Lincoln's MKZ (formerly known as the Zephyr,) shares nearly every component with the Ford Fusion, including high hopes for brand rejuvenation. Lincoln is in need of a fresh and proper flagship to accompany the aging Town Car and LS. However, it's questionable whether or not new and younger customers will flock to Lincoln/Mercury dealers for the smallish front-wheel-drive MKZ, especially with the lower-priced Fusion joining the plethora of solid import and domestic competitors.
Somewhat smaller than the current Lincoln LS and built on a modified Mazda 6 platform, the MKZ goes on sale this fall as a 2006 model. A 210-hp, 3.0-liter V-6 with a six-speed automatic will be the only powertrain offered. All-wheel drive will be an '07 option. The MKZ, Lincoln's first entry-level luxury car in some time, will be filled with plush Lincoln bells and whistles, including the most advanced Lincoln navigation system offered yet, a THX II-certified audio system, and enough silver plastic to open a Sharper Image store.
Like its Fusion sibling, the MKZ appears to have received a good deal of careful attention from engineers and developers; we will fill in our readers on more as soon as we have an opportunity to drive one. And while the MKZ looks good from most angles, we cannot excuse the bulbous taillight design which tries to give the car presence but succeeds only in making it look misproportioned.
Pricing has not yet been announced, though we're told that it will be competitive with cars such as the Audi A4, which starts just under $33,000 in 3.0-liter V-6 form. While the Mazda 6 on which the MKZ is based is a fantastic car, it isn't a BMW 3-series or A4 competitor, and the Zephyr's styling, interior, and brand prestige do nothing to set the MKZ apart in a competitive class.