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2015 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid Review by Carey Russ +VIDEO


2015 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid Review (select to view enlarged photo)
2015 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid

Combining luxury style and comfort with fine fuel economy

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS

      • SEE ALSO: Lincoln Buyers Guide


When you think of a mid-sized luxury hybrid sedan, Lincoln may not be the first name to come to mind. But Lincoln does have a mid-sized luxury hybrid in the form of its MKZ Hybrid, and it is a stylish, comfortable, and economical entry-luxury sedan.

2015 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid Review (select to view enlarged photo)
2015 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid

The MKZ Hybrid offers sleek looks, all of the expected contemporary luxury accoutrements either standard or available, the interior comfort and experience necessary for consideration in the class, and 40-mpg fuel economy. No, this is not your late uncle's 1970s Lincoln Continental with a 460-cubic inch (7.5-liter in metric terms) V8, and yes the MKZ is much smaller than that behemoth, although I suspect there is not all that all that much less interior space as space efficiency was never a strong point with American luxury cars of that era. A frequent criticism of Lincoln is that its cars are merely re-badged Fords. Um, that same criticism could be leveled at Cadillac, Lexus, Acura, Infiniti, and even Audi, especially for their entry-luxury vehicles. In the past, the method was often little more than a different grille and fancier interior, a practice known as badge engineering. That term is not a compliment… Today, the game is "platform-sharing", meaning sharing underlying structural and suspension bits and engines, but with distinctive exterior and interior styling. Economy of scale is the operative consideration here -- use what you have, don't un-necessarily reinvent it. Yes, the MKZ is based on the Ford Fusion platform. But while the 2006 Lincoln Zephyr sure did look like a then-current Fusion with a Lincoln grille, this MKZ shares little if any styling with today's Fusion. And yes, the MKZ Hybrid's drivetrain is the same as is found in the Fusion Hybrid. Economy of scale, and that is reflected in the MKZ Hybrid's base MSRP of (at the time of this writing) $ 35,190.

Which is the same as that of the regular, non-hybrid, MKZ. So there is no premium charge for the hybrid.

With a system maximum of 188 horsepower and a 3800-pound curb weight, the MKZ hybrid is at a performance disadvantage compared to the 2.0-liter EcoBoost version's 240 hp and 3700 pounds or the 3.7-liter V6's 300 hp and 3800+ pounds. Until you consider fuel economy. The MKZ EcoBoost is rated at 26 mpg overall by the EPA, with the V6 at 22. The 40 mpg I saw during my time with the Hybrid surprisingly is also its EPA overall rating. Yes, acceleration is more leisurely, but it still had no problem keeping up with traffic. And as it runs in EV mode under light throttle conditions at speeds up to 85 mph it can be remarkably smooth and quiet. Performance advantage or disadvantage depends on how you define performance…




Full disclosure time: my test car was a 2014 model with well over 13,000 miles on the odometer. I applaud Lincoln for that -- usually press fleet cars get pulled with far less than 10,000 miles. And one press fleet mile is generally worth more than one private-owner mile. Maybe only taxicabs lead a harder life. This one was still solid and quiet, with no squeaks or rattles or loose fittings. If not brand-new, it still had plenty of life in it. Differences between 2014 and 2015? Functionally, none. Powertrain and suspension are identical. Standard and optional equipment specifications have been rearranged a bit, nothing unusual there. And, best, the price dropped partway through 2014 and remains unchanged as of this writing.

APPEARANCE: Lincoln has developed a design language that incorporates motifs from its past with current trends. The "wings" grille, the most apparent feature, develops a theme first seen on the late-1930s Zephyr, but there is no nostalgia in the MKZ's styling. It's elegantly contemporary, with flowing expanses of sheetmetal offset by carefully-placed character lines. Although it has a now-conventional transverse front-engine, front-wheel drive chassis layout, the hood is still relatively longer than the rear deck, and a highly-raked windshield and near-fastback roof line give an almost coupelike look. Strong shoulder lines give an athletic stance. Both head- and tail-lights are LED, with the full-width rear lights another nod to Lincoln's stylistic history. A black-painted area at the base of the rear window adds to the fastback look without allowing more light to bake rear passengers.

COMFORT: Style, convenience, function, and comfort are all expected. And all are to be found in the MKZ Hybrid, especially in premium "Hybrid Reserve" trim. Which means leather seating, fronts heated and cooled, outboard rear heated, a heated steering wheel with power adjustment and controls for audio, information, cruise, phone, and other systems, plus pretty much every contemporary luxury convenience. Function and comfort are not sacrificed to fashion -- the programmable LCD instrument display is relatively simple to use as such things go, and shows all necessary information and then some. Seat comfort is very good, and no complaints from rear passengers, either. Anything that can be power-adjustable is, and LED puddle lamps in the bottoms of the outside mirrors add convenience and safety at night. Phone, audio, navigation, climate, and information systems are operated through the touchscreen on the center stack, with further control via touch-sensitive sliders below that.

