By Mark Gauert
I’ve been putting the new Lincoln MKZ luxury sedan through the kind of real-world tests we face here in traffic.
Construction chaos on I-595, Florida’s Turnpike and the Palmetto Expressway? All met by the MKZ with agile, power-assisted steering and traction control.
Screeching stops and paint-peeling goes on Interstate 95? All met with reliable anti-lock brakes and 2.0-liter, 240-horsepower acceleration.
Endless hours sitting in traffic pretty much everywhere? All met with comfortable leather seats – with air conditioning vents in just the right spots up and down my back – and a THX premium audio system with a mute button on the steering wheel (!) so I can cut off the (also endless) ads masquerading as public radio announcements which begin, “We are funded by listeners like you, and by…” (I digress, but, you know the ones I’m talking about).
I’m also loving the push start and unique shift buttons on the dashboard, the 10.1-inch LCD instrument cluster, the ample room for my legs, head, elbows – and especially the retractable panoramic roof, which, Lincoln says, “is one of the world’s widest-opening retractable glass roofs.” In fact, as the 15.2-square-foot glass panel glides open, it reminds me of the retractable roof opening up at Marlins Park.
Except, clearly, Lincoln’s got a much better game going on here.
But my final, most challenging test is coming up: slipping the 73.4-inch-wide Lincoln MKZ between the delicate pink and white pillars of the porte cochere at the Boca Raton Resort & Club.
I am not worried about the slipping-between part. The MKZ has an amazing array of short-range, wide-angle radar sensors which, in traffic, warn if there’s another vehicle in the next lane. Or, in parking situations, help line up a parallel parking slot. Or, in this particular case, keep me from clipping a pillar of the porte cochere and potentially pulling down a significant South Florida landmark.
No, the part I’m worried about now is the valet test.
Ford is hoping this all-new MKZ will reboot Lincoln in the market – and fill a desire for premium features at a moderate price (it starts around $36,000, although the MSRP on the version I’m testing is $46,000). “The new Lincoln brand will be defined by great new luxury vehicles, such as the new MKZ, that feature quality, unique style with substance and innovative technology,’’ Ford Motor Company CEO Alan Mulally said when the redesigned sedan debuted in December.
To me, that means the valet is going to want to park the rakish, smoke-quartz colored MKZ right out front of the Boca Raton Resort & Club – its split-wing grille smiling alongside the grilles of Bentleys, Rolls-Royces and Mercedes-Benzes – instead of driving it off to some forlorn back lot.
So the final test begins.
I pull into the porte cochere, without significant architectural incident. I step out of the car and realize I don’t have a set of keys to hand to the valet.
“Don’t worry,” he smiles, handing me a claim stub, “we’re used to that.’’
So as not to bias the test, I choose not to attempt to tip or influence the valet. I just stand back and observe what happens next.
I watch as the valet closes the door, pushes the start and drive buttons, and slowly pulls away. I watch as he deftly guides the rakish, smoke-quartz-colored MKZ toward the coveted showcase row of Bentleys, Rolls-Royces and Mercedes-Benzes.
And I watch as he drives past their smiling grilles and takes the MKZ to some forlorn back lot behind the Boca Raton Resort & Club.
I’m crestfallen. The MKZ deserves better than this, I think. I agree with Ford’s Mulally, that this is a great new luxury car. A successful reboot of the Lincoln brand that passes all the real-world tests we face here in South Florida traffic.
Except, for now at least, the valet test.
Later, after my meeting at the resort, I hand the claim stub to the valet, and wait for him to bring it back from the far parking lot. I think about the features, the ride, the seats and, when I see its LED headlamps coming out of the dark to take me home, I realize I feel something about the MKZ I didn’t expect to feel when I started my real-world tests.
For more information on the Lincoln MKZ, which also comes in a hybrid model, see lincoln.com.