Things looking up for Lincoln
Mark Hacking takes a look at the 2013 Lincoln MKZ and discovers some genuine technological innovation hiding amongst the expected luxury trim.
Posted May 11, 2012
By MARK HACKING, EVERGEEK MEDIA
New York, NY - Make no mistake: In terms of design, Lincoln was on a bit of a roll already. The luxury division of Ford Motor Company has enjoyed a mini-renaissance with the MKS and MKZ sedans, MKX compact crossover, MKT large crossover and Navigator SUV; new versions of all have been released within the last five years.
Sure, the MKS and MKZ are on the conservative side, but the MKS is better looking than the Ford Edge (upon which it's based) and the mammoth, hearse-like MKT is unlike anything else on the road today. But there have been criticisms. Some observers point out that the MKT looks like a hearse, for example. Others note that the entire Lincoln range consists of rebadged Fords with fancier, re-skinned interiors.
Very recently - as recently as four weeks ago in fact - that label became a little out-dated. That's because, four weeks ago, the all-new 2013 Lincoln MKZ was unveiled at the New York International Auto Show. Sure, the new sedan is still based on a Ford, the latest Fusion in this case. But the design team did not simply slap a waterfall front grille on a staid-looking four-door - new director of design Max Wolff, who forged his reputation at Cadillac, has made sure of that.
Apart from the fact that the new MKZ is a very slick-looking car, it also features some interesting technology. For one, the car dispenses with your typical gear-shifting mechanism in favour of something called Lincoln Drive Control - a push-button gear selector high on the centre console.
The removal of the need for a shift lever has opened up significant space in the center console and the use of the haptic controls of the Ford SYNC system with MyLincoln Touch has made things look even cleaner. Thumb-wheel style controls on the steering wheel can operate many of the cars comfort features, while other functions can be voice-activated through the SYNC system.
But in terms of wow factor, the most impressive part of the new Lincoln is the panoramic glass roof, the world's widest and one of the largest ever for a production vehicle. When retracted, the tinted roof slides backwards on rails, on the outside of the car, over top of the roof and the rear window.
"It's a great product, a full module that incorporates the roof and the back glass," reported Scott Tobin, Director of Lincoln Product Development, during the reveal in NYC. "It goes back 600 mm, has 5-mm thick tempered glass and a laminate on the inside. The rigidity and the structure are very safe - it meets or exceeds all the safety criteria."
The roof is reinforced with an aluminum and boron steel frame; this frame is integrated into the overall structure of the car to protect occupants in the event of a rollover. The roof is also rated at SPF 100 to protect from overdoses of vitamin D.
The Lincoln MKZ roof is quite a sight to see, but vision, as it were, seems like it might be an issue: With the darkened roof over top of the rear window, sightlines might be obscured a touch. "There are some small limitations around the cut lines," Tobin conceded, "but nothing significant, nothing that should cause worry."
Some people were also divided on how the profile of the MKZ looked with the roof hanging above and beyond the rear window. There's no question that it's a different look compared to every other mass-market sedan around. "There are many exciting things coming in terms of open-air systems from Lincoln," Tobin confirmed. "Roof systems are right up front on our radar screens."
While it's certainly far too early to tell if the 2013 Lincoln MKZ will be the car that singlehandedly resurrects the Lincoln brand and sets the stage for a head-to-head-to-head battle with segment leaders Cadillac and Lexus, it definitely looks the business.