Lincoln's MKZ is a competent ride in a very crowded field of entry-luxury sedans. While Lincoln does not promote the 2010 version as a next-generation model, plenty of new amenities abound making this freshly different from the 2009. If vacillating between a 2009 and 2010 model, flip for the 2010; resale value should be better.
The MKZ shares a platform with the highly-regarded mid-size Ford Fusion. A great start. Lincoln's MKZ began as the Zephyr in its debut model year, 2006 (the same year Fusion arrived) but underwent outpatient surgery, emerging as the MKZ in model year '07 to better align itself with Lincoln's "MK" or 'Mark' nomenclature. In the case of MKZ, MK denotes 'Mark' while Z indicates, well, Zephyr. Lincoln offers other "Marks" for 2010, the MKX (the X is for crossover), MKS flagship (the S is for sedan) and all-new for 2010, the 'bigger-must-be-better' three-row MKT built off the Ford Flex platform (not sure what T designates. Stay tuned).
The MKZ comes in one well-equipped trim with one engine: a 3.5-liter Duratec V-6 generating 263 horses. The V-6 Duratec is a competent engine, but not much different than what's under the hood of the Fusion or Mercury Milan. Three option packages are available with only a couple stand-alone items from which to choose. This simplifies the buying process, eliminating a myriad of swap and shop algorithms. The three option packages include: technology ($995), navigation ($2,495) and ultimate ($5,595). Ultimate includes all items in the technology (rain sensing wipers, tilting HID headlamps-both new in 2010) and navigation (rear-view camera, in-dash nav. screen, blind spot information) packages along with a moon roof and upgraded sound system.
About the only major decision shoppers must ponder is whether to tap front wheel or electronically-controlled all-wheel drive. The V-6 engine is mated to a retweaked six-speed automatic transmission (no manual is offered). Fuel economy checks in at 17 miles per gallon city and 24 mpg highway with all-wheel drive and an 18/27 mpg boost in front drive. The 27 highway mpg delivered by the front drive version ranks near the top of the V-6 luxury segment. The fuel tank holds 17.5 gallons of unleaded fuel.
Lincoln supplied an all-wheel drive MKZ with a starting price $36,005. Also thrown in was the Ultimate package ($5,595) and 18-inch sport wheels ($795) for a bottom line of $43,245 with $850 destination charge. A 2010 front-drive model starts at $34,115. Pricewise, MKZ resides in the same neighborhood as comparably equipped entry foes from Lexus and Infiniti.
Rear wheels are far back enough for easy leg entry into row two where three riders can sit for short durations. A fold-down arm rest is home to dual beverage holders. When folding down the 60/40 split backs, pull tabs located all the way inside the trunk must first be yanked. Speaking of the trunk, 16.5 cubic feet of cargo room (average for this segment) is available while strut-type hinges outside the cargo area keep packages from becoming 'scrunched.' Nice touch. Both front perforated buckets (with leatherette surfaces) offer heating and cooling selections standard.
The attractive instrument panel has three separate, deep-set circular gauges with a large fuel indicator. Sun visors swing up and to the side, if needed. Front doors have diminutive grab handles. Small vents atop the front door window ledge allow blowing air to defrost the side view mirror region. Head and leg room are good.
The medium-sized leather-wrapped steering wheel (with manual tilt-telescoping movement, where a power version might be expected) includes cruise control and secondary audio controls. A slide cover cloaks dual inline beverage holders between the front bucket seats when not in use. A hand-operated parking brake is nearby along with a redesigned for 2010, dual-level bin/adjustable arm rest. The good-sized glove box is not partitioned so large items can fit. The trunk-release button is conveniently located on the left-side dash, not the floor.
The dual zone ventilation/sound system center stack is also revamped utilizing small push buttons and two diminutive dials to monitor the dual climate zones. Not good. Bring back larger buttons and more dials. One likeable item is standard Sirius Satellite radio hardware (with the first six months of subscription free). Also exclusive is Ford's SYNC system, designed in tandem with Microsoft combining modern electronics together in a user-friendly format. It allows activation of the sound system (including a 6-disc CD player and MP3 port plug) and optional navigation screen through voice commands. Expect some trial and error periods for human adjustment to Sync and visa versa.
Both head and tail light housings are narrow and wrap around to the sides. In front, Lincoln has updated the grille in 2010 with a split wing theme incorporating Lincoln's long signature cross front and center. The same logo is found on the trunk lid between the tail lights. The hood is raised and inch or so in the center and the higher plateau narrows towards the front. Dual exhausts come standard. The styling is best described as conservative elegance.
Our all-wheel-drive tester kept planted during cornering. While all-wheel drive adds a bit more weight, during Chicago winters its road-gripping nature is appreciated. Variable assist steering helps maneuver MKZ at lower speeds and its small turning radius comes in handy in tight parking lots. Lincoln reduced brake pedal travel in 2010 to better match the entry luxury competition. The Navigation package features BLIS (Blind Spot Information System) which illuminates an amber dot in the side view mirror when a vehicle travels in or travels through the blind spot. It's simple and effective technology.
Newly redesigned 2010 Ford products include an earth-friendly novelty: a cap less gas tank. When refueling at the pump, just insert the nozzle directly into the chamber tube and when finished, remove. A self-sealing design not only eliminates the need to manufacturer a twist cap, but cuts down the amount of fumes released into the atmosphere from the gas tank. Never again will MKZ be caught with a plastic cap on the roof as it spins away from the mini mart.
The MKZ's mid-size counterparts at Ford Motor Co. (Mercury Milan and Ford Fusion) both offer a game-changing gas-electric hybrid powertrain. It's the most fuel-efficient hybrid design from a domestic automaker. No official word yet if MKZ will become greener, but Ford's gas-electric hybrid certainly stacks up well against Toyota Camry's. Since MKZ needs a distinguished way to separate itself from the entry luxury pack, adding Ford's hybrid technology is a great place to start.
The MKZ powertrain warranty is good for six years or 70,000 miles (whichever comes first) while the bumper-to-bumper coverage of most other moving parts is four years or 50,000 miles. In recent years, Lincoln has increased the time horizon of its warranties. Notable safety features include front dual air bags, first and second-row, side impact airbags, side curtain air bags covering rows one and two, energy-absorbing steering column, electronic stability control, traction control and anti-lock brakes. Lincoln assembles the MKZ in Mexico.