2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid Review: Introduction
When all hope is lost, build a beautiful car. That would seem to be the current reigning philosophy at Lincoln, a luxury brand that has stumbled from one false start to another over the course of the past decade in an unsuccessful attempt to discover its identity. The 2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid is the first vehicle to emerge from Dearborn's premium department during that entire period that doesn't come across as merely a nicely-equipped Ford. On the contrary, this sedan presents buyers with a dramatically different take on the automaker's shared mid-size platform when compared against its Ford Fusion cousin.
It's all well and good that the 2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid no longer stands in the shadow of its down-market corporate sibling, but much more important is how it compares with its premium competitors. In this area, the MKZ Hybrid comes on strong as the best effort in the brand's entire portfolio. That being said, Lincoln is up against not just a strong cast of characters (like the Lexus ES and the Buick LaCrosse) eager to take the money of entry-level buyers, but also its own tattered reputation. It's an up-hill battle for one of America's forgotten marques
2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid Review: Models and Prices
The 2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid starts at the same MSRP as its gas-only counterpart: $35,925. From that point, there are no additional trim levels to select from but there are a healthy number of options package that can be added to the vehicle's bottom line. Standard on the MKZ Hybrid are items such as heated front leather seats with power adjustment, an adaptive suspension system, 18-inch rims, the MyLincoln Touch vehicle interface, the SYNC smartphone integration system, dual automatic climate control, keyless start and entry, adaptive LED headlights, and LED taillights.
My test vehicle was fitted with the most expensive 'group' of features available, the Preferred Equipment package, which combines the elements found in the Select and Reserve packages (rearview camera, parking assistance, ventilated front seats, HD radio, navigation system, blind spot monitoring, power trunk lid) with rear seat heaters, a heated steering wheel, 19-inch rims, and a THX- certified sound system. Unusually, you can only order the Preferred Equipment package if you also opt for either a single-panel or panoramic moonroof, each of which is a stand-alone option. The MKZ Hybrid I drove featured the latter, as well as the Technology package (automatic parking, lane keeping assistance, automatic high beam headlights, rain-sensing wipers, adaptive cruise control). The total MSRP for the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid in my possession came to $46,500.
2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid Review: Design
- The 2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid has been completely redesigned.
One of the biggest criticisms about the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid has always been that the vehicle was far to reminiscent of the Ford Fusion on which it is based, especially in terms of its looks. Lincoln has taken a major step forward in addressing the styling issues associated with the car by giving the 2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid a body that shares not a single panel or piece of trim with the Fusion. Not only is the MKZ Hybrid finally an entity on its own from a design perspective, but it's also a dazzling effort that attracts significant attention from a wide demographic. This is the only Lincoln I have ever driven where individuals under the age of 30 came up to me after I had parked the car, complimented me on it, and asked me to tell them more about it.
The 2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid's curves are so elegantly executed that the entire sedan appears to be hover just above the ground. The most dynamic collection of chrome and steel to have emerged from a Lincoln assembly line since the Mark VIII, the MKZ Hybrid looks every inch the premium automobile that its maker so desperately wants it to be. The rear of the car in particular is unique for a Lincoln, with its almost coupe-like roofline merging a sea of glass into a surprisingly aero-oriented trunk lid. The vehicle's grille - no longer a toothy grin, but rather dual compelling arches of chrome - has finally found a proper home after languishing in various guises on other Lincoln products for far too long.
Inside, the MKZ Hybrid's cabin is a mix of understated accents and high-quality plastics, with the appropriate level of soft points for interacting with hands and arms. The dash's onyx center stack is informed by the presence of the MyLincoln Touch system, obviating the need for physical buttons, and the smooth console offers a pleasing set of matte black covers for its cup holders and change pockets.
2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid Review: Comfort and Cargo
- The 2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid is completely redesigned for the current model year.
Lincoln has always had a reputation for building cars that were more rewarding to ride in than to drive, and the 2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid continues the brand's dominance when it comes to the dynamics of comfort. The front seats were supportive and supple during a four-hour road trip, while the rear row offered enough leg room that those along for the journey never fell under the impression that they had unwillingly been booked an economy-class airline seat. It took me a while to get used to the Lincoln's seating position, however, as I found my head quite close to the roof of the vehicle during my first few days behind the wheel no matter how low I sank the power bucket.
