A Zephyr By Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet
by Joe LaMuraglia
For those Shakespeare afficianados out there, my apologies for butchering one of his famous lines. Believe it or not, coming up with pithy titles for these posts is a lot harder than it seems! Luckily, the idea behind the chosen title is appropriate for this vehicle. Juliet was telling Romeo that it matter not what his surname was, she still loved him dearly. In the case of the 2008 Lincoln MKZ, it applies to the fact that just last year, this vehicle was called the Zephyr and despite the sudden nomenclature games at Ford Motor Company it is still a good car. How good will be revealed during our week-long blog entry.
Friday, June 8th – We’ve had a few days with the 2007 Lincoln MKZ so far and it is exceeding my expectations. Having spent a brief period of time in the Zephyr last year, I was left less than satified with the power delivery and the styling. Lincoln fixed both issues and more with a new, more powerful 3.5L V-6 engine, a newly designed front end, more traction with available all-wheel drive and a new name – MKZ. In the few jaunts around East Atlanta to run errands, it feels solid, peppy and it is getting more than its fair share of stares on the road. I’m heading out on my weekly trek to Nashville to see the man. I’m looking forward to checking out its road manners and the optional THX II-Certified ® audio system. Check back in a few days for more.
Sunday, June 10th – When will I ever learn that it is NOT a good idea to try to leave Atlanta at 4 PM on a Friday? My addiction to work and absolute requirement of a Starbucks to go delayed my departure time on Friday. It started out great but 75 North quickly became a parking lot and the MKZ and I spent quality time together inching towards Nashville. When this happens, and it does all too often lately, I take the time to play with the gadgets in the car. With the MKZ it was testing out the air-conditioned seats and searching for my favorite shows on Sirius. The former are a must-have if you like leather and live anywhere warm. They didn’t cool as quickly as others I’ve tested but most companies don’t even offer them on a car in the price range. I’ve experienced Sirius before but was disappointed in the user interface on the Lincoln. When you pack a AM/FM radio, 6-cd changer, navigation, satellite radio and vehicle control menus into one unit user-friendliness will inevitably suffer but this unit is more frustrating than most. At least the THX II audio system rocked with the few CDs I brought along.
Once I broke out of the gridlock, I opened her up and got down to business. The new 263 hp engine is certainly an improvement over the one it replaced and matched with a very nice 6-speed transmission the MKZ had no problem getting ahead of traffic and staying there. The ride was smooth and the handling controlled. It is not a sports sedan in the vein of an Infiniti G35 or BMW 3-series but rather a entry-level luxury sedan with a hint of sporty thrown in. The MKZ handled beautifully and I felt more confident knowing that the optional AWD was there if I needed it. I averaged 24 MPG on the trip to Nashville. That is impressive considering it is rated at 26 MPG on the highway and I was hardly driving slow.
We have guests in from Boston and our itinerary included a trip to the Jack Daniels distillery about 1.5 hours from Nashville. I thought it would be an excellent test of passenger capacity and handling fully loaded. As 3 of the four of us are larger than the average person, I expected it to be snug but didn’t anticipate the complaining that the rear seating brought forth. While the front seats are pleasant place to spend time, the rear seats didn’t pass muster with our guests. Complaints included cramped leg room and seat belts that cut across your neck if you are tall. Even the shortest of the passengers at 5’2″ commented on the snug fit. Lesson: don’t buy the MKZ if you expect to haul larger passengers in the rear seat – especially if they are opinionated New Englanders. Happily, the handling and ride didn’t suffer at all when fully loaded. I’ll be heading back to Atlanta in the morning and will write a wrap up soon after.
Tuesday, June 12th – The ride back to the ATL was uneventful and that is a good thing. As much as I make this trip, I’ve come to learn the road rather well and know where certain warts will show in a vehicle. The MKZ handled the trip beautifully and delivered a indicated 26 MPG on the ride home. Considering I don’t drive the speed limit and our test car was the AWD version, I was very impressed. I can’t say enough about the THX stereo system. Once you figure out the Sirius radio controls, you can listen to your favorite music delivered beautifully. It really comes alive when you put your favorite CD in and crank the volume. Yes, I was in concert most of the way home.
Here is where I give my overall impression. Being a car geek and having spent years in the industry, it is easy to be negative and point out things that are up to my liking. But that isn’t what this is about. The question is; does this car deliver to its intended target customer? The answer to that is yes. If you are in market for a stylish luxury sedan that sits between the pure isolation of a Lexus E350 and the performance-oriented BMW 3-Series at a lower price, you should test drive the new MKZ. It may have changed its name, gotten a nose job and beefed up at the gym but Juliet would still be impressed.
– Very attractive new front end
– New engine delivers on performance and economy
– Available AWD at an affordable price for this segment
– The A/C seats are a great feature but don’t cool as well as those from other companies
– The controls for the climate control are confusing and too low on the dash
– The rear seating is tight for adults on long drives.
Lincoln is a gay-friendly company.
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