So, this was a wholly appropriate venue for the unveiling of the 2013 Lincoln MKZ, the first car to appear from the luxury brand’s dedicated design studio in Dearborn, Michigan.
When a carmaker wants to make a big splash at the New York International Auto Show, they do two things: first, they stage their own exclusive event days before the show even starts and, second, they hold that event at the IAC Building, an office designed by the world-famous architect, Frank Gehry.
The reasons for these choices require little justification. At any international car show, every single manufacturer attempts to secure headlines for even the slightest vehicle refresh, so an off-site engagement practically guarantees coverage—witness this article, for example. Furthermore, the IAC Building sends a message and that message is: We are not conservative.
Now, before we go any further, you may be asking yourself: Why is the Lincoln MKZ relevant to readers in Australia?
Well, there are a few reasons: The director of design at Lincoln is Max Wolff, a down-to-earth bloke from Melbourne, who first cut his teeth designing for Holden before heading to Cadillac in America. (Look for a separate interview on “Mad Max” in the coming days on CarAdvice.)
Also, while it’s true that the Lincoln brand is not sold in Australia yet, the operative word in this sentence is “yet.” Without question, the directors for the marque are focused on North America for now, but that will change—because it has to change. The economies of scale dictate that large carmakers need to develop global cars if they want to earn profits.
The Lincoln MKZ's platform is also based on that of the new Ford Fusion/Ford Mondeo - underpinnings expected to slot beneath the next-generation Ford Taurus and Ford Falcon large cars, either stretched or similar size with longer sheet metal overhangs to create the larger dimensions.
The above remains a complex scenario that remains far from being a clear picture, so let’s step back and look at the new MKZ and highlight further reasons why this is an important piece of kit.
The front grille, for starters, is a dynamic interpretation of the classic Lincoln “waterfall” design. Over the past few years, the Ford designers have struggled to get this right and some of the executions, notably on the massive MKT crossover, have appeared overbearing. Not so with the new MKZ — the grille connects seamlessly with the front headlights, giving the saloon a decidedly aggressive look.
The profile of the car will likely be considered its least design-y angle, if that makes sense. The MKX has a very high beltline, yet the design team has managed to ensure the car does not look too thick. This is a serious challenge when penning a clean design that does not incorporate the visual trickery of flame surfacing and the like, a trend that Wolff admits to abhorring.
The back of the car is another visual triumph; the lip on the boot lid gives the car an almost hatch-like shape and speaks to the distinct European influence on the design. The Lincoln is not a small saloon—at the moment, it’s the largest new-look vehicle in the fleet—but the front and the back somehow manage to make the MKZ look a lot more compact than it really is.
My admittedly amateurish knowledge of the field would suggest that the design elements that run the entire width of the car—the taillight cluster at the back and the front grille/headlight combination at the front—have something to do with this phenomenon.
The other major design feature of the exterior is the optional, panoramic glass roof (above), the world’s widest and one of the largest ever for a production vehicle. When retracted, the tinted roof slides backwards over top of the roof and the rear window. It’s quite a sight to see, but vision, as it were, might be an issue: With the darkened roof over top of the rear window, sightlines might be obscured a touch. Some people were also divided on how the profile of the MKX looked with the roof hanging above the rear window.
Inside, the decidedly high-tech theme continues. The MKX features Lincoln Drive Control, a system that includes a push button gear selector on the centre console, as well as driver-selectable settings for the suspension system.
The removal of a shift lever has opened up significant space in the centre console and the use of the haptic controls of the Ford SYNC system with MyLincoln Touch has made things look even cleaner. Thumb-wheel style controls on the steering wheel can operate many of the cars comfort features, while other functions can be voice-activated through the SYNC system.
Under the skin, the 2013 Lincoln MKZ will be offered with three different powerplants: a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo petrol engine; a 3.7-litre V6 petrol engine; and a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder petrol hybrid. The hybrid employs a CVT, while the other two receive a 6-speed automatic transmission, which can be operated by steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters if this push-button situation isn’t to your liking.
While it’s certainly far too early to tell if the 2013 Lincoln MKZ will be the car that singlehandedly resurrects the Lincoln brand and sets the stage for a global movement, it definitely looks the business.