Lincoln aims its new look at younger luxury customers
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Ford's luxury brand is at a crossroads. Sales have dwindled along with an aging owner base. Lincoln has decided its salvation rests with a new breed of younger luxury customers and has designed future vehicles with those customers in mind.
Insiders say that as the brand tries to reinvent itself, its product strategy will focus on the highest-volume luxury segments. It will not try to cover all segments, create new ones or devote resources to a low-volume halo car.
Lincoln says it wants its cars to be "refined and engaging," a middle ground between the hushed, luxurious feel of Lexus and the sporty, athletic characteristics of BMW.
The sleek MKZ, which arrives at in dealerships in the fourth quarter, is the first installment of those designs. Lincoln has promised seven new or refreshed vehicles by 2015. They include the 2013 MKZ along with the already restyled 2013 MKS sedan and MKT full-sized crossover. Lincoln has said it is working on its first compact vehicle but hasn't offered specifics.
Here are highlights for Lincoln's 2013-15 models.
MKZ: Since the MKZ Concept was introduced at the 2012 Detroit auto show in January, Lincoln officials have been keen to make one thing clear: This car is not a gussied-up Fusion.
Unlike its predecessor, the 2013 MKZ doesn't share any major sheet metal with the Fusion. On the outside, the most striking feature is a horizontal grille, which Lincoln says is designed to evoke an eagle's spread wings.
Lincoln hopes that several new features will set the MKZ apart, not only from the entry-luxury pack but also from the Fusion. Most conspicuous of those is a retractable panoramic sun roof, which Lincoln says is the world's largest. It will be offered as a $2,995 option on all models. Also optional will be a second smaller sun roof. The MKZ will also be the first Lincoln to feature a new push-button-operated automatic transmission. With no gear lever in the center console, designers were able to give the console an open, airy feel with extra cubbyholes.
The MKZ comes with three powertrains. The base engine will be a 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder with an EPA rating of 22 mpg city/33 highway. Lincoln also will offer a 3.7-liter V-6 engine that makes 300 hp, an increase of 37 hp over the current MKZ V-6. Lincoln says fuel economy will improve 5 percent from the current powerplant to 18 mpg city/26 highway. There's also a hybrid version, but Lincoln has not projected fuel economy.
Lincoln will also differentiate its new sedan with Lincoln-exclusive electronic suspension technologies, including Continuously Controlled Damping, which monitors and adjusts the suspension up to 500 times per second to keep the car from wallowing in corners. The system works with Lincoln Drive Control, which allows drivers to choose between comfort, normal and sport modes.
The car also has a feature called Active Noise Control, which filters out engine noise and pipes a throaty growl through the car's stereo when a driver accelerates in sport mode. Entry price is $36,800 including shipping.
MKS: The 2013 MKS, already on sale, was the first Lincoln to get the Continuously Controlled Damping with Lincoln Drive Control and Active Noise Control. Lincoln's designers also toned down the grille's strong vertical chrome bars, likened by some critics to a baleen whale's mouth.
A redesigned MKS is scheduled for the 2015 model year, about the same time as its sibling, the Ford Taurus.
Compact crossover: Lincoln will have an entrant in the hot entry-luxury crossover segment that includes the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Range Rover Evoque and Volvo XC60. One possible name is the MKC. The vehicle will be based on the same architecture as the Ford Escape, but the new vehicle will differ from the Escape in every aspect from sheet metal, glass and seat location to powertrains. Estimated arrival time is 2014, but it's unclear whether it will be sold as a model year 2014 or 2015.
MKX: The MKX now shares a platform with the Ford Edge. But the MKX is arguably more important to Lincoln than the Edge is to Ford. It competes against the Lexus RX, the vehicle that has defined the luxury crossover segment. The next-generation MKX, due in 2014, will be built on the same mid-sized platform that spawned the Fusion. The MKX is likely to duplicate the MKZ's powertrain lineup with a 2.0 four-cylinder, a hybrid and a V-6, which could be the same 3.7-liter normally aspirated V-6 used in the MKZ.
MKT: Like the MKS sedan, the 2013 MKT large crossover gets a toned-down version of Lincoln's chrome vertical bar grille. The MKT, already on sale, shares with the MKS the new suite of technologies including Lincoln Drive Control and Continuously Controlled Damping. The MKT is replacing the former Town Car as Lincoln's offering to livery fleets and limousine operators.
Navigator: The large SUV will be refreshed in 2014 or 2015 and will get an EcoBoost V-6 engine.
You can reach Bradford Wernle at firstname.lastname@example.org.