By on May 28, 2012

“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.

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39 Comments on “Vellum Venom: 2012 Lincoln MKZ...”

  • avatar

    Perhaps it is a good thing that the headlights are not “cutting edge”…I’d imagine keeping the headlights operable in your Mark VIII is a bit of a problem…but I agree, Lincoln needs some direction fast. I had a Mark VII LSC, then they came out with the Mark VIII and then the LS, so I had thought back then that Lincoln was starting to track right. Boy what a disappointment…

    • 0 avatar

      I’ll be making HID adapters to put late model bulbs into the old HID lenses, fingers crossed on that. Aside from that problem and the 10-12 year lifespan of factory air springs, the Mark VIII isn’t very tough to keep alive.

      • 0 avatar

        I had a ’98 LSC and couldn’t figure out an economical solution for bringing the rear neon back to life. You ever have this problem? Curious if a work-around was ever developed.

        Tell you what, with the HIDs up front and neon in the back, the LSC looked awesome at night, like nothing else at the time.

  • avatar

    Lincoln just needs a ground-up new design language – that grill just doesn’t carry over at all, and they should just break with the past and get on to something that actually looks good.

  • avatar

    This review was a waste of time on this hideous designed piece.

  • avatar

    I had to keep reminding myself throughout this entire post that he was NOT talking about the “all new” re-skinned Lincoln Fusion.

    Sadly…the world doesn’t need another “near-luxury” brand with mediocre products that rely on gimmicks and no substance to sell cars.

    And seeing as the new Lincoln Fusion pretty much follows the same failed path as the past models, I think Lincoln is in yet more trouble. Hell, just look at the MKFusion…Ford came out with it as the Zephyr, then in a weak attempt to boost sales, they played the alphabet soup game with the name and found three unrelated letters they thought would make it modern and fresh. Then 3 years later (2010), the gave it a horrid redesign like we see above, and now, three years later, we have another rebadge. Ford did that with the failed D3 platform too. With Mulally and Co at the wheel, I don’t see any Ford being successful anymore. They even screwed up the Mustang!

    And Sajeev, I’d like to hear your thoughts on the redesigned Lincoln emblem debuting on the 2013 Lincoln Fusion

  • avatar
    Sgt Beavis

    That car is just sickening to me, just like Lincoln as a whole. It is sad when the more expensive car makes it’s cheaper rebadged cousin look bad.

    However, I will say that the 2013 MKZ looks to be a huge improvement. I hope, for Lincoln’s sake, that it is…

  • avatar

    What’s kind of a shame is that the MKZ is actually a pretty good car, considered on it’s own functional merits. I got some time in a hybrid recently and it’s a real pity that Lincoln can’t seem to get it’s shit together, because it’s a better (holistically, fundamental) car than the ES or TL. You’re right that it’s all about (not) sweating the details.

    It’s certainly better than the Lexus HS, but that’s not exactly a sales target to, um, target.

    It’s also interesting that, design-fail aside, the hood-grille meetup is much better than the chromestache on the E90 or the plastic overbite on the F30.

  • avatar

    I can’t think of the best way to phrase this right now, but in essence:

    LS so, so good.

    MKZ bad.

    Lincoln should feel bad.

    • 0 avatar

      the lincoln LS is still one of my favorite late model designs. absolutely blows my mind that they didn’t grow that design language to the rest of the lineup. fantastic platform beneath it too, a real shame that the LS was the only lincoln to ride on it.

  • avatar

    This poor design suffers from Sebring-itis: a decent overall shape that suffers mightily from overwrought, oversized details. That nasty front end design puts me in mind of a late ’70s Oldsmobile. Eerily enough, the Lincoln star is not dissimilar to the rocket emblem used by Olds at the time.

    Unfortunately, for me, the ’13 MKZ doesn’t improve much design-wise except for the fact Ford budgeted enough money to allow the chrome trim to travel all the way around the side windows. Today’s crash impact standards have reeked havoc on the style of the nose and tails of new cars. More bulbous and ungainly than anything from the ’70s crash bumper era.

    Too bad, Lincoln.

  • avatar

    From a straight on rear view, the tailights and the angled shape in the bumper fascia remind me of the robot “Maximillian” from the movie “The Black Hole”.

  • avatar
    Vance Torino

    Like the ghost of Hamlet’s father, the noble 2002 Continental Concept haunts from the shadows, reproving the dithering of its conflicted heirs…

    The JOB that needs to be done, but is not…

    Until all the flawed characters that followed are dead in a pool of blood [or red ink].

