My wife made what was perhaps the most succinct observation about my time with the 2017 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid. In a moment of frustration she vented, “This car makes you drive like an old man!” Did she perhaps mean that I was displaying wisdom beyond my years? Nope, she was implying that I was driving at a less than leisurely pace – an experience very new to her and not at all enjoyed.
That is the end result of driving a hybrid though. How could it not be? Due to their very purpose, a hybrid is never going to be exciting, unless the hybridization is used solely to produce more power as in the Ferrari LaFerrari. Such rare and expensive hyper exotics aside, the real goal of a hybrid is to conserve as much fuel as possible. The side effect: a geriatric driving style.
Normally, I would be very disappointed at the complete lack of acceleration, but something strange began to occur. About midweek I started to embrace a more laid back mode of cruising. Rather than getting frustrated that cyclists were pulling away from me, I began to see the extra time as an opportunity to enjoy the massaging seats and the seemingly uninterrupted silence. The tranquility only ceased when the engine kicked in to assist. This caused a noticeable drone courtesy of the e-CVT, that quickly grated on the nerves that were just starting to mellow.
I tried putting the drivetrain in ECO mode (buried in the gauge cluster sub-menus) for one trip and that was more than enough. I would have made it further walking which is far more environmentally friendly. Perhaps that is what Lincoln was going for when they programmed this particular setting; make it so painfully slow that owners would rather walk or take, and I cannot believe I am typing this, public transit.
The rest of the week was spent in SPORT. A big part of the issue is just a lack of power. The hybrid system consists of a lithium-ion battery with a peak power of 35 kW, a permanent magnet AC synchronous motor and a 4 cylinder Atkinson cycle gasoline engine. The total system output of 188 hp and a paltry 129 lb-ft of torque is the cost of frugal fuel consumption. I averaged 5.8 L/100 km, which is very impressive. At the end of my week I had driven 590 km of which 292 km were completed in electric mode. The week cost me under $30.
Uninterrupted serenity was the focus when this vehicle was on the drawing board. The outside world cannot penetrate the sound insulation and the chassis absorbs every imperfection and dissipates even larger jolts surprisingly well, even with the suspension set to SPORT. There are three suspension settings, COMFORT, NORMAL, and SPORT, selected by the switch in the centre console.
To quantify the difference in suspension squishiness, a test revealed itself after picking up a coffee. As I was driving in SPORT I noted substantial spillage. Then it dawned on me, I should put the suspension in COMFORT and drive the same road. Now to be honest I didn’t do the math but by way of educated guessing, I noted at least 40% less spillage.
While not in a hurry to get up to speed, once there maintaining momentum, even in the bends was easy. The car feels surprisingly confident at speed. Given the extra weight of the battery, which takes up half of the trunk, I expected at least some tire squeal and understeer; neither came up. The electric steering is direct, firm, but numb translating little information about road surface and tire direction to your hands.
Every drive was a pleasure, especially on one early morning when I in the near silent car came upon a deer crossing an intersection. The deer meandered past me almost unaware of my presence. This is perhaps the most impactful green car experience have ever had. I enjoy nature and venison so perhaps a hybrid should be on my short list.
The MKZ Hybrid wraps you in a cocoon of high end materials, impossibly comfortable seating and the latest tech. It can park itself in pretty much any situation, the adaptive cruise will bring the car to a full stop and back underway again, adaptive headlights ensure you see any trouble around the bend before it is too late and the Revel Audio system works well even as the volume reaches the higher end.
There are a few quirks that I did note however. The SYNC 3 system did most things well enough but failed to access all of my phone contacts, most surprisingly the ones I call the most. It also on occasion failed to display the correct artist and song for extended periods. But that is a mere quibble compared to a rather large oversight. The full sliding glass roof is a great idea; trouble is when you open it the entire roof slides back and over the rear window. This creates a blind spot in the rear-view mirror large enough to hide the cars travelling directly behind.
Lincoln has made a very forward thinking decision when it comes to pricing. Many, if not most manufacturers, place a significant fee on their hybrid models giving them base prices competing with the premium trim levels and optional larger engines. But the MKZ Hybrid has the same base price as the base 2.0L gasoline model. This means anyone considering the MKZ can benefit from going green and saving money on fuel without first having to figure out if the initial cost of the vehicle outweighs the savings attributed to burning less fuel. All anyone needs to figure out is whether they can live at a relaxed pace or not.
For those who may shy away from a Hybrid for fear of possible mechanical problems the MKZ Hybrid has a 8 year 160,000 km warranty on the Hybrid specific components, far more than enough to allay of those concerns. They also offer six years or up to 110,000 kms of roadside assistance and the same for powertrain warranty.
Lincoln has made a fantastic product that does not penalize you for trying to save money at the pumps. It will quickly adjust your driving habits and you won’t even mind (your passengers may though). The interior quality and the subtle details found therein elevate the car to the point you forget it is based on the Ford Fusion. It’s the little things like the knurled dial for the intermittent wipers, the feel of the turn signal stalk, the two tier Volvo-esque centre console that really sets this car apart. If I were in the market for an upscale hybrid, this one would be at the top of my list.