Recent naming conventions aside, the 2013 Lincoln MKZ could have been called the Lincoln Atlas, as it currently carries the weight of the Lincoln brand on its shapely shoulders. That’s not to say that Lincoln has no other product to sell, since dealer showrooms are chock full of MKS and MKT models, but rather that the MKZ represents the potential pillar of the current Lincoln brand.
If all you know about Lincoln comes from the now-retired Town Car, the MKZ can almost be called the anti-Lincoln. It’s neither vast in size nor crammed full of faux-luxury, and its styling is far more contemporary than Lincolns of the recent past. Gone is the overdone front grille, replaced by a wing shaped piece that’s downright tasteful. Lincoln’s four-pointed star badge is still present and accounted for, but it’s minimized and tastefully deployed.
We’d call the exterior design clean and contemporary, words we may have had a hard time using in association with Lincoln previously. That concept carries over to the inside as well, where the MKZ seems to have borrowed modern luxury themes (like a floating center console) from the likes of Volvo, while delivering a Lexus-like attention to materials. Adding further proof to the argument that this is not your grandfather’s Lincoln is the center-stack dominating LCD touchscreen, on hand to address the occupants’ infotainment needs, or the completely-absent shift lever, now replaced by push buttons and flappy paddles.
Two engines are offered, including the base 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, which can be a bit harsh for a luxury car but delivers an impressive 33 mpg on the highway. Our pick is the returning 300-horsepower 3.7-liter V-6, which delivers a more spirited performance and a smoother ride than the base engine. Either comes mated to a six-speed push-button automatic transmission, with paddle shifters to appease those wanting to row their own gears. Front-wheel drive is standard with either variant, but all-wheel drive is an available option.
Luxury shoppers seeking more impressive fuel economy can also pick the 2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, which blends a 2.0-liter engine with an electric motor and a continuously variable transmission (CVT) to deliver a claimed 45 mpg combined, city and highway. We’ve yet to drive the 2013 MKZ Hybrid, but our experience with the similar Ford Fusion Hybrid tells us to expect fuel economy in the 41-mpg range.
The MKZ is the driver’s Lincoln, too, thanks to its nicely weighted and responsive electric steering and the standard Lincoln Drive Control, which permits drivers to fine-tune suspension settings, steering, stability control, traction control and active-noise cancellation. If getting from point A to point B in the minimal amount of time is your mission, you’ll want to opt for the Sport setting, since the Normal and Comfort settings are a bit soft for spirited driving.
The MKZ comes well-appointed, even in base trim. MyLincoln Touch and Sync are standard, as are features like leather upholstery, real wood trim, dual-zone automatic climate control and heated and powered front seats with adjustable lumbar support. The list of options includes such safety-focused add-ons as inflatable rear seat belts, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist and parking assist. Perhaps the most innovative option, however, is the car’s 15 square-foot sliding panoramic glass roof, which retracts to give both front and rear seat passengers a view of the sky and fresh air.
The MKZ is Lincoln’s best hope of attracting the the kind of buyers it needs to sustain the brand: young, innovative, affluent and willing to think outside the box. If the MKZ can bring in new blood, Lincoln has a few years to launch products that will sustain the momentum and give MKZ owners something new and exciting to choose from when their leases expire. If the MKZ isn’t successful, however, we can’t help wonder how many of its nine lives Lincoln has already used up.
For a complete look at the 2013 Lincoln MKZ, see our comprehensive review on The Car Connection.