The Bottom Line
Last year Ford introduced the Fusion Hybrid, which I loved, and the improved and updated Lincoln MKZ, which I also loved. For 2011, Ford has combined the two to make the MKZ Hybrid. (For those not making the connection, Lincoln is a division of Ford, and the Fusion and the MKZ are basically the same car under the skin.) Predictably, I love it. Read on to find out why.
- Smooth, quiet ride
- Good power and excellent fuel economy
- Roomy cabin
- Excellent (optional) navigation system and stereo
- Small climate and stereo buttons
- Frumpy exterior styling
- Hybrid battery limits trunk space
- New hybrid version of Lincoln's MKZ mid-size sedan
- Price range: $35,180 - $42,285
- Price as tested: $42,285
- Powertrain: 2.5 liter 4-cylinder + electric motor, continuously-variable automatic transmission, front-wheel-drive
- EPA fuel economy estimates: 41 MPG city/36 MPG highway
- Observed fuel economy: 54.1 MPG
- Best rivals: Lexus HS 250h, Audi A4 2.0T
Guide Review - 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid test drive
The MKZ Hybrid melds the best attributes of its lineage: The well-finished interior and tomb-like silence of the MKZ with the strong acceleration and excellent fuel economy of Ford's outstanding hybrid drivetrain (link goes to photo). As I drove the MKZ Hybrid, I kept thinking of those old Reese's Peanut Butter Cups commercials: Whether you got your chocolate in my peanut butter or I got my peanut butter on your chocolate, the result is pretty damn good.
So is the value: The MKZ Hybrid starts at $35,180 with standard leather seats (heated, cooled and power-adjustable in front), dual-zone climate control, and SYNC voice control for your iPod and phone. The options list includes navigation with real-time traffic and weather, chrome wheels, rain-sensing wipers, and an outstanding THX surround sound system. Keyless ignition is conspicuous by its absence, but aside from that, the MKZ Hybrid leaves buyers wanting for nothing.
When I tested the Fusion Hybrid, I averaged 37 MPG, and I expect the MKZ Hybrid would do the same under normal circumstances. This time 'round, the Lincoln folks had a hypermiling contest, and I was able to nurse the MKZ Hybrid up to 54.1 MPG. (Oddly enough, when you drive a Lincoln down the freeway at 40 MPH, nobody bats an eye.)
If I was going to pick nits, I suppose I'd talk about the tiny climate control buttons, the ugly taillights, the non-expandable trunk (the back seat doesn't fold down due to the location of the battery pack, although the trunk measures in at a reasonable 11.8 cubic feet), and fact that this excellent example of American engineering is built in Mexico. None would stop me from recommending the car.
Since most luxury hybrids are designed for power, not fuel economy, the MKZ Hybrid's closest competitor is the Lexus HS 250h. Talk about shooting fish in a barrel. Compared to the Lexus, the Lincoln is more spacious, more comfortable, more powerful, and more fuel-efficient (41 MPG city/36 highway for the MKZ vs 35/34 for the HS). Okay, so the MKZ can't match the HS' techno-gadgets, like its mouse-style navigation controller and LED headlights. But is that why you buy a hybrid? Besides, the MKZ has an excellent nav system of its own (with better voice recognition, I might add), and it offers more standard equipment for less money than the Lexus. Bottom line: Gadgets or no gadgets, the MKZ is the better hybrid.
Even if the MKZ Hybrid had more rivals, I still think it would fare pretty well. The MKZ hits all the high notes -- well-finished cabin, responsive handling, quiet and refined ride, and fantastic fuel economy -- and has few faults. You can't ask much more from a luxury hybrid than that. -- Aaron Gold