The 2017 Lincoln MKZ is a Baby Continental

2017 Lincoln MKZ
Source: Lincoln

If you ever go to a car show and take the time to mingle with some of the “more seasoned” enthusiasts in attendance, you’re more than likely to hear a few tales about hot rod Lincolns.

Once upon a time, Lincoln built performance cars, and it was a status symbol to have one parked in your driveway. I’m sure your grandfather has already told you the story plenty of times — there was nobody in town that could keep up with his streamline Zephyr coupe and its powerful V12 engine. From the way he continuously praised the car for its unmatched luxury and performance, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it still occupies a space in his garage more than a half century later.

But somewhere along the way, Lincoln lost sight of its performance heritage and no longer had the stylish looks to compensate. Though the current MKZ is no slouch when optioned with its 300-horsepower 3.7-liter Duratec V6 engine, it’s far from an exhilarating powertrain. The low-RPM torque simply isn’t there without an extra pair of cylinders or forced induction. By the time the Duratec really starts to come into its own, you are already two car lengths behind your neighbor in his Caddy CTS and fading fast.

Justin Lloyd-Miller/Autos Cheat Sheet

But don’t switch your allegiance to GM just yet, as your patience with Lincoln is finally about to pay off. Engineers knew that the powertrain needed to be more balanced and rewarding. After all, the MKZ is supposed to be the benchmark for luxury and refinement in the midsize sedan class. So what was a naturally aspirated six-cylinder doing under the hood in the first place? This isn’t a Toyota or Honda we’re talking about here.

To continue with the unofficial theme of hot luxury sedans unmasked at the 2015 LA Auto Show, Lincoln revealed its stunning 2017 MKZ with a new 3.0-liter twin turbocharged V6 engine with 400 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. If you thought the EcoBoost-powered Taurus SHO was fast, imagine even more power in a package that’s approximately 500 pounds lighter.

2017 Lincoln MKZ
Source: Lincoln

Though the MKZ will be available in five distinct trim levels, enthusiasts will want to be sure to opt for the new driver’s package that adds adaptive dampers and torque vectoring capability to an all-wheel drive system that shares technology with the Focus RS.

With the MKZ’s powertrain and handling pitfalls addressed with solutions beyond even our wildest expectations, we were certainly excited to see if Lincoln had improved its styling to match. While the previous generation always looked bloated and disproportioned, the new MKZ is anything but. Could this finally be the car that puts an end to Lincoln’s geriatric image once and for all?

That’s certainly the hope, and it starts with a welcomed refresh of the front fascia. The split-wing grille is finally gone — a failed trademark that never really caught on like the Dodge crosshair or the Buick waterfall. In its place is a chrome wire mesh grille that is similar to the one seen on the Continental flagship concept at the New York Auto Show. Striking new headlights with signature LED lighting give the MKZ an elegant flair that hasn’t been seen since the Mark VIII. Hey, maybe your grandfather was right about Lincoln after all.

The LED taillight stretching across the length of the MKZ’s rear end remains unchanged, but still looks eerily similar to the redesigned Dodge Charger from behind. For that reason alone, I wish Lincoln’s design team had displayed the same effort they showed in their remarkable front-end overhaul to spruce up the rear fascia a little.

But overall, it’s hard to nitpick when so much was done right on the 2017 MKZ. At the time of its release next summer, it certainly looks like it will have the performance and styling to go head-to-head against the top midsize luxury sedans in its class. For the first time in ages, a hot rod Lincoln is back in the fold. Only this time you won’t have to take your grandfather’s word for it.

Like classics? It’s always Throwback Thursday somewhere.