2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid

2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid

We're live today in Washington, D.C., with the first High Gear Media drive of the 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid.

We've road-tested the similar Ford Fusion Hybrid, but the Lincoln version promises its own package of distinct styling cues and a finer interior, while still delivering the 41-mpg highway fuel economy rating of its mass-market cousin.

The MKZ Hybrid's also a calling card of sorts. With its extensive collection of electronic entertainment and green-driving functions, it's a signal of where the Lincoln brand is heading. In the words of execs presenting the Hybrid this morning in the nation's capital, Lincoln is becoming a "consumer electronics company" in the mold of Sony or, more aptly, Apple.

Targeted at buyers who want better fuel economy and a quieter, more "responsible" display of luxury, the MKZ Hybrid goes on sale later this year with the SmartGauge instrument cluster seen in the Fusion Hybrid, that towering highway gas-mileage number, and a 36-mpg rating for city driving, too. Interior details in every example include the SYNC system for Bluetooth and voice connectivity, as well as leather-trimmed seats and real wood trim--a step up from the prime competitor, the Lexus HS 250h.

Lincoln also will sell its new hybrid for the same base price as the V-6-powered MKZ--the base price for both 2011 sedans is $35,180, before destination charges.

Ford's asked us to keep driving impressions behind a firewall until next week. For now, we'll bring you these live photos of the MKZ Hybrid from today's drive--with a promise of more pictures from tomorrow's first drive of the 2011 MKX crossover and some play time with its Lincoln MyTouch user interface.

For more on the 2011 Lincoln MKZ and its Hybrid variant, check out the full details on our review page.