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2008 Lincoln MKZ
Frank S. Washington

The Lincoln MKZ is a near-luxury car, a luxurious, midsize sedan that competes with the Cadillac CTS and Acura TL, as well as the Toyota Avalon and Nissan Maxima. In style and engineering, it's an upscale sibling to the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan.

The MKZ began a new direction for Lincoln: luxury vehicles designed to engage the driver. The MKZ succeeds, managing the difficult trick of delivering a ride that is generally comfortable with handling that makes it interesting and gratifying to drive quickly on a challenging country road.

The MKZ is powered by a strong, 263-hp V6 driving the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is available. And MKZ's major standard equipment compares favorably with the best cars in this class.

For 2008, Lincoln has made several popular options standard, including heated and cooled leather seats, and Sirius Satellite Radio. New standard features include a reverse sensing system and a hands-free, voice-activated communications and entertainment system that Ford calls Sync.

Overall, the MKZ is well rounded. It's suitable for day-to-day commuting even on the Midwest's broken streets, comfy for long-distance cruising on an interstate, and playful during a quick trip along a two-lane road through the mountains. It has plenty of power, but it uses regular fuel and delivers decent gas mileage. Surprisingly, however, the MKZ does not offer electronic stability control.

The MKZ has collected some impressive accolades. Among them: When it was introduced as a 2007 model, it ranked highest in the J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Study for Premium Cars. For two years in a row, industry voters have honored the MKZ with Ward's Premium-Priced Car Interior of the Year award. Its 3.5-liter V6 has been named one of Ward's 10 Best Engines. Its THX II-certified stereo was voted Best Audio by PC Magazine. And its navigation system was ranked No. 1 in J.D. Power's 2007 Navigation Usage and Satisfaction Study. Model Lineup
The 2008 Lincoln MKZ comes in one trim level, with either front-wheel drive ($30,790) or all-wheel drive ($32,660).

Standard equipment includes premium leather heated and cooled front seats, dual-zone temperature control, power adjustable front seats, a six-speaker AM/FM stereo with six-CD changer and redundant controls on the steering wheel, Sirius Satellite Radio, a reverse sensing system, cruise control, power windows and door locks with remote entry and a number pad on the door, 17-inch wheels, and a 60/40 split and fold-down rear seat.

New for 2008 is Sync, an industry-exclusive, voice-activated hands-free system that fully integrates mobile phones and media players into the vehicle's audio system, using Bluetooth technology and USB connectivity.

Options include a voice-activated DVD-based navigation system ($1,895), Lincoln's high-power THX II audio system ($995), a power moonroof ($1,200), high-intensity discharge headlights ($495), aluminum interior trim ($195), chrome wheels ($895), an engine-block heater ($35), and daytime running lights ($45).

Safety features that come standard include frontal airbags; side-impact air bags for torso protection; curtain-style head protection airbags for all outboard positions; traction control; and antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), which distributes braking force to the tires with the most grip. A tire pressure monitor has also been added for 2008.

The MKZ achieves Acceptable ratings in heavy frontal and side-impact crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, on a scale of Good, Acceptable, Marginal, and Poor. Some of the MKZ's major competitors have Good ratings in these tests. The MKZ lacks electronic stability control. Walkaround
The Lincoln MKZ is styled in a conservative fashion, creating a prim, proper effect. The one exception is its wide chrome grille, which Lincoln is using across its line to instill brand identity. Lincoln's wide, split-waterfall motif first appeared on the 1938 Zephyr, so it's certainly appropriate for the MKZ, originally launched as the Lincoln Zephyr, to wear it.

The Lincoln is brightened by its jewelry: quad-beam halogen headlights (with HID units optional), bright-metal accents at the beltline and on the mirror caps, and chromed exhaust tips. Handsome 17-inch wheels contribute to MKZ's purposeful stance. Interior
The Lincoln MKZ cabin is comfortable and luxurious. We found the driver's seat comfortable for two or three hours at a time. The interior is pleasant, convenient and reasonably quiet.

