2012 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid: Conservative Luxury with Green Credentials

Lincoln has been known for a lot of things over its almost one-hundred year history; Hybrid however hasn’t been one of those things.

Founded in 1915 by one of the founding member’s of Cadillac, the company itself was named after Abraham Lincoln and was initially building aircraft engines. Lincoln went on to build luxury automobiles and became the go to brand for a number of American presidential limousines with the last one being a stretched 1972 Continental. In 2010 the Ford Motor Company (parent company of Lincoln since 1940) showcased the 2011 model MKZ Hybrid at the New York Auto Show. Not only was this the first gas-electric hybrid for Lincoln, it also came to be known as the most fuel efficient luxury sedan at the time.

One of the keys to the powertrain success of the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid arises from the fact that it shares its platform with the Ford Fusion Hybrid. The tried and true Fusion Hybrid powertrain consists of a 2.5L I4 coupled with an electric motor. In the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid this means a combined total of 191hp being sent to the front driving wheels through a continuously variable transmission.

As with any hybrid, the highlight is first and foremost fuel economy, the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid does not disappoint in this category with claimed figures of 4.6L/100km in the city and 5.4L/100km on the highway. With our test vehicle we managed to average 6.2L/100km across 500km of mixed city/highway driving. I’m sure that with a lighter foot on the throttle we may have done better, but for real world driving conditions, what we got was pretty impressive.

‘Dropping the hammer’ while driving the MKZ Hybrid isn’t exactly inspiring, however, thanks to the near instantaneous torque capability of electric motors, the car’s able to get moving in a hurry. We did find the CVT to bog down in the middle of the rev range; perhaps it’s the price to be paid when fuel economy is priority. Develop a light throttle foot, and we were able to get the MKZ Hybrid up to speed on local 60km/h roads without ever engaging the gasoline engine; this was however, only possible on flat roads while our battery system was on a near full charge. Don’t expect to do this in traffic as it could take as much as 25 seconds to get up to speed; no one behind you will appreciate it.

Looking at the exterior of the 2012 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid and there’s little doubt about the conservative styling of the car. The front facia consists of Lincoln’s distinctive split-wing front grille while at the back we find long wraparound taillights. The rear end of the MKZ isn’t what we’d consider beautiful, but in true conservative style, it doesn’t offend. I did however have a particular affinity to the detail of the front headlamps; if I was judging by that detail alone, I’d be a big fan of the MKZ’s styling. Besides a few indiscriminate ‘Hybrid’ badges, the MKZ and MKZ Hybrid are styled identically.

As a buyer considering a luxury hybrid sedan, you likely want there to be distinct differentiations between the likes of the upscale Lincoln MKZ Hybrid and its simple cousin the Ford Fusion Hybrid. Although these differences are plentiful on the outside, the inside is a little harder to separate. The biggest differences come from the use of quality leather and woodgrain accents throughout the cabin. There are still a lot of knobs, buttons, and controls, shared between the Ford and Lincoln, which seems a shame really when we want a clearer sense of a distinctively different car for the luxury buyer.

Behind the steering wheel of the MKZ Hybrid sits the most engaging piece of Lincoln cabin tech which comes in the form of an entirely digital instrument cluster made up of a luminous centre speedometer flanked by two 4.3 inch LCD screens. The screens show various energy use and fuel efficiency readouts in beautiful graphical format with the aim of helping drivers become more economical in their driving habits; Lincoln calls this their SmartGuage with EcoGuide instrument cluster.The Lincoln MKZ Hybrid also shares Ford’s SYNC infotainment system, which makes the car with its many tech features easily accessible to those who are familiar with the system. In-cabin entertainment comes courtesy of an available THX II Certified 5.1 Surround Sound System that can play Sirius Satellite Radio, CD, DVD, and MP3 files while having a 10GB internal hard drive to store music. SYNC enables voice control for the GPS navigation system in the MKZ, which we found to be more hassle than pulling over to do it manually using the intuitive touch screen. 

Climate controlled driver and front passenger seats have become one of the key factors for me in determining whether a vehicle deserves its luxury credentials. The 2012 MKZ Hybrid does not disappoint in this regard by being equipped with heating elements for when it’s cold out and perforated leather that blows cold air through it for when it’s hot out. To me there’s nothing more uncomfortable in a car than sitting on leather when the mercury is rising, and having cooled seats is a must for any new car, especially when it’s a luxury one.

Furthering the luxury ride of the MKZ Hybrid is its use of four-wheel independent suspension. Driving the car we found it a fairly smooth and comfortable ride, with the suspension swallowing up a lot of the bumps and ruts on the road while still being responsive enough to confidently take on a few hard corners. When comparing mid-size hybrid luxury sedans, the Lincoln MKZ offers up what is arguably one of the better suspension setups after Lexus’ HS250h; the Lexus however is priced starting at $40,850, whereas the Lincoln starts at $36,400.

For its class, the 2012 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid offers up terrific value for money. Even with our fully loaded test car tipping the scales at almost $50k, the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid represents a great buy for the conservative luxury car buyer who also desires all the benefits of a hybrid.

Come 2013 however, and things really take a turn for the interesting with Lincoln bringing to market their much anticipated, highly stylized second generation MKZ [image link]. For those who don’t care for this forward futuristic design, this’ll be the last year of the conservative MKZ; and by nearly all measure this is still a good car with great features that does what it’s meant to very well.

Photography by Wilson Lo and Kanishka Sonnadara.

Kanishka Sonnadara can be found on Twitter @autoKsS

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