2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid
When your lead-in to a first-time-ever hybrid sedan is a North American Car of the Year trophy winner, things are probably okay in your world.
That's Lincoln's world right now, where the brand is embarking on a complete renovation that will include 7 new or refreshed vehicles in the next four years. Whatever corporate agita was induced by the Ford takeovers of Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo is over now--and now Lincoln has the company's attention as it pivots back into the lead role in Ford's luxury movement.
The next step in that movement is The 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, which follows up on the very nicely redone MKZ sedan we wrote about for the 2010 model year. Only this time it carries the same hybrid system that won that NACOTY award for the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid last year. In this sedan body, it gets a much more handsome, much more luxurious treatment--and a somewhat stunning sticker price of about $36,000 that's identical to the price you'd pay for the V-6-powered MKZ.
Since we've covered the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid extensively, a little focus on the Lincoln details is what you need to decide if the step up into the $30,000 price bracket is worth the price of admission. If you're a fan of the latest Lincoln styling meme--twin-wing grilles, sedately handsome interiors with real wood and leather--you'll be in the mood for the MKZ Hybrid's balanced looks. The blander side profile of the Fusion/MKZ needs some of the drama imparted by the grille, and the nearly full-width taillamps have their own dramatic impact. You can see the obvious resemblance to the Fusion in the MKZ's proportions and glass areas, and that's an asset worth upgrading, as the Fusion's among the better-looking sedans we've driven. The cabin does a better job yet of distinguishing the mechanical twins, with Bridge of Weir leather and real wood trim on the dash, unless you choose a metallic finish instead. Then there's the spritz of LCD glamour applied to the gauges and the center stack, framed by tech-y strips of metallic trim, that sum up the sumptuousness. Yes, it's very closely related to the Fusion, along the lines of Lexus ES and Toyota Camry, but it's a synergy that works.
The running gear's virtually unchanged from the Fusion Hybrid, and that's the other big benefit of this platform-sharing approach. You can still get a V-6 MKZ, but who'd want to, now that the Fusion Hybrid's net 191 horsepower slot in the Lincoln's engine bay and tuck behind its rear seats? The combination of a 155-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder running an Atkinson cycle, electric motors and a nickel-metal-hydride battery pack in back give the MKZ brisk performance to 60 mph in the 8-second range through an electronically controlled set of planetary gears--an eCVT--that blends power from the gas engine and the battery pack. It's a second off the V-6 car's performance, but battery power means great torque at city speeds, which the MKZ Hybrid has in abundance. There's also a more sporty transmission mode, if you must--but that misses the point.