2011 Lincoln MKZ Review

2011 Lincoln MKZ - Just the right balance of economy and luxury.


Vehicle Tested
2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid
Base Price: $34,330
At-Tested Price: $38,775
Built in Mexico.

Rapid Spec Package 201A
-Navigation System with voice recognition
-Blind-Sport Alert
-Cross-Traffic Alert
-Rear-View Camera
-TXH II Certified Sound System

Engine: 2.5-liter I4 / electric
CVT Automatic

Drive Wheels: Front-Wheel Drive

How much more money would you be willing to pay for a hybrid powertrain? $500, $1000, maybe $1500 . . . how about nuthin'? That's the price difference between the gasoline-only Lincoln MKZ and gas-electric MKZ Hybrid.

MKZ is Lincoln's entry into the crowded entry-level luxury sedan market. It competes directly with vehicles like the Audi A4, Lexus ES 350, Saab 9-3, and Volvo S60. MKZ comes only as a four-door sedan that seats five on twin front buckets and a three-place rear bench seat. It shares engines and chassis components with the Ford Fusion.

MKZ was redesigned last year. For 2011 Lincoln adds a hybrid to a lineup that, up until now, included a sole model in front- or all-wheel drive form. Base MKZs have a 263-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine that mates to a six-speed automatic transmission. MKZ Hybrid comes with front-wheel drive, a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and battery-powered electric motor. Output totals 191 horsepower and the hybrid can run in electric-only mode at slow speeds. No plug-in charging is required as the batteries are charged when coasting or cruising. The Hybrid uses a continuously variable transmission

Standard safety features include antilock four-wheel disc brakes, stability control, Post-Crash Alert, tire-pressure monitor, rear-obstacle-detection system, emergency inside trunklid release and dual-front, front-side and curtain-side airbags. A driver knee airbag is included on hybrid models. Bundled with the optional navigation system are blind-spot alert, cross-traffic alert and a rear-view camera.

The front-drive model lists for $34,330 and the AWD model lists for $36,220. They include air conditioning with dual-zone automatic climate controls, interior air filter, tilt-telescope wood/leather-wrapped steering wheel with radio controls, cruise control, leather upholstery, heated/cooled ten-way power front bucket seats with lumbar adjustment, memory system, center console, split-folding rear seat, wood interior trim, heated power mirrors with driver-side automatic day/night, power windows, power door locks, keyless entry, keypad entry, AM/FM radio with in-dash six-disc CD/MP3 changer and digital-media player connection, satellite radio, Bluetooth cell-phone connection, SYNC system, variable-intermittent wipers, automatic day/night rearview mirror, compass, universal garage door opener, illuminated visor mirrors, rear defogger, automatic headlights, floormats, theft-deterrent system, fog lights, 225/50VR17 tires and alloy wheels.

MKZ Hybrid carries the same base price and standard equipment as the front-drive model. The only significant changes are a unique instrument panel and the deletion of the split-folding rear seat.

In addition to the available navigation system, options include leather upholstery, sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, HID headlamps, and THX-certified sound system. The MKZ and MKZ Hybrid are manufactured in Mexico and have a $850 destination charge.

Get Up and Go  MKZ Hybrid shares it's unique powertrain with the Ford Fusion Hybrid and that's a good thing. The powertrain is the best in the business at balancing power and economy without sacrificing overall acceleration. That said it isn't a match to the smooth and effortless power of the V6 found in the gas-only MKZ model. The gas and electric powertrain will push the MKZ from 0 - 60 mph in about 8.5 seconds. That's considerably faster than the Lexus HS 250 Hybrid but still down almost two seconds to the gas-only model.

The hybrid powertrain is very refined and well integrated offering smooth and linear power delivery and nearly imperceptible transitions between gas and electric mode. Occasionally drivers can catch the transmission trying to maximize fuel economy, revealing itself in lazy throttle response.

EPA numbers for the MKZ Hybrid are 41 mpg city and 36 mpg highway. Those unfamiliar with hybrids might be shocked to see a city number that is higher than the highway number. That is because a hybrid powertrain gains efficiency in stop-and-go driving where the electric motor can assist in acceleration and allow the engine to shut off at stoplights.

No matter how you drive, real world economy is impressive. Routine commuting will likely return at least 35 mpg, if you drive with a light throttle foot and utilize some hyper-mileage techniques you can easily top 40 mpg overall. Keep in mind though that hybrids are very sensitive to the weather. Extreme heat and cold affect the battery's storage capacity and also demand higher usage of the climate control system, which impacts how efficient the hybrid system can operate. So expect fuel economy to dip in the heat of summer of the chill of winter.