    • 0 avatar

      I just had a look at a photo of the 2002 concept car, and the tail is the part that most resembles the current MKZ – with the very long taillights and the Continental star emblem in the narrowish space between them. On older (e.g., 1970s) Continentals and Town Cars, the trunk emblem hid the trunk keyhole, so there was a good excuse for it not to be recessed into the body. It seems to me that it wouldn’t be difficult to engineer a central keyhole covered by a hinged emblem, like those older cars had. Two cars off the same assembly line, in which one trunk lock was centered and the other offset, would presumably incur no great additional cost; the last generation of Chevy Prizm (1998-2003) and its Corolla twin are an example.

      When I was a teenager we owned (and eventually I got to drive) a 1972 Continental 4-door, a former dealer demonstrator, and in those days (and earlier) the trunklid emblem was turned on its side with respect to everywhere else it appeared on the exterior. I always liked that – even though it’s difficult to express why.

  • avatar

    The keypad is so ridiculous. Even on Explorers it’s weird.

    Just so stupid that they’d put that on. As if the keypad would undoubtably convince every paranoid senior to go for the Lincoln.

    • 0 avatar

      I thought that keypad was the silliest thing in the world until I once accidentally locked the keys inside an Expedition equipped with one. Knowing the code and entering it saved me time and the expense that would have been incurred either by a locksmith or breaking into the vehicle. The keypad almost makes sense now.

      • 0 avatar

        I love having the keypad on my Mercury. I rarely use it, but did find a purpose – in the summer, when we go to an amusement park, I lock my keys in the car so there’s no chance of losing them on a ride.

    • 0 avatar

      I was working at Ford when the 1998 Town Car came out and was the first TC without the keypad. What they discovered when the customers all complained about the missing keypad was that many older customers preferred to lock the keys in the car so they wouldn’t get lost.

      Ironically, they also removed the place where these same customers liked to hide their keys: the storage area hidden inside the door mounted armrest.

      • 0 avatar

        My wife (Explorer w/ keypad) liked to take the dog to the grocery store and leave the AC +car running, a thing she cannot do with her Kia Sorento – the car just won’t let her leave the keys in it.

    • 0 avatar

      The 12 | 34 | 56 | 78 thing just looks so cheap (“ghetto” in young parlance) and low rent even on Ford models back in the 80s. Can’t believe they carried it to 2012 on a lux line.

    • 0 avatar

      the keypad is an absolutely fantastic idea, but i have yet to see ford execute it in a way that actually looks “good”. it’s really like they don’t even try.

      • 0 avatar

        It was well-done on the Flex (hidden in the B-pillar using touch-sensitive, lit-up buttons).

        I have no idea what the MKFusion doesn’t use that method.

      • 0 avatar

        didn’t know about that, i had to look that up. VERY nice design and integration! upon further research(30 seconds on google), it appears that the ford taurus and flex, and lincoln MKS and MKT all feature that keypad. maybe they’re just beginning to roll it out and started with those models. that’s the only reasonable explanation i can come up with anyways.

  • avatar

    Gag me with a spoon. Horrible. It’s like putting a $10,000 Armani gown on a $10.00 hooker. She’s still a $10.00 hooker.

  • avatar

    The rear of the Lincoln looks like someone’s fat @ss.

  • avatar

    Plastic triangles are always a bad thing, but somehow on the MKZ, it looks especially bad. Maybe its the fact that this car’s black, but it looks like the metal door frame is painted body color and then butts up to the faux glass shiny black plastic, destroying any illusion that it’s part of the glass house.

  • avatar

    Sigh… Never mind the DLO fail; what’s worse is the Venom fail.

    Sajeev writes: “…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.”

    No, it’s not a Bangle-era BMW it looks like. I’ll explain: Look at that “swoop”. The line continues in an upward-forward diagonal along the front edge of the tail light. Where does it go after that; does it point to, join, or continue as anything else on the car? While you let your subconscious mull on that, consider taillights in general of the last decade or so. I can’t be alone in noticing that on most cars nowadays, the part of the taillights that wraps around onto the side of the car is A) pretty goddamn humongous — especially in relation to ever-shortening trunklids — compared to how they looked in decades past, and B) in the overwhelming majority of cases, longer (or should that perhaps be “wider”?) along the upper edge than the lower, making the forward edge the same upward-forward diagonal as on the MKZ.

    Have you got it yet? If not, just look at a profile photo of pretty much any mid-size sedan built this century, and follow the line of the C pillar: Ever widening at the base, slipping ever more rearward… Continue its line down across the quarter panel, and you have that forward edge of the taillight: It’s pretty much all one straight diagonal from the rear edge of the roof to the upper edge of the rear bumper. Remove the tail light, or just put the car in front of something where the tail light blends in, a red brick building or whatever, and you’ll see the reigning design archetype for car rear-ends of the twenty-first century: The second-generation Cadillac Seville!

    And if the trunklid happens to be in a contrasting colour or just large enough to be well visible here, floating above the “negative space” of a less-distinctive taillight, it gets even worse — then it becomes a Seville that is accidentally (r)aping a first-generation Porsche Turbo, with the trunklid looking like a gigantic whale-tail rear spoiler.

