First Look: 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid

The 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, which is set to spin on the New York show turntables this week, is one of the biggest no brainers in the history of badge engineering. Lincoln needed a hybrid, the MKZ is a Fusion sibling, and the Fusion Hybrid has been very well received. You get the picture.

The MKZ Hybrid will be Lincoln's first hybrid when it hits showrooms this fall. It's essentially a Fusion Hybrid with Lincoln luxury appointments and exterior style. Its parallel hybrid powertrain - a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle I-4 hybrid engine that works in concert with an electric motor to produce 191 net horsepower -- is unchanged from the Fusion version. Also like the Fusion Hybrid, the MKZ is capable of running under electric power up to 47 mph and has that magical 41 mpg city number to hype.

After scouring the press release, we were able to find one small difference between the two hybrids: SmartGauge with EcoGuide has been updated slightly for the MKZ. Lincoln says SmartGauge has been "taken to the next level of engagement" by giving drivers more feedback on long-term fuel efficiency and performance. Oh, and Lincoln's version uses white flowers inspired by apple blossoms. Pretty!

Another feature specific to the MKZ Hybrid is its standard Bridge of Weir leather seats. The Scottish luxury leather is unembossed, which Lincoln says allows for a more natural grain to come through, and its chromium-free tanning process reportedly makes it easier to recycle.

The MKZ Hybrid is also endowed with all the latest in Lincoln standard luxury touches, including Lincoln's version of Sync, heated and cooled seats with 10-way power passenger seat, real wood trim (that of course comes from eco-friendly managed forests), a reverse sensing system and Lincoln's Personal Safety System -- a suite of seven safety technologies.

The main bogey for the MKZ Hybrid is the Lexus HS250, and Lincoln has come out with guns blazing, pushing the Lincoln's better fuel economy, and the fact that it has more standard luxury, technology and safety features than the Lexus. Of course, the only problem is that the Lexus is on sale now.

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