Gents, it’s time I make a call to the president. We’ve got big news for him containing significant global implications.
I decided to spend the afternoon at the New York International Auto Show on its opening day. After yawning over the mainstream segment flooded with lookalike econo-box sedans and SUVs, I decided to head for the good stuff. I wasn’t expecting to see anything jaw dropping, but my expectations quickly shifted upon my encounter with the Bugatti Veyron Blanc Noir, Lamborghini Aventador and McLaren MP4-12C. The Mercedes-Benz SL was also a delightful up-close reminder after forgetting about it post-introduction months earlier. Acura’s NSX… all I can say is too little too late. We’ll discuss Acura in a future post.
Across from the Acura showcase was Lincoln. In previous years I walked right by Lincoln without bothering to even glance at their showcase. I posted earlier this year in my ‘Cadillac XTS: Rental Car Fleets Rejoice!‘ post that the Americans just can’t seem to come up with a signature definition of American luxury. The cars end up looking bloated and boxy, and don’t have that ‘it’ factor to be seriously considered among the likes of Mercedes-Benz, Audi and BMW. But wait, what is this… a Lincoln that actually looks like something? Is it a concept car? I must investigate further. I did a walkaround to study the lines and proportions of the 2013 Lincoln MK Z. My bias toward the vaunted European marques left me looking to find more wrong with the MK Z than right.
In the middle of my study I received a phone call from my good friend Chuck. I let him know I’m at the auto show. The conversation went something like this.
–“What’s up man?”
“I’m at the auto show.”
– “How is it?”
“It’s pretty cool. You should see the women here. There are some beautiful women crawling this place. The Acura NSX is dead on arrival. What the hell happened to Acura?!”
– “Take pictures! What’s your favorite car of the show?”
“Mercedes-Benz SL is a pleasant surprise. I mean, convertible cars just say ‘girl car’, but the SL is quite compelling. But, I’m looking at this Lincoln, and I gotta tell ya… I kinda like it! I mean, it’s gotta a few flaws and looks a bit bloated, but Lincoln is on to something. This is a good start.”
– “Man, I can’t believe that Mark is telling me he likes a Lincoln.”
“I can’t believe I’m saying it either.”
Gents, follow me on this one and I’ll paint the picture for you. Imagine there’s a summit of nations where the invitees are only the countries who have at least one global automotive manufacturing company. The Germans would be represented with BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz, the British with Jaguar, Rolls Royce, Aston Martin, Bentley and Land Rover, the Italians with Fiat and Maserati, and the Japanese with Lexus (Toyota), and Infiniti (Nissan).
Who would the Americans bring to the summit, Cadillac? That’s not going to cut it. Think about it, some British Ambassador shows up in his British green Jaguar and his American counterpart shows up in a tuxedo black Cadillac XTS, DTS, whatever-TS. The American coach of choice just doesn’t make the grade.
But now we have Lincoln with the MK Z. Up front, she looks the part with her bird wing grille, which can easily be passed off as inspiration from an American Eagle. It’s a long overdue and welcome departure from the now retired Lincoln signature waterfall grille, which has resulted in unforgivably bad front-end treatments on earlier Lincoln releases. The MK’s belt line from her front wings to her rear projects an original and stately look. Aft of her C-pillar, the influence of the outgoing generation Lexus GS rear is obvious. There is also a bit of Audi A7 in the slope of the MK’s decklid. The Lincoln designers did a far better job in execution than the hungover Audi team. This is key because we feel that American designers are typically unimaginative and sloppy when it comes to designing cars that are slotted for the near-luxo and luxury segments. This ends up making them the upgrade offering at Hertz and Avis Car Rental, rather than something one would seriously consider as purchase alternatives over true sport-luxe offerings.
We also like the single strip LED taillight treatment, as it is a direct tribute to Lincolns of old. Heritage is key in the sport and luxury automotive segments, and Lincoln are wise to call on their ancestry. The MK Z also has the right proportions to be regarded as a luxo-sport saloon.
In 2004, Chrysler took the first swing at defining American automotive luxury with its 300 sedan. It was a good attempt, but lacked the overall refinements to have any real staying power. That still holds true with Chrysler’s seeming unwillingness to explicitly apply styling elements to the 300 to solidify its identity as American Luxury. The 300 is more knockoff Rolls than it is American congressional or gangster. There’s also Chrysler’s use continued use of cheap plastics throughout the 300’s cabin. We like the 300. There’s certainly something there with it, but Chrysler continues to play the fence with it. It’s a significant lost opportunity considering they had first position in redefining American luxury.
Cadillac has been making repeated attempts but has gotten it all wrong. We sincerely ask Cadillac to please stop. What you’re doing is simply awful. On that note, perhaps it’s time for Caddy to bid themselves farewell.
The Italians are style, the British are conservative yet inventive, the Germans are purposeful,and the Japanese innovate to make things better. How does one characterize the Americans in similar context? We think the Lincoln MK Z is a start in the right direction. It’s far from perfect, sporting a predominantly front-wheel drive layout. A fully specked variant will yield a 3.7L 300HP V6 and All-Wheel drive. That leaves the MK Z fairly short of being on equal footing with BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz or Audi. A V8 offering is absolutely necessary to play with the sport-luxe elite. We would also reserve the ‘Z’ designation for a V8 sporting variant of the Lincoln MK.
But, even with the aforementioned deficiencies, we at Gent would still give the MK the nod as our coach of choice at the summit of nations. We tip our caps to Lincoln for making a stride in the right direction in defining American luxury with the MK Z.
At the summit of nations we would certainly be outfitted in our finely tailored suits and best shoes. We envision arriving minutes before the appointed hour of the summit, after waiting for Bimmer, Merc, Jaguar, Lexus and Audi to first funnel in. Upon arrival, we’d step out of our Tuxedo Black Lincoln MK proudly and unapologetically, letting the sport-luxe mainstays know that a new American representative has been appointed, she’s about business, and makes us look damn good.