We recently spent a weekend on the winding mountain roads of the Berkshires with the 2013 MKZ, the car Ford designed to relaunch its flagging luxury brand, Lincoln.
It’s a nice car, with a great body and some cool features. But it’s marred by a series of flaws you simply don’t see in similarly priced cars from luxury kings BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi.
Ford’s plan for the brand involves a name change (from Lincoln to the Lincoln Motor Company), a big marketing push (including a Super Bowl ad starring Jimmy Fallon), and an appearance by former football star Emmit Smith (strange, since retired athletes don’t exactly represent youth and reinvention).
Ford executives have acknowledged to Business Insider that the car itself is the most important part of the relaunch, not the marketing surrounding it. But at the same time, they lowered the stakes by pointing out this is the first of four new cars Lincoln will roll out in the next four years.
A Fancy Fusion
Like many luxury cars, the 2013 MKZ is based on a cheaper model. In this case, it’s the Ford Fusion, a midsize sedan we loved.
The Fusion is a great $21,000 car. But even with a sexier body and some extra luxury features, it is not a great $37,815 car — the starting price of the MKZ. (Our very well-equipped model had a $51,185 price tag.)
Overall, this is a nice car, and much better than anything to come from Lincoln in years.
We’re big fans of the exterior design, especially the little touches like the chrome on the side mirrors (which are also heated, a nice feature for snowy weather).
The MKZ is comfortable and spacious. Thanks to active noise control, it’s quiet at 70 mph. The controls are easy to use.
With all-wheel drive, it had no problem flying up the steep, winding, unpaved driveway of the house where we spent the weekend.
These are all things we expect from luxury cars. The one thing that really sets the MKZ apart is its awesome retractable panorama roof, which opens up more than 15 square feet of space overhead.
The MKZ is free of glaring defects, but myriad little flaws add up. Here’s our list:
- The beeping designed to alert you when you are too close to another car does not stop after a few seconds. So if you stop a foot behind someone at a red light, it will beep until you’re moving again.
- The switch for the headlights is in an unusual place, and hard to find in the dark (a bad time not to have your headlights on).
- The very cool panoramic roof limits visibility out the back of the car when it’s open.
- The front seat automatically moves backward when the car is turned off. That’s nice for the driver, but not for the passenger behind him.
- There are no audio or climate controls in the back seat.
- Functions of the navigation system can’t be used when the car is moving — even when there’s a passenger present. The smart move to limit driver distraction backfires here.
- A piece of plastic behind the door handle fell off. This should never happen in a brand new, $50,000 vehicle.
None of these flaws are deal-breakers in their own right. Together, they make the MKZ worth less than its luxury sticker price.
Exterior design and an innovative roof are not enough to overcome Lincoln’s badly tarnished reputation, especially when the MKZ’s competition includes excellent cars like the BMW 328i, Cadillac CTS, Audi A4, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
The MKZ’s flaws are, however, very fixable. So while the 2013 MKZ won’t be the car to bring buyers back to the once-great brand, whatever comes out in 2014 just might.
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