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4 ⁄ 5 stars
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CarGurus Expert ReviewThe Good
Loads of standard techno-goodies, a comfortable ride, available all-wheel drive, a quiet and accommodating cabin and 30+ mpg from the Hybrid trim all contribute to the value level of the 2012 Lincoln MKZ.The Bad
Too easily confused with its Fusion cousin, this lower-tier Lincoln also suffers from low-ball interior fittings, tepid handing, a cramped rear seat and frustrating laziness in the Hybrid’s continuously variable transmission.
The CarGurus View
Fusion confusion often leads to a certain misconception of this entry-level luxury sedan’s true high-end appeal. But there’s no mistaking the plush ride, appealing cabin ambiance and distinctive front fascia of this premier people-hauler, and the MKZ Hybrid trim is an admirably well-put-together example of environmental and economic efficiency. Sure, a Fusion is nice, but the MKZ is legitimately luxurious, and it’s a Lincoln.
At a Glance
Though a solid choice as an entry-level luxury automobile, Lincoln’s 2012 MKZ relies a bit too much on the success of its Ford Fusion cousin. And there lies the rub: Why would an average family want to spend some hefty extra money for a Lincoln when the Fusion costs less, looks pretty much the same and, when loaded up with extras, offers almost as much posh? However, should a well wrought 5-passenger Lincoln sedan be at the top of the bucket list, this midsize will more than suffice.
That said, this entry-level luxury 4-door is a smart alternative to costlier imports and, while it isn’t exactly cheap, certainly sports a lot of bang for the family buck.
Available in three feature-laden trims, the V6-equipped MKZ Base, available with or without intelligent all-wheel drive (AWD), and a fuel miserly Hybrid edition, this premier family-oriented sedan is the smallest of Lincoln’s MK-designated lineup. It continues to boast a hefty 16.5 cubic feet of cargo area in the Base version, though the 11.8 cubic feet of trunk space in the battery-handicapped Hybrid might mean one less suitcase or skimping on the shopping list. Again, the V6 edition can be delivered with intelligent all-wheel drive (AWD), while all trims once more offer a quiet, stately ride, plenty of front-seat room and comfort, understated luxury touches and, of course, the cachet of the Lincoln nameplate.
Since its 2010 reworking, the MKZ, once known as the Zephyr, has changed little, though a couple of new exterior color choices are available for 2012, while heated and cooled front seats now come standard in both trims. Finally, owners will find Ford’s touted SYNC AppLink voice-activated infotainment system adds a whole new dimension to hands-free audio, communications and navigation, with limited internet capability allowing iHeart and Pandora radio availability via their smartphones.
If there’s one thing that differentiates the MKZ from its more plebian Fusion stablemate, it’s the fact that the Lincoln’s Hybrid edition offers enough added touches to make it stand out as a well-rounded and environmentally sound addition to the luxury market. The only rival that comes close, at least in the minds of most reviewers, is Lexus’ HS 250h, which, according to most reviews, offers a less elaborate hybrid system, a smaller cabin and a heftier base MSRP than does Lincoln’s comparably equipped MKZ Hybrid.
Meanwhile, competition for the 2012 MKZ Base includes Audi’s heady A4, Cadillac’s legendary CTS, Hyundai’s surprisingly supple Genesis and Lexus’ posh ES 350. Also included in this pantheon of plush rivals are the German-engineered Mercedes-Benz C-Class and, of course, Beemer’s 3 Series sedans. Serious competition, indeed, for a lightly salted entry-level luxury automobile, even if it does carry the Lincoln brand.
Look for a return engagement of the variable-valve-timed (VVT) 3.5-liter gasoline-burning V6 powerplant in the Base and AWD MKZ for 2012. Mated with the standard 6-speed shiftable automatic transmission, this peppy six-banger puts out 263 hp at 6,250 rpm and 249 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpm. For the standard front-wheel-drive version, mileage is estimated at a tepid 18 mpg city/27 highway, while the available intelligent AWD trim, with its capability to automatically and instantaneously switch from normal FWD cruising to AWD traction, and back again, eats gas at an even less respectable 17/25 clip.
