Ford has made great strides in the last few years with its new electrified lineup. The automaker now offers five different electric or hybrid models in its lineup in addition to the new hybrid version of the Lincoln MKZ. Lincoln invited me out for the day to get behind the wheel of the new 2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid in New York. While most drivers would balk at the idea of driving a car through the streets of Manhattan, the drive gave us a unique experience with one of Ford's latest hybrid models.
The new 2013 Lincoln MKZ is offered with three engine options, a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder, a 3.7L V6, and the 2.0L hybrid system. The MKZ Hybrid is powered by a 2.0L four-cylinder engine that is matched with an electric motor and CVT transmission. The system puts out a total 188 horsepower and is rated at 45 mpg in the city and on the highway. Ford also says that the MKZ Hybrid has the ability to travel up to 62 mph in EV mode, which is perfect for the city, where speeds are usually around half that fast.
Lincoln challenged us to see how close we could get to the MKZ Hybrid’s 45 mpg rating. Initially the idea seemed pretty simple. If the MKZ Hybrid could travel up to 62 mph in EV mode and you can barely travel over 30 mph in Manhattan, then it seemed like a no brainer that we would get excellent gas mileage, since the 2.0L engine would barely even turn on. After the first mile or so on the route, I realized this was not the case. As with any car, the EPA ratings will differ based on factors like climate, speed, driver input, etc. It’s summer in NYC and that means that driving with the A/C on is absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, with the A/C on the MKZ Hybrid’s powertrain was less willing to stay in EV mode no matter how slow I pulled away from a stop. I found it a bit frustrating and wished that the system had an EV override button like other hybrids.
After a 10-11 mile loop around Manhattan that took us through lower Manhattan and then up the West Side Highway, my MKZ Hybrid test car averaged 38 mpg. This was a bit lower than the 45 mpg rating, but the stop and go chaotic streets of Manhattan are hardly representative of most areas in the country. Lincoln told us that at a similar event in Los Angeles, drivers were getting well into the 40 mpg range.
Besides the EV mode frustrations, the MKZ Hybrid had more than enough power to get ahead of the hundreds of taxis on the West Side Highway. It would have been nice to see how different the system felt compared to the standard four-cylinder MKZ. The MKZ Hybrid also had three different drive modes and its Smart Gauge with EcoGuide system was great at helping us figure out the best way to get the highest MPG possible. A cool EV+feature also remembers frequent destinations, such as your home and raises the threshold for electric-vehicle operation as you approach them.
One of the best parts about the MKZ in general is that buyers do not have to pay a premium to get the MKZ Hybrid over the standard four-cylinder MKZ. Hopefully more automakers will follow suit. One of the big questions at the event was about a possible plug-in hybrid version of the MKZ. Ford offers the Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid, which the MKZ is based on, but Lincoln told us that a plug-in version is not planned. A plug-in version of the MKZ would at least give Lincoln something to stand apart from its closest competition, the Lexus ES 300h hybrid, which is also not offered with a plug-in version.
At the end of the day, the MKZ Hybrid holds the title of America’s Most Fuel-Efficient Luxury Car. It’s more stylish than most people would expect from a hybrid and buyers don’t have to pay a premium to get the hybrid technology. Based on those principals alone it’s no wonder that half of all MKZ buyers are choosing the hybrid version.