Pros: High-mileage hybrid model, quiet interior, SYNC audio and communications

Cons: Minimal high-tech luxury features, not much fun to drive, dated styling

To create its mid-size luxury MKZ, Lincoln borrowed the Ford Fusion as a starting point and then added in the appropriate high-end features and styling cues. Unfortunately, the Fusion's silhouette, with its aging design, shows through. Still, there is a heavy dose of Lincoln, such as the massive split winged grille, the large chrome wheels and the Lincoln emblem plastered on just about every surface.

The MKZ isn't qualified to play in the same league as the Cadillac CTS or the BMW 3 Series, but it is still a good match for the Lexus ES, Acura RL and Chrysler 300. You can get an MKZ with all-wheel drive or opt for an eco-friendly hybrid model. What you can't get in the MKZ is a V8 engine, a manual transmission or a sophisticated sport suspension.

If you're looking for a domestic premium mid-size luxury sedan in the mold of BMW or Audi, the Lincoln MKZ isn't the best choice. But if you lean more toward Lexus and Acura, the Lincoln MKZ may appeal to you. The Lincoln MKZ may not thrill the enthusiast driver, but it can satisfy those who prefer pampering over performance.

Comfort & Utility

The MKZ emphasizes technology as an integral part of the luxury experience. We like our bells and whistles, but much of the electronic equipment available on the MKZ can also be found on lesser Ford products. When we slide behind the wheel of a luxury sedan, we expect there to be a visual and tactile step up from the ordinary, not only in quality, but originality of design. We get this feeling inside an Audi A4 or Cadillac CTS; we don't get it inside the MKZ. Besides the rather generic dash design, there are too many black plastic knobs and surfaces and not enough real wood and chrome. The audio controls are too small and difficult to decipher, and the quality of the plastics leaves much to be desired.

On the plus side, the MKZ is a roomy car, with a spacious rear seat, a huge trunk and generous headroom, heated and cooled front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control and 17-inch alloy wheels. Owners can opt for a 14-speaker THX audio system, HID headlamps and upgraded leather seating with contrasting piping.

Technology

Standard on every MKZ is the Ford SYNC voice-activated communication system. With SYNC, owners can call up friends or relatives, select music by favorite artist or song and have text messages read aloud. Popular apps such as Pandora can be streamed via Bluetooth to the car's audio system. Couple the SiriusXM Travel Link system with the voice-activated navigation, and you can check on traffic, weather, fuel prices and sports scores.

The available BLIS (Blind Spot Information System) alerts drivers to objects hiding in the car's blind spot via a blinking red LED indicator in the side mirror. Other helpful features include a rear vision camera and the Reverse Sensing System. Missing from the high-tech highlights commonly found on cars in this class are intelligent cruise control, head-up display, heated rear seats and a panoramic glass moonroof. Again, it seems odd to us that Ford would offer such cutting-edge features as a parallel parking assist on the humble Escape but not on a top Lincoln.

Performance & Fuel Economy

Lincoln's MKZ is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 good for a respectable 263 horsepower and 249 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy for the front-wheel-drive model is a respectable 18 mpg city/27 mpg highway; AWD models get 16/25 mpg. Those looking for better fuel economy may want to look to the hybrid model. With its 2.5-liter gasoline engine and electric motor combo, the hybrid earns an estimated 41/36 mpg.

Although it puts out less horsepower than the V6, we found the hybrid's performance more than satisfactory in most driving situations.

Safety

The 2012 Lincoln MKZ includes front side-impact and side curtain airbags, electronic traction and stability control, available BLIS (Blind Spot Information System) and a sonar-based rear parking sensor.

Driving Impressions

The 2012 MKZ isn't much of an enthusiast's car, which leaves its audience in the "comfortable ride and easy to live with" category. The MKZ's ride and handling are on par with similar models such as the Lexus ES and Buick LaCrosse, but the MKZ is not as agile as a Cadillac CTS or even a Chrysler 300.

In typical Lincoln fashion, the MKZ's interior is well isolated from the outside world, making the MKZ a very comfortable turnpike cruiser. Get the MKZ into some tight turns, and it will stick to the intended path, but there's just no thrill in the performance. The available sport suspension and AWD should improve the feel, but we found the ride simply becomes harsher and the handling little changed. We'd go with a nicely loaded Ford Taurus with the EcoBoost engine over the MKZ.

Other Cars to Consider

Lexus ES - The ES may cost a bit more than the MKZ, but it has a more luxurious interior and far better resale value.

Cadillac CTS - The CTS is a far more engaged driver's car and has a much better interior layout and more high-tech features than the MKZ. But the MKZ offers a hybrid model and more rear-seat legroom.

Infiniti G37 - The G37 delivers a more thrilling ride, can be equipped with a manual transmission and looks and feels more refined than the MKZ.

Chrysler 300 - The 300 offers more interior room and the option of a V8 engine, but the MKZ offers a high-mileage hybrid.

AutoTrader Recommends

Because the MKZ is not on the same level as the Cadillac CTS, BMW 3 Series or Mercedes Benz C-Class, we wouldn't recommend it as a sport-sedan choice. For this reason, we think the hybrid model offers the best value. It has the luxury and soft ride of the standard MKZ, but returns excellent fuel economy far superior to its non-hybrid rivals. If you're not hung up on the Lincoln name, we think a better value is the fully loaded Ford Taurus SHO, which offers a better driving experience, features like massaging seats and the EcoBoost turbocharged engine and more interior room.

author photo

Joe Tralongo started in the industry writing competitive comparison books for a number of manufacturers, before moving on in 2000 to become a freelance automotive journalist. He's well regarded for his keen eye for detail, as well as his ability to communicate complex mechanical terminology into user-friendly explanations.

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