For the longest time, there wasn’t much difference between Lincoln and Ford in the design game, consumers hardly seeing much difference between an MKZ and a Fusion despite the former’s premium price. Ford global design boss Moray Callum is drawing a line in the sand as far as that is concerned.
Long-time followers of my racing adventures, if there are any, will know that my trips to Houston have been less than perfectly satisfying and/or marked by misbehavior. By contrast, my stint behind the wheel of a 944 Turbo in the LeMons Gator-O-Rama was probably my sanest Texas trip in years.
It didn’t hurt that I wasn’t driving a Kia with the bumper ripped halfway off but rather a vehicle that, like David Bowie’s stage outfits, only works in one place, but perfectly so when it is there.
You all know the story by now. Journalist gets Lincoln. Lincoln has some obvious flaws. Journalist says some over the top (but accurate) things about Lincoln. Lincoln gets mad, pulls access. TTAC’s commenters step in to save the day. But the story isn’t over.
The late model Panther cars offer a unique combination of fairly modern driving characteristics and the classic feel of RWD, body-on-frame vehicle. With their longevity and durability, cheap parts and surprisingly frugal 4.6 Modular engine, they are even quite cheap to run. Of course, that’s all true if you believe the hagiography of the Panther so earnestly propagated by this site, and other outlets. But does it have any grounding in reality?
Today marks the day Mark Fields becomes CEO of Ford, taking up where now-former CEO Alan Mullaly leaves off. This day may also mark the day Lincoln begins its slow climb back from the brink, especially when Mullaly once considered killing the brand before Fields became its champion.
The Lincoln division of Ford has replaced former design director Max Wolff with David Woodhouse, the former head of the Blue Oval’s Premier Automotive Group, as part of the premium division’s $1 billion makeover.
Remember when Lincoln had cars with names such as Mark, Continental, Zephyr, Town Car and Versailles? Alas, unless you want to own a body-on-frame SUV from the newly renamed Lincoln Motor Company, your choices begin with MK, and end with a letter that somehow corresponds to the model in question.
Should Ford’s VP of Global Marketing Jim Farley have his way, however — and you happen to also be a resident of China — the next Lincoln to be sold may have a real name upon its backside once more.
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.
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?
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?
If Lincoln were a person, it would have been committed to a psych ward years ago. Battered by corporate politics, economic cycles, and a desire to both retain traditional customers and conquest new ones, the brand has lacked a coherent identity for over a quarter-century. There have been times when each of its models was the product of a different strategy and expressed (or failed to express) a different design language. In the early 2000s Lincoln seemed to finally be getting its shit together, with a brilliant Continental Concept and a common design language applied to all of its 2003 models. Then the wheels came off the wagon—again—and a bankruptcy-skirting Ford had no choice but to cancel the ambitious cars in the PAG pipeline and redo Lincoln on the cheap. Did they spend their pennies well? What is a Lincoln in 2010? There’s no better place to find out than the driver’s seat of the current flagship, the MKS EcoBoost.
The Lincoln MKT is a Looney Tunes cartoon: based on previously made creations, packaged into something unique. While the animated series started from the Warner Brother’s impressive music library, the MKT comes from an old Volvo S80 platform, sharing a motor with the Mazda6. So both creations are downright looney. Which explains the MKT’s krill filtering grille: silly in pictures, insane in natural sunlight where it’s obvious that 40% of it’s toothy smile is blocked off by solid plastic paneling. Which probably says more about the current state of Lincoln better than anything else.
Remember the scene in Jaws when Quint is being eaten by a great white shark, where he kicks his legs at the beast’s head, trying to avoid its endless rows of razor-sharp teeth? I reckon Lincoln’s designers based the MKT’s snout on Bruce’s man-eating maw. Sure, there’s a touch of Hannibal Lecter’s mask to the MKT’s grill design. And yes, HR Giger’s aliens would feel right at home wheeling this whip to a Humanity’s End party. But there are children who laughed at the liver-loving psycho killer and sniggered at the acid-tongued incubus who will wake-up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, begging Daddy to take them to school in the morning in his sedate sedan. Congratulations, Lincoln: the MKT is the world’s most terrifying family vehicle.
Fifty-three thousand dollars! I’m tempted to say it again! Fifty-three thousand dollars! What are the chances that any American-branded sedan could be worth this kind of money, particularly in our newly cost-conscious era? Mr. Farago has repeatedly pummeled the “MKTaurus” on these pages, and that was before the price of Lincoln’s big sedan cleared the fifty-K mark. Before we can even get a handle on whether or not the MKS is a good car, it’s critical that we take the competition’s temperature and see just how unjustifiable the pricing is.
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