New York 2012: 2013 Lincoln MKZ Starts the Luxury Brand's Reinvention

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Press conference at the auto show? Forget it. To unveil the 2013 MKZ, Lincoln hosted a dinner at a swanky building in New York's Chelsea district, with a live band providing ambiance. There's a reason for this sort of presentation: it demonstrates Lincoln's dedication to elevating the brand.

"Our strategy for Lincoln is very simple," explained Ford president of the Americas Mark Fields. "We're taking this brand and reinventing it for the 21st century as a world-class luxury brand."

The 2013 Lincoln MKZ shouldn't be much of a surprise to regular readers, as it differs in only minor ways from the MKZ concept shown fewer than three months ago at the Detroit auto show. That's no bad thing, as the new MKZ is a really stunning and dramatic design.

From the swoopy split-wing chrome grille, to the subtly creased doors, to the concave trunk with stubby spoiler, the 2013 Lincoln MKZ is a stylish car. One of the key visual points is the glass roof, a large section of which can lift and slide rearward to create an extremely large sunroof. The five-seat cabin, too, is smartly finished, with real metal and wood trim, heated leather seats, and a full-LCD instrument cluster. Also note that instead of a physical shifter, the transmission is controlled by five buttons on the left-hand edge of the center stack.

Lincoln design director Max Wolff says that the 2013 MKZ had to follow one primary idea: "When you drive a Lincoln, you want to know you're driving a Lincoln."

He suggested that, to stand out from the crowd, this and future Lincoln vehicles need "a sense of gravitas." And while many automakers adopt extremely similar designs across their model ranges, Wolff says each of his brand's cars, "Needs to express its character a little bit." In other words, a crossover might wear different design cues than a sport-luxury sedan.

Under the hood is either a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four with 240 hp, or a 3.7-liter V-6 with 300 hp. Both front- and all-wheel drive are available, with a six-speed automatic the only transmission. There also will be a hybrid version of the 2013 Lincoln MKZ, which will produce a combined 188 hp from a 2.0-liter gas engine and electric motor. That version is supposed to be far more efficient than the current 41-mpg MKZ hybrid.

Though they are based on essentially the same platform, we're told the 2013 Lincoln MKZ shares a minimal number of mechanical components with the 2013 Ford Fusion. Going forward, Lincoln models will be more distinct from their Ford progenitors. A product planner also signals that the wide-opening glass roof will be offered on future Lincolns -- although it may take different forms for different classes of vehicles.

Of course, the 2013 MKZ signals more than just a new car in the Lincoln stable. The brand plans to propel itself upmarket by revamping its showrooms and having employees trained in customer service by high-end concierge experts from hotel consultancy Les Clefs d'Or. Over half of all Lincoln dealerships have dedicated to investing in new showrooms. There also are ideas like offering "date night", where Lincoln would provide a trial car to potential customers for 48 hours and pay for a romantic dinner. The company is even considering gifting customers a free detailing and new floor mats each year on their car's "anniversary."

"It's a great area to eliminate that friction that many conquest customers have," explained Ford marketing vice president Jim Farley. "And we think it's a great idea."

For more on the 2013 Lincoln MKZ, check out our First Look here. For more on the 2012 New York International Auto Show, including videos, the latest photos, and more information, click here to visit our New York Auto Show homepage.

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