Recently, I had a chance to take the new 2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid for a day-long test drive around the streets of New York City. And if you're going to test the fuel economy, handling and hybrid engine capabilities of a vehicle, the stop-and-go midday traffic in downtown Manhattan—with cabs ricocheting around and pedestrians darting back and forth—seems like a pretty challenging proving ground.(Especially when you're trying to hypermile, and impatient New Yorkers are leaning on their horns and giving you the one-finger salute.)
Blaring horns and kamikaze cabs aside, the drive left several impressions. The first one before I even got behind the wheel. It seems Lincoln is taking the lead and not dinging us for wanting to go green. So they are pricing their hybrid MKZ at the exact same price as their standard fuel model, starting at $36,800. It's nice to finally see a car maker understand that tacking on a several thousand dollar "premium" for the "privilege" of being eco-conscious is absolutely ridiculous and counter productive. Green shouldn't cost us significantly more green.
And just how green is the new MKZ Hybrid?. Lincoln is claiming an EPA estimated 45 city/45 highway/45 combined for the new MKZ, up significantly from 36/41/39 from the 2012 model. But, as we've seen with the Ford C-MAX and other hybrid vehicles, "your mileage may vary."
During the pre-drive briefing, we were given the same caveats we got from Ford about conditions that can lower your mileage, including speed (driving 75mph instead of 65mph lowers your economy by about 7mpg), outside temp (driving in 40F will cost you 5mpg versus driving in 70F), and break-in miles (until you get to 6,000 miles, expect around 5mpg less.) It was a warm day, the test cars were about halfway to their break-in mileage, and I figured I wasn't going to hit 75mph up Wall St, so I expected a 5mpg, or so, drop.
Combining hypermiling with my normal, everyday driving during the course of the test, I came in at 38mpg for the day. Not too bad for just starting out and getting the feel of the vehicle. While not focusing solely on how many miles I could pull out of a gallon. It was a couple of miles off my estimation based on driving conditions, but that number was trending up as the drive ended. With a little more wheel time I'm sure I could've squeezed out a few more mpg.
The MKZ gets its power from a 2.0L Atkinson-Cycle hybrid engine that delivers a decent 188-hp and is mated to an all new electronic transmission (E-CVT). The 2013 MKZ also gets a new, more efficient, Lithium-Ion battery that replaces the Nickel-Metal Hydride battery used in their first generation hybrid.
Driving the MKZ hybrid is "comfortable." I mean that as opposed to "exciting" or "sluggish" or "dynamic" or "uninspired." Don't expect to carve through corners or blast off the line, but if you want to get where you need to go in style and in comfort, the MKZ delivers. One thing I did like about the ride was the MKZ's brakes feel like traditional brakes, without the "regen mush" so many hybrids have that feel soft as they deliver captured energy to the battery.
Besides the MKZ's streamlined body with the new, sweeping update to the classic grill, Lincoln has packed some enhanced technologies into the car. There's available Adaptive Cruise Control that will automatically slow to adjust to traffic speed, then return to speed when traffic clears, Collision Warning with Brake Support, Active Park Assist, Blind Spot Info System and Cross Traffic Alert.
One thing the MKZ does not come with is a shift knob. Or even one of those cool pop-up dials gaining traction is certain euro sedans. Instead, the MKZ comes with a push button transmission. There's a string of buttons marked PRND up next to the main info display. This takes a little getting used to, but it does leave us with a large storage space in the center. And it also gets a "hey, that's pretty cool" from people who see it for the first time.
The MKZ hybrid also comes with SmartGauge with EcoGuide. And it's a great system for training yourself to drive your hybrid as efficiently as possible, but my personal issue with the one in the MKZ is this: it's the exact same one that's in the Ford hybrids. So whether you buy a CMAX or an MKZ, you're going to be looking at the same instruments. And that's a shame. I understand the need for (and advantages of) an eco coach, but at least give it a visual upgrade equal to the premium price you're paying. And I'm not just picking on Lincoln, that's an issue I have with almost all domestic luxury vehicles: They borrow from their lower-end cousins, without giving adding the lux touch. We're spending more for luxury, let us look at luxury from the driver's seat.
But for those of you who are unfamiliar with the SmartGauge, it's comprised of a myriad of clever and customizable info clusters that not only give you the necessary metrics on your driving, like MPG, electrical power usage and overall efficiency, but there are also several "coaches" designed to help you achieve better economy by improving your driving habits during acceleration, braking and cruising. Again, a great system for teasing all the miles you can out of the car.
The well-equipped Premiere edition starts at $36,800, while the Reserve with voice-controlled navi, cooled leather seats and the Blind Spot Info System and Cross Traffic Alert bumps the price to $39,075. The trims top out at the Preferred package that adds heated steering wheel and rear seats, 19" aluminum wheels and a 14-speaker THX II sound system, for $42,455.
Overall the 2013 Lincoln MKZ hybrid delivers solid performance and a comfortable ride, with some great bells and whistles, while also being pretty stingy at the pump.