The 2014 Lincoln MKZ offers modern features and distinctive style, but it's a hard sell compared with more refined entry-level luxury sedan competitors.
Fresh from last year's redesign, the 2014 Lincoln MKZ carries over unchanged.Read more
Eye-catching design; high fuel economy from available hybrid model; many standard features.
More than 50 years have passed since Lincoln represented the luxury motoring experience to which many Americans aspired. Time has not favored the brand, and import-brand cars are no longer the alternatives, but rather the standard bearers of luxury car ownership. Competition is especially intense in the popular entry-level luxury sedan class, where the 2014 Lincoln MKZ looks to reclaim some of that former Detroit glory.
It starts with a sleek, modern look highlighted by a split-winged grille, followed by creased sheet metal that wraps tightly around the MKZ's four doors, and finishing with a full-width LED taillight panel. The MKZ is heavily related to the Ford Fusion, but at least on the outside, there's plenty of differentiation between the two cars.
Underneath, you'll find one of three available engines: a turbocharged four-cylinder, an optional V6 (which isn't offered on the Fusion, incidentally) and a hybrid powertrain in the MKZ Hybrid. We haven't been particularly impressed with the V6's acceleration and fuel economy. The base turbo four-cylinder is a respectable performer, though, while the Hybrid delivers an estimated 38 mpg in combined driving.
The MKZ also rides like a traditional Lincoln. It's quiet and unfazed by the road's imperfections, thanks largely to a standard adaptive suspension and active noise cancelling inside the cabin. When the road turns twisty, however, the MKZ dispenses with tradition and holds the road tighter than any Lincoln in recent memory.
On the inside, however, the MKZ falls short. Mediocre cabin materials pale compared to the MKZ's premium sedan competitors, while the MKZ's distinctive exterior lines -- the roof line, particularly -- give it less interior space than even the Ford Fusion. Another problem is the MKZ's buggy and distracting touchscreen electronics interface, which controls phone, navigation and audio functions.
Overall, the 2014 Lincoln MKZ is a competent sedan. But it takes more than competence to win in this class. The Lexus ES 350 and ES 300h hybrid, for example, have more luxurious interiors. The 2014 Acura TL and Volvo S60 deliver stronger six-cylinder power along with available all-wheel drive. And for all-around sporting character and refinement, the 2014 Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series remain the ones to beat. Although the MKZ represents a significant step forward for the brand that once set the standard, there's still more work to be done which is why it earned a C rating from the Edmunds staff.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The Lincoln MKZ is a midsize luxury sedan that comes in two trim levels: MKZ and MKZ Hybrid.
Both come with 18-inch wheels, adaptive LED headlights, LED taillights, adaptive suspension dampers, keyless ignition/entry (with an outside keypad), dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, heated 10-way power front seats with power lumbar, driver memory settings, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and full power accessories.
Also standard are the Sync voice-command system, the MyLincoln Touch infotainment system with an 8-inch touchscreen interface, and an 11-speaker sound system with CD player, auxiliary/USB/iPod input jacks and satellite radio.
Most options are grouped into tiered packages, starting with the Select package that includes front bumper accent lights, an auto-dimming driver-side mirror, a rearview camera, rear parking sensors, wood steering wheel trim, ambient lighting and HD radio. The Reserve package includes those features plus a navigation system, a blind spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert, a power-close trunk lid, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and ventilated front seats.
Finally, the Preferred Equipment package groups all the optional features above and adds 19-inch wheels, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, a 110-volt power outlet and a premium 14-speaker surround-sound audio system. An available Technology package bundles adaptive cruise control, an automated parallel parking system, a lane departure/keeping system, collision warning/mitigation, automatic headlights and automatic windshield wipers. There's also a Summer Tire Handling package (AWD, non-hybrid only) that includes 19-inch wheels, summer tires and a sport-tuned suspension and steering rack.
Individual option highlights include a standard sunroof, a panoramic glass roof with integral sunroof, multicontour front seats, a power rear sunshade and airbag-embedded rear seatbelts.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2014 Lincoln MKZ offers three engine choices. A 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is the base engine, generating 240 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque through a six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. Front-wheel drive is standard, and all-wheel drive is optional.
In Edmunds testing, an all-wheel-drive MKZ with the 2.0 turbo accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds, an average time for the class. The front-drive MKZ returns an EPA-estimated 26 mpg combined (22 mpg city/33 mpg highway); AWD models rate 25 mpg combined (22 mpg city/31 mpg highway).
