The last time I drove an “entry level” luxury car that shared bones with some of Ford’s European DNA was my 2002 Jaguar X-Type 2.5 Sport with a manual transmission. Haters can hate but I liked that car because it was more Ford than Jaguar. Before the X-Type I had a 2001 Focus ZX3 and before that I had a Mercury Cougar. The front-wheel drive one that was made in Michigan and exported to Europe. Before that I had a 1996 Contour Zetec 5MT. A 1999 SVT Contour was also in there somewhere. Regardless, I’ve always been jealous of what Ford has offered in Europe. I did what I could to get my hands on the closest thing to a European Ford, even if it wasn’t always the real deal.
Best In Class 2012 Luxury Mid-Size Car: Lincoln MKZ
2012 Lincoln MKZ Wins AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Award
The top satisfying Luxury Mid-Size Car is the Lincoln MKZ for the second year in a row. The owners of the MKZ gave the car top scores in 11 of 48 attributes contributing to AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Award research. The Lincoln MKZ is the top satisfying car in its class in Rear Seat Comfort, Exterior Color, Braking, Ride, Quietness, Interior Lighting, Infotainment Technology (MyLincoln Touch), Dealership Experience, Use of Recyclable Materials (using soy-based seat foam), Collision Avoidance Technology and Warranty. With a possible high rating of 5.0 on each of 48 characteristics, owners of the MKZ rated the car at 4.6 or higher on several, including: Overall Satisfaction, Exterior Size, Vehicle’s Reputation, Brand’s Reputation, Exterior Color, Handling, Ride, Feeling Safe While Driving, and Overall Quality. Owners were least satisfied with Fuel Economy and Driving Range.
The MKZ is the top rated Luxury Mid-Size Car in AutoPacific’s 2011 Ideal Vehicle Research. As the class winner, its owners indicate there is little they would change in their new MKZ with a few exceptions. Almost 30% of its owners want better visibility. About 25% want for the MKZ to be easier to get into and out of. About 20% want better safety features and more roominess. MKZ owners least want to change its ride, seat comfort and handling. MKZ handily outpoints the second place Lexus ES.
Ford EcoBoost Logo
High Tech V6 Gives V8 Power and V6 Efficiency: Several years ago at a dinner with Ford Group Vice President Derrick Kuzak we had a spirited conversation about replacing V8 engines with high technology V6 engines in Lincolns. My position was that a Lincoln could not be a REAL Lincoln without a V8. Kuzak’s position was that Ford could not wait to bring high technology, high performance, high efficiency engines to market. His strategy resulted in the Ford EcoBoost engines that have now been on the market for over a year. Based on AutoPacific’s owner data, it appears that the EcoBoost strategy is on the mark.
Luxury Mid-Size Car: This year’s Luxury Mid-Size Car segment winner is the Lincoln MKZ beating out the competition with a strong performance in handling and safety categories. The MKZ also received impressive scores in exterior size, ride, and seat firmness.
Cadillac’s owners’ cumulative scores for each Cadillac model in AutoPacific’s 2010 Vehicle Satisfaction research have given Cadillac a win in the race to be best brand overall. Cadillac outpoints Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Lincoln and Buick (top Popular Brand). This is Cadillac’s seventh win in the past eleven years. Winning so often is testament that Cadillac is selling to buyers who really appreciate their vehicles.
The Cadillac Escalade Luxury Sport Utility Vehicle is the only Cadillac winning its class outright, but the CTS, the STS, the DTS and the SRX scored well enough to move Cadillac into overall leadership.
For a complete list of winners and description of the Awards, click here.
Ford Motor Company launched a new powertrain technology called EcoBoost earlier in 2010. EcoBoost will eventually be available on 90% of Ford’s lineup in the USA. The first EcoBoost installations are in Ford’s new D3 Platform vehicles – Ford Taurus SHO, Lincoln MKS, Lincoln MKT, and Ford Flex. EcoBoost’s first installation is a 3.5L V6 with gasoline direct injection and twin turbochargers. Power output on the Taurus SHO is 365HP while on the MKS, MKT and Flex is 355. The EcoBoost 3.5L has 350lb-ft of torque. These technology advancements yield substantially better performance while achieving equivalent fuel economy as a vehicle equipped with a non-EcoBoost 3.5L (of course this is only on paper. EcoBoost is so fun to drive you’ll be in it all the time – achieving equal fuel economy is just a dream).
EcoBoost a $5,000 Proposition Anyway, EcoBoost is not free. A Taurus SHO is almost $40,000 and the price increase for EcoBoost on the MKT, MKS and Flex comes out to about $5,000. That price includes all wheel drive which EcoBoost requires to handle the power and torque on the front wheel drive platform. So, with the power and price increase, how many is Ford selling?
EcoBoost Installations Running Ahead of Forecast According to George Pipas, Ford’s spokesman for sales reporting and arcane numbers, the Taurus SHO now represents about 15% of the Taurus lineup. This is 5%-pts higher than Ford had estimated. Each Taurus SHO generates $10,000 more economic profit than an average Taurus. Installation rate on the Lincoln MKT is 47%. About 30% of Lincoln MKS gets EcoBoost (and 37% gets AWD). The Flex has about an 11% rate lowest of the four.
So, it appears that EcoBoost is well on its way to being a success even in these tough economic times. In each vehicle line, with the possible exception of Flex, the installation rate is healthy for a performance option. It will be interesting to see what the mix is of EcoBoost engines as Ford continues to roll the technology across its vehicle lines.
We recently spent a few days with a Lincoln MKS equipped with EcoBoost and its host of technology features. Not industry firsts, Lincoln’s execution is impressive. From headlights that adjust high- or low-beam spread based on conditions to adaptive cruise control and parallel parking assist, these systems work smoothly and confidently. As systems like these tend to get better quickly after their first automotive application, Lincoln should still be commended for putting together a comprehensive and usable package.
If you’re driving the MKS EcoBoost, you have a willing and comfortable partner in a stylish package (assuming you’re a fan of the chrome-laden signature grille, of course); the 355HP powertrain moves the 4300-pound vehicle along briskly. Not only heavy, MKS is big, and feels it. Looking at its specs on paper tells you that, standing next to it tells you that, and driving it reminds you of it all the time. MKS is relatively nimble, but this is not one of those big-but-drives-small kind of cars, a trait perfectly appropriate for what is functionally a modern Town Car. The MKS driving dynamics seem pretty spot on. There’s power, comfort, a compliant but not overly soft ride, and plenty of technology to make being in it as easy as possible. I can’t say sporting. This is not a sports sedan, but offers grace and presence, with the muscle to back it up.
MKS is sized between an Audi A6 and A8, BMW 5-Series and 7-Series, and Mercedes E- and S-Classes, and slightly bigger than the Cadillac STS. Our EcoBoost could boast a nearly $57,000 price tag. While a healthy number, to be sure, in context of the amenities, style, and power offered, the price seems quite reasonable.