MKZ won’t be mistaken

The choices are many for sedan buyers with a few extra dollars in their wallets and a burning desire for a fancy set of wheels in their driveways.

So, how does the Lincoln MKZ stand out in the entry-level luxury crowd? With plenty of style and content updates, of course.

As the starting point for the Lincoln brand, the midsized MKZ’s role is to exude a proper sense of luxury that typifies what buyers can expect throughout the entire (and expanding) lineup. To accomplish this, the front-wheel-drive Ford Fusion-/Mazda 6-/Mercury Milan-based sedan requires regular updating and grooming to keep it fresh in buyers’ minds and on par with the competition. Right on schedule, the 2010 MKZ has received sufficient attention to keep it from growing stale and withering on the vine.

Revised visual cues include sleeker headlights and a larger split grille. The trunk lid is also new and the taillights now feature wider light-emitting diode markers. With these changes, the Z appears more in step with its larger MKS sibling. It’s also a vehicle that will not be confused with anything else on the road.

Extra luxury has been built into the interior, which receives a new dashboard layout, revised leather-clad seats — heated and cooled in front — plus more aluminum and wood trim. According to Lincoln, the cabin is quieter thanks to thicker windshield glass, better door sealing and more sound-deadening material around the fenders, roof and floor.

The MKZ’s driving characteristics have been altered through changes to the rear suspension that lower the car’s center of gravity for improved cornering performance. The car turns tighter and a new power-steering unit reduces low-speed effort. A newly available sport-suspension option includes revised springs and anti-sway bars, 18-inch wheels (17-inchers are standard) along with a few minor styling mods. All-wheel-drive versions have been retuned for quieter operation and improved traction under acceleration.

Back for more is the 263-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 that sees service in a number of Ford’s larger products such as the Edge and Flex wagons as well as the larger Lincoln MKX. The six-speed automatic transmission has been reworked to help produce quicker acceleration while improving highway economy. Ford says the MKZ’s zero-to-60 mph time has been reduced to 7.1 seconds from 7.7, equaling the benchmark Lexus ES350. While a city/highway fuel-economy rating of 18/27 mpg is solid, Ford would be wise to consider a gas/electric hybrid MKZ since the technology is already in use with the Fusion. Hey, if Lexus has hybrids, it can’t be a bad idea for Lincoln, especially when the technology is in hand.

Styling, engineering and performance are important luxury benchmarks, but so too is a stellar level of upscale amenities. Along with a plusher and more pampering interior, the MKZ gets a dual-zone climate control, 10-way power front seats, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, nine-speaker, 360-watt sound package and Sync, Ford’s voice-activated communication and entertainment system.

Among a wide selection of optional equipment is voice-activated navigation, backup camera, headlamps that pivot in the direction of a turn, and a 600-watt 14-speaker surround-sound system that can also store up to 2,400 music tracks on its built-in computer drive.

Also available is blind-spot monitoring that warns the driver when other vehicles are approaching from the rear on either side. The system also issues an alert when traffic is approaching unseen while the MKZ is reversing, such as when backing out of a parking spot.

With its numerous upgrades and a growing list of impressive features, the updated MKZ is a more competitive and compelling entry-luxury stalwart for Lincoln and a model that’s worthy of consideration when shopping for a cut-above car with heritage and high style on its side.

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