The cabin looks more upscale than that in the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan, which share the MKZ's underpinnings and some major mechanical components. The trim plastics look best in lighter colors. All in all, the MKZ interior doesn't come across as shameless luxury as much as comfortably well-to-do, which is pretty much the standard for this class.

The controls for heating, cooling and the stereo are all easy to find and use. Storage is adequate.

The navigation system works well. The video screen is smaller than many, but it's easy to figure out without excessive reliance on the owner's manual. And unlike some nav systems, it provided information about some obscure dirt roads in Michigan, where much of our driving took place. All automakers make choices about where to spend and where to save, and many choose not include such detail in the navigation software.

The MKZ will accommodate four six-footers in reasonable comfort. Five is a crowd unless you are toting small children. In short, it's comparable to other cars in its class.

Trunk capacity is rated at 15.8 cubic feet, which is more than many cars in this class. The trunk lid swings high for easy access, and the fold-down rear seat allows some flexibility for hauling more.

Forward and over-the-shoulder visibility is acceptable. The high rear deck limits visibility immediately behind the MKZ when backing up. The reverse-sensing system helps with this, providing an audible gauge of the distance between the MKZ and whatever is behind it. Driving Impressions
The Lincoln MKZ comes from a 3.5-liter V6, introduced for 2007, that delivers 263 horsepower, on par with the Nissan Maxima and Infiniti G35. Moreover, the Lincoln engine delivers full power on regular 87-octane gas, and was EPA-rated at 18/28 mpg City/Highway. This new engine benefits from the efficiency of a six-speed automatic transmission.

The Lincoln's 3.5-liter engine delivers great acceleration in the instances most drivers need it. It doesn't turn the MKZ into a rocket, but acceleration is more than acceptable for any reasonable task, including a quick merge onto a busy Interstate. And it's satisfying just to feel the rush of power. The Duratec 3.5-liter is smooth and fairly quiet.

The six-speed automatic cannot be shifted manually, feature some drivers like. Moreover, Lincoln could improve the control program for a quicker response at low speeds. From a dead stop, or when traveling at 50 mph, the transmission works great. Slam the accelerator as you pull out to pass and it kicks down nicely, one or two gears, to put the engine in the high-torque part of its power band. But at 10 mph, it's a different story. Creeping out of a parking lot, for example, the transmission will shift up a gear or two, apparently to save fuel. But when the driver approaches the street and hits the gas for a hole in traffic, the transmission doesn't want to kick back down to first gear. The MKZ bogs a bit, and the anticipated acceleration isn't there.

We like the handling of this car. On a rough surface the MKZ does a reasonably good job of shielding its occupants from broken pavement and poorly repaired potholes. But the engineers were clever enough to combine that ride with handling that is reassuring and satisfying. Despite having much of its weight up front, the all-wheel-drive model we tested was reasonably quick to change direction and head into a turn, lacking the stubborn, nose-heavy feeling of some all-wheel-drive cars.

The steering has a of weight to it for positive, satisfying response. Yet it doesn't feel heavy when pulling into a parking spot. And there's no loose, sloppy feeling when the MKZ is pointed straight ahead. Turn the wheel just a little bit and the chassis begins to respond immediately, with no dead spot.

The brake pedal has a nice, progressive feel, and the brakes deliver more stopping power than the typical driver will ever use short of an emergency situation.

All-wheel drive is a great benefit when driving in snow or hard rain. We consider all-wheel drive a safety feature because it improves handling stability in foul weather. It can also be a huge help in getting up a slick hill. The system normally operates as front-wheel drive, but sends power to the rear wheels if the front tires begin to lose grip. On loose gravel, we found it worked as advertised when accelerating hard from a stop. Summary
The 2008 Lincoln MKZ is a likeable midsize sedan. It offers the comfort and features of a near-luxury sedan. All-wheel drive is available for drivers who need foul weather capability.

Chris Jensen reported to from New Hampshire.

