I'd say that Jean Jennings's use of the word "respectable" to describe the MKZ is apt. It's definitely a step - indeed, perhaps several steps - ahead of the prior model. The exterior styling has been updated, with the most noticeable difference being the new, more aerodynamic-looking waterfall-type grille in place of the vertical, cross-hatch pattern found on the previous MKZ. In the interior, the attractive instrument panel is all-new, with more chrome trim pieces, three round gauges instead of two, and a newly designed center stack. The leather upholstery seems to be of high quality, but I can't say that I'm a huge fan of the two-tone pattern in our test car. Having said that, I did find the seats to be quite comfortable during a two-hour drive up to Grand Rapids over the Mother's Day weekend.
Still, as executive editor DeMatio mentioned, the MKZ can't disguise its lineage, which can be traced back to the more pedestrian Mazda 6 (although that car is itself quite good). But for the price, this is a respectable (there's that word again) effort from Ford. Included in the base price of $34,965 are traction and stability control, Ford's SYNC hands-free communication system, a 6-month subscription to Sirius satellite radio, a reverse sensing system, and more. For an extra $1900 you can opt for all-wheel drive, which probably makes sense if you live in a harsh climate. There's also an available technology package that includes adaptive HID headlights, which I'd recommend in place of Ford's notoriously weak quad-beam standard headlamps.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor