Road Trip: 2017 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid Reserve

A good road trip needs three things to come together to make it successful. The first is the route: You need to be going somewhere and you need some things to do. Not to plan out every kilometre, but to be able to find fun things along the way. Second is the company: It might be by yourself, it might be with a partner, it might be with your friends. Third is the car: Not every car can do eight hours or more of driving in a day. Now, not all three need to be great. Great company and a great route can cancel out a bad car. A great car can cancel out bad company. And so on.

Smooth, composed, and comfortable. It rides like a Lincoln.

The company was locked down from the beginning. I would be accompanied by my wonderful wife, ever tolerating of my automotive endeavours and misadventures. I had a route planned out from our home in Halifax, through the beautiful Annapolis Valley, to Brier Island. Brier Island is an island stuck out in the Bay of Fundy, off of Nova Scotia’s northwestern tip, said to be one of the best whale-watching spots in the country. Along the way we would explore some of Nova Scotia’s vineyards and breweries. We would then spend two nights on the island to see some whales and local wildlife before returning home.

The only unknown was the car. Joining us on the trip would be the 2017 Lincoln MKZ 2.0h Reserve. Lincoln built their reputation on luxurious road-tripping, and while they had lost their way for some time the company has been on the road to redemption. This trip would be my way to find out if they had regained their road-trip-worthy status.

With the cup holders and gas tank full, my wife and I head out on the highway. We will be following the long, flat, and boring route 101 for much of the trip but will be taking as many scenic diversions as possible. For the first few kilometres of highway I’m surprised by the firmness of the ride of the MKZ. It’s not overly harsh, but it is decidedly firm, and not what I was expecting from the car. A scan of the dashboard display shows that the adaptive dampers are set in sport mode, which is not what I’m looking for on the highway. A flick to comfort and the ride becomes much more what I was expecting. It’s a touch floaty over dips and expansion joints, but mostly it remains smooth, composed, and comfortable. It rides like a Lincoln.

The long first stretch also gives me time to try out the massage seats. I enjoy the massage action, as well as the 10-way air-bladder adjustment of the cushions, but my wife isn’t a fan, finding it tough to get everything adjusted properly. The seats are also heated, but more importantly for road-tripping they are ventilated. That should be a requirement for any distance-travel when sitting on leather chairs.

Our first stop is the National Historic Site of Grand-Pré. The UNESCO listed site is the home to a very early French settlement, and gives you a broad look over the fields and farmland made possible by the dykes the Acadian settlers had built. Using the electric-only mode of the hybrid powertrain made for an eerily quiet drive through the site. The only sounds were the crunch of gravel, the wind, and the wildlife who call the area home. The EV mode button gave me an electric range of over 5 km before I got tired of driving under 40 km/h to keep it engaged.

We meander into the small university town of Wolfville, but on this Saturday morning the town is packed with shoppers and farm market activity. With not a single parking space available, we give up on trying to snag some fresh apples or pastries and decide to get back on the highway to try out the optional 20-speaker Revel Ultima audio system. There’s really no better way to put it: this is the best stereo I’ve ever listened to. Home or car. The audio clarity is so good that I can’t listen to the compression of satellite radio on it. I had to dig out my CD collection to really appreciate it. You’ll want to close your eyes, sit back, and just enjoy it, but I wouldn’t recommend that while driving.

The stereo is a $5,500 option that comes with adaptive LED headlights. The headlights are very bright and well-focused, and the stereo is exceptional, but that’s a lot of cash for a car in this segment. There is a 14-speaker Revel system available for $1,100 that is nearly as good, and that’s the one I’d likely choose.

The 70 km of highway 101 from Kentville to Bridgetown is almost a straight line, and is always the most tedious stretch of a trip through the valley. But that gives us more time to fiddle with the radio and climate controls while taking advantage of the lane keeping system. Everything in this car can be adjusted through the 8.0-inch touchscreen with Sync 3 – the climate control, the radio, even the seats. Fortunately the screen is quick to respond and there are redundant knobs or buttons for most of the controls if you prefer those. My only issue with the system was that it would not allow use of the onboard navigation system if your iPhone was connected. Then the navigation would default to my phone’s mapping system. My work around was to plug the phone in using one of the many USB power-only plugs and using the auxiliary audio input instead of using the direct connection. It was a less than ideal solution. [Android Auto allows you to pick which maps system you use – and I use Google because it’s better anyway. Plus 20 points to Google. – Ed.]

We finally get off the highway at Clementsport to head to Annapolis Highlands Winery, and it’s time to put the suspension back in sport. The back roads here are twisty, winding, and hilly, but far from smooth and the old pavement is looking very tired and broken up. The adaptive dampers set to sport mode keep the body motion well under control, but also soak up the cracks, heaves, and potholes in the pavement. The steering is numb, as with most modern cars, but it is direct and the handling is much better than I expected from this car. It proceeds quickly on back roads, with little drama. The power from the hybrid system is adequate, but this is a heavy car and I can’t help think that the available 3.0L twin-turbo V6 and its 400 hp would be a better partner in the hills. That’s the trade-off you make to get the 6.1 L/100 km that I averaged in my week with the MKZ.

