Test Drive: 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid Review

I owned a Lincoln-Mercury dealership (R.I.P. Mercury) in 2005 when the new Lincoln Zephyr debuted and could not wait to drive one as my demonstrator.  The car was fresh, new, and I welcomed a more fuel-efficient luxury car.  I really liked this vehicle in spite of the fact that I normally drove larger vehicles.  I was apparently in the minority on the car, and in 2007, Ford changed the name to MKZ hoping to boost sales.  But the truth is the car has never been a big seller, but I think may soon change.

Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good, and Ford hit the timing perfectly with the 2011 Lincoln MKZ hybrid, the most fuel-efficient luxury car available at this time.  I have had the vehicle all this week and must say it is a quite enjoyable car.

Based on the same chassis as the popular Ford Fusion, it also shares the drive train of the Fusion hybrid, a vehicle I have recommended many times.  The car has 156-horse. 2.5 liter 4-cylinder that reverts to a 106-horse electric engine.  When you add in a CVT (continuously variable transmission) you get the end result of a REALLY fuel-efficient mid-sized luxury sedan.

Unlike some hybrid power plants, the transition is seamless from gas to battery power and back.  In fact, the only way you know you know which engine is running is if you look at the phenomenal gauges on the dash of the car.  Called the SmartGuage, it allows the driver to maximize battery usage to avoid burning any gasoline.  It is done in LCD screens that give your current fuel economy as well as a running history.

Probably most amazing about this car is I was able to get it to 48 miles per hour before the battery power shut off and the gas engine took over.  If you can imagine the fuel savings of being able to drive up to this speed without using any gasoline, you now understand why this car will be a success.

The car itself is great also.  Ride quality is great and handling is adequate but nothing special.  I would describe the ride as soft, much like you would expect from most pure-luxury models.  The interior is very nice, but not ultra-luxurious and sort of simple.  They did a good job of blending chrome and wood as an accent.

Being a Lincoln, it has an impressive list of features available including the terrific Ford Sync system.  You also get adaptive HID headlights, 10-way power heated and cooled seats, keyless entry, and blind-spot warning among many other items you would expect on a Lincoln.  My test car had a power moonroof and navigation system.

But I have saved the best for last.  The MKZ hybrid is the same price as the gasoline version. As I have said in the past when speaking of hybrids, they don’t always make economic sense, but finally there is one that does.  Even the current incentives on the MKZ and the hybrid version are the same.

I am averaging slightly over 40 miles per gallon for the week, and that includes a lot of mixed driving in stop-and-go traffic as well as highway speeds of around 70 miles per hour.  As usual, the EPA understated the mileage of the MKZ hybrid, much like they have done with all hybrids.

The MKZ is a very likeable car, I cannot imagine why someone would not want the hybrid version at the same price as the gas version.  I give Ford a standing ovation for not charging extra for the hybrid engine in this car, and am eager to see how other manufacturers follow suit.

What I liked most:  The fuel economy

What I would change if I could: Give me a 19” wheel option, 17” is too small.

MSRP as tested: $41,170

Fuel Economy: 41 in town, 36 highway, and doing better.

MKZ in a few words: You can spend more at the pump, but why?


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