With its Fusion-like ride firmness and meaty-feeling electric steering, the MKZ is sharp and more aggressive at tackling turns than even the last-generation version. It comes standard with Lincoln Drive Control, which lets drivers adjust settings for shocks, steering, stability and traction control, and active-noise cancellation. Lincoln says the result is better ride and handling with the adaptive settings, but the trade-off versus the Fusion's conventional shocks seems a zero-sum gain to us. In anything but Sport, the MKZ feels less composed and comfortable than it ought to. Softer tires and more progressive, expensive shocks might have been an easier solution, but maybe not as mechanically distinctive from the Ford iteration.
On the safety front, the MKZ pulls together nearly every piece of technology that's been added to other Ford and Lincoln products over the past few years--everything from a rearview camera to navigation systems governed by MyLincoln Touch, to inflatable rear seatbelts, to newly added features like lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control. The MKZ also integrates parking assist, which takes control of the steering and guides the sedan into a tight parallel parking spot, with the driver keeping control of braking.
MyLincoln Touch's voice controls take the reins over secondary controls, with buttons on the steering wheel offering redundant ways into the complex system. Ford's spent some time refining the system and reducing the amount of information on each display screen; it's still a system with a steep learning curve and sub-optimal results, but nothing else would enable that starkly imaginative console design.
In other respects the MKZ's luxury touches are fairly conventional. There's plenty of real wood trim and leather is standard. The finishing touch is a stunning one, though: a 15-square-foot available panoramic roof that slides back as one piece, exposing the new MKZ's cabin to the sun.
We predict two questions coming to every new Lincoln MKZ driver. The first one's easy to answer: "Is that the new MKZ?" The second one's much more difficult to come to grips with: "What makes it a Lincoln?" Strip away the grilles and badges, and we're not exactly sure. In the greater scheme, it's Lincoln's Olds Aurora--a car that's satisfying more for what's not true to its heritage, than for what is. And in this case, it's tough to forget that there's hardware just as good, just as interesting, almost as opulent, just a rung down its own corporate ladder.