Rolling Reinvention: Can the All-New 2013 MKZ Help Lincoln Rise?

Rolling Reinvention: Can the All-New 2013 MKZ Help Lincoln Rise?

2013 Lincoln MKZ
Engine: 2.0 GTDI I4 EcoBoost / 2.0L Atkinson-Cycle I4 Hybrid Engine
Power: 240hp / 188hp 
Torque: 270 lb.-ft. / 129
Wheelbase: 111.7 in.
Fuel Economy: 22/33/26 // 45/45/45
Starting MSRP: $35,925

The exterior of the 2013 Lincoln MKZ won't make you gasp. It will, however, make you wonder. 

Last October, the rebadged and retooled Lincoln Motor Company launched its new flagship, the MKZ, on the steps of Manhattan's Lincoln Center. Justin Bolognino's The Meta Agency transformed the facade of Avery Fisher Hall using projection mapping, giving the car's debut a dynamism and theatricality rarely associated with Dearborn-bred vehicles. Clear, in all the hoopla: The MKZ aimed squarely at breaking the brand's mold—commercials for the car allude to a myth of the phoenix—and resuscitating an aging fleet. 

From behind, the streamlined MKZ cuts a powerful stance. The trunk is short from the back wheel, and decidedly sporty in shape. The tail lamps stretch appealingly across the rear. Move forward, and the MKZ takes on Lincoln's new signature look—a bulbous nose that sweeps upward and connects (ever so slightly) to the brand's heritage. The MKZ certainly isn't a Town Car. There is no hint of livery here, but there isn't the out-and-out elegance and excitement found in its primary competitors, including the Audi A6 and Lexus ES.

Inside, there's a noticeable absence. Gone is the traditional gear shifter. Instead, a push button pillar sits beside the wheel, making up part of a grander 8-inch touchscreen console that controls climate and entertainment. The effect, though initially unnerving (how do I get this thing in drive?!?), is an opening of the interior. It's calm, and leather and wood punch it up. It's comfortable and, compared to the MKZ's brother, the Ford Fusion, and clarity comes to the potential of Dearborn's design department. Choose the optional panoramic sunroof and the sedan effectively becomes a convertible. Reinvention, you see, is at the very heart of the MKZ. 

 

People ask about it. There is palpable intrigue. The MKZ, doesn't look like a Lincoln.

 

Of three engines available, we tested the 2.0 GTDI I4 EcoBoost in AWD and the 2.0L Atkinson-Cycle I4 Hybrid. The EcoBoost pushes 240 hp, propelling a 6-speed SelectShift Automatic with paddles. A Sport mode dials in tighter handling. Where a Lincoln might have once slowly swept into a turn, the MKZ offers a bit of grip. The car is still most comfortable in the straights, a trait common in Michigan-born cars and a stigma hard to break rapidly. There is a Comfort setting as well, which is more successful—softening the suspension, serving well on highway drives, and reiterating the car's preferred direction.

There's less punch in the Hybrid. Running 188 hp, the adequate burst provided by EcoBoost is noticeably missing. It's a more traditional Lincoln ride—comfortable, soft, serviceable. Gas milage, clocked at 45 MPG, doesn't disappoint. 

In both forms, it's the body that garners the response. People ask about it. There is palpable intrigue. The MKZ doesn't look like a Lincoln. It doesn't, for that matter, look much like any other American car in its class. Personality drives change, and this sedan forces excitement about Dearborn's next moves. Whispers around Pebble Beach last weekend suggest that even if the cars aren't adored, the new models are a point of discussion. The forthcoming MKC, now just a crossover concept, is a teaser. The MKZ inspires a few things—belief in design and the potential of reinvention—but hasn't quite propelled full confidence in Lincoln's future. To achieve reinvention, we'll need to see the same emphasis on details in design placed on the drive.

Bottom line: The 2013 MKZ gives Lincoln Motor Company, and parent Ford, a shot in the arm. More than simply dressing up Fusion underpinnings, the car's design focus attempts to recalibrate Detroit's version of luxury. It might not up the ante as a driver's car, but the MKZ certainly pushes the new face of Lincoln forward.

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Tags: lincoln-mkz, test-drive
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