Vellum Venom: 2012 Lincoln MKZ

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

“MR2turbo4evr”, today is your lucky day: you suggested that someone would appreciate my critiques on Lincoln products, and maybe you are right. But this self-proclaimed Lincoln-Mercury fanboi was pissed when his favorite version of Ford’s CD3 platform, the Mercury Milan, bit the dust. But I digress: what to do when you are a designer tasked with making every Lincoln look like the MKR concept, even if that ridiculous grille maybe (MAYBE) works on a sedan with Town Car levels of decadent proportioning, and no other Lincoln?

If you worked on the 2010-2012 MKZ, I suspect you bit your tongue, did your job, cashed your paycheck and told your family how much they meant to you. This applies to the MKZ more than the re-skin of the MKS, MKX and the all-new MKT. Or maybe working on such a half-hearted design isn’t so bad for a car designer, because job satisfaction is a relative term. That’s where fanbois who’ve lost their way get lost in their own thoughts.

I admit the 2010 re-skin of the Mazda-Ford-Lincoln MKZ shows better attention to detail than the original, witnessed in the chrome headlight surrounds, lower valence chrome trimming and in a somewhat expensive looking grille texture. But do I care? And should you?


The MKR concept’s grilles harken back to Edsel Ford’s original Lincoln Continental, which was a lovely machine by anyone’s metric. Problem is, the wavy grille has absolutely no business on a modern-day production car with integrated fenders and a boxy, blocky-nosed front fascia. Absolutely none, because you cannot possibly create the surface tension and excitement without Pre-War hood and fenders. It looks half-baked, and even worse from other angles.

I usually adore a harmonious theme with attention to detail, but this time I am wrong. Do not make your grille teeth emulate the shape of your corporate logo’s four-pointed star. This makes the Continental star (yes, Continental) appear lost in this monstrosity of a grille. Which says a lot, since this emblem isn’t exactly small.

Even though these headlights are far from cutting edge, lacking LEDs or some cool plastic design feature to create a beam for the turn signals, I like their clean look. It’s organized and honest. Ditto the chrome trimming, which is very Lincoln-y. Too bad the grille is starting to get looney from this vantage point, and only gets worse the farther you step back.

Yup, it looks silly. The grille is completely out of proportion. How I long for the Mercury Milan! On the plus side, you might spot my daily driver in the background.

Lincoln-Mercury fanbois may be few and far between, but at least we can cry our pathetic hearts out on some respectable machines from yesteryear. My car was recently mistaken for a new Lincoln; the bystander remarked, “I didn’t know they still put the tire hump on new Lincolns!” How disappointed she was when I said my 17-year-old Lincoln is just a footnote in history!

And footnotes are regularly overlooked, as history isn’t as important as brand synergies and sheet metal interchangeability. But you can’t put a 1940 Continental-style grille on a Mazda 6. It’s a fool’s errand: the rest of the body’s hard-edged and blocky lines beg for a Milan waterfall grille or the razor blade treatment of the Fusion.

While this is a pretty design feature, the projector beam fog light looks outdated. Certainly the 2013 replacement shall fare better. But this is proof that the MKZ is aging poorly, and that its replacement can’t come soon enough.

Thanks for telling me this is a “Lincoln”, I thought this was a Ford Fusion. Because I didn’t know what the emblem stood for. Smart ass snark aside, this hub cap would look so much better without the lettering. Luxury cars don’t need to advertise…at least not here.

Nor should they advertise here. Beginning with the Mark LT, Lincoln believes that the road to success is built on bricks of bling. While the fender, door and A-pillar meet in a fairly elegant manner, this fake vent/over promoted ad campaign isn’t working. Thank goodness the 2013 model wisely avoided this cheap mistake.

The wonderful thing about black paint is that it makes everything looks better. The boring side view looks less like a Fusion and more like a nice blank canvas for the chrome bits. The subtle creases down at the rocker panels below are nice enough. The slight bit of tension near the door handles sweeps back to the tail lights in a somewhat elegant manner. But the FWD proportions, high belt line and not-unique chassis hard points are a miserable failure. This is where I go on another rant about badge engineering, Panther Love and how badly this brand has lost its way.

Yeah, yeah, there’s a new 2013 model on its way. But has everyone moved on? Conquest buyers have at least a decade’s worth of bitter taste from mundane and out-of-date Lincolns in their mouths. The ones that are still waiting for a truly good Lincoln…well, they are certainly more patient than yours truly.

Take the keyless entry keypad: originally introduced on the Panther (1980) and Fox body (1982) Lincolns, they were a stunning bit of engineering wrapped in an understated, flush mount aluminum panel against the window. The buttons were clear with black bottom…they were an infinity pool to today’s McMansion of a building on an MKZ’s door. Thank goodness the MKS/MKT kept the keypad dream alive, with a flush mount B-pillar design that pays homage to the 1980 original.

It’s bad enough that Lincoln threw a keypad on a Fusion door, but the chrome Fusion handle and silly round relief do not a luxury car make.

The chrome skullcap on a Fusion mirror is fine…I guess. The big problem is the texture on the plastic base. It looks cheap, which is reinforced if you are foolish enough to drag your fingernail across it. Cheap, cheap, cheap!

And the worst part: DLO FAIL. Plastic triangles on a Lincoln are bad enough, but the chrome trimming on said triangle makes me long for a Lincoln Versailles. That was a horrible re-think of the Lincoln brand, but these days the flaws seem less egregious. A daylight opening is crucial to the image of a premium vehicle, and this is just, well…I don’t want drop any more profanities on TTAC. This Lincoln-Mercury fanboi is just not in the mood, son.