The winery is in a quiet spot on a hill, and just our luck they are having an open house day. That means that there is a massed ukulele band, and some snacks to go along with the tasting. I’m driving, so I’m happy to sample some excellent local cheeses, but my wife loved the hot mulled wine. Just the thing to warm you up on a cool fall day. The vineyard comes right up to the old farmhouse where they have their store, and standing in a row of grapes with a glass in your hand feels both novel and exciting.

We stay off the highway and open the panoramic glass roof. The entire roof panel slides back, but despite the size there isn’t a single creak on even the worst roads we ventured down. It’s sunny, but a cool day, so the heated seats make letting in the open air more enjoyable. Our next stop is a late lunch at Roof Hound Brewing. It’s a new brewery about 15 minutes away from the town of Digby. Nova Scotia is seeing a boom in craft brewing, with Roof Hound being one of the newest, most remote, and in my opinion the best. The location is a quaint new building located on a ridge above the town, with an excellent atmosphere. It’s also packed, which is a shock in mid-afternoon. The food is much better than I had expected from such a new place in such a remote area, and I take a bottle of their Rooftop Rye-it ale to enjoy later that evening.

The drive down Digby Neck to catch the ferries to Long Island and Brier Island is a gently winding road through the forest and through small meadows and fields, but it occasionally snakes down to meet the Bay of Fundy and a series of picturesque coves. There is little traffic, but lots of moored fishing boats waiting to head out, and the MKZ is quite content to make time on this part of the drive.

Two short ferry trips later and we arrive at our hotel for the night. Eight hours in the MKZ helps you to get to know it quite well. The slight on the MKZ is that it’s a fancy Fusion, but it really does feel special enough to justify the extra price. The materials are better, the styling is sufficiently changed, and the audio systems are exceptional. Am I looking forward to another eight hours home in the car? My back says yes, but my head says no. The thick windshield header and the heavily padded and adjustable seats mean that there isn’t a great deal of headroom in the car. The top of my head has been firmly pressed against the headliner for most of the drive, and the seat height makes it difficult for me to get in and out. The thick pillars and low roofline also make for poor outward visibility. Now at 190 cm tall and long of torso, much of that space issue is caused by my size, but a midsize car like this should have easy access and room for occupants larger than me.

The next morning, we wake up early, ready for a day of whale watching. But at breakfast, we’re told that it’s cancelled. We’re both pretty disappointed with a cancellation over what looks like a mild breeze. But a mild breeze on our side of the island is 25 knot winds and massive swells on the other side of the island, and watching the fishing boats slowly make their way up and over the waves makes us less unhappy to be staying on land.

The unpredictable weather of Nova Scotia is one of the reasons that setting rigid plans is a quick trip toward road trip failure. We’ve brought our hiking gear along, and it’s time to take the MKZ to see some more of the island and do some hiking. While you can probably hike the entire island in a day, we use the car to leapfrog some of the more remote areas and just walk the highlights. Coasting around the island in electric mode is a treat, and lets us see some of the sea birds that take flight as soon as they hear another car.

The next day it’s time for the drive home. This time we won’t be making many stops, but the Lincoln is very comfortable on the long highway drive home. The radar cruise control and soft ride of the comfort mode of the adaptive damping both help soak up the kilometres and let me dispatch slower traffic with ease. After three days and the better part of 20 hours in the car, I’m still ready to cover more miles. As soon as I figure out a way to drop the seat by about 4 cm.

We end up seeing some seals on our trip, but not the whales we were looking for. It’s somewhat symbolic, because I was expecting the MKZ to be a traditional Lincoln whale, but it turns out that it isn’t.

The MKZ is a surprisingly competent entry luxury sedan. This car is hurt more by poor headroom and a slightly small trunk than by anything regarding the interior. The interior appointments, build quality, and that amazing audio system justify the price. The MKZ lets you have a hybrid for the same price as the 2.0L gas model, and unless you absolutely need the extra trunk space, I’d recommend picking up the hybrid model. The hybrid powertrain operates seamlessly, and the fuel economy saving is substantial, while the power loss is very slight.

My test car stickered at $61,200 including delivery. For that price it absolutely delivered on content, quality, and comfort. An entry trim Hybrid Select with the base Revel stereo and heated steering wheel checks most of my boxes and comes in at $45,775 if you don’t need the massaging seats and panoramic sunroof. At either price point the car seems well worth it, and that says a lot for a brand that had struggled to meet that for some time. As far as how it road trips? The MKZ performed admirably as a road trip companion. Your route and your company are up to you, but the MKZ will get you where you’re going in quiet comfort.

2017 Lincoln MKZ Reserve Hybrid
Engine Displacement: 2.0L
Engine Cylinders: 4
Peak Horsepower: 188 hp
Peak Torque: 129 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
Fuel Economy: 5.7/6.2/5.9 L/100 km city/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space: 314 L
2017 Lincoln MKZ Reserve Hybrid
Base Price $46,300
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,900
Price as Tested $61,200
Optional Equipment $12,900 – Panoramic roof $3,450; Technology package (includes adaptive cruise, enhanced active park assist, lane keeping, forward sensing, rain sensing wipers) $2,450; Luxury package (includes premium LED headlights, Revel Ultima 20-speaker audio system) $5,500; 19-inch wheels $750; Multi-contour seats $750
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 7.7
6 Styling
8 Powertrain
8 Quality
8 Comfort
7 Practicality
7 Drivability
8 Usability/Ergonomics
9 Fuel Economy
9 Features
7 Value