DETROIT – When it comes to Lincoln, it's a matter of whether the glass is half full or half empty.
Of course, Lincoln executives will tell you that their mug is half full. Even though sales were down almost 14 percent through the first two months of the year, Lincoln executives expect total sales to be higher this year than they were last year. The reason is the MKS, Lincoln's new flagship sedan which is scheduled to go on sale this summer.
We don't think so. Although pricing has not been announced, we expect the MKS to be priced in the $40K to $50k range. It's the rare occasion that cars in that price range are volume sellers. Lincoln's best bet for a sales increase this year is its MKZ sedan.
We expect the MKS to draw potential buyers to Lincoln show rooms. But once buyers feast their eyes on the $32,425 MKZ, Lincoln's entry level sedan will indeed be its volume seller. This summer would be a good time for the MKZ to overcome its identity crisis.
The Lincoln MKZ started life as the Lincoln Zephyr but that lasted only one year. Then the name was changed to MKZ. In a world that is brand driven, changing the name of a product, especially a new one, can be disastrous.
It wasn't that bad for the MKZ but the moniker shift didn't help. What got lost in the process is that the MKZ is not a bad car. It was what we call a big compact. That is the MKZ is almost the size of a full-size sedan. It was powered by a 3.5 liter V6 engine that makes 263 horsepower and 249 pounds-feet of torque. The powerplant is mated to six-speed automatic transmission.
In this application, the V6 was sufficient and gear shifts were relatively smooth. We found the MKZ's ride firm but not harsh. We had the all-wheel-drive model and it handled pretty well. There was no snow here so we didn't get the chance to see how well the system worked.
For 2008, Lincoln made satellite radio, perforated leather seats and heated and cooled seats standard. Lincoln also made its Sync hands free communications system standard. We thought the lever just inside the trunk to release the rear seat back an especially nice touch. Add to that Lincoln's optional and awfully good THX audio system, and the MKZ had an excellent sound system.
The interior of the car was top notch. The MKZ's fit and finish was a little better than on some other Lincoln models. We think the brand is finally coming to understand that gaps are not a good thing when it comes to fit. Still, the MKZ could use some refinement which may come with each new model year.
Our test model produced too much road noise. That could have been the tires. Still, that excuse could not be made for the engine. We thought it a bit load, even under moderate acceleration, for a V6. The MKZ could stand some strategic placement of sound proofing material.
And we were not pleased with Lincoln's use of what it calls the satin aluminum package for $195. It looked to us like the vents were aluminum and the rest was gray plastic. We hate the overuse of silver satin plastic on any vehicle.
That said; the MKZ still caught our attention because of its price. The sticker on our test vehicle was $36,005. For that amount of money, the MKZ is at least worth a look.