On the Road  The MKZ has a sporty, European-flavored ride. Undue body motions are kept in check and there's adequate compliance over large bumps. Overall, the ride closely mimics the controlled comfort offered by cars like the Acura TL and and Saab 9-3 rather than the soft float found on Lexus ES.

The firm ride translates into pleasant and predictable front-drive handling characteristics. There's little body lean in fast turns and decent grip from the tires when taking freeway on ramps. If pushed hard, the MKZ's front tires give up grip first and the car will understeer like most front-drive sedans.

The Hybrid's electric power steering feels natural and is nicely weighted at all speeds. There's some play immediately off center that leads to some see-saw motions on the highway. Brakes have ample stopping power and the pedal is easy to modulate for smooth and drama-free stops. That's refreshing in a hybrid, where the brakes often have an on-off feeling and a noticeable shift when going from regenerative braking to friction braking.

One drawback is an extremely wide turning circle. This is most frustrating when pulling in and out of parking spaces and navigating around tight-quarters parking garages. All in all, the MKZ offers sporty--albeit safe and predictable--handling, good ride comfort, and a solid feel on the road.

MKZ is surprisingly quiet, though not as quite as the class-leading Lexus ES. There's little wind noise, even at high speeds, and road and tire noise are kept well in check and on par with competitors.

Behind the Wheel  Inside, MKZ has the chops to play with the competition. Materials are more than up to snuff and the assembly quality is top notch. Gauges are large and easy to read and controls are clearly marked, logically placed, and within easy reach. MKZ Hybrid in particular gets a unique IP that's strikingly styled and driver configurable.

MKZ also includes the SNYC system. That's a huge plus in my book when compared to similar systems in competitors. SYNC is simple to program and use and really helps reduce driver distraction when talking on the phone or shuffling through songs on the iPod.

Surprisingly comfortable and supportive front bucket seats offer ample leg room for large adults. Head room is just average, perhaps a bit tight if you order the optional sunroof. Standard tilt and telescope steering wheel makes it easy to get comfortable behind the wheel, and large windows and a low beltline contribute to excellent outward visibility.

The blind-spot detection system works well to alert drivers when changing lanes. The cross-traffic warning system takes a little getting used to, but also alerts drivers to potential cross traffic when backing up.

Rear seats are adult sized and comfortable. Regardless of front seat position, two six-foot adults are able to sit comfortably in the back seat. Taller riders will want more head and leg room, but overall MKZ offers more than class competitive rear-seat room.

One Hybrid-specific shortcoming is a smaller-than-average trunk. The battery pack means no fold-down rear seats and a reduction in trunk space from 16.5 cubic feet to 11.8. Thankfully the trunk opening is large and features hinges that do not intrude on cargo capacity. Interior storage is ample, highlighted by a large glovebox and several additional bins on the dashboard and center console.

Bottom Line  MKZ may not be able to match the panache of some competitors, but it more than makes up for that with value and easy-to-use features. Adding a hybrid model for '11 gives Lincoln boasting rights to best fuel economy in the class. That does come at the expense of overall acceleration and trunk space, however.

All told, MKZ is a class sleeper. A great dollar value and an underappreciated player, it offers luxury shoppers an alternative that won't break the bank and lends just enough individuality to make it appealing.

Specifications 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid
4-door sedan
DOHC I4 / Electric
Wheelbase, in.
Size, liters/cu. in.
2.5 / 152
Length, in.
189.8Horsepower @ rpm
156 @ 6000 (gas only)
Width, in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) @ rpm
135 @ 2250 (gas only)
Height, in.
CVT Automatic
Weight, lbs.
EPA Estimates, mpg
41 city / 36 highway
Cargo Capacity, cu. ft.
Fuel Capacity, gals.
Manufacturer's Warranty
Seating Capacity
4 years / 50,000 miles
Front Head Room, in.
6 years / 70,000 miles
Front Leg Room, in.
5 years / Unlimited miles
Second- Row Head Room, in.
Free Roadside Assistance
6 years / 70,000 miles
Second-Row Leg Room, in.
Free Scheduled Maintenance
1 year / 15,000 miles

Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Senior Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for more than two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and various hardcover automotive titles. In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on NBC TV, ABC TV, Fox News, WGN and MotorTrend TV as an automotive consultant. He hosts the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS 890 AM and was a regular guest on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.