Last year’s Lincoln Zephyr is this year’s MKZ because the company changed the way it names its cars. The new moniker also comes with a larger engine and a brighter grille.

The MKZ shares its basic structure and many mechanical components with the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan, yet each has a personality of its own. The MKZ is the most luxurious of the three.

The base price is $29,950 for front-wheel drive and $31,820 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 $35,445.

All-wheel drive is ideal for folks who want to be assured of good traction in rain and snow. Lincoln’s system divides power between front and rear as needed, but the traction control also means it can split power from side to side. That helps in snowy conditions.

Aside from the new name, the most significant change to the baby Lincoln for 2007 is the 3.5-liter V-6 with 263 horsepower and six-speed automatic transmission. This engine is smooth and strong and works well with the six-speed automatic because the lower gears give good acceleration while higher gears allow relaxed cruising.

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 still 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.

Lincoln has adopted understated exterior styling. The waterfall grille and high-intensity headlights add visual interest to a relatively plain body.

The interior, on the other hand, grabs your attention with bright and cheerful blonde wood trim, brushed silver panels and creamy off-white leather upholstery. The instrument panel is unique to the MKZ, and its gauges have a more expensive look than those in the Fusion or Milan. Fit and finish throughout the cabin appears to be first rate.

The test car’s wood-and-leather steering wheel looked good and felt great. Fingertip controls for audio and cruise control were very handy.

The optional navigation system, $2,495, 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.

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 leg-room, and the trunk is generous. The split-folding rear seat affords space for long items.

Price The test car’s base price was $31,820. Options included heated and cooled perforated leather seats, navigation system, satellite radio, high-intensity headlamps and a wood and leather steering wheel. The sticker price was $35,445.

Warranty Four years or 50,000 miles with a six-year, 70,000-mile powertrain warranty.

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