Who in their right mind thought this DLO FAIL was acceptable? Does anyone wonder why Lexus gobbled up Lincoln’s market share?

I once thought that Continental Kits on the backs of Lincolns was more than a bit silly, even though I truly loved them. But, now more than ever, Lincoln needs an authoritative brand statement. Something that’s a brash, proud F.U. to the rest of the motoring world. While Lincoln’s 2013 design language isn’t this shameful, it also lacks that Continental Kit soul. At least in the photos, I guess.

Tall, boxy and clumsy just like any other family sedan. This isn’t a Lincoln, even if the 2010 redesign adds more upscale looking tail lights and a daring swoop between the bumper and the quarter panel. The swoop complements the beginning of the tail light, and cuts down hard enough to make the entire decklid look like a Bangle Butt from the heyday of the infamous Chris Bangle designs at BMW. That bumper might be the most interesting, most appealing part in the MKZ’s portfolio of lines. And for that, kudos to the design team.

Except for the little black plastic triangle of DLO FAIL, this is quite an appealing angle. Too bad the Mercury Milan was much cheaper, had no DLO FAIL and was never too big for its britches. Simply put, FoMoCo killed the wrong vehicle: a $25,000 Lincoln Milan is a far more appealing proposition.

Notice how the Continental star isn’t lost in these tail lights, like it is in the grille. And these lenses aren’t exactly small.

Last week’s Volkswagen CC had a clever trunk trick: that whip hid other design features under a flush-mount vee-dub emblem. The MKZ, on the other hand, places an afterthought camera against an afterthought emblem. But perhaps that remark isn’t clear yet…

Note the thickness of the emblem. Also note how the word “tacky” isn’t out of bounds. Why isn’t this badge countersunk like the tail lights? You already know the answer, and that’s why Lincoln is a brand on life support.

Yup, that’s an afterthought exposed trunk lock on a $35,000 luxury sedan that’s supposed to compete with the Lexus ES. The off-center location and chintzy grommet(?) surround is totally okay on a Ford or Mercury…you know where I’m going with this. One company did a good job up-rating their family sedan into a luxobarge, and another never figured it out. And the sales figures prove it.

On name alone, the MKZ’s death can’t come soon enough. Even if 2013 is a brand new day for Lincoln, this fanboi has a hard time seeing the silver lining in that Lexus ES-shaped thundercloud. I’ll be ready if and when Lincoln joins Mercury in a tragic, star-crossed fate.

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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  • Ponchoman49 Ponchoman49 on May 29, 2012

    It's hardly the worst looking car in it's class. But the overly plain side that looks exactly like a Fusion minus the stupid triangle is a massive fail and the over sized over wrought grille doesn't work here. It's pretty sad when a car from 7 years ago (the LS) look and drives better than your latest offerings. But then again styling on many cars/Suvs has been in the dumpster for many years. This notion that everything needs to look like a plain austere jellybean with mail slot windows, gigantic over wrought grilles and colorless black/gray/tan interiors is really getting tired and sad. Is it no wonder few today get excited about cars in this younger generation?

  • Dolorean Dolorean on Jun 27, 2012

    "Lincoln-Mercury fanbois may be few and far between, but at least we can cry our pathetic hearts out on some respectable machines from yesteryear. My car was recently mistaken for a new Lincoln; the bystander remarked, “I didn’t know they still put the tire hump on new Lincolns!“ How disappointed she was when I said my 17-year-old Lincoln is just a footnote in history!" I find this paragraph very interesting as you cite exceedingly how little the MKZ differentiates itself from its lowly Fusion underpinings and yet, your daily whip is a '95 Lincoln Mark VIII? Which barely pushes itself away from Thunderchicken territory and has the same '79 Fairmont platform shared with my '95 Ford Mustang Cobra, but with a four speed auto and four hundred pounds extra weight in, um, bling. As well the 'spare tire hump', a classic throwback to Continentals of yore when to save trunk space, you hung it on the trunk lid like a Model T, excepting in '95, a hopeless affectation. However, it did lead the way with the first use of the modular 4.6L and first in country use of HID headlights. The MKZ may not seem too special now and yes, there are obvious signs of cost cutting made, but it may in 17 years surprise.

  • Lou_BC Question of the day: Anyone actually care to own an old TVR?
  • Bd2 First, this was totally predictable. 2nd, Genesis already does have hybrids in the form of a 48V mild hybrid, but more performance oriented (supercharged and turbocharged), so not really helping with regard to fuel consumption. 3rd, Hyundai's hybrid systems don't really help as there currently isn't one that would be suitable power-wise and the upcoming 2.5T hybrid system would have to be heavily reworked to accommodate a RWD/longitudinal layout. 4th, it seems that Genesis is opting to go the EREV route with the GV70 the first get the new powertrain.
  • Bd2 Jaguar's problem was chasing the Germans into the mid size and then entry-level/compact segments for volume, and cheapening their interiors while at it.
  • 3-On-The-Tree Aja8888 I expected that issue with my F150 starting at 52,000mi. luckily I had an extended warranty and it saved me almost $8,000. No more Fords for me, only Toyota.
  • Lou_BC I saw a news article on this got a different read on it. Ford wants to increase production of HD trucks AND develop hybrid and EV variants of the SuperDuty. They aren't scaling back EV production. Just building more HD's and EV variants of HD's .
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