The MKZ Hybrid’s well-wrought Atkinson VVT 2.4-liter hybrid inline 4-cylinder (I4) engine again puts out 156 hp at 6,000 rpm and 136 lb-ft of torque at 2,250 rpm and combines with a permanent magnet AC synchronous electric motor for an extra 35 hp, resulting in a total of 191 ponies. All this oomph is managed by a continuously variable transmission (CVT) for mileage numbers in the range of 41/36, not bad for a midsize luxury-oriented sedan.
Additionally, with its potent 275-volt battery powering a traditional 2-mode hybrid system, the MKZ Hybrid can go up to 47 mph for short distances on electric power alone, with the combination of regenerative braking and the I4 providing almost constant battery recharging.
Tests of the V6-powered AWD MKZ found it plodding from 0-60 in a middling 7.2 seconds, with the Hybrid taking an impressive (for a hybrid) 8.7 seconds for the same journey. The 6-speed shiftable automatic is lauded by most reviewers as a vast improvement over its automatic-only predecessor. The Hybrid version also comes in for a share of praise from reviewers for its brisk performance and all but silent running.
One recurring fault that reviewers find with the MKZ Base's and AWD's powertrain is the rather wimpy engine note that remains common to these V6-equipped trims, while the Hybrid’s CVT is again chastised in many reviews for a frustrating hesitancy when merging and passing on the highway.
Ride & Handling
A standard 4-wheel independent suspension system in the 2012 MKZ trims is bolstered by a short and long arm front end and a multi-link rear suspension, all complemented by front and rear stabilizer bars for a pleasantly comfortable touring experience. Both the V6 and Hybrid variants roll on standard 17-inch alloy wheels mounting all-season tires, while the Sport Appearance Package with Sport Tuned Suspension available to the Base version boasts 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels.
Reviewers are quick to point out that the MKZ is designed as a luxury touring car, with the smooth, almost wallow-free highway ride to prove it. Bumps and divots aren’t absorbed as well as many reviewers feel a premium sedan should, but larger imperfections are conceded to be dealt with well enough. Overall, when riding on the standard suspension system, this midsize sedan reflects well its plush heritage, according to the majority of reviews.
In those trims equipped with the standard suspension, most reviewers note a competent if unexciting handling capability. The AWD edition quells the somewhat hefty torque-steer displayed by FWD versions, but most reviewers note that all trims, including the heavier Hybrid variant, display tolerably acceptable steering accuracy and only moderate body lean in sharp corners. For a little more pizzazz in the commute, however, try out the Base trim’s available Sport Appearance Package with Sport Tuned Suspension. Bear in mind, however, that ride comfort is noted by reviewers to be significantly harsher in those trims toting this beefed-up suspension.
Lastly, braking tests found a sport-tuned MKZ Base trim coming to a stop from 60 mph in 132 feet, which is considered a bit lengthy for a midsize luxury sedan. Most reviews, however, find Lincoln’s Base luxury midsize stopping power to be at least acceptable and with good pedal feel. Be advised, though, that virtually all reviewers note the regenerative braking system in the MKZ Hybrid will take a bit of getting used to.
Cabin & Comfort
Of course, standard appearance, comfort and convenience features define a premium sedan, and the MKZ doesn’t disappoint. All trims boast premium Bridge Of Weir leather upholstery, heated and cooled, 8-way power-adjustable front seats with power driver’s side lumbar support and height adjustment, as well as digital keypad power door locks, power windows and heated power-adjustable outside mirrors. The Base trim additionally sports reclining rear seatbacks that add to its commodious trunk area, and both trims feature a rear center armrest with storage, as well as leather, wood and alloy cabin accents and a leather and wood steering wheel with mounted audio and cruise controls.
Manually adjustable telescoping tilt-wheel steering, of course, remains standard aboard all three trims, and is again complemented by SYNC Destination Guidance and Download, as well as a universal remote garage door opener and rear parking sensors. Then there’s the standard front dual-zone auto climate control, front and rear floor mats and auto-dimming rear-view mirror, along with memory settings for two drivers, all combining to make the journey a pleasant experience.
