2016 Lincoln MKZ

The Lincoln MKZ stands out from other entry-luxury sedans with sleek, distinctive styling and an optional 38-mpg hybrid powertrain. It also delivers a cushy ride without floaty, Town Car-like handling, but disappointing interior materials and a questionable value proposition let down an otherwise attractive package.

As with the previous MKZ, the latest model shares a platform and numerous other components with Ford's Fusion midsize sedan, but unique styling inside and out gives the Lincoln a more upscale identity.

The sedan's elegant look starts with a streamlined "four-door-coupe" roofline and develops with details like a refined rendition of Lincoln's signature waterfall grille and full-length LED taillights. The cabin boasts a futuristic dashboard with push-button transmission controls, a 10.1-inch reconfigurable LCD instrument cluster that replaces traditional gauges, and an enormous optional 15.2-square foot glass sunroof.

The MKZ comes standard with SYNC, a Bluetooth-based connectivity system that allows smartphone users to place calls and stream music by using voice commands or steering wheel-mounted buttons. It can also read incoming texts aloud to help the driver keep his or her eyes on the road, and allows the use of Ford-approved apps like The Wall Street Journal news and Pandora radio.

Also standard is MyLincoln Touch, an infotainment system that builds on SYNC by letting users control everything from navigation to climate control to the sound system with voice commands. MyLicoln Touch also replaces conventional sound system knobs and buttons with a center-mounted eight-inch touchscreen and touch-sensitive controls in the center stack. Many consumers report that the system is a "love it or hate it" item, so those interested in the MKZ are advised to try before they buy.

The MKZ clearly has plenty of tech inside, and there's also ample space for passengers in both the front and rear seats. However, materials are disappointing for a car with luxury aspirations, with downmarket plastics and cheap-looking trim marring the classy design.

Power and Fuel Economy
The MKZ first Lincoln ever available from the factory with a non-hybrid four-cylinder engine - a 2.0-liter EcoBoost unit that puts out 240 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque. The upgrade engine is a 3.7-liter V6 with 300 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque. Both engines come standard with a six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel-drive, while all-wheel-drive is available as an option.

In FWD form, the MKZ returns 22/33 city/highway mpg with the turbo four and 18/27 with the 3.7-liter V6. Opt for AWD and those figures fall to 22/31 mpg and 17/24 mpg.

The MKZ can also be specified with a hybrid powertrain with an Atkinson-cycle 2.0-liter four-cylinder motor that sends power to the front wheels via a CVT. A 70-kilowatt electric motor provides extra output and can propel the car on its own for short distances at speeds of up to 62 mph hour, provided that the driver has an extremely light right foot.

Total system output is 188 horsepower, and fuel economy checks in at 38/37/38 city/highway/combined mpg.

The MKZ Hybrid is fitted with a "SmartGauge with EcoGuide" system that features a number of graphics and readouts to help drivers achieve maximum fuel efficiency. For example, a brake coach function teaches how to capture as much battery-recharging energy through the regenerative brakes as possible, while a different graphic rewards efficient driving with white flowers (inspired by apple blossoms) that accumulate over the course of a journey.

Sophisticated Suspension
Helping the MKZ to ride and handle like a premium car despite its mainstream roots is Lincoln's three-mode Drive Control technology, which comes standard and custom tailors the MKZ's continuously controlled damping suspension and electric power steering. A Sport mode firms up the ride and tightens the steering, while a Comfort mode does just the opposite. In the middle is a Normal mode for typical driving situations.

Standard and Optional Features
The MKZ is offered in four trim levels called Premiere, Select, Reserve, and Black Label, respectively.

Premiere models come standard with chromed door handles, tinted windows, automatic LED headlights, LED tail lamps, heated door mirrors, 18-inch alloy wheels, wood trim in the cabin, dual-zone A/C, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, a pollen filter, a 10-way adjustable driver's seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, keyless entry, an 11-speaker sound system, cruise control, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, a capless fuel filler, a push-button ignition, SYNC with MyLincoln Touch, an eight-inch touch screen, speed-sensitive wiper, and a universal garage door opener.

Select models add a power-tilt/-telescoping steering wheel with wood accents, ambient lighting, HD Radio, an auto-dimming driver's side mirror, power-folding mirrors, configurable daytime running lights, and leather-upholstered heated front seats.

Reserve models up the ante with navigation, a heated steering wheel, leather-upholstered rear seats, a blind spot information system, a power decklid, cooled front seats, and a 110-volt outlet.

Black Label buyers can choose from four interior themes called Modern Heritage, Indulgence, Center Stage, and Oasis. Each one features a specific type of leather and wood trim.

Additionally, Black Label buyers benefit from an extended service plan that covers wear items, free pickup and delivery of their car for service, a no-cost rental while their car is in the shop, an annual vehicle detailing, anytime car washes, and a membership to Culinary Collection that gives them access to a curated list of restaurants from coast to coast.

The list of standalone options includes a panoramic sunroof, a moonroof, a 14-speaker sound system, 19-inch alloys, a rear sunshade, rear inflatable seat belts, and all-weather floor mats.

The technology package bundles adaptive cruise control, collision warning with brake support, active park assist, a lane-keeping system, forward sensing system, auto high beams, and rain-sensing wipers.

The handling package brings 19-inch summer tires, 19-inch alloys, and a sport-tuned suspension.

Occupant Safety
All MKZ models come standard with dual front, front side, front knee and full-length side-curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems, a rear-view camera, and a tire pressure monitoring system.

Optional safety features include Lane Keeping Assist and blind sport warning with cross traffic alert.

Key Competitors
Interested in a MKZ? You can also look at the Lexus ES, the Acura TLX, the Volvo S60 and the Volkswagen CC.