By Aaron Cole, THE AURORA SENTINEL
Brand loyalty, one discovers, goes hand-in-hand with insanity.
For instance, I’d walk barefoot through the Gobi to pay thousands of dollars for an obscure, small, German camera made by Leica. Panasonic makes them (pah!) though I’d never buy one, and probably bested in every respect by Nikon or Canon (ha!), to which I’d rather gulp down Drano than own either.
See what I mean?
To wit, Lincoln makes automobiles to a similarly deranged audience.
First, one must navigate a brutal assault of letters to decipher the true model. Lincoln makes the MKS, MKZ, MKX and MKT. Don’t look for any ascendancy of size to letters; the MKZ is smaller than MKX, which is smaller than the MKS, which are all bested by the MKT — all of which mean nothing to buyers who aren’t loyal Lincoln fanatics or naval cryptologists.
Second, one must pass every other dealership to find a small, crusty corner in a crowded Ford and Mercury lot, to gander at a handful of Lincoln cars. Spotting D.B. Cooper is easier some days than finding a Lincoln lot.
Lastly, one must disregard nearly every printed or spoken word about Lincolns — the same is true for Sarah Palin fans — and go with blind brand loyalty to drive a purchase decision like the 2010 Lincoln MKZ.
Squat, stout and every bit a Ford Fusion, the redesigned MKZ takes over where the Lincoln Zephyr left off. To be brutally honest, I had never heard of the Zephyr prior to driving the MKZ, so its discontinuance is met with little sadness on my part.
For your $35,000, Lincoln promises to give you more than the other guy at the entry-level luxury market. Sights set on Cadillac, Acura, Infiniti and Lexus, the Lincoln MKZ delivers indulgent Bridge of Weir leather seats all the way from Renfrewshire, Scotland, wood trim all the way from Hermasillo, Mexico, and backup assistance all the way from Volvo.
What you don’t get is speed (Cadillac), comfort (Lexus) or superior interior (Acura). You know, the things that matter.
(Hiding quietly is the comparison Lincoln doesn’t want to make with the Audi A4 Quattro, which, by all accounts is a better car.)
Where the MKZ makes its play is on people who are looking for its brothers — the Ford Fusion and Mercury Whoknowsit — but want a softer feel in the seat of their pants.
The V6 engine, shared with the sport version of the Ford Fusion, is standard in the MKZ and powers the sedan nicely on roads. Though not overpowering, and not class-leading despite some strange claims by Lincoln (the Cadillac CTS blows past it every day of the week), it’s agreeable and slightly surprising.
The redesigned grille is eye-catching and the interior is spacious is whisper quiet.
However, it’s in the details — overlooked by every brand loyal true believer — that the Lincoln makes a move to the middle.
The dash is made of the same plastic used in a Ford Focus. The knobs and interior are borrowed from a 1995 Ford Taurus, and the handling is something out of a Ford F-150.
It’s hard to overlook that when you’re not hopelessly devoted to Lincoln in the first place.
Nonetheless, Lincoln, in their small corners of small Ford lots, is still in business, which means someone is still buying.
And it’s people like me who search out these uncommon brands in dingy corners of specialty stores that keep devotion synonymous with conservative mediocrity.
FINAL VERDICT: Two and a quarter stars out of four. The 2010 Lincoln MKZ aims for distinction in a crowded field of entry-level luxury, but lands squarely in the milquetoast middle. The MKZ isn’t the right car for everybody, but with a handful of standard options the other guy doesn’t have, it’s a good car for somebody.
Aaron Cole is the managing editor of The Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Distributed by Colorado Capitol Reporters