What's New for 2008
Heated and cooled front seats and satellite radio become standard on the 2008 Lincoln MKZ. The innovative "Sync" hands-free communication and entertainment interface, developed in a partnership between Ford and Microsoft, becomes standard equipment later in the year. The optional navigation system is now voice activated, and buyers can now opt for reverse parking sensors.
Deciphering the names of Lincolns nowadays is starting to be like cracking Soviet spy code. The 2008 MKZ is joined by the MKX and soon by the MKS, plus there's inexplicably the Mark LT. Unlike the LT and eight previous Lincoln Marks, using quasi-acronyms is apparently way cooler and more likely to attract a younger group of buyers -- younger as in south of 65. The logic behind that, though, is like handing Ed McMahon a skateboard and expecting him to host the X Games. While the MKZ is certainly more lively than the geriatric Town Car, it has a long way to go before it can be considered a realistic competitor for other entry-level luxury sedans.
The 2008 Lincoln MKZ is more or less a Ford Fusion with different front and rear styling, an overcooked retro interior and 42 more horses. While models like the Acura TL and Lexus ES 350 are related to lesser Honda and Toyota vehicles, respectively, they possess completely distinctive styling. That's not to say the Fusion is a bad car to be based on, though, as this family of midsize sedans features competent handling, good steering feel and plenty of interior space. Plus, the MKZ adds a more comfortable ride to the mix, along with the 263-horsepower V6 found in the much larger MKX.
The MKZ also offers a lot of standard features, with cooled front seats and satellite radio added to the docket for 2008. Later in the model year, Ford's potentially revolutionary Sync hands-free communications and entertainment technology debuts. With Sync, drivers and passengers can access and operate their cell phones, PDAs, USB storage devices, iPods or other MP3 players using voice commands. The cell phone's address book is also wirelessly and automatically transferred to the vehicle.
In other aspects, however, the 2008 Lincoln MKZ comes up a bit short for a premium sedan. Cars like the TL, ES 350, Audi A4, Cadillac CTS and Volkswagen Passat can surpass the Lincoln in terms of performance, interior luxury, safety equipment and design, though they can't likely match the MKZ's price. Lincoln's new naming scheme may not do so much to attract younger buyers, but value is certainly something any generation can appreciate.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Lincoln MKZ is a midsize premium sedan that comes in a single trim with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. It comes nicely equipped with such standard features as 17-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery, wood trim, heated and cooled power front seats with driver-side memory, dual-zone automatic climate control and a seven-speaker CD stereo with satellite radio and an auxiliary audio jack. Later in the model year, the Sync hands-free communication and entertainment integration system will be standard.
Notable options include chrome wheels, xenon headlights, a sunroof, an upgraded THX-certified sound system, reverse parking sensors and a voice-activated navigation system.
Powertrains and Performance
All Lincoln MKZs come with a 3.5-liter V6 engine. It's good for 263 hp and 249 pound-feet of torque and is matched to a six-speed automatic transmission. The optional electronically controlled all-wheel-drive system can transfer power from side to side as well as front to rear. In testing, an MKZ AWD went from zero to 60 mph in 7.7 seconds, which is a little below-average for its class. For 2008, the front-wheel-drive MKZ gets 17 mpg city and 25 mpg highway in EPA fuel economy testing, while the AWD version gets 1 mpg less.
Standard safety features include front-seat side impact airbags as well as full-length head curtain airbags. Those head airbags include a "roll-fold" feature that helps to keep the airbag against the glass even if the occupant is out of position. All MKZs include four-wheel antilock disc brakes. Traction control is also standard, but oddly, stability control is not available. In government crash tests, the 2008 Lincoln MKZ received five out of five stars for driver and front passenger safety. In the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's frontal-offset test, the Lincoln MKZ received a rating of "Good," the IIHS's highest rating. It also earned an "Acceptable" rating in IIHS side-impact testing. Altogether, these are rather average crash ratings for a car in this class.
Interior Design and Special Features
Those interested in cutting-edge interior design should look someplace other than the MKZ. The dash is reminiscent of the blocky design found in the Navigator, with a high cowl dominated by big, round air vents. The center stack is dominated by Lincoln's satin nickel trim, which basically looks and feels like Ford's standard plastic switchgear painted silver. The MKZ's cabin style and quality pale in comparison to those of other top entry-level luxury cars. However, the Lincoln comes very well equipped, is slightly bigger than many entry-level luxury sedans and offers a fully usable backseat. Trunk space is ample at 15.8 cubic feet and should you need more capacity, the rear seat is split 60/40 and folds down.
The 2008 Lincoln MKZ is essentially a more luxuriously equipped Ford Fusion, and as such, the Lincoln shares that car's fine handling and overall dynamic characteristics. But the MKZ still fails to achieve the same athletic driving experience boasted by other sedans in this price range. Despite having more power than the original 2006 Zephyr, the MKZ's 3.5-liter V6 is merely adequate. On the other hand, the MKZ does offer a typical Lincoln "big car" ride on the highway, making it an excellent candidate for road trips.