Full disclosure. My grandfather owned a Lincoln Town Car in the 1990s. It was so big perhaps boat is a better word for it. I can still remember how stately it was. Its cushy black leather seats just oozed luxury. In short, I was impressed. Fast forward to present day where I recently found myself staring at one of the new faces of Lincoln. The 2017 MKZ with its new signature Lincoln-logo mesh grille clearly intent on impressing me in a whole new, not your grandfather's Lincoln, way.
Lunching with Lincoln
I came face to face with the new 2017 MKZ at a recent media launch event in Dallas. As a North Texas native, I can tell you Dallas is nothing if not a luxury car town. So Lincoln's visit here was a smart one. Again in the interest of full disclosure, the afternoon started with a fine dining "quiet luxury" experience at Flora Street Cafe, run by famed chef Stephen Pyles. I found myself at a table with MKZ consumer marketing manager Rob Rosenbach and MKZ lead designer Solomon Song, who couldn't help but sketch the MKZ on the back of a menu for me. (Frankly, the only thing missing from this entire equation was Matthew McConaughey.) After finishing off a three-course meal with a cup of Joe to wake me up from my food coma, I soon found myself behind the wheel of a top-of-the-line MKZ waiting patiently for me outside in the Texas heat. My tester was the 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 Black Label Edition equipped with a ginormous, how'd-they-do-that, panoramic sunroof. (That new 3.0-liter V6 is a big deal by the way.) Add to that, it was fully decked out with a new Driver's Package with things like body-hugging multi contour massage seats, dynamic torque vectoring, and 19-inch satin finish 10-spoke aluminum wheels.
This is no basic mid-cycle refresh.
Let's start with the basics. The MKZ is hugely important to the brand's ongoing resurgence plans - as it's Lincoln's highest volume car designed to bring new, younger mainstream buyers, to the nameplate. "It is so important from a volume perspective and it also represents our entry point to luxury, meaning that when people are experiencing Lincoln for the first time chances are they’ll be buying an MKZ or MKC because those are the first entry points into the brand," said MKZ Consumer Marketing Manager Rob Rosenbach. With that said, no basic mid-cycle "refresh" would do for the 2017 model. It's not all-new, but the updates are pretty dramatic. Rosenbach told me Lincoln's engineering and design teams treated it as almost nearly new and it shows. The "refresh" as it is technically called includes a ton of updates and improvements to that first-generation 2013 model. "The segment in which it competes is by far the largest and most competitive," said Rosenbach. "So it is so important we put everything we could into this car so we could make sure it stood out."
It's all about what drivers see, feel and touch.
Lincoln has really made a commitment in its new lineup - which also includes the MKC and MKX crossovers - to become the brand of quiet luxury. By that I mean Lincoln says it is focusing on design, quality craftsmanship and effortless, fun to drive, performance. Outside, of course, the first thing you see coming at you is the redesigned front end with the new signature Lincoln-logo mesh grille. The one-piece grille debuted on the Continental concept but launches first on the MKZ. Lincoln MKZ Design Manager Solomon Song told me for him it's about depth in design not just at the surface. He says the goal was to make the car look simple, yet elegant, something that's difficult to do. For instance, that fully-retractable panoramic sunroof Song dreamed up was not exactly an easy feat. "When they (automakers) find out how long it takes and much it takes to actually execute that panoramic roof you’re going to find out it’s really hard to do," said Song. It's one of the things that makes the midsize sedan so gorgeous in my opinion. When you open its expansive top and let all that sunshine in, it's a real mood booster, too, I must say. Song's other favorite features are a trunk latch button that has a detailed outline of a car on it, and the side mirrors. "When you look at the pedestal mirror, even the light is hidden between the color and chrome so no one sees it unless it is on," said Song. "Not a lot of designers pay attention to the execution of mirrors let alone what they look like underneath." Lincoln MKZ Designer Solomon Song points out detailed trunk latch button design.
The interior looks nothing like my grandfather's Lincoln Town Car, hello that was in the 90s. But it is every bit as luxurious in a sportier way. My test drive featured the Cashmere Venetian Star interior with the Black Label Chalet Theme, inspired by the Swiss Alps. The first thing I'll point out is that the center control console is massive. There is plenty of room to make things visible and easy to access. Lincoln also did away with the awkward sliding controls of the 2013 model, replacing them with buttons and knobs. It was easy to read the all-new Sync 3 infotainment options on the 8-inch color LCD touchscreen and it, too, was simple to operate. The steering wheel fit me like a glove and has a host of control features. As I mentioned, my tester also came with an optional sporty Driver's Package. It added things like aluminum-topped pedals, carbon-fiber interior trim, and perhaps my favorite feature, the multi contour leather massage seats. I'm quite convinced if everyone could drive with these seats massaging their backside, we'd finally have a chance at achieving world peace. Or at the very least, cut down on road rage. These seats, with meticulous stitching, by the way, don't mess around. They feature side supports that really grip your body. They could they really cut down on my spa bill if you know what I mean.
High-End Revel Sound System
As a music lover, a huge bright spot for me on the MKZ is the Harman high-end Revel sound system. It's nothing short of awesome. There are 14-speakers on the entry-level model. There are 20 speakers on my top-of-the-line tester. The doors were even specially designed for optimal positioning of the speakers. MKZ Consumer Marketing Manager Rob Rosenbach told me it's not about the volume or watts, but about delivering the right experience. It's designed to make you feel like you're in the middle of a concert. "This is so authentic to the original experience," said Rosenbach. "We wanted an integrated experience and the very best audio experience for our buyers." It also helps that the MKZ is so quiet, as in there's a noticeable lack of road noise inside the cabin.
The MKZ has a list of cool technology features, too. The one I'll point out here is the Auto-Hold button. Use it, and you don't have to keep pressing your foot down on the brake pedal at a stop light. It feels weird at first, having been used to holding down the brake pedal all of my 40-something years. But I found myself getting used to the feeling pretty quickly. Simply touch the accelerator to release the brake.
New 3.0-Liter Twin-Turbo V6 Can Deliver 400-Horses
I have to say, I had a lot of fun driving this car. It felt powerful, yet smooth, and handled corners well. Gliding is a word that comes to mind. It was nimble and navigated the perils of Dallas traffic smoothly and didn't even blink at the few inevitable potholes in this neck of the woods. Under the hood, my tester had the new optional 3.0-liter twin-turbo GTDI V6. This notably makes it the most powerful Lincoln ever at 400-horses when equipped with the available all-wheel drive.
The MKZ is also offered as a 2.0-liter turbo and a hybrid. In fact, the MKZ hybrid is the only hybrid model in Lincoln's lineup. Lincoln also doesn't charge more for it. It's priced the same as the entry-level model. However, it only comes as a front-wheel drive. The gas engines both offer available all-wheel drive. The Hybrid sells well for Lincoln. Nationwide, Rosenbach says it accounts for about 30 percent of Lincoln's business. "The hybrid has actually been able to deliver new customers to our brand. Younger customers, higher household income, more female. It is actually one of our highest conquesting vehicles. So it’s really important to us," said Rosenbach. The new 2017 MKZ is launching now in markets nationwide. Lincoln also offers a special "Date Night" test drive experience that allows you to take its cars home for a longer test drive experience.