New or Used: Delusions of the Hot Rod Lincoln Edition
I’m hoping the Best and Brightest (is that trademarked?) can help out on a dilemma I have: to upgrade or trade in.
About a year ago we purchased a certified used 2008 Lincoln MKZ AWD. It was bought to replace a very different car my wife previously drove – a 2004 Mazda RX-8. The Mazda was a blast – but was starting to get unreliable and with a longer commute and New England winters a different car was needed. On paper the Lincoln fit the bill. It checked all the boxes: price, maintenance costs, reliability, and features.
But specs and numbers don’t always translate into the real world and the love of my life is experiencing buyer’s remorse. The car has been reliable and does have many features, but it lacks character and soul. Sure the RX-8’s engine would flood every so often and the heat worked intermittently, but when it was running she loved driving that thing.
Granted the MKZ and the RX-8 are two completely different animals, but is there anything I can do to fix this car up for her? It seems like her biggest gripe is the car’s handling followed by its acceleration. It’s been hard finding tuning support for the MKZ. I’ve done some research and found a company called Steeda Autosports that specializes in Ford Fusion AWD parts that have some interchangeability with the MKZ. (Mostly suspension parts.)
So here are my questions:
Should I upgrade the car for her? And if so with a few thousand dollars could I get it to handle better and a little more power?
Upgrading handling: 1) Should I start with just the springs ($250) or 2) Should I get the full kit: shocks, spring, and sway bars ($650)?
Upgrading the engine: 1) A CAI seems a good place to start – but I can’t find one anywhere.
Or should we trade the car in and get a used 3-series AWD or Lexus IS250 AWD that she liked, but were more expense and had less features. (Though ultimately she probably would have enjoyed driving more.)
No. I wouldn’t spend another penny. You have gone from an all out sports car to two tons of luxury with a moderate sport bent. So give yourself time to adjust in the decompression chamber that is your daily driver. It takes time to sink into the ‘feel’ of any vehicle, and a lot of the mythical personality issues in the beginning go away in due time.
Ford spends an insane amount of money (hundreds of millions) developing the right feel for your car. That’s not saying that your tastes are the same as Ford’s engineers. But throwing money at trying to make the Lincoln into an RX-8 in drag this early in the game would be pointless. If I were you, I would keep everything as it is.
Ever driven a Mazdaspeed6, or just a regular Mazda 6? Did you like it? Then forget what my esteemed colleague says. Steve is no fun at all, because the Lincoln MKZ can mimic its superior Japanese brother for a few bucks from the bank. And provide the mid-luxury appointments never available from Mazda. It’s a win-win, sort of. But don’t take my word for it, because people with Zephyrs already went to Mazda dealers to find the truth.
For handling, do a solid and use the bars from an AWD Speed6 on your MKZ AWD. From that thread, it’s a safe bet that the difference in sizing is a few millimeters, making a significant difference without turning the Lincoln into a crude coil-over hack job. Poke around the Mazda forums, you’ll probably find a Speed6 guy selling his bars in a misguided(?) attempt at faster lap times. Add slightly more aggressive semi-metallic brake pads and see what happens. Then go nuts with Bilstein or Koni struts if you like your progress. And then stop, because you can’t polish a turd.
Now to the powertrain: you need a real tune on the computer. Thanks to a friend of mine who is a whiz with SCT stuff, I found out that the Ford 3.5 responds well to aftermarket re-flashes, mostly from transmission parameters tweaked to speed up down/up shifts. A good tuner takes things like the MAF’s (mass-air flow sensor) transfer function in account: optimizing a car for performance over efficiency, even removing misguided attempts at driver safety (torque management). And you might see 10-20 extra horses too, like a certain somebody saw in a previously discussed Lincoln product. I’m serious, especially if you have 93 octane fuel in your state.
Can you have your cake and eat it too? Nope. But making an MKZ into less of a watered-down Mazda and more of the sporty Lincoln LS V6–it was supposed to replace–is a no brainer, for less than $1000. Anti-swaybars and an SCT computer tune are where you start. If that’s what you really want.
Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to email@example.com, and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.
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