2018 Lincoln MKZ: Quietly Slipping By

Strong points
  • Muscular 3.0-litre engine
  • Excellent road tripper
  • Supreme multicontour seats
Weak points
  • All the best features are optional
  • Aging design and platform
  • Limited rear-seat headroom
Full report

The current generation of the MKZ appeared at a time when Lincoln was in the process of reinventing itself. Back in 2011 or so, it went all out, renaming itself the Lincoln Motor Company, opening a dedicated creative agency in New York City and hiring Max Wolff as their design director, the person responsible for the MKZ’s exterior styling.

Well, since then, the Lincoln brand reinvented itself again. And again. With different designers. It’s been searching for a way to reach out to a younger clientele, and buyers who aren’t necessarily interested in a BMW or a Mercedes-Benz. To forge an image of a world-class luxury marque with a product range that is much more than upscale Ford cars and trucks. There’s still a lot of work to do, but the Lincoln Continental, introduced for 2017, along with the Lincoln Navigator, redesigned for 2018, are definitely steps in the right direction.

Still, that leaves us with aging models in its lineup, such as the MKZ sedan. It received a facelift for 2017 to bear a family resemblance with the newer products, and it’s still a fairly attractive car, but it won’t be around for much longer. Based on the same architecture as the Ford Fusion, which will be terminated after the 2019 model year, the MKZ will likely suffer the same fate. As these lines are being written, Lincoln has not announced any future plans for a replacement, nor has it confirmed how long the MKZ will remain on the market.

The 2018 Lincoln MKZ battles the likes of the Buick LaCrosse, the Acura TLX, the Lexus ES and the Kia Cadenza. The base version is equipped with a turbocharged, 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine that develops 245 horsepower, along with all-wheel drive. As a no-charge alternative, a hybrid powertrain using a 2.0-litre engine and an electric motor connected to the front wheels, producing a combined 188 hp, is also available.

Photo: Michel Deslauriers

However, there’s also a twin-turbo, 3.0-litre V6 on the options list, one that develops a mighty 400 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque—rated using 93-octane fuel. This engine isn’t shared with any Ford products, and it’s got muscle. Connected to a six-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive, it gives wings to the MKZ sedan. During a round-trip from Montreal to Toronto, we averaged 9.2 L/100 km with the V6 engine, which is pretty good, and the fact that it can run on regular unleaded is also good news.

The car’s Continuously Controlled Damping suspension, which comes standard, does a wonderful job of soaking up road imperfections, and the driver can also configure what type of handling he or she wants when the transmission is set to Drive or Sport. The Sport damper setting firms up things nicely, while the Comfort mode might be a little too soft for some people. Most owners will likely use the Normal suspension mode and never touch this feature again. Along with the MKZ’s electric power steering and active noise cancellation system, the sedan’s ride is smooth, refined and quiet, as a luxury car should be.

Interior fit and finish is good, but the overall design isn’t as classy as what can be found in a Mercedes-Benz C-Class. The transmission shift buttons instead of a conventional shift lever free up space on the centre console, but it takes some getting used to. The climate control switches and buttons work well while we’re driving, which is a plus. And the SYNC 3 infotainment interface is easy to use, even while the car is moving, although some button zones could be a little bigger. The optional Revel Ultima sound system is fantastic.

We like the leather upholstery and the two-tone pattern in our test car, part of the Driver’s Package that also bundles the excellent 22-way power-adjustable front seats. They incorporate a massaging feature that we appreciated greatly during our long-distance trip. It’s a worthwhile addition, but it’s only offered on the more-expensive Reserve trim level.

Photo: Michel Deslauriers

Space up front is good, and there’s just enough legroom for three people sitting in the back seat. However, headroom isn’t all great, especially for rear-seat occupants. The panoramic sunroof provides plenty of light inside the cabin, and it neatly slides outwards over the rear window of the MKZ, but it too is only available as an option on the Reserve.

And adding these cool features obviously jacks up the price. The 2018 Lincoln MKZ starts at $43,050 before freight and delivery charges, making the base Select trim level it a little more expensive than the LaCrosse, the TLX and the Cadenza. Stepping up to the Reserve and choosing the V6 engine, the bigger sunroof, the Driver’s Package and the Luxury Package with the Revel Ultima stereo, we’re looking at a car that costs about $63K. Ouch.

An MKZ Select with the 2.0-litre turbo as well as a few comfort and convenience options will cost less than $50K, which is a better deal. Although we’d really miss the 400-hp engine. The hybrid system shouldn’t be considered for its lack of power and refinement, and it doesn’t feel well suited to a luxury car like this one. If we want to save fuel, we should look at a Lexus ES 300h instead, or even a Ford Fusion hybrid.

The MKZ is still a very comfortable and stylish road cruiser, but there’s nothing here to impress friends, family and neighbours, unless we dish out a hefty sum that could get us into a bigger and more luxurious automobile—the Continental actually comes to mind. For those who want a plush ride above anything else, it’s a better choice than the Acura, but the MKZ can’t surpass the smoothness of the Buick, the Lexus and the Kia.

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