Putting the Town Car days in the rear view

Forward Momentum: Lincoln’s Big Bet on the New MKZ

Cars By Photo by JY

For city slickers, Lincoln is the company car to a midtown meeting. The recently discontinued Town Car was easily the most recognizable Lincoln: the car of choice for livery cab drivers and Warren Buffett. This wasn’t sustainable. Not too long ago, parent company Ford and primary competitor Cadillac faced a similar problem. How do you reinvent a brand that seemed ready to be Oldsmobiled?

Find out after the break.

At Lincoln’s Design Event, we spoke to Max Wolff, Lincoln’s shiny new Australian chief designer and the guy who gave the Cadillac CTS some of its edgy cut. He laid out how he plans to blue pill a brand that seemed a month away from collecting a gold Datejust and social security. In short: start by opening the brand’s first dedicated design center since the 1970s. Tell your designers you want to make cars that aren’t necessarily universally liked — but are, perhaps, passionately loved by your chosen audience. Execute.

The new MKZ is an impressive improvement over past efforts by Lincoln, a photogenic car from just about every angle. Still, its look is different enough from the Ford Fusion that there won’t ever be a case of confused identities. The new corporate face of Lincoln and the MKZ appears to be modeled after angel wings; the side profiles carry a strong shoulder through its entire length, popping with enough visual oomph to counterbalance the car’s sleek lines. The tail finishes in a signature Lincoln design feature: thin, full-length tail lights. It’s the best execution of this long tradition so far — and love it or hate it, at least it’s not generic.

Lincoln’s new focus is on attracting a different kind of customer, one who is looking for an alternative to the German trifecta and a bit less Jay-Z than a Cadillac. While they won’t ever go as fully quirky as say, Saab, this makeover is not only superficial. The renaming of their entire line and the luxury-brand fire sale signals a strategic shift at Dearborn. They’re going all in with Lincoln.

On the design side of the house, Lincoln’s made the right leaps, creating confidence that things will only get better. The obvious next step is to define their ride quality and introduce unique premium power trains. Ford has an impressive racing history, and was once rivals with the red suits from Maranello on the world stage. We would love to see performance variants and halo cars come from Lincoln — an unrealistic situation just a few years ago. Then again, it was also unfathomable that they would discontinue the Town Car. The fresh blood at Lincoln doesn’t seem to care about the unimaginable anymore.

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