Y’s Alvin Thomas has the hots for the new Lincoln MKZ sedan thanks to an engine upgrade and minor makeover.
There are three key points one must keep in mind when reviewing cars: one, do not delve into a review with even the slightest preconception of the brand; two, respect the engineering that has gone into the car; and three, no matter what happens, do not fall in love with the car.
Now, I have to point out that I had already ignored all three pointers pretty much before I had even spent an hour with the Lincoln MKZ.
I had always been under the impression that Lincoln has been a brand fraught in its efforts to discover a fitting identity.
And with the introduction of its all-new “Continental” sedan to the market, the brand was left with two cars with proper names – the Continental and Navigator, and a plethora of cars with names starting with “MK” and ending with alphabets such as “C”, “S”, “X” or “Z”.
Am I correct in saying that? Surprisingly, no. The Lincoln MKZ can actually trace its roots all the way back to the Zephyr sedan from the early 1930s.
But separate Lincoln’s nomenclature from the car and you’re left with a unique and fabulous-looking sedan with much pedigree. The styling is unmistakeably American, and the front-fascia resembles that of its bigger brother – the Lincoln Continental. Nothing else even comes close in terms of design with the MKZ. This really is not one of your plebeian sedans.
For 2017, the MKZ gets a redesigned front-fascia complete with a hunky new chrome grille and Continental-esque front headlamps, which look assertive on the road. This is definitely a score, as its predecessor didn’t win many hearts with its pointy eagle-eye headlamps and similar grille.
The rear, with its thin strip LED tail lamps, however, remains unchanged but still manages to look avant-garde. It’s funny how the MKZ has been on sale for almost a decade now but looks like something from the future.
Sadly, though, my test car did not come with the large panoramic sunroof that we have got used to seeing on the MKZ.
Stepping inside the cabin was like taking a trip down memory lane. The interior remains unchanged from previous years but that is hardly a complaint.
Everything is laid out systematically, and the fit and finish is sublime. There’s myriad padded soft-touch surfaces inside the car – even in areas you won’t be touching directly. There’s very little in the line of cheap plastics in the whole cabin, and you would have to be quite eagle-eyed to spot that.
The seats and steering-wheel are wrapped in premium leather like you would find in any of its rivals from Europe. Actually, it has much better interior trim than some of its German rivals.
The seats provide excellent shoulder and thigh bolstering, but are still typically Lincoln and are comfortable to ride in. They’re also heated and ventilated, depending on your taste.
The only real change in the cabin is the new SYNC3 capacitive touchscreen unit. It’s worlds away from its previous iteration, and the more I used it, the more I liked it. For the first time, the unit comes with an easy-to-use navigation system and interface. Of course, you can still control the usual audio, Wi-Fi, phone, ambient lighting and air conditioner settings using the screen.
But, if you are not into pushing screens to control your cabin temperatures and music, you still get easy-to-use physical buttons and knobs at your fingertips. Thankfully, Lincoln has thrown away those horrid unresponsive light-sensitive buttons from the sloped dashboard.
Space inside the cabin isn’t class-leading but there is adequate space for four adults (or five if you can convince a fifth to cram his/her legs away from the exhaust tunnel).
Like its predecessor, there’s no gear knob to be found anywhere in the cabin. Instead, the MKZ comes with buttons marked –“P”, “R”, “N”, “D” and “S”. This can come across as a bit too confusing at first but I could settle in just fine. Of course, the awkwardly-placed engine “Start/Stop” and the hazard light buttons will require a little getting used to.
For 2017, I am glad to report that Lincoln has added a silky-smooth (but low-revving) 3.0-litre “Ecoboost” turbocharged V6 engine pumping out a GSO-rated (Gulf Standard Organisation) 365hp and 570Nm of torque. Power is then transferred to all four wheels via a potent six-speed automatic transmission.
And as is always the case: power solves everything. It didn’t take me long to fall completely in love with the MKZ. A quick push of the throttle revealed a bounty of low-end torque that thrusts the car forward (and the passengers deep into the seats) every time I put my foot down.
The transmission is quick to respond to the throttle but it generally likes sitting at higher gears to save fuel.
Granted, you can take control of the gear shifts using the steering-mounted paddle shifters if need be. Despite all that, the transmission does fall short of the newer dual-clutch systems you find in cars today.
I found there to be a slight lag in the gear shifts in manual mode. But that’s just me nitpicking as most owners of the MKZ would find the gearbox smooth and adept.
The MKZ still hits 100kph from a standstill in a mere six seconds. But I am sure it will do much better in winter months as engines tend to perform better in cooler weather.
Despite the turbocharger, power delivery is incredibly linear and there is very much less turbo-lag hunkering down the engine. The Germans (aside from the Bimmers and Porsches) and Asians can take a leaf out of Lincoln’s book on that.
The all-wheel drive system, coupled with the rear-axle torque-vectoring translates to copious amounts of on-road grip. The car sticks to its original line even when pushed to its cornering limits. The ride is very smooth and a bit floaty at times but the suspension adapts well when necessary.
You could come across a teeny-tiny amount of understeer depending on the type of road surface and the grip from the tyres. But the torque-vectoring system rectifies it in a jiffy to bring your car back into the corner.
But since the car was in my hands, I decided to push it to its farthest limits by switching off the traction control and then gunning the throttle. Upon doing this, you will find yourself vying for control with the rear-axles, which by now is already working out the tyres that must receive the maximum amount of power for maximum grip.
If you are lucky, though, you can get the car to completely step out of line and enter a drift, and even better… a powerslide. Not many could imagine looking at a Lincoln slide around corners but this one completely changes that perception.
The car is very much composed mid-way in the corner, despite its soft-tuned chassis, and it doesn’t take much effort to hold a slide. It is ironic that I could enjoy taking corners in an MKZ much more than I did with the Dodge Charger, which was slithering about corners like an angry puppy.
One of the reasons the MKZ is quite fun to drive is the steering wheel. Yes, it is a tad too light for my taste but it still provides excellent amounts of feedback. Very rarely do cars translate the information from the road surface into the steering wheel nowadays.
And funnily enough, by the end of my test, I had fallen completely in love with the MKZ.
It is incredible how my perceptions of the car were changed courtesy of a minor facelift and an engine upgrade. The new MKZ is a very hard car to fault, and that is why this will be going in my recommended list of cars for 2017. It’s not the most objective statement I have ever made but cut me some slack. I’m in love with this car, after all.