After only a year on the market, the Lincoln Zephyr undergoes a name change, emerging as the 2007 MKZ (pronounce each letter: “M-K-Z"). It also gains a new available all-wheel drive configuration.

Other 2007 changes include a new 3.5-litre Duratec V6 to replace the 3.0-litre of 2006, a new grille, new 17-inch eight-spoke aluminum wheels, and available SIRIUS satellite radio.

The all-wheel drive system delivers torque to all four wheels through an active on-demand coupler, and can transfer power front-to-rear and side-to-side.

Based on the Ford Fusion, the MKZ comes in a single trim line; standard features include four-wheel ventilated discs with ABS, dual exhaust with chrome tips, keyless entry with remote and keypad, cruise control, traction assist, power windows, speed-sensitive wipers, automatic headlights, heated mirrors with puddle lamps, 17-inch aluminum wheels, genuine wood interior trim, six-CD/MP3 player, dual-zone electronic climate control, heated leather seats with ten-way power driver and passenger adjustment, 60/40 folding rear seat, leather-wrapped wheel, curtain airbags and auto-dimming mirror.

Available options include chrome aluminum wheels, navigation system, heated/cooled perforated leather seats, power moonroof and high intensity discharge headlamps.

The Zephyr name, taken from a 1936 Lincoln model, apparently didn’t resonate with a lot of younger buyers Lincoln was targeting; there’s no telling if the awkward new name will do any better, but it’s no doubt meant to invoke the glorious Continental Mark II and its descendants. It also ties in to the Mark LT pickup truck and new MKX sport utility vehicle.

The MKZ is a nice size and it’s loaded with features, although the interior’s a bit overwrought with wood and chrome. The new engine goes a long way toward improving the outlook: if you’re paying Lincoln dollars, even at the brand’s entry level, you want something bigger and better than what’s in the Ford Fusion sitting beside you at the lights, as was the case in 2006. With the new powerplant, the MKZ takes a step in the right direction toward its own identity, and not just as a Fusion with some chrome splashed on it.

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