As Lincoln continues its campaign to redefine itself as the quintessential American luxury car manufacturer, the 2014 MKZ plays a crucial role in the company's portfolio of new products. Though not as desirable as some others in its category -- for instance, the BMW 3 Series or Cadillac CTS -- the 2014 Lincoln MKZ offers a uniquely opulent design, a choice of three capable and efficient powertrains and a nice roster of upscale amenities, such as a fully retractable panoramic roof.

Most noticeable about Lincoln's MKZ is its fresh and distinctive coupelike exterior styling. Although the signature split-wing grille remains polarizing, fans will appreciate Lincoln's latest iteration of this design. And the sedan's sweeping profile and classic character will certainly draw in those on the hunt for an automobile that exudes sophistication and prestige.

Shoppers not as interested in a status symbol, however, may notice many of the MKZ's innovative features are available on its popular Ford sibling, the Fusion, for thousands less. The trade-off is a Ford badge in place of the Lincoln markings.

What's New for 2014?

Coming off its new product launch last year, the only changes to the 2014 MKZ are some new exterior color choices.

What We Like

Plush ride; good fuel economy; an abundance of available tech/comfort features

What We Don't

Not so fun to drive; polarizing exterior styling; complicated MyLincoln Touch interface

How Much?

$36,820-$50,500

Fuel Economy

The MKZ benefits from three different powertrains. The 2-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder delivers 240 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque, and offers fuel economy of 22 miles per gallon city/33 mpg highway in front-wheel drive and 22 mpg city/31 mpg hwy in all-wheel drive.

The more powerful 3.7-liter V6 outputs 300 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque with an Environmental Protection Agency rating of 19 mpg city/28 mpg hwy in front-wheel drive and 18 mpg city/26 mpg hwy in all-wheel drive.

The Hybrid with its 2-liter gas engine/electric motor combination yields a more-than-adequate 188 hp and achieves an impressive 45 mpg city/45 mpg hwy. It's offered with front-wheel drive only. The hybrid's performance is considerably less than the V6 but still proves capable in most driving situations.

Standard Features & Options

The Lincoln MKZ is offered in two similar trim levels, MKZ ($36,820) and MKZ Hybrid ($36,820). Both models, in base form, bring an impressive array of standard features and amenities, including 18-inch wheels, adaptive headlights, push-button start, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather seats, heated power-adjustable front seats, driver seat memory and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel. Concerning technology, the MKZ and MKZ Hybrid have a MyLincoln Touch interface, the SYNC voice-command system, an 8-in touchscreen display and an 11-speaker stereo.

The MKZ AWD ($38,710) adds all-wheel drive to the mix.

Building up from the base model, there are several options packages. The bottom-rung Select Package includes auto-dimming side mirrors, a backup camera, HD radio and wood trim on the steering wheel.

Next is the midrange Reserve Package, which adds up-level features such as navigation, blind spot monitoring, a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel and cooled front seats.

The top-tier Preferred Package builds off the Reserve package, adding 19-in alloy wheels, heated rear seats and a THX II Certified sound system.

Off to the side is a Technology package, which includes a lane departure system, adaptive cruise control, an automated parallel parking system, rain-sensing wipers and automatic high-beam headlights.

Stand-alone options include such premium amenities as a retractable panoramic moonroof, inflatable rear seat belts and upgraded multi-contour seats for the driver and front passenger.

The 3.7-liter V6 adds another $1,200 to the bottom line.

Safety

The 2014 Lincoln MKZ includes standard front side-impact and side-curtain airbags, electronic traction and stability control, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, collision warning, adaptive cruise control and inflatable rear seat belts.

In government crash testing, the 2014 Lincoln MKZ earns five stars out of five for overall crash safety, five stars for frontal collision safety, four stars for side impact safety and four stars for rollover protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named the Lincoln MKZ as a Top Safety Pick recipient.

Behind the Wheel

Overall, the 2014 MKZ isn't much of an enthusiast's car, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's more 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, thanks to Lincoln Drive Control, an intelligent system designed to deliver a well-balanced driving experience.

The MKZ's 2-liter turbo and 3.7-liter V6 are both quite robust, making launches from the line and highway passing enjoyable. And for those who think the MKZ Hybrid is a slouch, it's not. The Hybrid feels both confident and capable, yielding an impressive 45 mpg.

In typical Lincoln fashion, the MKZ's interior is well isolated from the outside world, making this sedan a comfortable and plush turnpike cruiser. Get the MKZ into tight turns and it will stick to the intended path. Just don't expect overly thrilling performance or dynamics close to that of its German rivals.

Other Cars to Consider

Lexus ES -- The ES may cost 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 than the MKZ. That said, the MKZ offers a hybrid model and more rear-seat legroom.

Buick Regal -- The MKZ has a more prestigious character and a longer list of upscale features.

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

AutoTrader's Advice

Because the MKZ is not on the same performance tier as the Cadillac CTS, BMW 3 Series or Mercedes-Benz C-Class, we wouldn't recommend it as a luxury sport sedan choice. For this reason, the hybrid model offers the best value. It brings all the opulence, amenities and soft ride of the standard MKZ but also returns excellent fuel economy far superior to its nonhybrid rivals. We recommend adding the Reserve and Technology packages as well as the optional retractable panoramic moonroof. These options will round out the MKZ with upscale comforts and innovative safety features befitting a premium-level automobile.

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