As with the powertrain, the chassis provides a reassuringly normal driving experience. The brake pedal is a touch springy, yet it's easy to modulate and the relationship between hydraulic and regenerative brakes is absolutely seamless. Quite simply, these are the best brakes of any hybrid on the road. The ride is comfortable, though sharp impacts can jar the rear suspension and send jitters through the chassis. When cruising in electric mode -- which is a significant amount of time in the city -- the cabin is impressively quiet. Handling isn't exceptional, but is certainly acceptable with steering response that exceeds our (relatively low) expectations for hybrids.
Short on style
To coax owners into driving more efficiently, the Lincoln's instrument cluster creates a sort of game with digital flora. On the LCD screen just to the right of the speedometer, vines grow to reflect how aggressive or conservative the driver is currently driving. More fuel-efficient motoring yields more leaves. Apple blossoms that grow more slowly reflect long-term fuel economy. The more flowers a driver has, the more difficult it becomes to grow more blossoms, requiring even more efficient driving.
Like the gasoline MKZ, the hybrid includes heated and cooled front seats, a ten-way power passenger seat, dual-zone climate control, and reverse sensors as standard equipment. The hybrid also includes a driver's knee airbag that's not available in the V-6. Options include adaptive high-intensity discharge headlights, navigation, blind-spot monitoring, and THX premium audio. Notably absent from the options list is keyless ignition with passive entry.
The interior features nice leather and real wood, though it under-delivers on style. The simple lines of the dash and trim components suggest a car that's been designed from a straightforward functional perspective, rather than the high-style of luxury that we expect. Much like the interior, the sheet metal lacks luxury character, whether it's in the form of dynamism or stateliness. Save for the HS250h, the MKZ may be the most staid looking vehicle in the mid-size segment. Lincoln desperately needs a car that reflects a focused company philosophy both in how it looks and how it drives, much like the 3-series works for BMW. It may drive nicely, but the MKZ hardly has the personality to define a path for Lincoln.