If you've seen a Lincoln Zephyr recently and were intrigued, don't try to find one in a dealership. One year after the Zephyr's introduction, this mid-size sedan gets a name job and some changes under the hood. Zephyr is now the 2007 MKZ, consistent with Lincoln's new alpha-numeric model names.
The MKZ does show a new direction for Lincoln. A key element in this shift is offering luxury vehicles that are able to engage the driver instead of treating him or her as another occupant who happens to be seated behind the steering wheel. The MKZ succeeds in this respect, 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.
This sedan's advantages include a competitive price and the availability of all-wheel drive (front-wheel drive is standard), which isn't offered on most of the MKZ's competitors. The drawbacks include its lack of electronic stability control or skid-management electronics.
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.
There are indications that quality should be good. The 2006 Zephyr placed second in its segment in the annual Initial Quality Survey conducted by J.D. Power and Associates, just behind the Lexus IS 250/350 and ahead of the Acura TL. This study looks for problems reported in the first 90 days of ownership.
The MKZ debuts in one of the most competitive classes in the new car market. It offers a likeable package that's worth a look, particularly if Lincoln dealers are in the mood to negotiate or the automaker offers incentives. Many appreciate its styling, but like many cars it lacks that intangible bit of magic that would make it utterly compelling.
The five-passenger Lincoln MKZ is an upscale sibling to the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan sedans. It's powered by a strong, 263-hp V6 with a six-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard. All-wheel drive is available. Major standard equipment compares favorably with the best cars in this class, which includes the Toyota Avalon, Nissan Maxima, Acura TL and Cadillac CTS.
The 2007 Lincoln MKZ comes in one trim level, with either front-wheel drive ($29,235) or all-wheel drive ($31,105).
Leather upholstery, dual-zone temperature control, power heated front seats, a six-speaker AM-FM stereo with six-CD changer and redundant controls on the steering wheel, 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 all come standard.
Options are relatively few. The most popular are a DVD-based navigation system with Lincoln's high-power THX II audio system ($2,400) and a power moonroof ($1,200). The remaining options: ventilated front seats ($495); high-intensity discharge headlights ($495); satellite radio ($195); aluminum interior trim ($195); 17-inch chrome wheels ($895).
Safety features that come standard: side-impact air bags for chest protection in front; 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. The MKZ achieves Acceptable ratings in heavy frontal and side-impact crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, on a scale that includes Good, Acceptable, Marginal, and Poor. Some of the MKZ's major competitors have Good ratings in these tests. The MKZ lacks one safety feature offered on most competitors and many cars that cost less: electronic stability control. Studies suggest that these skid-management systems are effective in reducing single-car accidents.