The cabin's noise level is reduced by way of an active noise canceling system, although the enormous panoramic moonroof on the car I drove couldn't help but contribute at least a few additional white frequencies to the mix. The ride of the car is excellent thanks to the adaptive suspension system (more on that below), which is far better at tuning out road imperfections than imparting the sedan with race track poise.
As with many hybrids, the Lincoln's trunk space is somewhat compromised by the intrusion of the car's battery pack. Fortunately, while the visible rise in the trunk floor is impossible to miss, the storage space itself is wide and deep enough that its presence doesn't have that much of an impact on real-world cargo carrying needs. I was able to transport several boxes of books in the MKZ Hybrid without feeling squeezed by the taller front deck of the trunk bottom.
2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid Review: Features and Controls
- The 2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid debuts a push-button gear selector.
Most opinions on the functionality of the 2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid stem back to an individual's satisfaction with the MyLincoln Touch system. MyLincoln Touch removes all hard buttons from the car's dashboard and replaces them with a slick, polished black center stack that features capacitive touch controls for the stereo and climate controls. There's also a pair of chrome bars that one slides a finger across to raise or lower music volume or fan speed. I don't have much of an issue with the MyLincoln Touch system's touch controls - and the steering wheel buttons that interact with the pair of LCD screens that flank the speedometer are easier to use than those found in the very similar MyFord Touch system - but others absolutely despise it. You will honestly have to try it for yourself before you can know for sure whether it's something you will enjoy using, something you can live with, or something that will push you out of the door and into a Lexus showroom.
MyLincoln Touch's strong suit is its navigation, voice recognition, and communications features, all of which fall under the SYNC umbrella. I've always been happy with the latest generation of the Touch / SYNC pairing, which is much more responsive to touchscreen inputs than the original version was.
Most of the features offered by the 2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid are pretty standard luxury fare, although the automated parking system (accessed via a button to the far right of the vehicle's touchscreen) is a wonder to behold. One aspect of the MKZ Hybrid's operating experience that took me several days to get acclimated to was its placement of the engine start/stop button at the top of the dash, with square buttons for Park, Reverse, Neutral, and Drive trailing down below it in a single line. I possess no instinct to seek out Drive or Park on the dashboard (as I've never driven an early-60s Mopar), and so I had to retrain my right hand not to seek out some kind of console or column stalk to interact with.
The enormous glass panel on my test vehicle's retractable sunroof was a very attractive - and somewhat pricy - addition to the MKZ Hybrid, and when open it provided an almost targa-like motoring experience. Unfortunately, it's so big that full retracted it blocks half of the rear window, making it very difficult to see out of the sedan's rearview mirror. As a consequence, I rarely cracked it, preferring to retract just the cover instead (a task that often had me accidentally opening the roof at the same time, as there is no separate button for just the inside canvas).
2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid Review: Safety and Ratings
- The 2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid gains a number of new active safety systems.
The 2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid features a full load of airbags, including front knee airbags to go with side curtain, front side impact, and dual forward units. Also provided free of charge are electronic stability control, traction control, and the MyKey system which can limit the speed of the automobile when lent to teenagers or friends. The Lincoln MKZ Hybrid has been gifted with a long list of available active safety features, including a lane departure warning and keeping system, a blind spot monitoring system, forward collision warning, and rear cross-traffic detection..
2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid Crash-Test Ratings: The Lincoln MKZ Hybrid scored 'Acceptable' in the IIHS' overlap front test and 'Good' in all three other crash tests. The sedan also received a five-star rating for overall crash protection from the NHTSA.
2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid Review: Engines and Fuel Economy
- The 2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid moves to a smaller-displacement gas engine and a lighter battery pack.
The 2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid no longer sports the previous model's year's gasoline/electric drivetrain but instead moves to the same setup that can be found in the Ford Fusion Hybrid: a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine matched with a battery-powered electric motor. All told, the system is good for 188 horsepower, which is down from last year's rating of 191 ponies (made possible by a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder gas motor). A lithium-ion battery pack replaces the older nickel-hydride unit, which saves weight and offers more advanced power management opportunities for Lincoln engineers.
