Wednesday, November 5, 2014

2014 Lincoln MKZ AWD: A Futuristic Design Driven By High Tech Features

Highlight: The hybrid model is priced the same as the non hybrid gasoline model.

Test vehicle’s MSRP: $50,951 (base model $36,085)

Seating Capacity: 5

Standard Safety Features: airbags; hill start assist; an electronic parking brake; traction control; stability control; a push button keyless starter; and a tire pressure monitoring system

Standard Equipment (base model): 18-inch wheels; Push Button Start System; dual zone temperature control system; automatic LED headlights; illuminated scuff plates; auto dimming rearview mirrors; power seats; memory driver’s seat; leather seats; a leather wrapped steering wheel; a manual tilt/telescopic steering wheel; a push button keyless starter; and the brand’s signature smartphone-like SYNC system

Upgraded Optional Features On Test Model: 19-inch wheels; a 3.7-liter, 6-cylinder engine; a rear view camera; a wood steering wheel; a rear parking sensors; a 14-speaker 700 watt audio system; HD radio; daytime running lights; a blind spot system a cross traffic alert system; a power trunk; leather seats; a power tilt/telescopic steering wheel; a heated steering wheel; a retractable panoramic roof; a radar activated cruise control; a collision warning brake support system; active parallel park assist system; a forward collision alert system; auto beaming headlights; a rain sensing wiper system; and multi-contoured power massaging front seats

Other Trim Level:

a base front wheel drive
a hybrid

Standard Audio On Test Vehicle: an 11-speaker AM/FM/CD with XM Satellite

Bluetooth Connectivity: Available on select models

iPod connectivity: Available on select models
Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty: 4 years or 50,000 miles

Powertrain Warranty: 6 years or 70,000 miles

Standard Engine/Horsepower: 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder/240-hp

Recommended Fuel: Premium

Standard Fuel Mileage: 22-city/33-hwy

What’s New: Besides a few new exterior colors, the second-generation MKZ is basically a carryover this model year, after receiving a major overhaul in 2013.

Pros: Lincoln’s MKZ is available as either a hybrid or as a gasoline model. Both vehicles are priced the same. A pricier AWD model equipped with a six cylinder engine is available. The smooth riding MKZ offers an artfully crafted exterior design, which reminds of us an airplane on wheels. In fact, when outfitted with the optional oversize panoramic roof, it’s almost like providing a direct connection to heaven. Moreover, the optional power glass panel roof slides so far back, it’s almost like converting the luxury vehicle to a convertible four door.

In addition to the open air retractable skyroof to heaven, the MKZ can be accessorized with host of high-tech safety aids as we noted in the “Upgraded Optional Features On The Test Model” section. The midsize luxury vehicle can be outfitted with everything from massaging front seats to a radar-activated cruise control system to the MyLincoln Touch infotainment smartphone-like system to an automated parallel park system. In our eyes, for a price tag that is barely reaching $50,000, the MKZ is a value priced vehicle.

Furthermore, the MKZ has a projected long-term predicted dependability rating from the consumer driven JD Power rating survey of four out of five stars.

Cons:  These days the stylish MKZ finds itself in a precarious position. It’s not quite in the same league as Hyundai’s 2015 Genesis or BMW’s 2014 5-Series nor does it seem quite fitting to compare it against such near luxury vehicles as Acura’s 2015 TLX or Audi’s 2014 A4. Yes, we’re not sure exactly what to slot it against. It could even go head-to-head with a fully loaded Chevy's 2014 Impala or Hyundai's 2014 Genesis.

Even while we’re trying to position in the luxury arena or the near luxury arena, the MKZ just lacks the refinement with its interior design that we’ve come to expect from today's luxury vehicles. For instance, items like the free flowing hard plastic center stack and console doesn’t offer the same level of quality, workmanship and the attention to detail, as found in most of GM makes, which rivals many of the European and German models. With that said, Lincoln should consider taking some serious interior styling cues from the domestic automaker Cadillac, giving the vehicle more of a premium, luxury car feel.

Moreover, Lincoln’s smartphone-like MyLincoln Touch infotainment system, which forces the users to operate everything from the ventilated seats to the navigation system -- without the use of buttons or knobs could be somewhat cumbersome. The reality is that most buyers just are not quite ready to be dragged kicking and screaming into the technical age. As a side note, to address the knob-less smartphone like infotainment system, Lincoln is integrating buttons and knobs into their system for the 2015 model year.

Lastly, while we welcome the retractable open air roof, selecting that option means that one will have to negate the power rear window sunshade. So selecting the standard size roof means rear passengers will have access to a rear power sunshade to block the sun.

Verdict: While the MKS is officially the flagship vehicle for the brand, it is essentially similar in size to the well-equipped and head turning MKZ. Ironically, the awkwardly positioned MKZ is so automated with the latest safety driving aids it is indeed capable of wearing the flagship title for the brand. Conversely, with the MKZ being so closely associated with the dated design of the MKS, neither one of the vehicles are truly seen as first tier luxury models, when placed up against true luxury competitors. So being that Lincoln is struggling to find its way again in reclaiming its place in the luxury arena, buyers should have no problem snatching up a fuel sipping hybrid or an all-wheel drive MKZ packed with the latest high tech gadgets, at a healthy discount.

Competition: Acura RLX; Buick LaCrosse; Cadillac XTS; Chrysler 300; Infiniti Q50; Lexus 350; Mercedes C-Class; and Volvo S60

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