Øyvind Birkeland is a Mechanical Engineer from Norway who works with developing internal combustion engines. A lifelong car enthusiast, he owns a 1961 Ford Anglia which has been sitting in a barn for 20 years. Mr. Brikeland is a Panther Lover, having owned a 1997 Crown Victoria LX in the past. After reading the recent review of the MKZ here on TTAC and hearing about the fallout, he contacted us to offer his thoughts regarding the car — JB
This summer my girlfriend and I decided to do a road trip across the US from LA to Miami. Like many Europeans we have been thinking and dreaming about doing something like this for a while, so this year we decided to do it. We booked a flight to LA and a return ticket from Miami 23 days later. A lifelong car enthusiast, the biggest job for me during the preparation for this trip was to find the right car. I was seriously considering buying back my ’97 Crown Vic LX which I had owned while living in San Diego and using it for the trip, but I didn’t know what shape it was in and I deemed it too risky. We decided to get a rental instead. It was imperative for me to have an American car; coming back home to Europe and telling people I did a 4000 mile Trans-American road trip in a Kia would be an embarrassment I would not have been able to live with. Luckily National provides a rental class which only includes Cadillacs and Lincolns. We booked it without knowing which model we were going to get.
Arriving at LAX the excitement of getting to explore the parking lot’s LCAR section was pretty intense. To my absolute joy there were several 2013 MKZs waiting for us to choose from. I have really liked the design of this car after seeing the Super Bowl commercial and it was my absolute favorite of National’s LCAR fleet. This was also before Kreindler’s infamous slaughter of the car, so I was in bliss. We immediately grabbed a black 3.7. Except for the large engine, the car was in its absolute base configuration which means a MRSP of just over $37k. However, basic configuration in the MKZ includes the CCD suspension, Active Noise Control, paddle shifters, a nice stereo with Sirius XM and leather seats. I was satisfied. I think a similarly equipped BMW 330i would cost somewhere around $11k more, so my first impression was that you’ll get good value for your money with the MKZ.
It had been a while since I drove a car with an automatic, but it did feel nice to just press D on the dash and cruise around LA in this absolutely gorgeous car. I put the suspension in comfort mode which provides a very smooth ride. Combined with the Active Noise Control, cruising on both city streets and highway roads was more comfortable than in any other car I have driven to date. German cars in the same price segment do not perform as well at this as the MKZ in my opinion.
As the picture shows we went for a drive up the winding roads of Mulholland drive. With S-mode activated the car changes character. The steering and dynamic suspension firms up and invites you to utilize all 300 hp from the V6. The active noise control does not mute the engine growl, which sounds pretty good for a midsize family sedan. However the transmission leaves a lot to be desired. It is a traditional automatic with a torque converter and it feels slushy even with the flappy paddle override activated. It is no problem keeping it in gear until the redline, but gear changes are slow and uninspiring. With such a nice engine and suspension system, the only right thing to do would be to give it a great twin-clutched fast shifting box. However, I don’t know if Ford currently has one that would do this car justice, and as Americans don’t buy stick shifts the 6F-50 was the only transmission left in their parts bin. Annoyingly, Lincoln has built in a “safety” feature into the electronics of this transmission which can infuriate the calmest of men: if you for some reason should open the driver’s door while backing up, the transmission throws itself into Park, kamikaze style. As rearward visibility in the MKZ is very bad, this “safety feature” can be very annoying when trying to figure out how far you are from the curb or another car while backing into a parking space. The lag between pushing the button and the car shifting back to R is also too long, adding to the irritation.
When we are talking about annoying things about the MKZ, it makes me want to ask Ford a serious question: Who was the genius who decided to put highly reflective chrome rings around the buttons on the steering wheel? In the afternoon when the sun is low the light hits them through the window and for some magic reason the sun’s rays always end up in the middle of the drivers eyeballs, making you want to rip the trim right off the steering wheel. And in the unlikely situation that the chrome rings are not in a position to blind you, you can be sure the big Lincoln cross in the middle of the steering wheel is. So while it surely is way too dangerous to back up at 3 mph into a parking space with the door halfway open, driving though 85 mph traffic in Texas completely blinded by the sun is not a problem according to the Lincoln engineers. Adding to the frustration the buttons on the steering wheel are unresponsive and requires to be pushed in much longer than what you assume.
