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2010 Lincoln MKZ AWD Review

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2010 Lincoln MKZ AWD

SEE ALSO: Compare Lincoln Specs, Reviews and Prices - Lincoln Buyers Guide

2010 Lincoln MKZ AWD

Lincoln, in common with nearly every other established luxury car maker, has had to overcome a generation gap. What their parents desired, the potential customers of the 90s and this decade - "baby boomers", "Generation X", and younger - did not. Large, softly-suspended sedans were not exactly aspirational vehicles. For Lincoln, in too many cases, that meant that if people who (in theory) should have been considering a Continental thought about that name at all, it was as the car in which President Kennedy was assassinated... and while the Town Car was and is well-loved by limo driver-owners, that is but a small niche. Luxury SUVs like the Navigator saved the day for a while, but the SUV fad couldn't last forever.

Reinvention of the Lincoln sedan was called for. And the first inkling of this was the 2006 Lincoln Zephyr. Named after the car that got Lincoln out of a similar crisis in 1936, the `06 Zephyr, based on the platform also underlying the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan, was the smallest Lincoln since its namesake. It was also the most like its foreign-nameplate competitors in size and vehicle dynamics, and very much meant for the new generation of luxury car customers. I spent a week with one, and had a few laps around a well-known race track at a test day -- where it worked quite well at a fast touring pace, the sort that would likely get you a serious talking-to at best if caught on the street. It was a much more contemporary car than any other Lincoln sedan of the time, but I still had the feeling that it was the product of a company in transition.

Next evidence of transition: a nearly-immediate name change to MKZ, to keep it in line with Lincoln's new naming convention from 2007. A new and larger engine, 3.5 liters from 3.0, made for a more effortless driving experience, but the little Lincoln still seemed to be in the process of becoming something... A 2010 Lincoln MKZ.

While not completely new, the 2010 iteration is significantly different, and even better. Most apparent is the external restyling, which, while paying homage to design cues from Lincoln's past is in no way retro. The interior is likewise updated, and improvements to soundproofing throughout the chassis make for an even quieter experience inside. While the engine is the same 263-horsepower 3.5-liter "Duratec" twin-cam V6, matched to a six-speed automatic transmission, acceleration has improved noticeably, with the 0-60 time dropping from 7.7 to 7.1 seconds. Even more significantly, suspension revisions have made for better handling characteristics with the standard suspension calibration -- and there is a "sport" tuning available that is very European in its ride and cornering characteristics. Really.

The comprehensively-equipped MKZ that is the subject of this week's review had that option, which, combined with its interior upgrades and new styling made it a very worthy competitor to the established imports in the entry-luxury class. Luxury, meaning quiet composure and comfort, is emphasized over pure performance and handling, as is the norm for the class -- but the new MKZ is a fine car for a spirited drive on the scenic route. This is not your grandfather's 1970s Continental.

APPEARANCE: Instant recognition is good. And Lincoln's newest styling is instantly recognizable. The bold split grille extends around the headlights and pays homage to that of the late-1930s Zephyr. With the more rounded sheetmetal at the front of the car, the grille blends well with the unchanged main bodywork. Unlike many current sedans, the MKZ has an unapologetically sedan roofline, all the better for rear-seat passengers. At the rear, wide, low taillights -- another long-standing Lincoln styling cue, lit with LEDs now -- are split by a bit of sheetmetal adorned with the corporate logo, echoing the front styling.

COMFORT: The new MKZ's interior is as distinctive as its exterior. Seats upholstered with Scottish "Bridge of Weir" leather in a black-and-white scheme, power-adjustable of course, and both heated and cooled (in front) are the centerpieces. They blend perfectly with the textured black and aluminum of the instrument panel and doors. Seat comfort is very good, and the driver gets brightly-backlit instruments, shaded from glare, and a leather-rimmed steering wheel that is manually adjustable for both tilt and reach. Outside rear passengers get more legroom than expected, and a good amount of headroom. There's plenty of trunk space, and the rear seatback folds 60/40 if necessary. My test car had the comprehensive "Rapid Spec 103A" option package, which includes nearly every possible comfort and safety item. Comfort and convenience are covered by a THX-certified AM/FM/CD/Sirius satellite radio/auxiliary (minijack and USB) audio system, hard disk-based navigation system with a simple modified touch-screen interface and 10GB of disk space for music, and a rear-view camera with distance markings. So equipped, and with the standard SYNC connectivity system, the MKZ has all of today's high-tech luxuries.

