Although Henry Leland was the documented founder of Lincoln (in 1917), the Lincoln Motor Company – as we’ve grown to know it, love it or loathe it – wasn’t formed until its purchase by the Ford Motor Company in 1922 and its emotional acquisition by a young Edsel Ford in the middle of that same decade. That, of course, was then; Lincoln’s 2014 MKZ is now. And while initially skeptical, we’re prepared to emotionally embrace – as Edsel once did – this awkwardly-named midsize sedan. It is, after all, almost Continental.
THE Continental was first launched on the eve of America’s entrance into World War II, provided Dearborn with a design highlight eclipsing Ford’s own Model A. The car was/is gorgeous, either as a coupe or convertible. And even in its post-WWII iteration, after Edsel’s passing and the return (in a big way) of chrome, you couldn’t kill the essential goodness of the original design. Its eventual successor – the Continental MkII – was hand built and probably sold at a loss. It served as the antithesis of American design in the 1950’s, and while few were made its relative restraint serves as a reminder that for every automotive Monroe or Mansfield penned by GM or Chrysler, Dearborn could provide – within an automotive context – shades of either Grace Kelly or (Audrey) Hepburn.
Today’s MKZ may not be Kelly or Hepburn, but neither is it without grace. As the first vehicle from the ‘dedicated’ Lincoln Design Studio (the MKT, we think, was from the deficated Lincoln Design Studio…it’s just one letter, but an important letter), the MKZ takes the Ford Fusion architecture and scales it ‘up’ into something approaching a luxury sedan. This is much more than badge engineering, and exceeds by a metric mile the relatively lame mods make to the earlier Fusion to create an earlier MKZ – or an even earlier Zephyr.
If the Lincoln’s front fascia reminds – if only for a moment – one Smiley Cyrus, the sweep from grille to windshield to roof is about as clean as we’ve recently seen from Detroit or Dearborn. And unlike its Fusion stablemate the MKZ possesses nary a whiff of the Aston What’s-its-Name. Its greenhouse – in profile – is cropped, but not severely so; access to the rear is as might be expected in something not answering to the crossover descriptive. And while we wish its flanks – front and rear – weren’t quite so thick, the front and rear overhangs not quite so overhung, and the wheel/tire package (even in 19-inch guise) made to appear more aggressive, there’s no argument with the overall impression: This is one classy (and we’re dating ourselves here) chassis, and might be worth the almost forty-plus THOUSANDS it’ll take to buy one.
The positive impression carries over to the interior where, once again, upscale restraint – God-bless-Edsel – is the order of the day. The leather-covered seating surfaces are upscale visually and downhome comfortable. And those design details greeting the driver and front seat passenger are attractive to gaze at and (relatively) intuitive to activate. We’re not quite sure why we need a pushbutton transmission selector (neither were we sure in 1963) to de-clutter the center console, but it’s there and – until you fully adjust to it – somewhat awkward. Like enunciating ‘M-K-Z’…
Rear seat passengers don’t enjoy the same love as that extended to front seat passengers, but neither will they feel forgotten. Access is relatively easy, and once there the available space at least meets expectations. We don’t think China’s upper classes will necessarily like it; of course, they can let their drivers sit in back and take the wheel their own selves.
Should they take that wheel we think they’ll be impressed. Our test Lincoln, equipped with the standard EcoBoost 2.0 liter and available all-wheel-drive, absolutely rocked. The powertrain, with 240 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque, is immensely capable in propelling the MKZ’s 3,800 pounds, and in a modest Dallas-area rainfall gave absolutely no hint of a skid demon lurking within the Lincoln’s 112-inch wheelbase. The ride is uber-compliant, and while the Lincoln’s on-the-asphalt skill set won’t match that of Ford’s Fiesta ST, we like its chances against Audi’s A4 and Cadillac’s ATS. It’s not a slot car in its transient response, but its overall maturity raised it several notches on our good-to-be-here meter.
Less mature is the $3K (THOUSAND) addendum for Lincoln’s Panoramic roof. For fresh air enthusiasts $3K will still buy you one helluva bicycle, but there’s no faulting the obvious appeal of an open top under a beautiful sky. Given the slope of the Lincoln’s windshield backseat passengers get more of the benefit than those in front, but a guy – or gal – heading to the backseat should notch a win occasionally. And as much as we enjoyed the Lincoln ‘panoramica’, we’d probably still opt for the bike.
With a base AWD MSRP of just over $38,000 (plus $895 for destination) we find this newest MKZ compelling. When equipped with some $11K of optional equipment we’re less convinced, but those adds are optional – you don’t have to buy them. For us, the chassis and sheetmetal are sufficiently good to think a $38K MKZ would and should be viable, and while that’s incrementally higher than the price charged for a comparably equipped Fusion, the Lincoln waiting area should have better coffee. And as God, Hank Ford and CarBuzzards know, that waiting area will also have fewer truck guys, with their collective scratchin’, chewin’ and spittin’…and will be so much better (and cleaner!) for it.