However, I am not going to turn this into another MKZ-slaughter today. I do like the car a whole lot, so let me continue with some good sides again. On the outside, best side of the car is arguably the ass-side of it. In my opinion it looks pretty distinguishable, which is something I would imagine the car designers try to accomplish. The MKS is a good example of the opposite. However, distinguishable design does not always mean good design. In the MKZ’s case I believe the designers nailed it pretty well. Design wise it has differentiated itself a lot more from the Fusion than the CD3 did, even though I might like the Fusion better at least from the side view. I would imagine that it’s important for the average Lincoln buyer that people doesn’t confuse it with a Fusion. I am looking forward to seeing similar design cues on the next models. I also like the fact that Lincoln has not been tempted to use retro styling on it. Cadillac also refrained from using any type of retro styling on the CTS and it worked out pretty well at first. Nobody in their right mind would choose a 2012 MKZ over a 2012 CTS based only on design. Next year the table might have turned. The MKZ has gone from meh to wow, while the CTS has gone from cool to bloated. But then there is the situation regarding FWD/RWD. Let’s not get into that discussion.
On the inside, the MKZ has been transformed from something extremely boring and ’90s looking to something that is innovative, practical and very good looking. Why any car maker that offers a car without a manual option insists on wasting perfectly good center console area on a pointless knob is beyond my comprehension. When Lincoln instead put the gear selection up on the dash it freed up space to make a very good looking dash/center console unit. There are two open shelves in the center console that is convenient for putting your phone, wallet, Snus or whatever you might carry in your pockets. On top there are some nicely hidden cup holders and ash tray/12V socket, and RCA connectors, SD-slot and two USB ports in the arm rest. There is however a serious problem with the dash and integrated touch screen, and it is called “fingerprints”. After only a day it starts to look very smudgy. This again leads to difficulties reading the information on the slow operating infotainment MySyncing Lincoln Touchness screen or whatever they call it. And why do automakers nowadays think it’s a good idea making touch screens and buttons that it is impossible to operate without actually taking your eyes off the road? What is the problem with buttons that you can feel with your fingers without looking at them? I guess they forgot how to make good looking buttons (if they ever really knew how to do it. I don’t know the answer to that one).
Everybody is complaining about badge engineering this and not a real Lincoln that, right? But then the concept of kit architecture and platform sharing is hailed as the only way to be able to survive in the future of the car industry. So where does the border go between badge engineering and platform sharing? My Skoda Superb is built on the same B5 platform as the Audi A4 but it doesn’t give me much premium car love from my non-engineer friends. Yet when I have to change any mechanical parts on it I always notice that they all have four rings stamped on them. Like the old Superb, the MKZ is built on a very good platform that is well regarded by auto journalists and car buyers alike. Lincoln’s problem however is that the Fusion got the CD4 first. VAG always gives Audi the new things first and then adopts it to VW and then to Seat and Skoda. If Ford did it the same way, giving Lincoln the new stuff first and then passing it down to Ford afterwards, maybe the situation would have been different and the accusations of badly performed Badge Engineering would calm down a bit.
We drove the car 4000 miles through nine states and it was a fantastic trip. The combination of very comfortable front seats, a good looking and quiet interior, adjustable suspension and a great stereo made it a very good highway cruiser. The computer showed 26 MPG for the whole 4000 miles. I am used to getting MPG in the low ‘40s in my diesel Superb, so I wasn’t impressed. But then again my Skoda doesn’t have 300 hp. I never really inspected the quality issues like panel gaps and poor finish in the welds on it, but I guess stuff like that would be possible to improve on the production line. If it’s still an issue I hope they will figure out how to fix it soon. My fuel filler door never popped open unexpectedly like it did on Kreindler’s loaner.
So what do you get if you decide to buy an MKZ? Is it just a glorified Fusion with a special grill and no gear knob at a much higher price? I haven’t tried the Fusion, but my initial answer would be no. The ’13 Lincoln is definitely a lot more distinguishable from the Fusion than the previous one was. Whether you like the Fusion’s or the MKZ’s design best, there is no mistaking one for the other anymore. It’s around $6k more expensive than a Fusion Titanium, but for your extra money you do get a V6, the advanced Continuously Controlled Damper system, active noise control and a more luxurious interior. And unlike new Buicks it doesn’t look like a grandfather’s car. I am a 28 year old mechanical engineer and I felt really good driving around in it, better than I would if I was driving a comparable German car. If I should give it a numerical value on a scale of zero to something I would give it an e on a scale from 0 – π.