    For which IMO, as you may have gathered by now, NO design team in the world deserves the least bit of kudos. On the contrary, this is what really deserves some venom here: Everything from Corollas and Camrys to Cadillacs (OK, they might of course be excused?) and Citroens is a fricking Seville nowadays. How the heck can you have written, what, a dozen-and-a-half of these articles now, and never pointed out this horror?

    • 0 avatar

      Here are just a few examples of what I mean:

      Cadillac CTS: (like I said, it might be the only brand that is allowed to do this, being the guys who originally came up with the Seville and all)
      Chevrolet Cruze:
      BMW 3-series old:
      …and new:
      (in silver too):×337.jpg
      5-series new:×412.jpg
      (and in blue):
      …and old:
      and doesn’t even the 1-series have it?: (though admittedly this colour hides it rather well)
      I don’t even know what this is; a Huyndai or Nissan or some such?:
      Same with this:
      Infiniti G37x:
      Chrysler Sebring:
      Subaru Legacy:
      Lexus GS 350:
      and again:
      and the 350 F:×412.jpg
      Acura TL:
      Chevrolet Sonic:
      Buick LaCrosse:
      Buick Regal:
      …out in the woods:
      Buick Verano:
      …in the same woods?:
      Suzuki Kizashi:
      …filling up:
      Saturn Aura:
      Kia Rio:
      Honda Civic:

      An older TTAC pic of the MKZ:
      …and another one:

      And the really weird ones, where the taillight contour points well _in front_ of the C pillar:
      Nissan Altima:
      and Ford Focus:
      One can’t help but wonder what’ll be the next step in this evolution… The only logical continuation of the current trend that I can see, would be taillights extending onto the rear side doors.

      • 0 avatar

        That’s fascinating! I never considered the Bustle Back correlation, perhaps I am too literal of a car design critic.

        But if you’re expecting a Lincoln-Mercury fanboi with a 1983 Continental in the garage to dislike that sort of rump homage, well, I don’t think I will. It’s not a “horror”, it’s kind of the opposite.

        That said, my “kudos” was pretty half hearted. Overall, this is a terrible, terrible design.

  • avatar

    i gotta disagree with most of this. while it’s not a “great” looking car – find it hard to even call it “good” looking – it’s certainly handsome. i must be in a very small minority, as i’ve always liked the grille on this current generation of lincoln mobiles. loved it on the MKT even! on the other hand, i think the original fusion was just “O-K”, the facelift fusion was pretty damn ugly(a chrome uni-brow, really???), and the mercury milan merely “nice” but 100% forgettable.
    the door handles look great on the MKZ, regardless of whether or not they’re found on another FoMoCo vehicle. it could definitely do without the hand indent though.
    i don’t understand how the fogs are outdated, the lamp is so plain that i couldn’t “date it”(style-wise) if i wanted to. in the end, the design essentially hides them from the eye with the body color around them(or it could just be that this is a black car), so it really doesn’t matter.
    front quarter panel aside, i like the emblems as well. they look appropriate for the design features(BIG).
    and i gotta disagree on the rear as well, it’s not awful but it’s not “good” IMO! and, as an absolute fanboy of bangle, that is certainly no bangle-butt!!! and don’t get me started on full width or near-full width tail lights – i despise them with a passion!!!
    the other points i agree with, but i would rate the design “better” rather than “worse”.

    now the 2013 is another story. the nose is AWFUL. a lincoln should NOT make me think “japanese” when i see it, and that grille immediately conjures thoughts of a toyota appliance SE. not to mention that its “gills” run horizontally while the “gills” in the ’13 MKT run vertically – WTF?! move down the side of the car, and, although it’s nice looking and detailed, it just screams “LEXUS RIPOFF!!!”
    that car is not a lincoln. it may be a better looking and better overall car than the ’10-’12 MKZ, but it’s less of a lincoln than the ’10-’12.
    half assed lincoln rebadge-a-thon > well done lexus ripoff, for the lincoln brand at least

    BTW, how about an infiniti design review? from a distance, i’ve always found them to be sporty(if not downright aggressive as of late) while maintaining a very classy high end look. never really checked one out up close though.

  • avatar

    Is it possible the designers are literally being told to “screw up” the Lincolns because they want the Ford’s having the edgy looks simply because they have already decided to kill Lincoln and it just hasn’t been announced?

    Think about it, I read years ago Mercury as a brand was purposely neutered to be just a volume brand for extra Ford production/sales from Lincoln dealers. Now Lincoln has become Mercury, just upscale Fords.

  • avatar

    I suppose I must be alone in that I quite like this.

  • avatar

    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?

  • avatar

    “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.

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