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Finding Itself

2014 Lincoln MKZ

“The Lincoln Motor Company.” Sounds strange, but that’s what it is these days since the demise of the Mercury brand. And with the divestiture of Jaguar, Land Rover, and Volvo (not to mention a 25 percent stake in Mazda), I imagine it’s pretty lonely these days at Ford’s world headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan.

Which makes the handsome new Lincoln MKZ even more of a curiosity. Handsome it is, from just about every angle. Especially when compared to the first-generation MKZ, which from the outside was nothing more than a Ford Fusion/Mercury Milan with a different grille and taillights. The new MKZ has undergone a total makeover, with its own body shell and interior appointments. It does however, still share its basic bones with Ford’s Fusion. And this, I believe, is where maybe Ford should fill some of that empty office space in Dearborn with some bodies who will design a new Lincoln more along the lines of its traditional, and very successful rival, Cadillac. Not to mention the German and Asian sport luxury sedans available for around the same money as a Lincoln. I went to the website and priced-out a nicely equipped (I thought) AWD MKZ, and it came to almost $52,000.

The BMW 5 Series starts at $49,500; the Cadillac CTS starts at $45,100; and the Lexus GS starts at $47,700. Perhaps the equipment in these price ranges isn’t totally comparable: That $52,000 MKZ has extras including all-wheel-drive, 3.7-liter V-6, a panoramic moonroof, massaging seats, and yes, a slew of other options which might take the prices of the others over and above that $52,000 mark. But, and this is a big but, the other three cars will probably provide more satisfaction while both driving them, and ultimately, reselling them.

That being said, the MKZ is not a bad car at all. It’s roomy, handsome (there, I said it again), and a great boulevard cruising car. And that’s all many want when buying a car this size at this price point.

Let’s look at what the MKZ offers at the base price of $35,190. The drivetrain is a 2.0-liter EcoBoost I-4 turbocharged direct injection engine (EPA-rated at 22/33 miles per gallon city/highway, connected to a six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters); 18-inch painted aluminum wheels; LED head- and taillamps; heated mirrors; AM/FM/MP3/single-CD/SiriusXM audio system with 11 speakers; leather seats; heated front seats with two-way power lumbar; genuine wood accents on the dash…so you can see that for your $35,000 you’re getting a well equipped sedan.

There’s room for five; the front seats are easy entry with plenty of head and leg room. (Although I wasn’t able to try out the headroom with the panoramic moonroof, I suspect it won’t rob much space.) The back seat is also easy to get in and out of, and three could fit back there comfortably depending of course, on their size.

I didn’t get the chance to drive an MKZ, as I was checking it out at the New York International Auto Show a couple of weeks ago in New York City. But other media outlets have reported that the AWD version equipped with the I-4 turbo to be a bit heavy (at almost two tons) to move the car along effortlessly and quietly, but it offers a premium in gas mileage. The 3.7-liter V-6, they say, is a much better choice if you’re looking for performance. I think a newer transmission of eight speeds (like much of the competition) would greatly help Lincoln’s cause.

Positioning the MKZ further from the Fusion was a good move on Ford’s part. Now if they can only develop its own, sporty platform, they’ll be better able to compete with those whom they see as their competition. I’m looking forward to it.

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Read more of Jim Corbran's You Auto Know every other week in Artvoice, and more frequently on Artvoice Daily.

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