Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2016 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid

AutoTrader SCORE
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car

I love the shape of the MKZ - it's sleek, modern and refined, and it stands out in the crowd. Lincoln dresses things up a big with bright adaptive LED headlights flanking the love-it-or-hate-it-grille, as well as a nifty strip of LEDs that make up the tail lights. Meaty 245/40-sized tires come wrapped around the handsome 19-inch rims, and the overall package is, to me, distinctive for its elegant simplicity.

The overall package is, to me, distinctive for its elegant simplicity.

The MKZ's clean flowing lines continue inside, where everything feels seamlessly integrated. At first, premium amenities like the genuine walnut wood accents, heated steering wheel and the leather-trimmed heated, cooled, power-adjustable, massaging seats are pretty awesome. But I soon noticed that the cabin still feels dark and the materials aren't up to snuff in the entry-level luxury category, and neither is the fit and finish. Likewise, neat touches like the "suspension bridge" centre console seem great at first, until you realize that reaching underneath the centre console to get your stuff isn't all that practical.

The MyLincolnTouch system with its familiar 8-inch touch screen handles everything - your climate settings, your navigation and phone functions and the spectacular 14-speaker, 700 watts THX sound system. It's relatively intuitive but not very responsive - I give it full marks for super-fast and accurate voice recognition though. And it is slated to be replaced by Ford's new SYNC 3, which should be a major improvement.

If you love driver assistance technology, you've come to the right place. Loaded like my review vehicle, the MKZ comes complete with blind-spot monitoring, active park assist, rear-view camera with front and rear parking sensors, lane keeping system, driver alert system (that presumes to know when you need a break based on your driving habits, like how many times you've crossed the middle line), adaptive cruise control, collision warning with brake support and rear cross traffic alert. Wow! All of it works pretty well and is relatively unobtrusive.

I hate the push-button transmission controls. It feels slow to use and it is as irritating as the complete lack of buttons on the centre stack. Yes, this clean things up visually, but none of it feels good to use, and those capacitive touch-strips are an ergonomic nightmare.

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Overhead, the absolutely massive panoramic sunroof is a triumph when it comes to giving an interior a nice airy feel, but it looks horrendous when it's open and it acts like an air scoop - the buffeting I experienced while driving with the roof open at freeway speeds was unacceptable. Furthermore, all that hardware means more things that can go wrong and I heard a nearly constant creaking from one side of the roof. That would drive me crazy if I owned this car.

The swoopy styling makes for somewhat limited head room in the back, although I (at 5'10") had enough. Happily, the leg room and foot room is more generous.

The two outboard seats are heated and quite comfortable, and rear passengers get 12V and 110V household plugs. There are two sets of LATCH anchors back there for kids' seats, but none of my three kids were happy sitting in the middle - this position is a write-off thanks to the tunnel on the floor and the centre console.

One other note - the rear air bag seat belts feel kind of like empty fire hoses, and my kids found the belts difficult to hold and buckle up. The retractor mechanisms also seemed chronically grumpy, not allowing the seatbelt to be pulled out far enough to properly buckle up, and everyone found them frustrating to work with.

Pop the MKZ's power trunk lid (it closes with power assist too) to reveal the small and strangely shaped 314 litre trunk. Thankfully the trunk lid's arms are shrouded so they don't pinch your stuff when you close the trunk and the rear seats do fold down to add some more cargo space.

The front-wheel-drive-only hybrid's motivation comes from a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder paired with an electric motor for a net 188 HP, which, as you may have expected, makes its way through a CVT. The small 51 litre gas tank still makes for a decent range when you take the stunning city fuel economy rating of 5.7 L/100 km (41 US mpg) and the equally impressive 6.0 L/100 km (39 US mpg) it is rated to get on the highway into consideration. I averaged an awesome 6.3 L/100 km (37 US mpg) during my week. Of note, the MKZ showed me that out of the 390 km I drove, 148 km were in EV mode. Pretty cool stat.

Ease off the line, and the MKZ hybrid's near-silent operation in EV mode is impressive. If you want to get a move on (either off the line or while you're already on the go), you'll find the hybrid's acceleration is adequate at best but the whole near-silent business gets thrown out the window. The 4-cylinder drones on miserably under acceleration, and this makes for truly ugly noises that detract from the luxurious pretentions of the MKZ. Frankly, when you step on it, the drivetrain suddenly doesn't seem befitting of a vehicle in the entry-level luxury class. Otherwise the hybrid drivetrain does a decent job - I just don't think it's a good fit for this car.

The regenerative brakes are a bit mushy, but not terrible, and I found the steering to be a bit vague and artificial-feeling. What Lincoln did get right is the MKZ's seriously creamy ride. Everybody who got a ride commented on it - it is truly great. The vehicle's continuously variable suspension damping offer three modes (comfort, normal or sport) and I found that it allows the car to handle corners in a very composed manner, gripping the pavement with competence and confidence. With that said, I wouldn't say it's much fun to drive.

Visibility out of the vehicle is decent, and other than the on-again, off-again engine noise, the MKZ is pretty quiet. Wind noise is negligible and I occasionally found myself sailing along at highway speeds on electric power.

Considering I'm a big fan of the Ford Fusion line-up (the hybrid model included), I really wanted to love the MKZ. But it didn't work for me. There's plenty of good stuff in terms of styling and tech, and I simply can't argue with the fuel economy. But it doesn't sound or feel as refined as you'd expect whenever the gas engine is part of the equation, and there's not enough going on in other departments to justify the MKZ's price - especially in light of the competition.

WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) was middling. She loved the looks, but thought it felt bigger than it looks when she was driving it. She also hated how small the trunk was when it came to her retail therapy.
The MKZ is a modern, distinctive vehicle, but it is a tough sell versus some of the other more refined entry-level luxury sedans out there. And it's tough to forget the fact that this is a prettier Fusion hybrid, which is, in my opinion, a great car that can be had at a significantly more palatable price.

4 years/80,000 km; 6 years/110,000 km powertrain; 5 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 6 years/110,000 km roadside assistance; 8 years/160,000 km hybrid components

Infiniti Q50 Hybrid
Lexus ES300h

Model Tested 2016 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid
Base Price $38,460
A/C Tax
Destination Fee $1,800
Price as Tested $53,925
Optional Equipment
$700 Bronze Fire paint; $5,640 Reserve Equipment group; $225 aluminum trim; $2,450 Technology package; $100 engine block heater; $3,450 panoramic roof; $750 multi-contour seats; $250 rear inflatable seatbelts