Lincoln's midsize MKZ, formerly known as the Zephyr, received a more powerful engine for 2007 and now it gets a handful of improvements for 2008.
The MKZ is Lincoln's entry-level luxury car, and it shares its basic structure with the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan. It has front-wheel or all-wheel drive.
A key addition for '08 is Ford's Sync, a hands-free, in-car communication and entertainment system that integrated cell phones and MP3 music players. Sync was developed in collaboration with Microsoft.
For 2008, the MKZ's optional navigation system is now voice-activated. Other additions for 2008 include a reverse-sensing system, Sirius satellite radio, premium heated and cooled leather seats and a tire-pressure monitoring system.
Prices for the MKZ start at $30,555 for front-wheel drive and $32,245 for all-wheel drive. Standard equipment includes 17-inch wheels, side-curtain airbags, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, anti-lock brakes and traction control. I drove an all-wheel-drive model with a sticker price of $37,945.
The 3.5-liter V-6 that was new in '07 produces 263 horsepower, and while it won't knock your hat off, it delivers a nice spread of power across a wide power band. The engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission whose lower gears give good acceleration while higher gears allow relaxed cruising.
All-wheel drive is ideal for buyers who live where rain and snow are prevalent. The Lincoln system divides power between front and rear as needed, but traction control also means that power can be divided from side to side, and that is extremely useful if you pull up to an icy curb or get two wheels off the edge of the road.
The Lincoln's chassis has class-leading torsional rigidity, and the suspension was designed to deliver responsive handling. The ride feels a tad softer than the Milan or Fusion. Agile handling has not been sacrificed for comfort, however, and the MKZ has confident cornering.
The brakes have large rotors, and the rack-and-pinion steering is mounted to a separate subframe for reduced noise and vibration.
The MKZ is not a large car, despite the 107.4-inch wheelbase, but it has decent space inside. The back seat has 37 inches of legroom, and the trunk is generous. The split-folding rear seat affords space for long items.
Exterior styling is understated. The waterfall grille and high-intensity headlights add visual interest to a relatively plain body, and the tall trunk and large taillights look handsome.
The test car's interior looked rich because it had satin and aluminum accent panels. The instrument panel is different from that of the Milan's or Fusion's, and the gauges have an expensive look. I would prefer slightly bolder, or brighter, numerals for the gauges so they would be easier to see. Interior fit and finish were excellent throughout the cabin.
The test car's leather steering wheel felt great, and the fingertip controls for audio and cruise control were handy.
The optional navigation system, $1,895, is a dramatic improvement over previous efforts. The screen is easy to read and the menu system is logical. The test car's THX stereo delivered crisp, clean sound that was a delight to the ears.
Price The test car's base price was $32,425. Options included a navigation system, power sunroof, high-intensity headlamps, satin aluminum interior trim, THX audio upgrade, and a wood and leather steering wheel. The sticker price was $37,945.
Warranty Four years or 50,000 miles with a six-year, 70,000-mile powertrain warranty.
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