Review of: 2017 Lincoln MKZ 4dr Sdn Reserve AWD
2017 Lincoln MKZ: Tall drivers need not apply
By Chris Chase
Sep. 5, 2016
A car’s styling is all it has to make a first impression, so designers walk a fine line between making a vehicle look memorable while also appealing to a significant number of potential buyers.
Ford’s upscale Lincoln brand makes such an effort with its mid-size MKZ sedan for 2017, beginning with new front-end styling borrowed from the larger Continental introduced earlier this year. Also new is an optional 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 that’s a full third more powerful than the 3.7-litre normally-aspirated engine it replaces.s
That sure sounds like fun, but the test car for this review was a base model powered by a 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder carried over from last year, with 245 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque. Both gas engines come with a six-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive; a gas-electric hybrid model uses a continuously variable transmission to send a ho-hum 188 hp to the front wheels.
Pros & Cons
- + Interior materials
- + Styling
- + Generous low-end torque
- - Headroom
- - Visibility
- - Push-button transmission
Out are last year’s wedge-like headlights and split-wing grille, and in comes a single-frame grille outlined by more conventional-looking lights. It’s handsome, and at the same time, more memorable than the old car’s face.
It’s a tasteful styling effort, but lacks the visual horsepower that Lexus’ spindle grille brings to that manufacturer’s lineup. While that look is controversial, it doesn’t seem to be stopping people from buying Lexus cars and crossovers.
Lincoln’s new look was conceived to help invigorate the brand’s sales and justify its existence. Rumours pop up every few years that Ford is planning to kill Lincoln off and toss away decades of automotive history. If for no reason other than nostalgia, we hope this latest attempt works.
The MKZ’s interior is lovely, with a slanted centre stack that curves elegantly into a wide console made more expansive by the lack of a shift lever, which is replaced in the MKZ by push-button controls on the left side of the stack.
At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be much cabin storage space, until you look under the console, where there are two roomy shelves for stashing small items like smartphones and wallets.
The other initial impression is of comfortable, thickly-padded seats, but the more time I spent in this car, the less comfortable they felt. That’s a strange thing to happen in chairs with three-way adjustable lumbar and inflatable kidney and side thigh bolsters, in addition to the usual fore-and-aft and height controls. But no matter how I fiddled with the buttons, I couldn’t find a setup I really liked.
At my height of about five-foot-seven, I rarely complain about headroom in cars, but it’s a real issue here, as my test car’s panoramic sunroof (a $3,450 option!) intruded to the point of making the MKZ feel claustrophobic.
On top of that, there are visibility challenges everywhere you look: sunroof or not, if you’re tall enough, the rearview mirror is in your forward sightline in right turns, and the wide B-pillar and bulky front-seat headrest create a large blind spot to the right-hand side. And because the sunroof is a single large piece of glass that slides rearward over the back window, it effectively splits the view out the back window in two, the way a tall spoiler on a sports car does.
Legroom is better, front and rear, but rear-seat passengers will also find their heads uncomfortably close to the roof liner.
Lincoln has ditched its touch-sensitive audio and climate controls in favour of real buttons, and they’re a major improvement. You still have to use Ford’s Sync infotainment system for many audio-related functions, but we’re on to generation three of that setup, which is also much more user-friendly than it used to be.
Most of the high-tech stuff is optional here, but that’s expected in a car with a $40,000 starting price. My tester included optional active park assist, a lane keeping system and forward collision warning, all as part of the technology package.
Navigation is standard in the 2.0L Reserve model I tested. It’s accessed through the touchscreen-based Sync 3 system, and is more intuitive and responsive than older versions. Reserve trim also includes blind spot monitoring with cross traffic alert.
The recent proliferation of four-cylinder engines in upscale cars means the entry-level MKZ fits right into a class otherwise populated by cars like the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Infiniti Q50. This Ford-designed engine is no slouch, its 275 lb-ft of torque making itself apparent around 2,000 rpm. That means strong acceleration from a stop and good responsiveness in almost any situation.
A sport driving mode punches up throttle response, tells the transmission to hold lower gears longer, and tightens up the continuously controlled damping (CCD) suspension. Contrary to many such suspension setups, the MKZ’s ride doesn’t get uncomfortably hard; instead, it simply manages body motions better and seems to reduce body roll in quick corners.
The push-button transmission means steering wheel-mounted shift paddles are the only way to control gear selection manually, whether for enthusiastic driving in sport mode or simply choosing a lower gear to control speed on a long downhill stretch.
On the whole, driving the MKZ is remarkable for how unremarkable it is, and that’s not a back-handed compliment: this is a pleasant car to drive slowly and just entertaining enough when you want to push a bit harder.
Against Natural Resources Canada fuel consumption estimates of 11.8/8.4 L/100 km (city/highway), my test car averaged about 13.0 L/100 km.
MKZ pricing starts at $39,420 for a 2.0L Select model, but the Reserve trim is arguably a better deal at
nearly $43,000 for its inclusion of navigation, blind spot system, heated steering wheel and an embedded modem that turns the car into a wifi hotspot. With options, my test car came out to nearly $53,000.
The options I’d avoid are the sunroof — it’s expensive at $3,450 — and the $5,500 luxury package (not included in my tester), which is a lot for LED headlights and an upgraded stereo.
Key competitors to the MKZ include Lexus’ ES 350 ($52,600 fully-optioned), and the Acura TLX, which is a relative bargain at $48,190 in top trim. Both of those cars, at those prices, get LED headlights and pretty serious sound systems, and are otherwise comparably equipped.
The MKZ is a decent value, its new styling is a win, and it’s more entertaining to drive than many will expect. But much of a luxury car’s appeal comes from its interior, and that’s where you’ll find this sedan’s biggest flaw: it’s nicely finished and well laid-out, but the lack of headroom feels unwelcoming, making an otherwise solid luxury car difficult to live with.