DETROIT – I’m just too through with Lincoln. Not that the automaker has done anything wrong, in fact, the luxury marquee has done something awfully right.
I’ve just finished a week-long test drive of the 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid. That’s right; Lincoln has what I believe to be the first domestic luxury hybrid sedan on the market. And it was impressive.
What has me so peeved is that I don’t think Lincoln has put a whole lot of money behind marketing the 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid. According to the information provided by Lincoln, the MKZ Hybrid gets 41 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway.
The combination means Lincoln’s hybrid MKZ is more fuel efficient than a comparable model from Lexus, the luxury brand leader in hybrids. That’s a marketing advantage; one that I don’t think Lincoln is taking advantage of – yet.
For the uninitiated, hybrids are powered by a combination of electric motors that are used to supplement gasoline engines. When the vehicle stops, say at a traffic light, the gasoline engine shuts off. That’s the main reason why hybrids often get better fuel economy in city driving than they do on highways where there is no reason for start and stop driving.
Coupled with regenerative braking where energy from braking is recaptured and stored in an onboard battery that is used to power the electric motor and you have a closed hybrid system. In other words, no external power is needed to run the electric motor.
My Lincoln MKZ Hybrid was powered by a 156 horsepower four cylinder engine that made 135 foot-pounds of torque. The engine was supplemented by an electric motor that made 106 horsepower. Lincoln said the MKZ Hybrid’s net output was 191 horsepower.
Power was transmitted through a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The MKZ is front-wheel-drive which I appreciated on the slush-filled streets and my snow covered driveway. Power to the front-wheels is the next best thing to putting power to all four wheels.
Several things about the MKZ Hybrid caught my senses. First the car was quiet; that’s an accomplishment considering it had a CVT. Quite frankly, the gearless gearbox went unnoticed by me it was so unobtrusive to my driving experience.
Second, the car seemed to have more power than its horsepower rating indicated. I just didn’t get the sense that my MKZ Hybrid had less than 200 horsepower. After all, it was a mid size sedan and it didn’t seem underpowered. That might be because of its relatively feathery 3,756 lbs.
The car was very maneuverable. It had a turning radius of 37.5 feet which made it pretty nimble. A couple of times I made what amounted to U-Turns from lane to lane which is a pretty tight maneuver. The MKZ Hybrid went where I turned the steering wheel with no problem.
The interior was pretty clean; by that I mean it was not cluttered with a lot of dials and buttons or a mouse. My MKZ Hybrid had real wood trim, leather trimmed seats with suede-like inserts and heated and cooled front seats.
My only quibble, other than a lack of heavy marketing, was that the rear seat back didn’t fold forward creating more cargo room. But many luxury brand sedans don’t’ do that.
The Lincoln MKZ also had what Lincoln called a Smart Gauge with EcoGuide. It provided instantaneous, short-term and long-term fuel consumption. It also provided fuel and battery charge levels, engine output and battery output levels, and an electric vehicle mode indicator, the car can get up to 47 mph on the electric motor alone.
I found it awfully reasonable that the amount of technology which included voice controls, a navigation system, satellite radio and Bluetooth, was being offered on the 2011 Lincoln MKZ for $39,270.