- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 10, 2007

Merlot? Creme brule? Not desert offerings, these are some of the new exterior color choices for a trio of new Lincoln models, including the 2007 Lincoln MKZ, that have been designed to look contemporary and casual but, at the same time, tweak heritage design cues from Lincolns of the past.

Lincoln has been pleasantly surprised by customer demand for its first entry into the premium midsized sedan segment, the 2006 Lincoln Zephyr that went on sale in the fall of 2005. As a result of this success and as a part of a concerted effort to regain it legacy in the luxury market, this upscale Ford division is striving to bring cohesiveness to a stable of new models in the Lincoln portfolio (MKZ, Navigator and MKX) The MKZ has been upgraded in its second year, with a more powerful, smoother engine; a new front appearance and new wheels; and available all-wheel drive.

The Lincoln MKZ embraces a new, simple-yet-elegant design philosophy, and several attributes render it Lincoln. The signature “waterfall” grill extends the length of the nose in horizontal continuity with intricate headlights. These accentuate Lincoln’s quest for luxury cues, as does the well-executed additional chrome brightwork throughout and at the belt line.

A nearly flush rear bumper appears “tucked” and creates a bold, but uncomplicated, statement. The taillights are somewhat large in scale, especially when aligned with the small exhaust outlets. The trunk lid is attractive, because of the Lincoln emblem framed by subtle body character lines. The MKZ’s 17-inch low-profile tires come with a choice of alloy wheels, either machined-aluminum in appearance or with a new chromed aluminum finish.

The interior has been designed as “unpretentious luxury.” The layout is formal and dominated by rectangular shapes, save the round HVAC vents, instrument gauges and certain switchgear elements. Many of the interior components were clearly sourced from Ford Motor Co.’s corporate parts bin, although the fine execution renders them more opulent. Real wood, chrome trim, satin nickel accents and high-quality leather add genuine touches to cabin surfaces, while white electroluminescent gauge lights and LED backlighting create clearly articulated instrumentation.

A 15.8-cubic-foot trunk, reported by Lincoln to be best-in-class, expands further when the 60/40-split rear seat is folded down, giving access to the truck from the trunk from the interior.

Lift the hood and you’ll find a smooth-revving 3.5-liter Duratec V-6 engine developing 263 horsepower and 249 foot-pounds of torque, and a six-speed automatic transmission. One of the most powerful engines in its class, it drinks regular 87-octane unleaded fuel. The MKZ may have four-wheel drive or with Intelligent all-wheel drive, a sophisticated system capable of detecting early wheel slippage.

Four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock braking and electronic brake-force distribution handle halting duties, while a fully independent suspension enhances handling dynamics and ride comfort. Standard 17-inch aluminum wheels can be upgraded with optional chrome wheels. Traction control equips both FWD and AWD Lincoln MKZ models as standard equipment.

The MKZ comes with Ford’s Personal Safety System, a comprehensive safety solution tailoring air bag and seat belt response with the severity of a collision. Dual front air bags handle head-on impacts, while thorax-protecting, front side-impact units help defend against injury in broadside encounters. The Safety Canopy curtain air bags cover both rows of seats and deploy in a “rolling” orientation, rendering them useful even if an occupant is out of position.

All Lincoln MKZ sedans come well equipped; there are no distinct trim lines, except FWD and AWD. Standard features include genuine interior wood trim; leather upholstery; 10-way power front seats with heaters and driver memory; a manual tilting/telescoping multifunctional steering wheel; remote power windows controlled via key fob; dual-zone automatic climate control; a six-speaker six-CD audio system; solar tinted glass; keypad keyless entry; auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass; and six air bags.In addition to AWD and chrome wheels, other available options are power glass moon roof; THX II-certified, 600-watt/14-speaker audio system, DVD-based navigation; Sirius satellite radio; MP3 jack; perforated leather front seats with cooling; and high intensity discharge (HID) headlights.

Front-wheel-drive Lincoln MKZs start at $29,890 and AWD models sticker for $31,765. Both prices include Lincoln’s $715 destination charge.

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