First Drive: 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid

We've already seen this gas-electric powertrain in the Ford Fusion Ford Fusion and the Mercury Milan, but Lincoln is upping the level of luxury with the 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid. With hybrid credentials and a plush interior, the gas-electric MKZ is targeting a new breed of luxury buyers that avoid conspicuous consumption for more restrained products that also reflect a social conscience. The Lexus HS250h is the only direct competitor in the mid-size luxury-hybrid space, and Lincoln thinks it has a significantly stronger proposition with MKZ's better fuel economy and lower price.

A familiar fuel-sipper
Under the hood, the MKZ packs the familiar second-generation Ford hybrid powertrain. A 2.5-liter four-cylinder operating on the Atkinson cycle provides the bulk of the power, but an additional 40 hp is delivered by an electric motor. The two power sources can work independently or together through the continuously variable transmission. Peak system power is 191 hp and the MKZ Hybrid can remain in a pure electric mode up to 47 mph.

Lincoln engineers have made only subtle changes to the powertrain calibration to improve cabin noise by reducing engine drone, so we're not surprised to find the same excellent power delivery and smoothness. Transitions from electric mode to parallel mode would be practically imperceptible were it not for the audible clues. Driven in typical conditions, as we did around the Washington, D.C. area, the Lincoln hybrid execution reminds us that the Ford system is so good because it drives so normally-just like the gasoline cars we're so used to. It's these traits that led us to name the Ford Fusion Hybrid a 2010 Automobile Magazine All-Star. Like the Fusion, the MKZ Hybrid earns an EPA fuel economy rating of 41 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. By comparison, the Lexus HS250h is rated at 35/34 mpg.

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Lincoln managers have lost their mind. They have ALL but given up on this one time flagship. It looks like a bloated cow, dead, after a hurricane. The power is anemic by today's HP standards in a luxury car and now this hybrid which is the LAST thing anyone cares about in a luxury car.Why don't they just kill the division and let it die in what dignity it has left.I could run a car design group better than these overpaid idiots.

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