Sacramento, California – For 2011, Lincoln has added a hybrid to its MKZ lineup, touting it as “the most fuel-efficient luxury sedan in America.”
Well, OK. That’s a pretty thin slice. It’s sort of like those TV commercials that trumpet a newly released movie as the No. 1 comedy in America, but then you realize that it’s the only comedy released in America during the past month.
But there’s also this: 41 miles per gallon in the city and 36 mpg on the highway.
Wow! That’s the real deal, just the thing to soothe the soul of this Californian watching gasoline prices climbing to the $3.50-a-gallon level.
The guts of the 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid are a 2.5-liter in-line 4 engine and a battery-driven electric motor helping the gas-fueled power plant. It’s a lot of help, given those sizable fuel mileage numbers. The combined labors of the gas engine and electric motor produce an estimated 191 horsepower.
That’s plenty of pop for most driving chores, although my tester’s continuously variable transmission kicked in with a bit of a jolt on really steep climbs.
By the way, the max rating in all-electric mode is 47 miles per hour. That is most impressive.
I thought the MKZ Hybrid would feel heavy, but that was hardly the case. It felt light and handled with admirable agility. The interior cabin was quiet, giving five cozy riders ample opportunity to discuss the events of our times.
The standard comfort/convenience features fell a little short of what I’d expect in a luxury Lincoln. Adding an option package that included a power moonroof, adaptive headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, a navigation system and a rearview camera added $5,695 to the starting price of $34,330.
The tester also had sensors to alert the driver of cars lingering in the blind spots on either side of the MKZ. This is one of my favorite automotive features, but I found the light-up warnings on either side of the tester to be a fraction less-precise than systems I’ve experienced in other cars. The MKZ sensors tended to keep showing a warning even when I was well clear of a trailing vehicle. Not a big deal, but it’s something you’ll need to get used to if you choose this model.
The dashboard readout gives you all sorts of information on your eco-progress. Images of green leaves and flowers bloom behind the steering wheel when you’re coasting and keeping a light foot on the gas pedal. Sure, this is a food pellet-like reward – the kind you might devise if you were training a gerbil to ride a miniature motorcycle – but it’s darn effective. I found myself constantly seeking more blooming flowers for my green driving endeavors.
Oh, one other thing: This MKZ looks good, sporty even. The toothy grille that Lincoln has gone with really does add a gleaming touch of luxury.
Please note that you can get 2011 MKZs with a gas-fueled 3.5-liter V-6 with 263 horsepower. But you’re not getting a big break on the price: The entry level FWD version starts at $34,300, and the top-end AWD starts at $36,220.
In other words, the FWD is only 30 bucks cheaper than the MKZ Hybrid, and the AWD is priced $1,890 more than the hybrid model. The fuel mileage ratings for the FWD are 18/27 mpg, and the AWD checks in at 17/24 mpg. You do the math.
Simply put, you pay a fair price for the MKZ Hybrid (no whopper of a hybrid premium) and you get a substantial savings on fuel costs compared with the six-cylinder MKZ offerings. If that fuel-cost savings outweighs your desire for V-6 power, it’s pretty much a no-brainer when you head to the Lincoln lot.