As with any electronic device, there is a learning curve. The strangest interior feature is next to the screen -- buttons marked (top to bottom) P, R, N, D, L. Oh… that's why there is no shift lever on the console, just cupholders and storage. Given that the CVT controlling the powertrain is not amenable to manual shifting, it's a good solution, even if parking valets may be surprised at first. The rear seat is spacious for the MKZ's size, and outboard passengers get first-class accommodation. A center console/armrest with a ski-passthrough behind is typical in luxury sedans. The 60/40 split-folding seatback is not, nor is it usual in a hybrid. Kudos to Lincoln for providing some utility -- this is entry-luxury, after all. Customers are not likely to have staff to send things ahead to the summer house. Trunk capacity is compromised by the lithium-ion traction battery, as is the (nonexistent) spare tire.

SAFETY: Sturdy construction, a full complement of airbags, four-wheel antilock disc brakes assisted by regenerative braking, the Personal Safety System™, the SOS Post-Crash Alert System™, a rear-view camera, a tire-pressure monitoring system, and a perimeter antitheft alarm are some of the MKZ Hybrid's standard safety systems. Most high-tech safety-enhancement systems, including blind-spot and lane-departure warning systems, are optionally available.

RIDE AND HANDLING: On the road, the MKZ Hybrid will never be mistaken for a 70s behemoth Continental. That is a very good thing… It feels like a modern international luxury sedan, with a fully-independent MacPherson strut / multilink suspension that is tuned moderately softly for comfort, but correctly-damped so there is none of the wallowing and swaying that was part of the American luxury car experience in the bad old days. The electrically-assisted steering is on the light side, but that is as expected for a front-wheel drive luxury car. The MKZ Hybrid is quiet and smooth, and, with a possible 500-mile range, comfortable enough to drive that distance.

PERFORMANCE: This is not the "Hot Rod Lincoln" of rock and roll fame, but it was never meant to be. That said, the MKZ Hybrid has no difficulty in traffic. With a system maximum of 188 horsepower, acceleration is adequate rather than blistering -- 0-60 in around 9.5 seconds. Performance in the hybrid realm is more about fuel economy than speed and acceleration, and here there are significant advantages. On short trips, when the car may not have warmed up fully, I got between 32 and 36 mpg. Not bad, especially considering the MKZ's size, but hardly the advertised 41 city, 39 highway. A longer journey, with a combination of city, highway, and commute traffic driving, saw a solid 40 mpg. An often-overlooked advantage of a hybrid is regenerative braking, in which magnetic drag from the traction motor being used as a generator helps slow the vehicle in a manner similar to compression braking in internal combustion engine long ago. Here, it is integrated into the braking system, and the brakes work very well indeed. The powertrain is identical to that of the Ford Fusion Hybrid, a full series-parallel system comprised of a 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder gasoline engine (maxima of 141 hp at 6000 rpm and 129 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm) and an AC synchronous motor-generator (118 hp and 177 lb-ft maxima) matched to a CVT. Electric motors make maximum torque as soon as they start to turn, so that 177 lb-ft is nice and noticeable when needed. Throttle response is linear and without looking at the power diagram on the information screen it can be hard to tell what is actually moving the car. Appropriately for a luxury car, it's smooth and usually silent, with engine noise really only noticeable under full throttle.

CONCLUSIONS: The 2015 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid combines luxury style and comfort with fine fuel economy.




SPECIFICATIONS

2015 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid

Base Price $ 35,190

Price As Tested $ 42,200

Engine Type Atkinson cycle DOHC aluminum alloy 16 valve 4-cylinder with variable phasing on intake camshaft

Engine Size 2.0 liters / 122 cu. in.

Horsepower 141 @ 6000 rpm

Torque (lb-ft) 129 @ 4000 rpm

Electric traction motor permanent-magnet AC synchronous

Horsepower 118 (88kW)

Torque 177 lb-ft

Battery 1.5kwH Li-ion 35kW max power

Maximum system horsepower 188

Transmission CVT

Wheelbase / Length 112.2 in. / 194.1 in.

Curb Weight 3792 lbs.

Pounds Per Horsepower 20.2

Fuel Capacity 13.5 gal.

Fuel Requirement 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline

Tires P245/45R18

Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, plus regenerative braking

Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / independent multilink

Drivetrain transverse front engine and motor, front-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 41 / 39 / 40

0 to 60 mph 9.5 sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES

White Platinum Paint $ 695

Hybrid Reserve Group $ 4,420

19-inch Alloy Wheels $ 750

Rear Inflatable Seat Belts $ 250

Destination Charge $ 895