Model as tested
Lincoln MKZ all-wheel drive ($32,660)
Basic Warranty
4 years/50,000 miles
Assembled in
Hermosillo, Mexico
Destination charge
Gas guzzler tax
Base Price
Price as tested
Options as tested
high-intensity discharge headlights ($495); navigation system ($1,895), THX II premium stereo ($995)

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Lincoln MKZ ($30,790); MKZ AWD ($32,660)
Safety equipment (standard)
dual-stage front air bags; front-passenger side-impact air bags; full-cabin side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution, reverse sensing system, tire pressure monitor
Safety equipment (optional)
3.5-liter dohc 24-valve V6 variable intake timing
6-speed automatic

Specifications as Tested
leather upholstery, dual-zone climate controls, 10-way power adjustable driver and front-passenger seats, heated and cooled front seats, cruise control, power windows and door locks with remote keyless entry, six-speaker AM/FM stereo with six-CD changer, Sirius Satellite Radio, Sync voice-activation, heated power-adjustable outside mirrors; tilt and telescoping steering wheel with redundant audio and climate controls, fold-down rear seat

Engine & Transmission
3.5-liter dohc 24-valve V6 variable intake timing
Drivetrain type
all-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
263 @ 6250
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)

Brakes, front/rear
vented disc/solid disc with three-channel ABS, EBD
Suspension, front
independent, SLA with coil springs, hydraulic shocks, anti-roll bar
Suspension, rear
independent multi-link with coil springs, hydraulic shocks, anti-roll bar

Seating capacity
Head/hip/leg room, middle
Head/hip/leg room, front
Head/hip/leg room, rear

Fuel capacity
Trunk volume
Turning circle
Towing capacity
Track, front/rear
Ground clearance
Curb weight

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Rough Trade-In - Rough Trade-in values reflect a vehicle in rough condition. Meaning a vehicle with significant mechanical defects requiring repairs in order to restore reasonable running condition. Paint, body and wheel surfaces have considerable damage to their finish, which may include dull or faded (oxidized) paint, small to medium size dents, frame damage, rust or obvious signs of previous repairs. Interior reflects above average wear with inoperable equipment, damaged or missing trim and heavily soiled /permanent imperfections on the headliner, carpet, and upholstery. Vehicle may have a branded title and un-true mileage. Vehicle will need substantial reconditioning and repair to be made ready for resale. Some existing issues may be difficult to restore. Because individual vehicle condition varies greatly, users of may need to make independent adjustments for actual vehicle condition.

Average Trade-In - The Average Trade-In values on are meant to reflect a vehicle in average condition. A vehicle that is mechanically sound but may require some repairs/servicing to pass all necessary inspections; Paint, body and wheel surfaces have moderate imperfections and an average finish and shine which can be improved with restorative repair; Interior reflects some soiling and wear in relation to vehicle age, with all equipment operable or requiring minimal effort to make operable; Clean title history; Vehicle will need a fair degree of reconditioning to be made ready for resale. Because individual vehicle condition varies greatly, users of may need to make independent adjustments for actual vehicle condition.

Clean Trade-In - Clean Trade-In values reflect a vehicle in clean condition. This means a vehicle with no mechanical defects and passes all necessary inspections with ease. Paint, body and wheels have minor surface scratching with a high gloss finish and shine. Interior reflects minimal soiling and wear with all equipment in complete working order. Vehicle has a clean title history. Vehicle will need minimal reconditioning to be made ready for resale. Because individual vehicle condition varies greatly, users of may need to make independent adjustments for actual vehicle condition.

Clean Retail - Clean Retail values reflect a vehicle in clean condition. This means a vehicle with no mechanical defects and passes all necessary inspections with ease. Paint, body and wheels have minor surface scratching with a high gloss finish and shine. Interior reflects minimal soiling and wear with all equipment in complete working order. Vehicle has a clean title history. Because individual vehicle condition varies greatly, users of may need to make independent adjustments for actual vehicle condition. Note: Vehicles with low mileage that are in exceptionally good condition and/or include a manufacturer certification can be worth a significantly higher value than the Clean Retail price shown.