Techno-goodies, finally, include Ford's capable internet-supported SYNC AppLink Smartphone voice-activated infotainment interface, starring Bluetooth hands-free communications and a 360-watt audio system with an MP3-capable 6-CD changer, 9 total speakers, satellite radio, auxiliary iPod integration and a USB port.
The MKZ Hybrid edition also boasts the well-received Smartgauge display with digital graphic readouts that lets drivers know when their Hybrid is performing at its economical and environmental best.
Options for the Base trim, meantime, include the self-described Sport Appearance Package with Sport-Tuned Suspension along with the Executive Package, with unique upholstery colors and trim inserts, along with carpeted floor mats. All trims, of course, remain eligible for the Interior Aluminum Package with leather-wrapped steering wheel and genuine aluminum cabin accents, as well as standalone options like remote engine start and premium carpeted floor mats.
Finally, MKZ trims can be delivered with the Rapid Spec 101A/102A (Base V6) and 201A/202A (Hybrid) packages with, depending on the particular selection, 600-watt THX II 14-speaker premium sound as well as 10GB of music storage, a power moonroof, SYNC-interfaced hard-drive-based navigation with DVD-interfaced 8-inch touchscreen with integrated rear-view camera.
Reviewers offer justifiable praise for the MKZ’s plush cabin ambiance and state-of-the-art techno-goodies, but temper their kudos with the fact that much of this plush can also be found in the less-expensive Fusion. Seats, for instance, are comfy enough, but don’t offer significantly more long-haul satisfaction than many less-expensive sedans, while rear-seat leg and shoulder room, though alleged to accommodate 3 people, in actuality means 3 children. Unfortunately, a number of interior trim pieces that are painted to look like metal remain, in the minds of most reviewers, unconvincing, with many noting that about the only thing actually elevating this 4-door’s Lincoln-esque image is the available Executive Package with its genuinely high-end feel.
Standard safety equipment delivered with the 2012 MKZ again includes 4-wheel antilock brakes (ABS) with electronic brakeforce distribution as well as traction and stability control, while dual front side-mounted airbags also remain standard, as do front and rear head airbags. Front fog/driving lights, dusk-sensing headlights, SYNC-interfaced airbag deployment alerts, a post-collision safety system and a remote antitheft alarm also come standard on both trims. Should one of the available Rapid Spec packages be selected, each offers Ford’s touted BLIS blind-spot alert system with cross-traffic warning, adaptive high-intensity discharge (HID) headlights and, in the case of the 102A/202A Rapid Spec package, rain-sensing wipers.
In testing Lincoln’s midsize MKZ, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives it an overall 4-star evaluation, its second-highest rating. Front crash tests resulted in a 3-star rating, the Administration’s third best score, with 4 stars given in side impact tests. Both the Base and the Hybrid were given 4 stars in rollover testing, with the AWD trim getting a top-shelf 5-star rating.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), meantime, gives the 2012 MKZ its best score of Good in all criteria except small-overlap frontal crash tests, where this entry-level luxury sedan stumbles with a next-to-worst Marginal rating.
What Owners Think
Ponderous handling capabilities, especially in the Hybrid, are among owners' pet peeves with the 2012 MKZ. A number of owners also find fault with what they consider some low-ball cabin materials, as well as that cramped rear seat, iffy front-seat bolstering and tepid mileage out of the Base V6 engine, not to mention the hefty price tag demanded by the Hybrid version. Finally, a significant number of owners are still of the opinion that many of the standard SYNC operations could be further simplified and made more driver-friendly, with the available navigation system drawing the lion's share of blame.
On the positive side, owners of the Hybrid edition crow about its smooth performance and its wallet-friendly… not to mention earth-friendly…powertrain efficiency despite its higher initial cost, while both trims gain praise for their superlative ride comfort. Overall build quality in Lincoln’s midsize sedan comes in for a share of owner applause, as do its quiet cabin and plethora of high-tech features.
by Eric Tallberg
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Lincoln MKZ Questions
Why Am I Getting Such Poor Mileage From My Hybrid 2012 Mkz.
I heard that what your car MPG reads when you get it is about what you can expect. Mine had 200 miles on it and read 21 MPG in the fuel efficiency area. I have put 1,000 miles on it and am averaging 2...