Lincoln MKZ Concept, 2012 Detroit Auto Show

Lincoln MKZ Concept, 2012 Detroit Auto Show

All the rear-wheel drive excitement of late seems to be associated with General Motors and its upcoming range of rear-driving sports and luxury sedans, namely the 2013 Cadillac ATS, 2014 Chevrolet SS and future Omega-based cars.

The launch of all these models will only widen the performance gap between GM and arch rival Ford, which is desperately attempting to rebuild its Lincoln luxury brand into a worthy opponent of Cadillac, and also Lexus.

But where Cadillac and Lexus, and most other luxury auto brands, benefit from dynamic rear-wheel drive platforms, Lincoln has to rely on front-wheel drive platforms borrowed from much more mundane models.

The Lincoln MKZ, for example, rides on the platform of the Ford Fusion, while the MKS is essentially a gussied-up Taurus.  

There’s always the argument that most buyers don’t know the difference between a front-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive car. Then there’s the success of Audi, which sells mostly front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive cars. However, Lincoln isn’t benefiting from these arguments if you take a look at its sales figures. In 2011 Lincoln sold just 12,217 MKS sedans while Cadillac managed to move more than 55,000 CTS models over the same period.

Ford does have several rear-wheel drive platforms to work with, one of which is the sophisticated design with independent rear suspension being developed for the 2015 Ford Mustang, and according to Car and Driver it may end up in a future Lincoln model too.

mkrconcept 11 hr 2

mkrconcept 11 hr 2

Talk of a rear-wheel drive model from Lincoln dates back several years and really heated up with the unveiling of the Lincoln MKR Concept in 2007, a concept with four-door coupe styling and a rear-driving platform. Ford’s chief designer J Mays threw cold water on the idea a few years ago but the continued popularity of rear-wheel drive sedans, especially in the eyes of luxury buyers, may have changed Ford’s plans.

If the report proves true, there are several possibilities for Lincoln’s new sedan: a small sports sedan to rival the Cadillac ATS, a mid-size sedan to take on the CTS, or a large flagship sedan. Of these, the most likely option would be a mid-size luxury sedan to rival the CTS and segment leaders like the BMW 5-Series and Mercedes-Benz E Class.

Of course, such a plan is not without its hurdles. To be a success the new sedan would have to offer all-wheel drive, and configuring the 2015 Mustang’s platform to accommodate an all-wheel drive system would be difficult. Another issue would be making enough sales to make the project viable, which would be difficult if it were a Lincoln-only model.

On the other hand, the image-boosting quality of a Mustang-based sports sedan in the Lincoln fold may just be enough to persuade Ford’s management. Let's hope this project hasn't been nixed just yet.