2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid
2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

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By Chris Chase; photos by Chris Chase and Alex Bernstein

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2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid

Luxury buyers worried about fuel consumption don’t have many choices as far as hybrid vehicles are concerned, with many high-end gasoline-electric vehicles focusing on using the advanced powertrain to generate more power rather than boosting efficiency.

The Lexus HS 250h was a step toward that end, but its underwhelming appointments haven’t found much favour with the motoring press; Lincoln hopes for a different result as it enters the fray with a Hybrid version of its mid-sized MKZ sedan.

As the MKZ is based on the Ford Fusion, so is the MKZ Hybrid based on the gas-electric version of that Ford, and that’s certainly a good starting point. The Fusion Hybrid is nearly quiet and comfortable enough to fill the role of an entry-level luxury model, at least when fitted with all the extras. But the stricter standards of luxury buyers mean that the MKZ Hybrid is quieter than the Fusion, and more importantly, says Lincoln, its first hybrid model is more refined than the HS 250h, which Lincoln identifies as the MKZ’s closest competitor.

2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid
2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

Through the better part of a day of listening to Lincoln reps talk about the car, driving the car and asking them questions about the car, it’s notable that the words “Ford” and “Fusion” weren’t mentioned even once. It’s clear that Lincoln wants to distance its car from its lesser platform-mate, and while the company has done much to distinguish the two from each other, more could certainly be done. At the least, I’d hoped for a more creatively-styled interior, from a company that otherwise seems to be working hard to be known for more than just the stodgy Town Car.

But behind the MKZ Hybrid’s unexciting dashboard lurk a number of high-tech goodies. Ford’s SYNC communications system is standard, as is the company’s interactive SmartGauge with EcoGuide. Other standard features include a 10-way power front passenger seat, driver’s seat power memory, heated and cooled front seats, genuine wood trim, reverse sensing system, Ford/Lincoln’s keyless entry keypad and Ford’s EasyFuel capless fuel filler – more standard goodies, according to Lincoln, than Lexus includes in any version of its HS 250h.

2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid
2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

Extras include a Vision Package that comprises voice-activated navigation, rear-view camera, blind spot information system (BLIS) and cross traffic alert (these last two items can’t be had in the Lexus), for $4,000; navigation can also be had on its own for $1,600; chrome wheels for $1,100; adaptive Xenon headlights, $625; remote starter, $300; power moonroof, $1,600 (which the HS 250h comes with as standard); and a spectacular-sounding THX stereo with 14 speakers, two amplifiers, internal hard drive music storage, satellite radio and SYNC for $1,000. You can also choose an “Executive Package” that groups navigation together with the THX stereo for $3,300 at the time of this writing, according to the Lincoln Canada website.

First impressions are paramount in luxury cars, and the MKZ Hybrid makes a good one, offering an impressive level of comfort and space. It does feel a lot like a Fusion Hybrid, which isn’t a bad thing; Lincoln says the MKZ Hybrid gets extra sound-deadening material to keep the cabin quieter, but no doubt you’d have to drive the two back-to-back to tell the difference. Ride and handling feel similar, which is to say comfortable, but this is no sport sedan. However, Lincoln could have made this car stand out a little more against its Ford sibling with a more sporting suspension. Of course, its artificial-feeling brake pedal, a result of the hybrid system’s regenerative braking function, would’ve played against any sporting pretences the car may have had.

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