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First Drive of the New 2011 Lincoln Hybird MKZ

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SEE ALSO: Lincoln Buyers Guide
SEE ALSO: E-Carmony: Is a 2011 Lincoln Your Perfect Match?



by Marty Bernstein
Senior Editor
The Auto Channel

It’s been ten years since the first electric-gasoline hybrid was successfully introduced to celebrities, early adaptors, the environmentally concerned and some just curious buyers. It was an odd looking car, had both a premium price and a year’s long payoff based on return on investment, some fortunate few received a incentive tax rebate and ownership allowed many Californian’s to drive in the diamond or car pool lane.

The initial success of the first hybrid also triggered a surge from several car manufacturers to build electric-gas hybrids that were environmentally sound and ecologically desirable vehicles. Notice the words good or even nice looking, stylish and luxury were not part of the marketing sales vocabulary. For most brands (there were exceptions) like the owners hybrids, did not produce a satisfactory ROI and sales were, at best, bleak.

Until now!

The resurgent, ambitious and aggressive Lincoln brand is starting its rise as a Phoenix with their new 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid. This is big step forward from Lincoln in a hybrid front wheel drive sedan (yeah!) that is ecologically and environmentally sound, has outstanding mpg ratings of 41 city/36 hwy and is fun to drive. But that’s not all.

The MKZ, befitting the Lincoln heritage and DNA is a luxury hybrid with all accoutrements, amenities and ambiance that term implies. For daily drivers the Spartan interiors of most hybrids are just too utilitarian simple. Lincoln has added the essential ingredients of comfort, amazing technology and high quality interior fit and finish. And isn’t that nice.

MKZ Exterior Styling and Design – the lines of the MKZ are stylish, simple and smart, not trendy or trend-setting which translates to – in these times -- not being ostentatious and evidencing good taste. Think urbane. Lincoln’s new grill is – well -- a grill that could use a dash of Tabasco to lessen the blandness and send a message to oncoming cars: this is a Lincoln!

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MKZ Hybrid Power – to some the phrase ‘hybrid power’ is an oxymoron, but this does not apply to the MKZ. Fuel economy can come without sacrificing power. The 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid uses Ford’s second-generation hybrid technology – the 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle I-4 hybrid engine, named one of Ward’s 2010 10 Best Engines. The system combines the best attributes of the gasoline engine and electric battery-driven motors to deliver optimal performance, fuel economy and produces best-in-class 191 net horsepower. Plus, the pure electric mode on the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid extends to 47 mph – compared with the Lexus HS 250h battery-only mode, which reaches just 25 mph.

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MKZ Interior Design & Comfort – the spacious interior is nicely fitted with the usual materials signifying quality, wood and leather accented with metal and plastics to create a comfortable, pleasant ambiance. Back seat space is typical of the entry level premium category – it’s tight to really tight depending on one’s height.
  • 10-way power passenger seat – the seat is designed to accommodate a diverse group of passengers. Memory functions enable passengers to fine-tune and recall positions.
  • Power driver memory seat settings – the driver seat memory feature helps ensure personal seating preferences anytime, with the touch of a button.
  • Heated and cooled front seats – great in winter, wonderful in summer.
  • Genuine wood trim – I do not like highly polished wood in any car, it reminds me of plastic kitchen table tops. That noted Lincoln notes the Swirl Walnut and Olive Ash wood trims offered in the MKZ Hybrid are eco-friendly. The veneers come from well-managed forests, as defined by strict environmental, social and economic standards, and from other rigorously controlled sources.
  • Reverse Sensing System – This system senses what drivers might not see behind them and relays an audible alert if objects are near, which increases in frequency the closer a driver gets.
  • Keyless entry keypad – This Lincoln-exclusive feature provides secure entry at a driver’s fingertips. A personal combination holds a memory for driver preferences. So if an owner is out for a run and doesn’t want to take the keys along, the vehicle can be opened with the touch of a few buttons.
  • Capless fuel filler - This Lincoln-exclusive feature uses an integrated spring-loaded flapper door to eliminate the need for a fuel tank screw cap. That means no more fumbling to remove and tighten the cap and less fuel odor on a driver’s hands or gloves in winter.
  • MyKey® – This Lincoln-exclusive feature allows parents to program a key to limit speed and audio volume to encourage teens to drive safer and improve fuel efficiency. It also encourages seat belt use, provides earlier low-fuel warnings, and can be programmed to sound chimes at 45, 55 and 65 mph.
  • Integrated spotter mirrors – traditional sideview mirrors are designed with a secondary convex spotter mirror in the top outer corner, which provides a view of the driver’s blind spot.
  • Acoustic laminated windshield – This windshield features a layer of sound-absorbent vinyl sandwiched between two sheets of glass, which enhances interior quietness.

MKZ Techno Features – the new sedan has many standard features and technologies that other brands have as options. There’s an outstanding infotainment-navigation system and special hybrid, fuel economy, driving information on the dash board.

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    SmartGauge with EcoGuide
    –interactive technology provides real-time information to help drivers maximize fuel efficiency, and coaches drivers on how to optimize hybrid performance. SmartGauge delivers positive feedback on long-term fuel efficiency and driving performance through the growth of virtual small flowers on the system’s right-most screen. Lincoln’s white flowers, inspired by apple blossoms, remain permanently unless long-term fuel economy is reset. By the time the driver earns all five full flowers, he or she could save almost 200 gallons of gas, two tons of CO2 and $544 compared to a regular gasoline-powered midsize luxury sedan. Figures are based on 9,800 miles of driving.

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    Lincoln SYNC®
    – a Lincoln-exclusive voice-activated communications and entertainment system provides a constant link to contacts and information. The speech recognition software is amazing and adapts quickly to a person’s voice. The screen is large, the graphics and maps are colorful, the voice instructions right-on and timely. Temperature settings can be done with simple voice commands which are a great help. In addition to Bluetooth® phone, audible text and MP3 player capabilities, HD Radio as well as Vehicle Health Report and 911 Assist are part of the system.

MKZ Drivability – the nicest thing about driving the MKZ is the fact it drives and handles like a regular pure gasoline vehicle like most people are accustomed to. The power comes from a 2.5 liter 4-cylinder engine with an additional 40 hp coming from the electric motor. Peak system power is 191 hp and the two power sources can work independently or together through CVT or continuously variable transmission. Don’t expect to hear a change in gearing as the car moves up in speed with a CVT. It may take some a little time to get accustomed to the lack of gear shifts from automatic transmissions. Don’t expect to burn rubber at the stop light, the MKZ starts effortless and smoothly on the electric motor and then shifts almost imperceptibly to the gasoline powered engine. The interior is quiet, very quiet even when driven in rush hour traffic recently in Washington, DC which must have the worst and nosiest traffic in the nation, other than Los Angeles.

MKZ Bottom Line: Say Hello to a Good Buy! The MKZ comes in two flavors -- hybrid and gas models – both are identically priced which represents a very good value with an MSRP of $35,180. Some people just prefer the latter. There’s a 3-year bumper to bumper 36,000 mile warranty and a 5-year 60,000 mile warranty on the powertrain. Hybird specific components are covered by a 8-year or 100,000 miles. .

So if you’re thinking about a luxury hybrid stop by a Lincoln dealer next month and say hello to a good buy that’s good for the environment. You won’t be disappointed.