Lincoln’s 2017 MKZ enters production next year wearing the brand’s new “face”— the classy semi-rectangular grille with raised Lincoln badge unveiled on the Continental concept—and packing a serious performance-focused powertrain. Exit split-wing grille; enter Lincoln-exclusive (at least for the short term) twin-turbocharged V6 packing an SAE-rated 400 hp (298 kW) and 400 lb·ft (542 N·m), the new Ford-GM “Alliance”-engineered 9-speed automatic, and torque-vectoring AWD driveline.
MKZ, which for the 2017 model remains based on Ford’s CD4 architecture, is a key product in Ford’s $2.5 billion revamp of its luxury brand, which is planned to triple the brand's global sales to 300,000 by 2020.
The “Lincoln exclusive” V6 is an enlarged version of the 2.7-L EcoBoost unit that powers the F-150 and other Ford and Lincoln models (see: http://articles.sae.org/13388/). At the MKZ’s media preview ahead of the 2015 L.A. Auto Show, Lincoln President Kumar Galhotra told Automotive Engineering that punching out the compact graphite-iron (CGI) cylinder block to make the most powerful Lincoln production engine ever entailed numerous design changes. He noted that the 400-hp version will be offered only in the AWD version; in front-drive models it will produce an estimated 350 hp (261 kW).
Galhotra and other Lincoln officials at the L.A. debut would not reveal Ford’s AWD system development partner for MKZ, though GKN was the collaborator on the torque-vectoring differential that is used in the new 2016 Focus RS. Torque vectoring, which transfers drive torque front/rear as well as side-to-side depending on traction conditions, comes as part of a “Driver's Pack” option in MKZ.
The car’s standard engine will be Ford’s 2.0-L EcoBoost inline four, SAE-rated at 245 hp (183 kW). A hybrid model is expected in 2018, according to Ford engineering sources. The car’s SOP currently is aligned with Ford’s launch of the 9F transaxle at the Sterling Heights, MI, transmission plant. The 9F’s “Alliance” cousin is GM’s GF9.
The significantly refreshed and thoroughly repowered MKZ also gains a clutch of new technologies including all-speed adaptive cruise, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and a new version of Ford’s parking assist that can handle parallel parking situations and park the car perpendicularly. The MyLincoln Mobile app, expected to have remote start and locking functionality similar to that on the 2017 Escape, will also launch on MKZ.
The 2017 model benefits from an all-new interior. Galhotra received cheers from the assembled media when he announced that MKZ’s human-machine interface (HMI) “moves from sliding [capacitive-touch] controls to mechanical knobs and switches” to meet the voice of the customer; Automotive Engineering says “hurrah” to that decision as well. Overall the interior of the MKZ on display in L.A., in top-of-range “Black Label” trim, was elegantly executed.
The center console trim is genuine aluminum rather than plastic faux—definitely a perceived-quality plus—and niceties such as four USB charging ports and Harman/Kardon’s “Revel” brand audio system (with up to 20 speakers) abound.