This is going to be a tough one. Let me just say it right off, the Lincoln MKZ — formerly Zephyr — is not going to make it on my list of most noticeable test cars. In fact, it has stirred up some major feelings of dissatisfaction, starting with my No. 1 complaint: sticker price.
The all-wheel-drive Lincoln MKZ starts at $31,050, and my test car with navigation and the premium sound package ($2,495), heated and cooled seats ($495), interior satin/aluminum trim ($195), Sirius Satellite Radio ($195) and HID headlamps ($495) totaled $35,640 after destination. Yes, $35,640 for what is basically a tarted-up Ford Fusion.
I’m not one of those message-board lurkers who routinely rail against what many call “badge engineering.” That’s when a company like Ford uses the same platform for various models under various nameplates. However, this is one case of badge engineering that has gone completely awry. The MKZ and Mercury Milan are basically no different from a much more affordable Fusion; similarly equipped with AWD, leather and navigation, the Fusion costs $28,265. The Fusion, with all of its trim levels and options, is actually a very competent midsize sedan, and it’s priced properly.
I even got to express my disappointment with the MKZ when I drove my wife to pick up our Jeep from the service shop at our local dealership, an odd marriage of Jeep, Chrysler and Ford. A salesman was trying to dissuade his customer from ogling the slick black MKZ I had parked right in front and go back to the Fusion he was trying to sell him. The problem with not being a Ford, Lincoln, Mercury shop, I guess.
I asked the man shopping if he wanted to check out the MKZ and he asked my opinion. I told him to — gulp — listen to the salesman. The Fusion is the best bang for the buck, but, yeah, the MKZ sure looks nice.
That’s from the outside, of course. Inside only the gauges stand out. The silver-coated plastic finish everywhere is atrocious. Joe Wiesenfelder also marked it down as a negative in the MKX he just reviewed. It just screams “cheap,” and 35 large ain’t cheap.
Oh, back to that price. I couldn’t help but remember the G35x I recently tested. Its interior was one of the best around, it had a more powerful engine and got better mileage. The MKZ had a final tally of 14 mpg in heavy city driving. The cost of the Infiniti G35x, also with all-wheel drive? Well, our tester was loaded with navigation and the premium package, which adds a sunroof, and it totaled $38,900. The base G35x, at $34,650 with no options, is still a giant step up from our as-tested MKZ.
Other cars you can get for $35K or less?
Would I ever recommend the MKZ AWD to other Urban DINKs over any of these cars? Nope, not on value or the amount of luxury you get for the money, anyway. Some of these models don’t have the same reliability, of course, and realistically equipped some would top the as-tested MKZ price, but not by much.
Even though the MKZ was a competent driver, I don’t think I’d recommend it over any of these other vehicles in the “fun to drive” category, either.
Lincoln needs to get its pricing right, and its parent, Ford, needs to do more for its luxury division. People can cry all they want about how a Lexus ES 350 is a Toyota Camry underneath, but it’s all that good stuff on top that makes it worth the money to the buyer. Lincoln needs more of the “good stuff” to be a real player, no matter how good-looking the outside is.