Acknowledging Lincoln’s image problem, I made it my mission last week to rehabilitate the local perception of the brand during the 2014 MKZ Hybrid’s stay in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
My mother, no spring chicken by her own admission, appreciates the idea of an extremely efficient midsize Lincoln. My peers, on the other hand, didn’t know this car existed, don’t care now that they now know, and won’t care if they’re never reminded of its existence again.
Yes, because 3-Series.
But I’m nothing if not a congenial fellow, a man who’s given to helping out the common man. Or in this case, the premium division of one of the world’s largest automobile corporations. So when I drove the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid from the humble military/fishing village of Eastern Passage to Fall River, Nova Scotia’s wealthiest provincial electoral district, I wore a fleece hoodie emblazoned with the word CANADA – hood partially up – and black sweatpants.
Stellar fuel economy
Seats adjust in a million ways
Won’t get lost in a crowd
Severely short-changed trunk
Face can be a challenge to accept
MyLincolnTouch better left untouched
Interior simply doesn’t feel expensive
There are a lot of nice cars at $50K
The day before, we drove to Babies”R”Us, rather thana retirement community, because we have a child under the age of 40, which very few Lincoln buyers are known to possess.
When one of a thousand satellite radio stations started playing Lorde’s Team, I turned up the volume on the MKZ’s 11-speaker stereo – it’s flat at low volume but offers great clarity when blasted – so people three blocks over could hear something other than Lawrence Welk’s orchestra quietly emanating from a Lincoln.
I haven’t surveyed the city to see if my perfectly conceived plan caused the citizenry to view Lincoln in a whole new light, but I do know one person on whom the MKZ Hybrid rubbed off in an increasingly positive way last week. In spite of its irksome interior.
188 horsepower isn’t a lot, but the MKZ delivers what torque it has low down in the rev range. The MKZ Hybrid never feels slow and power is delivered in a smooth and consistent manner. The engine periodically ignites a bit gruffly, but it doesn’t switch off and on that often. By no means is this hybrid powerplant/continuously variable transmission tandem a detriment to the experience. The MKZ Hybrid also has the same base price as the conventional 240-bhp MKZ, and despite the bitterly cold weather, we saw some amazing fuel economy returns throughout the week, the kind of figures we certainly did not see in the identically-powered (but all-wheel-drive) Fusion last year.
2014 LINCOLN MKZ HYBRID Base Price * (CDN): $40,225 As-Tested Price * (CDN): $49,625
If you’re willing, however, what will make the MKZ’s driving experience an enjoyable one isn’t its mannerly powertrainor the knowledge that, if you modulate the throttle in just the right way, your fuel bill will be extraordinarily low.
In fact, while not an outright corner carver, the MKZ’s ride and handling balance is simply spot-on. Because of severe temperature fluctuations this winter, Maritime roads have never been worse. The potholes are volcanic in their shape and dimensions. Yet the MKZ never once felt as though it was disturbed by the roughness.
That’s fine – it’s not the only car to ride softly. But it also handles quite sweetly, very much like the Ford Fusion on which it’s based. The steering could be faster, true, but this combination of serene ride quality and composed handling makes for a take-the-slightly-longer-way-home mentality that I hadn’t dared to expect.
Many pedestrian onlookers – I think there were four of them in total – watched this MKZ Hybrid cruise past them on one of HRM’s best twisty routes, Waverley Road. They thought one of three things: a) “He’s gonna get a ticket,” or b) “He’s driving a Lincoln that quickly?”, or c) “Them are some nostrils, eh.”
I won’t deny that the MKZ’s styling grew on me over the course of the week. The rear end’s classiness was never in doubt, the profile view is mostly pleasing but is definitely droopy, and these optional 19-inch wheels are spectacular. Unfortunately, like other Lincolns, the MKZ Hybrid has something going on up front that makes children try to pull boogers out of its grille.
