Lincoln MKZ Hybrid — You’re Weathering the Recession

You’ve decided to buy a luxury car. Nothing too over-the-top. You don’t want to shout to the neighborhood you’re the only one in your zip code that did more than just “weather” the recession.

So you decide Lincoln’s midsize, discreetly styled 2011 MKZ sedan might fit the bill. But Lincoln’s presented you with a mighty intriguing option: you can have the hybrid version — combined 39 mile-per-gallon combined fuel-economy — for exactly the same price as the “standard” MKZ with a V-6.

Now, part of the fun of buying a luxury car is getting the “luxury” of more power than most people get with their workaday conveyances. You should get something special under the hood for the extra dough you dish out, right?

In either case, you do. Opt for the 2011 MKZ Hybrid, and forgoing the standard car’s 263-horsepower V-6, brings a 156-horse 4-cylinder and an electric motor combo that don’t make as much power — but do combine to deliver a fat 18-mpg leap in the car’s combined fuel economy rating.

Yep, the 2011 MKZ Hybrid is rated at 41 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. The standard MKZ: 18 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway.

As Donald Trump likes to say, “That’s Huuuge.” The EPA reckons it will cost almost twice as much to fuel a standard MKZ for a year of driving (15,000 miles): $2,206 to the MKZ Hybrid’s piddly $1,187. Drive 15,000 miles a year and the MKZ Hybrid will cost you less than $100 a month in gasoline.

You know the best part? Lincoln charges the same for either version of the front-wheel-drive MKZ ($34,330, plus $850 destination), but you give up almost nothing with the MKZ Hybrid for the advantage of sailing by the gas pumps.

Oh, all right, the MKZ Hybrid’s Continuously Variable Transmission — the mediator that helps dole out the right combination of power from the efficiency-enhanced 4-cylinder engine and electric motor — groans in a fashion unbecoming a luxury car when you demand full power. But that’s it. In almost any other situation, the MKZ Hybrid is the better, more interesting and vastly more efficient car.

More interesting because you get the coolest of liquid-crystal display screens flanking the analog speedometer, this “SmartGauge” cluster configurable to deliver all manner of efficiency metrics and even economy-driving “coaching” if you want.
More interesting because Lincoln’s hybrid technology makes it, according to the company, the most fuel-efficient luxury car you can buy. And more interesting because, well, conventional V-6 premium cars are just so — common.

Lincoln certainly holds up its end of the bargain with the goodies, too: standard stuff for the 2011 MKZ Hybrid includes the Sync voice-activation system to control onboard infotainment functions, heated and cooled front seats, wood trim and an acoustic laminated windshield (this car is stupid quiet. Except when you boot that CVT, anyway).

Do you care that the bones underneath Lincoln’s midsize luxury sedan are shared with the Ford Fusion or that it’s all getting a little long in the tooth? We wouldn’t. The MKZ Hybrid has an oozy luxury-car ride but the suspension always seems to have things under control, the steering is the most responsive and cooperative you’ll find short of an all-out sport sedan and the interior doesn’t have many downmarket plastic pieces, a matter not always assured at this luxury make’s reasonable price point.

So Lincoln’s leaving it up to you with the 2011 MKZ. Go old-school V-6 if you insist power has to be part of the premium-car deal, or get the MKZ Hybrid. Price is the same, but we think choosing the MKZ Hybrid over Lincoln’s standard MKZ is the no-brainer of the 2011 model year. — Bill Visnic, Motor Matters

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