We’ll make this short and simple. Derek Kreindler’s forthright review of the new Lincoln MKZ was posted a month and three days ago. Immediately after the review went live, Derek’s next press loaner from Ford was canceled with no reason given. All further requests for Ford press loaners in Canada have been denied. On August 6th, I sent an email to Ford’s head of PR in Canada.
“Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.” – Henry Ford
Anyone who aspires to review cars should give Mary Walton’s “Car: A Drama of the American Workplace” a careful examination. In 392 pages, Walton introduces us to the men and women who went through the gruelling task of designing, engineering and planning DN101, the second-generation Ford Taurus that was meant to dethrone the Toyota Camry once and for all from its spot as America’s favorite car. Only the hardest of hearts would fail to identify with the Ford staffers who spent billions of dollars and countless hours slaving away at a project that ultimately flopped in the marketplace. I know it gave me pause for a long time when it came time to review a car. I began to second guess whether it was right to harp on some poorly fitting trim or wonky steering feel or a carried-over powertrain. Surely, someone wanted to do better, but budget constraints, infighting or other external factors must have conspired to taint their platonic ideal of an automobile.
And then I spoke to someone who worked at Ford and told me the story of their mother’s car shopping experience. “I went to the Lincoln dealer with her to look at a new MKZ,” he told me. “I was there, wearing my Ford jacket, picking the car apart on the showroom floor, cussing and spitting tobacco into a cup. There was flash (extra plastic that hasn’t been filed away) on the fascia. The fit was poor. My mom ended up buying a Lexus.”
Suddenly I didn’t feel so bad anymore.
Fifty feet away and I was already furious. The oh-so-chipper Enterprise rep was leading us towards a Ford Fusion — and that is not a full-sized car in the Enterprise universe. Fusions are mid-sized. I’d specifically booked a full-sizer for this trip around Utah and Idaho. My hope was to receive an Impala, thus benefiting from the legendary 3.9V6 fuel economy and Fender-Twin-Reverb-combo-amp trunk space. This was injury added to insult. We’d waited forty-five minutes at the rental counter as a succession of elderly Mormons returning to SLC for “Pioneer Day” had asked detailed questions regarding the rental insurance, the fill-up policy, and the best place to eat near Temple Square… and now, although the parking garage was quite dark, I could plainly see the Fusion’s distinctive C-pillar ahead.
“Listen, miss,” I began, realizing that I sounded exactly like the kind of fussy old jerk I’ve spent my life avoiding and/or despising, “we requested a full-sized car, and this…”
“…is a luxury car,” she said, “I’m so sorry, we are out of full-sized cars, and I thought you would take a luxury car.” That’s when I saw the Continental star on the fender. No, the MKZ isn’t exactly a Fusion, but is it really a luxury car?
A different driving experience is worth a few points in my book. A vehicle can be flawed, even seriously flawed, but if it provides a unique experience I personally find it more appealing than a technically superior but emotionally vacant appliance. With this in mind, and a Lexus LX 570 my ride for the week, I decided to have one last fling with a pair of dinosaurs, the Lincoln Navigator and Cadillac Escalade. Few vehicles are more out of step with the current market. Today, the Lincoln.
The Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX have been sales successes despite lukewarm, at best, reviews. Apparently they provide what the typical crossover buyer wants. For 2011 they’ve received revised exteriors and thoroughly reworked interiors. Intrigued by the new MyFord/MyLincoln Touch user interface, I requested one for a week, and received the MKX. So, what’s the future like?
Ten years ago I would never have considered comparing a Lincoln to a Lexus, but times change and with Lincoln heading up market with their latest product refreshes and Lexus searching for their soul in the mass market, the stars have finally aligned. And nothing out of Detroit strikes so closely the heart of the Japanese competition as the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid. After all, reliable entry-level luxury and hybrid tech are two things the Japanese mastered long before anyone else. Is it possible for an American company to beat Lexus at their own game?
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Kudos to Baruth for having the stones to (re)join the Mehtas and countless other Pro-Panther families at the dark side: no small feat considering he’s a famous Audi/Porker racer extraordinare. Which points to a universal fact: it’s okay for car people to love the American Land Yacht, even if modern-day Detroit hopes we’d forget about the past. To that effect, check out two Lincoln Town Cars that often grace my driveway.
I’m going down to Memphis
Where they really playin’ the blues
I’m going down on Beale Street
And have a good time like I choose
“Thank you for coming to Budget. I have you booked for a Kia Optima.”
“The hell you do.”
“That is a full-size car as you requested.”
“Well, in that case, I want something that is not a full-size car.” And that is how I came to be rolling through the proverbial Dirty South in a 2100-mile, 2010-model-year Town Car. Yes, they still make ‘em. The current lineup has been rationalized to Signature Limited (117-inch wheelbase) and Signature L (123-inch). There’s absolutely no reason of which I can think to take the SWB car, but that’s what the rental fleets have, and it’s what you can easily buy off-lease. I’ve found plenty of essentially identical two-year-old SigLims for under $20K, so this car is not only a direct used-price competitor for the 2009 Sable I reviewed previously, it’s also in the same ballpark as… a Kia Optima.
The logic behind the Lincoln MKZ is clear enough: if Toyota can get away with making a Lexus out of a Camry, why can’t Ford do the same with a Fusion? The ES 350 is arguably convincing as a Lexus (I’d argue pro, if not with much vigor, while there’s no shortage of people who’d take the other side). But does the MKZ make for a convincing Lincoln?