The optional 3.7-liter V6 produces 300 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque, also through a six-speed automatic and either front- or all-wheel drive. In Edmunds testing, a V6-powered all-wheel-drive MKZ covered zero to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds, a below-average result for six-cylinder entry-luxury sedans.
Front-drive V6 models return an EPA-estimated 22 mpg combined (19 mpg city/28 mpg highway), while all-wheel-drive models achieve 21 mpg combined (18 mpg city/26 mpg highway).
Finally, the 2014 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid combines a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with an electric motor for 188 total hp. The hybrid is front-wheel-drive only and uses a continuously variable transmission (CVT) to return 38 mpg combined (38 mpg city/37 mpg highway). In Edmunds testing, an MKZ Hybrid accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 8.9 seconds, slower than the mechanically similar Ford Fusion Hybrid that needed 8.5 seconds to do the same. Neither is a record-breaking performance, slightly slower than the average hybrid-sedan performance, and about a second behind the Toyota Avalon hybrid.
Standard safety features include antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front side-impact airbags, front knee airbags and side curtain airbags. The 2014 Lincoln MKZ also features the programmable MyKey system, allowing parents to set limits for vehicle speed and stereo volume for their young drivers. Sync also offers emergency crash notification that automatically dials 911 in the event of an airbag deployment.
Optional equipment includes a rearview camera, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts, lane-departure warning and lane keeping assist (which automatically helps the driver keep the car in its lane) systems, a forward collision warning system with brake support, and airbag-embedded rear seatbelts.
In Edmunds brake testing, an MKZ with standard all-season tires stopped from 60 mph in 121 feet, an average distance for this segment. The MKZ hybrid did slightly better at 120 feet.
In government crash testing, the MKZ earned the maximum five-star rating for overall crash safety, five stars for total frontal-impact protection and four stars for total side-impact protection. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) tests, the MKZ earned a top score of "Good" in moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests. The IIHS also gave the MKZ a second-best score of "Acceptable" for its new small-overlap frontal offset test.
Interior Design and Special Features
Inside, the 2014 MKZ's flowing center stack and console, devoid of buttons and knobs, feels like a futuristic template for how all car cabins might evolve. While the design looks forward, the materials are decidedly economy-class. Bumpy, utility-grade material covers the dash, door panels and console, and the brushed metal accents are nice from afar but exposed as garden-variety plastic on closer inspection. Even the gear selector buttons (no stalk shifter here) feel flimsy, without any damped, tactile sensation to confirm the state of the transmission.
Although related to the roomy Fusion sedan, the MKZ's styling distinctions actually yield less interior space. The high center console can make the front seating area feel a little confining, while the coupelike roof line infringes on the headroom of taller rear seat passengers. Rear-seat legroom, however, is generous.
The MyLincoln Touch infotainment system remains problematic. Each new software update improves it slightly, but the touchscreen interface is plagued by small virtual "buttons," slow response times and not-infrequent crashing. That said, the system offers a clean layout and splits functions into four clear quadrants: navigation, audio, climate and phone. And there's still the Sync voice command system that can control many of the tactile functions, but that's little consolation for those who prefer to not talk to their car.
The MKZ offers decent trunk space at 15.4 cubic feet, although the hybrid's capacity shrinks to 11.1 cubic feet due to the battery pack. Non-hybrids also feature a 60/40 split-folding rear seat.
Equipped with the standard 18-inch all-season tires, the 2014 Lincoln MKZ offers a quiet, compliant ride -- exactly what you expect from this class, and more particularly, from Lincoln. However, we've also tested an MKZ with 19-inch wheels and summer tires (a rarely equipped option on this car), and it had a stiff, noisy ride. Our advice is to stick with the all-season tires.
The MKZ's biggest surprise comes in its ability in the curves. The standard adjustable suspension and quick electrically assisted steering make the MKZ feel more alert than any other Lincoln in recent memory. The MKZ isn't quite up to the standards of the traditional German benchmarks, but most consumers will find it competent and enjoyable in this regard. All-wheel-drive models don't offer a dynamic advantage on dry roads, but are worth considering in areas that get significant snowfall.
Although the V6 offers more power, we've found the turbocharged four-cylinder equal in almost every other way. It's lighter and offers sharp throttle response. Acceleration to 60 mph is just a half-second slower than the V6 version, yet it offers better fuel economy.
The 2014 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid is generally as pleasant to drive as its gasoline counterparts. The hybrid rides smoothly and acceleration is adequate around town. There's generally enough passing power on the highway, too, especially if you plan ahead. The hybrid model's regenerative braking takes some getting used to, though, and inching forward or backward into a parking stall takes a delicate touch on the brake pedal.