The fresh hybrid setup is rated at 45-mpg city and 45-mpg highway, which stands 6-mpg combined better than in 2012. During my time with the car, driving routes with a bit more of a highway bias, I was able to see 32-mpg. This matches my past experience with this particular implementation of Ford and Lincoln's hybrid technology, which I have only rarely been able to push near its advertised efficiency level.
2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid Review: Driving Impressions
One of the surprising aspects of the 2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid not turning in fuel mileage that is closer to its EPA rating is the fact that the car I drove seemed so willing to switch to EV mode in such a wide variety of driving situations. There were times when I accelerated normally, without feathering the throttle, and found that I was being propelled on battery power alone, and still others when I looked down and discovered that the electric motor was maintaining a steady cruise at 45-mph. I had air conditioning switched off for most of my time with the vehicle, due to cool temperatures that week in Montreal, which no doubt contributed to a lower load on the vehicle's hybrid system.
When the electric motor did decide to turn itself on, it did so with a clattering mechanical fanfare that was instantly noticeable when compared to the otherwise quiet operation of the MKZ Hybrid. Relatively composed when underway under dual gasoline and electric power, those first few moments when the engine fired up sounded unreasonably rough. Was it the vehicle's continuously-variable automatic transmission pegging revs at an unexpected plateau that threw me off? I'm not sure. Perhaps it was the well-insulated cabin of the Lincoln that had me noticing it as opposed to my opposite experience in the C-Max crossover which shares its drivetrain. Either way, it was behavior unbecoming of a premium vehicle.
188 horsepower isn't a lot when it comes to motivating a mid-size sedan, but the 2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid's performance off of the line was adequate and more than acceptable on the highway. I found the adaptive cruise control system to be excellent, with the car not knocking me down a few miles per hour until I had legitimately breached the gap I set in the system between the MKZ's front bumper and the traffic ahead of me. The lane keeping feature also did an excellent job of keeping the car centered on the highway, although I piloted the car through a rain storm that deactivated each of these features due to their sensors getting too dirty. The sedan's CVT wouldn't be my ideal choice when pairing a small-displacement motor with a car in the MKZ Hybrid's class, but it's honestly the way of the world in most luxury hybrids at the Lincoln's price point.
The 2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid felt stable and well-controlled on all manner of road surfaces, and while the car could have its suspension tightened and its steering quickened via a Sport mode (Comfort is also selectable from the system), there was no real benefit to doing so. Like its Lexus ES rival, there are no pretensions of performance to be made in this battery-assisted sedan.
2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid Review: Final Thoughts
The 2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid is a gorgeous sedan, and proof that Ford has finally figured out how to share platforms without assigning the same visual palette to each vehicle. Inside, the MKZ Hybrid is restrained but classy, and its mid-size passenger room and relative cruising quiet are to be commended. In some ways, the MKZ feels like the first real Lincoln to have left the factory in quite some time.
Obviously, I'm not happy with the vehicle's fuel mileage, and with Ford coming under fire from all sides regarding the underperformance of its hybrid technology, I am not surprised that the 2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid has also fallen victim to this particular engineering oversight. It's also true that loading the car up with options can quickly price the sedan out of its comfort zone and force it up against much more complete and prestigious automobiles, leading some to make the argument that a well-equipped Fusion is the way to go instead.
I don't buy that particular argument, however - the Fusion and the MKZ offer completely different looks and attitude to a set of completely different groups of buyers. Are they the younger drivers the Lincoln is looking to corral in an effort to extend the lifeblood of its product line? Give it a few years - and bring us a few more designs like the MKZ - and the answer to that important query could be 'yes.'
2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid Review: Pros and Cons
2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid Review: Pros and Cons
- One of the most attractively-styled cars in its class
- Very comfortable ride and cabin
- SYNC works quite well with voice commands and mobile phones
- Entry-level price is quite competitive
- EV mode provides great battery-only range
- Options packages can add significantly to the sedan's MSRP
- Hybrid system does not match EPA fuel efficiency rating in the real world
- CVT is not as smooth as it could be, and neither is the gas engine
- Not engaging to drive - more of a cruiser than a tourer
Ford Canada supplied the vehicle for this review.
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