Too harsh? Styling is subjective? Yeah, whatevs. (Whatevs is something kids say, so by using it in this review, I’m bringing the average age of Lincoln buyers down by at least three years.)
At $49,625, this specific MKZ Hybrid didn’t feature Ford’s parallel parking assist. The famed MKZ retractable glass roof? Nope. There’s no Lane Keeping Assist; no rain-sensing wipers; no rear DVD. Our MKZ test car was fitted with Lincoln’s infinitely-adjustable multi-contour seats – both front seats have all sorts of bolstering which expand and contract in degrees, and they massage. If you can’t get comfortable in these seats, you can’t get comfortable. So long as you’re not too tall, as the smaller sunroof does eat into headroom.
The front seats also have a huge range of motion and can eat into rear seat space if the driver is long of leg or just unkind. As a result of the big battery pack, cargo capacity has dropped 28% compared with the non-hybrid MKZ.
The space it has and the space it doesn’t, the features which are present and the features which are missing nevertheless have little impact on the final impressions left by the MKZ Hybrid’s interior. It feels unfinished. Underneath the steering wheel’s two menu controllers are sharp edges that seem out of place in anything built since 1987. The centre console’s storage compartment door tends not to close. After a few moments of warming bums, the front seats vented puffs of cool air on the rear occupants with some frequency. MyLincolnTouch doesn’t actually want to be touched. Ford’s infotainment system seems logical enough, but it doesn’t always respond to inputs, and when it does it’s slow to complete a task.
Worst of all, by far the worst of all, the matte black plastic that covers mostly everything is a lame excuse for a luxury car material. It looks like Scandinavian minimalism in pictures. In person, it’s more dismal than minimal. This plastic is even used on the centre stack-mounted drive selector, and I don’t like anything that leads me to believe that a piece which allows me select Reverse might fail next year.
The MKZ Hybrid doesn’t deserve complaints regarding its dynamics or its powertrain. I mostly dislike the way it looks, but you might not, and I do like it more today than I did yesterday. But the interior ambience doesn’t just seem out of place because we’re discussing a $49,625 MKZ; it wouldn’t be appropriate in in the basic $40,225 MKZ Hybrid. I’d expect better build quality and materials in a car which costs $35,000. And rightly so – the Honda Accord Hybrid and Volkswagen Passat TDI Highline which visited GCBC in January both felt much more expensive, irrespective of the MKZ’s heated and cooled and hugely adjustable front seats and its hushed on-road presence.
Do feelings matter? The best cars feel like they cost more than they actually do. The Lincoln MKZ Hybrid feels like it needs ought to be deeply discounted.
There will be those who can get past the interior’s this-ain’t-a-Lexus sensation. Those are likely the same people who’ll love the way the 2014 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid looks. There aren’t many of these people of course, particularly in Canada. Americans registered nearly 27 times more MKZs than Canadians did in January.
In 2014, GCBC Instituted ISTBTP, AKA Interior Storage Tennis Ball Test Protocol.
The Lincoln MKZ Hybrid’s ISTBTP Results Are In The Spec Chart Above.
Now that a few residents of the small city of Halifax know that youngerish people can be seen in a Lincoln, a Lincoln which can be hustled while still consuming very little fuel, MKZ sales are bound to increase dramatically. Or not. Overall Lincoln sales will increase dramatically, once the handsome MKC arrives with an interior that uses actual buttons and knobs rather than swipe pads to control audio volume.
If Lincoln’s grandfatherly, airport taxi image was cast aside, the second-gen MKZ would, on merit, sell more often.
But the perfect 2014 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid would, while driving just like our test car, add to this car’s equipment load Ford’s fantastic Park Assist and a handful of other now-normal active safety features. It would look a little less strange; it would look a little more like an Aston Martin. It would cost around $40,000, rather than a hair under $50,000. Come to think of it, that car does exist. It’s called the Ford Fusion Hybrid Titanium.