By KBB.com Editors
Lincoln claims the 2011 MKZ Hybrid is the most fuel-efficient luxury sedan in America, beating its likely closest competitor, the Lexus HS 250h, by six mpg during city driving. The company also says the MKZ Hybrid tops the Lexus with room for one more passenger, along with more standard luxury and segment-exclusive safety features. Indeed, the Lexus will be this car's main competition, considering they're priced within $800 of each other. But the new Lincoln could also conceivably do battle with cheaper competition from Toyota (Camry Hybrid), or possibly within its own brand ranks (Ford Fusion Hybrid). The MKZ Hybrid is offered in one trim level.You'll Like This Car If...
You want to maximize fuel economy and efficiency without sacrificing a luxurious ride and the accoutrements that make it so. The 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid is several hundred dollars cheaper than the Lexus HS 250h, which will undoubtedly sway at least a few buyers.You May Not Like This Car If...
You aren't averse to bold styling. Like its brand brethren, the MKZ has got the brand DNA right in your face with massive twin chrome grilles in front and long taillights astern. It's not quite as extreme as the fascia on the MKX crossover, but it'll still get attention.What's Significant About This Car?
The 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid is the brand's first-ever hybrid offering. It employs Ford Motor Company's second-generation hybrid technology, the award-winning 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle in-line four-cylinder. There's also what's called "SmartGauge with EcoGuide" interactive technology in the instrument cluster that provides real-time information to help the driver maximize fuel efficiency, and even actively "coaches" drivers on how to optimize hybrid performance.Driving It Driving Impressions
The constantly variable transmission (CVT) in the 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid is rather loud at speed and drones somewhat under acceleration, but admittedly plays a crucial role in helping the car get the unbelievable gas mileage that it does. Brake pedal feel could be better and the binders are a little difficult to modulate in traffic, but that's a problem with most hybrids. And last, it floats a bit in the corners, but holds its ground well, particularly considering the tires are hybrid-hard. Besides, who buys a hybrid for its handling prowess? We also wish that the interior – what you use to interface with the car – had an update and some better materials, because better tactile feel would go a long way in the MKZ. Small gripes aside, though, if it's this or the Lexus HS 250h, just tell us where to sign, Lincoln.Favorite Features
We must profess our love for the intuitive and responsive touch screen technology aboard today's Fords – err, Lincolns. That, along with the SmartGauge driver-interactive instrumentation and SYNC capability, gives the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid a distinctly high-tech feel. Almost like we are in fact driving the future.
SmartGauge with EcoGuide
All hybrids, regardless of make, should come with a system like this, especially considering that most typically buy a hybrid for absolute fuel efficiency domination. This system, by offering feedback on long-term fuel efficiency and driving performance, helps you eek the most mpgs out of your car.
While the interior of the 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid does feel a little dated with an abundance of cheap, hard plastics, the technical features within more than make up for the lackluster cabin appointments. The SmartGauge instruments – which offer feedback on long-term fuel efficiency and driving performance – are impressive and give the car an almost sentient personality as it interacts with the driver. An interactive multimedia and touch screen interface sits in the center stack, allowing you to easily manipulate the navigation, climate and audio controls along with hands-free calling (if you'd rather not use SYNC for some of these, that is).Exterior
If you like the glorious grilles up front, you're likely not to have any problem with the rest of the 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid's exterior, although we will point out that the rest of the car's styling is a little sedate in contrast with the front end. Unlike the more sharply creased Ford Fusion Hybrid, the MKZ has a more stately look to it. The standard wheels are painted multi-spoke 17-inchers, with 18-inch polished aluminum alloys available as an option. There's also a Sport Appearance Package that might help a bit with the ho-hum rear three quarters.Notable Standard Equipment
A robust standard equipment list is likely where Lincoln will sell most of its buyers. The 2011 MKZ Hybrid comes with a host of standard convenience and luxury features, including the SmartGauge cluster and the always-entertaining SYNC voice-activated communications and entertainment system, along with Bluetooth capability for your MP3 player, memory stick, or smartphone. The MyKey feature allows parents or fleet administrators to activate a restricted driving mode and works directly with consistently engaged stability control, blind spot monitoring, and Cross Traffic Alert. And finally, there's what's called the "Personal Safety System," a suite of seven protection technologies like dual-stage front airbags and an occupant classification system that work to protect vehicle inhabitants.Notable Optional Equipment
Options on the 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid include a THX II certified audio system with 5.1 surround sound, navigation with integrated SIRIUS Travel Link, a power moonroof and 18-inch polished aluminum wheels. If you opt for the Sport Appearance Package you also get a sport-tuned suspension bundled into the mix.Under the Hood
The 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid is powered by Ford's second-generation hybrid technology – the 2.5-liter Atkinson-Cycle in-line four-cylinder engine that's also found in Ford's Fusion and Escape Hybrid models. The engine itself makes 156 peak horsepower at the top end of the tachometer, but electric motivation gives the car an additional 35 horsepower boost, via a permanent magnet AC synchronous motor and nickel-metal-hydride battery packs. The well-matched combo is enough to give the MKZ Hybrid a best-in-class total system power output of 191 horsepower. No, it isn't going to win many stoplight drag races, but that's respectable considering that it returns 39 combined mpg and a claimed 47 mpg when cruising under all-electric motivation. And while its gas-powered MKZ brothers are available with either front-wheel or all-wheel drive, the Hybrid puts its power down using only the front wheels.
2.5-liter in-line 4, permanent magnet AC synchronous motor
191 horsepower @ 6000 rpm (engine and motor combined)
136 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 41/36
The 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid comes in one trim level, and its Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) is just over $35,000. That makes it several hundred dollars cheaper than the Lexus HS 250h and allows Lincoln to claim this car as the most affordable hybrid in the luxury midsize segment. The MKZ Hybrid is also priced the same as the base gasoline-powered MKZ, which will definitely give some buyers pause: Will you choose performance or fuel economy? However, it should also be noted that within Ford Motor's own product portfolio there's the Ford Fusion Hybrid – which might not carry the cache of the Lincoln brand – but starts at nearly than $6,000 less..If you decide the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid is the car for you, be sure to check our Fair Purchase Price on kbb.com to see what others in your area are paying for theirs before you go to the dealership. For residuals, we expect the MKZ Hybrid to perform well over time, although not quite as well as the Lexus HS 250h.