boot lid, strong stereo with USB/Bluetooth/Apple CarPlay support, and a full set of airbags that includes inflatable rear seatbelts. The dual-zone auto a/c worked well during our hot May afternoons, but took time to get going for a bit initially. There are rear a/c vents, but not separate controls.
In terms of ergonomics, everything is fine, but we do have some concerns about the placement of the engine-start button, which is right above the “Park” button for the gearbox. At least twice, after parking, we pressed the above button and turned off the engine by mistake, when we meant to press P instead. Now, granted we were going to turn off the immobile car anyway, and I assume it shifted to Park by itself, but this will take getting used to.
Turn the engine back on in the 3.0T model, and you’ll get to enjoy the 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 that makes 365 hp at 5500 rpm and 570 Nm of torque at 2500 rpm, mated to a quick-acting all-wheel-drive system with rear-axle torque-vectoring, and a traditional 6-speed automatic. There is a swift kick of torque when moving from idle, but otherwise power build-up is very linear, so while it feels quick, it doesn’t feel hugely fast even though it is. We fired off a 0-100 kph time of 5.8 seconds, which is enough to surprise all sorts of sports cars when they start tailgating your ho-hum white sedan.
The transmission lacks the number of gears of its rivals, but works smoothly and always selects the right gears. And fuel consumption clocked in at 13.4 litres/100 km in mixed driving conditions.
The all-wheel-drive MKZ handles very well, with minimal body roll on long corners, great body control coming out of tighter ones, and always having tons of grip with nary a squealing tyre. We’re not sure what the car does at its limit because the limit itself is high enough that you’ll never reach it on city roads and interchanges. The steering is nicely-weighted, even if erring on the lighter side, while offering a bit of feedback as well. And the brakes are quite good, with progressive stopping power and a mildly-weighted pedal feel.
But the Lincoln MKZ isn’t meant to be a sports sedan. It is a high-speed cruiser, pretty quiet even at 120 kph, with a ride that’s very comfortable for the most part. It’s a wee bit floaty over some road undulations, but the way it goes smoothly over speed bumps is rather remarkable.
It is hard to find faults with the Lincoln MKZ. And yet, as a whole, it’s not quite inspiring enough to be desirable for younger drivers (who prefer smaller cars). It will definitely appeal hugely to older clientele who would’ve otherwise considered Uber-special cars like the Lexus ES350 or the Mercedes-Benz E300. But winning the hearts and minds of older car buyers, who are set in their ways, is going to be a challenge.
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