I got behind the wheel of the 2014 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid the other night not really knowing what to expect. On one hand, the new MKZ has been selling well as of late, and it's solely responsible for the venerable brand's growth in the past year. On the other, the media reception to the Lincoln MKZ has been lukewarm, especially considering that this model is supposed to be the first in a series of vehicles that will rescue Lincoln.
Despite our test car's workaday beige paint--the color's actual name, "Platinum Dune," sounds like a Frank Herbert novel--the Lincoln MKZ boasts some sharp lines and neat details. I like the integration of the "wing" grille design into the headlights, and the sharply cut off tail looks modern and right. As far as creating an elegant look, Lincoln is definitely on to something with this new sedan.
The interior is equally pleasing to the eye. I particularly like the multi-level center console, which offers two shelves to store smaller items like a wallet or cell phone. You can credit the lack of a console-mounted shifter for the extra space; instead, this Lincoln uses a series of push buttons to the left of the center stack. They're all marked clearly with PRNDL, but to me the implementation is a little gimmicky. Still, the rest of the interior is nicely laid out. On the road, this Lincoln is also pleasant, with a nice ride, decent power from the hybrid powertrain, and very good fuel economy. It also costs the same as the gas-powered MKZ, making it one of the few hybrids out there with no price penalty.
Put short, this is a nice upscale sedan, and a decent and affordably priced alternative to cars like the Lexus ES 300h or Acura TL. It's just a tad bland, and for me, that's a big problem. I'm not saying that it needs to be fast, or have great handling, or whatever. But there's not a lot here that's particularly compelling. It goes beyond the fact that many of the premium features are also available in less expensive Fords like the Fusion; that's true for a lot of platform-shared sedans like this. No, it's something else.
Hope for the Future
I think back to the early '00s, when Cadillac introduced the CTS, and Lincoln introduced the similarly rear-wheel drive LS. Both cars were meant to revitalize their respective brands and draw in new, Euro-centric customers. Today, the CTS is in its third generation and the de facto flagship of a growing brand; mission accomplished there. The Lincoln LS faded away after a single generation, and Lincoln has suffered ever since. Now it's trying again and the nicely styled but otherwise conservative 2014 Lincoln MKZ is a step that has resulted in solid sales. I just hope that there are bigger and better things on the horizon.
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