SAFETY: Also included in the Navigation Package is Ford's new radar-based BLIS™ blind-spot monitoring system. Besides detecting cars, motorcycles, or bicycles otherwise hidden on the sides of the car and alerting the driver with a light on the appropriate outside mirror and a chime, it also detects cross traffic to the rear sides that may be hidden when backing. Further protection comes from a full complement of airbags, a perimeter antitheft system, the "SOS" cell-based post-crash notification system, four-wheel antilock disc brakes, and the AdvanceTrac® stability control system.

RIDE AND HANDLING: Agin, what the 2006 Zephyr hinted at has been achieved. A redesigned multilink rear suspension, and especially the optional sport tuning of the springs, shocks, and stabilizer bars for it and the short-and-long arm front suspension, improve the ride and handling characteristics as good as any car in the entry-luxury class. Firm and with minimal body roll in corners, even when playing, it's enjoyable to drive, even (especially!) on what might best be considered a "sports car" road. Add in the redesigned all-wheel drive system, as was fitted to my test car, and any front-wheel drive torque steer is eliminated by pre-emptive torque transfer to the rear wheels. That also helps acceleration, and corner exit behavior. Quiet is also a luxury hallmark, and here, too, the MKZ scores well with lower noise levels from increased soundproofing material, tighter seams, better door seals, and even an acoustic laminated windshield.

PERFORMANCE: In a luxury car, power is less about maximum speed and acceleration than the equivalent to what audiophiles call "headroom" - the capacity to deal instantly and effortlessly with any demand on the system. With 263 horsepower and 249 lb-ft of torque from the MKZ's 3.5-liter twincam alloy V6, there is plenty of headroom. On paper, the horsepower peak at 6250 rpm and torque peak at 4500 rpm seem high. On the road, no problem. Variable intake cam phasing helps broaden the torque curve, and a six-speed automatic transmission with SelectShift Automatic™ manual mode has a wider range of gear ratios than a four- or five-speed, for better acceleration and more economical highway cruising. There is plenty of acceleration when needed or wanted -- 0-60 time has dropped over half a second to 7.1 -- yet fuel economy is very good for a 3800-pound all-wheel drive car at EPA estimates of 17 and 24, and real-world 24+ on the highway and 21+ overall during my time. The transmission works very well, with barely-perceptible shifts, and D is good enough most of the time, even on sports car roads.

CONCLUSIONS: The promise showed by the 2006 Lincoln Zephyr is delivered with the 2010 MKZ.

2010 Lincoln MKZ AWD

Base Price			$ 36,005
Price As Tested			$ 43,245
Engine Type			dohc 24-valve aluminum alloy V6 with
				 variable intake camshaft phasing
Engine Size			3.5 liters / 213 cu. in.
Horsepower			263 @ 6250 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			249 @ 4500 rpm
Transmission			6-speed automatic
Wheelbase / Length		107.4 in. / 189.8 in.
Curb Weight			3796 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		14.4
Fuel Capacity			16.5 gal.
Fuel Requirement		87-octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires				P225/45 R18 91V Goodyear Eagle RS-A
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc,
				  ABS, EBD, AdvanceTrac® stability
				  and traction control standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent short-and-long arm /
				  independent multilink
Drivetrain			transverse front engine, 
				  automatic on-demand all-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		17 / 24 / 21
0 to 60 mph				7.1  sec

Rapid Spec 103A - includes:					$5,595
 Ultimate Package - includes:
    THX II audio with 5.1 Surround Sound, moonroof,
    Technology Package - includes:
       adaptive HID headlights, rain-sensing wipers, ambient
    Navigation Package - includes:
      voice-activated hard disk-based navigation system,
      10GB music jukebox, BLIS™ with Cross-Traffic
       Alert, rear-view camera

Sport Appearance Package - includes:				$  795
  sport-tuned suspension, 18" alloy wheels, sport package
  floor mats, interior aluminum trim, leather steering wheel

Destination and delivery					$  850

SEE ALSO: Compare Lincoln Specs, Reviews and Prices - Lincoln Buyers Guide