Quality problems at Fordís assembly plant in Hermosillo, Mexico caused months of production delays for its all-new Lincoln MKZ. Despite that, there were still thousands of hand raisers ready and willing to take delivery of their American luxury cars. Some among them became proud owners of the purportedly fuel-friendly hybrid version. Was theirs an astute choice or one mislead by the Shangri-La of modern fuel economy estimates? AutoGuide borrowed one to find out.
1. A 2.0L 4-cylidner and electric motor combine to deliver 188 hp.
2. Fuel economy is rated at 45 mpg in the city and on the highway
3. Priced identical to the entry-level gas model, the MKZ Hybrid starts at $35,925.
A LOOK TO MAKE GEORGE JETSON GRIN
Does the idea of mass-market flying cars in the next 50 years seem silly to you? Rewind as many years and the idea might have seemed plausible. Hanna-Barberaís cartoon predictions about family propulsion are off a few turns of the Mayan calendar, but the futuristic look is sitting in Lincoln showrooms today.
The MKZ looks more like an alien spacecraft than it does a mid-size luxury sedan. Credit the copious head turning it encourages to the space-age sheet metal and glass. That look moves from ludicrous speed to plaid when you choose the optional 19-inch alloy wheels crammed full of small spokes.
Perhaps the most visually striking features of the car come from the roof and rear Ė the grille being a touch excessive. An optional retractable glass roof rises and slides back over the rear window. It obstructs most of the rear window when open, significantly harming rear visibility, but is so large it makes the MKZ feel almost like a convertible. Thereís also a fixed glass roof available as a less costly option.
Around the rear, youíll find a solid light bar and widely-spaced ďLincolnĒ lettering capping off a very short caboose. But the carís rake masks what is actually a large trunk ó unless you buy the hybrid. In that case, much of the trunk is taken up by the carís electrical components. In fact, you only get 11.1 cubic feet of cargo room, smaller than what you might find in any compact sedan.
With a claimed 45 mpg across the board, itís a sacrifice some will be willing to make. At least as long as the car actually returns those numbers.
FUEL ECONOMY FALLS SHORT
Spoiler alert: it doesnít. According to the EPA, you should find the car returning 45 mpg in the city and on the highway.
In case fourth grade math is over your head, that means an average 45 mpg too. Even more depressing than the chance some adults might miss that joke, the MKZ misses its fuel numbers. Not by a small margin either.
2013-Lincoln-MKZ-Hybrid-headlights.jpgDuring a week of real-world driving in congested city traffic, the readout reported averaging roughly 32 mpg. It sat at 35 in lighter city traffic, but both are disappointingly far from the promised mileage.
Creeping from every stoplight, you might be able to manage better than that, but not by very much.
Low-speed highway driving will actually achieve the EPA numbers, but youíll need to peg cruise control at about 60 mph to do it. Those numbers fall dramatically if you keep up with traffic.
Donít forget to keep things in perspective. This is still a luxury sedan that youíll regularly beat 30 mpg driving in city conditions. Doesnít that deserve some respect?
SMOOTH TO DRIVE, SLOW TO START
With 188 hp itís silly to expect any sort of spirited acceleration from this car. It just isnít there.
A hint of initial torque from the hybrid system tugs the car forward, but that fades as quickly as it merges. Dull, slow acceleration is all youíre left to deal with. But with a 2.0-liter Atkinson cycle engine, thatís less of a disappointment and more of an unfortunate expectation.
Soulless acceleration also isnít helped by the fact that youíre saddled with a continuously variable transmission.
2013-Lincoln-MKZ-Hybrid-engine.jpgShould it matter that the carís gas pedal makes The Kingís Speech seem like a white-knuckle thriller? Probably not when you consider that this car isnít being billed as one of the industryís fence-straddling performance hybrids.
Itís meant to be comfortable and fuel efficient, and arguably it offers both. Yes, the fuel consumption deserves an asterisk, but the ride really doesnít.
Lincoln uses continuously controlled damping to deliver a smooth passenger experience. Cooled seats are available, but the buckets are remarkably comfortable regardless of whether or not you choose to check that option box.
Steering feels surprisingly responsive and as long as you arenít expecting German luxury performance, the MKZ might actually surprise you.
PRICE ON PAR WITH ENTRY LEVEL CAR
Lincolnís core demographic grew up when Marry Poppinsí hit single ďA Spoon Full of SugarĒ was burning up the Billboard charts. In the MKZís modern spirit, hereís a healthy dose of sucralose (which, come to think of it, probably isnít good for you) to help you swallow the misleading mpg claims.
Unlike most manufacturers, Lincoln doesnít charge a premium for the hybrid model. Penny for penny, the entry ticket is completely unchanged at $35,925.
That also means discarding most of the options that lend the MKZ its allure, but youíll still have a fuel efficient car to drive.
If you can justify the extra expense, there are more than a few boxes worth checking. The 19-inch wheels compliment the car in a way the standard alloys canít.
Similarly, the retractable glass roof is more than a conversation piece; it makes the cabin feel bigger. It also costs $2,995. The fixed glass roof is less than half the price at 1,200 and might be enough for most buyers.
The fixed glass roof also comes as part of Lincolnís ďHybrid PreferredĒ package, which costs $5,330 and also includes a THX sound system, a heated steering wheel and warmed seats for the front and rear. It also bundles the 19-inch wheels mentioned earlier.
Tack on another $2,250 for the ďTechnology PackageĒ to get rain-sensing wipers, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams and lane keeping assistance. It also gives you Fordís active parking assistance tool, which will handle parallel parking for you.
An aluminum trim package for the cabin is also available for $195 and you should probably pay for it because wood trim would look terribly out of place in this car.
CAN PLASTIC FEEL PREMIUM?
Aluminum accent panels look nice and the soft touch materials are equally welcome. There are also scores of plastic pieces composing the cabin. The traditional gear selection knob is replaced by buttons along the center stack to select drive, reverse, neutral and low gear modes.
That plastic continues down over the storage compartments and cup holders, both of which are hidden. It might sound cheap, but it doesnít feel that way. Pushing a button releases the cover, splitting it open to reveal the usual cargo spaces.
It wouldnít work in most cars, but with the gray plastic heavily steeped in modern style works beside the MKZís eccentric modern style.
If thereís any downside to the interior itís that youíre stuck with MyLincoln Touch, which apart from being confusing for newcomers, has larger issues, namely, a hard drive that freezes and even crashes.
The MKZ hybrid sacrifices almost 28 percent of its cargo space in the name of fuel economy. It also doesnít live up to the EPA numbers and still winds up being a bit of a dog to drive.
But Lincoln knows all that and priced the car accordingly. If all you want is an entry-level luxury car that sips gas on lazy highway stints, this is a great choice. Itís smooth, itís comfortable, itís stylish.
Itís a winner in those categories as long as you can look past the shortcomings in all the others.