Lincoln Zephyr- The Lincoln Sedan Lives On! (At Least In China)
Issuing time:2022-08-22 20:00
What is it?
It’s been about 4 years since Ford, and thus Lincoln, announced that they would cease production of all their sedan models due to a lack of demand. Lincoln’s last sedan, the Continental, rolled off the assembly line in October of 2020.
At least that’s the case in America. It’s a different story here in China, where despite the growing popularity of SUVs and crossovers, sedans remain a popular option among buyers. Popular enough that Lincoln decided to build an all-new sedan model, the Zephyr, and sell it exclusively in the Chinese market.
The Zephyr is the successor of the mid-size Lincoln MKZ, and rides on the same C2 platform as the Ford Evos, which we’ve already reviewed, as well as the new Mondeo. The Zephyr has a starting price of 37,500 USD, but our highly-optioned test car came in at a little less than 50,000 USD.
Lincoln in Red
The Zephyr, simply called the Lincoln Z in China, was jointly designed by teams based in California and China. The result of their labor is a fastback style sedan that looks great from every angle. It’s a very contemporary design, particularly the front fascia with its LED light bar and light-up logo. The entire look is much more upscale than any Ford product, which is what a Lincoln should be.
The last generation of Lincoln sedans, namely the MKZ and Continental, had strong, arching belt lines that carried from tip to tail. The Zephyr continues that tradition, and even takes it a step further by tucking in the belt line, which works to emphasize the car’s lines bodylines and its wheel arches. Our Hollywood Red test car was noticeably devoid of chrome, instead making liberal use of black plastic for a sportier look.
Big Screen, Big Personality
The Zephyr offers a much more upscale experience on the interior as well, while sharing the basics with its more affordable cousins at the Blue Oval. The biggest similarity is the 1.1-meter display that combines a 12.3-inch instrument cluster and a 27-inch screen that serves both the driver and passenger. The latter can operate as a single screen or digitally partition itself at the touch of a button.
Once you’ve separated it into two screens, you can switch the display on the driver's side to the passenger side and vice versa by taking three fingers and pushing on the screen. This same screen in the Evos used Ford's China-only version of their infotainment called Sync+. The Lincoln used a reskinned version of the same, but we preferred the version in the Ford, because the UI is a bit easier to read than the Lincoln.
The design of the Lincoln’s cabin is much more sophisticated than any Ford. That’s especially true of the center console, which forgoes the rotary shift dial in the Fords for Lincoln’s signature push-button design mounted on the dashboard. The area below that features a combination of physical switches and capacitive touch buttons. The large switch in the center allows you to change drive modes, while the switches on either side let you control the fan speed and temperature for driver and passenger climate zones.
We at Wheelsboy are not fans of capacitive touch buttons, and the Zephyr has done nothing to change our overall stance on that topic. However, we do want to give Lincoln credit for at least making them bright enough that they are visible under harsh sunlight conditions. That's not something you can say for the capacitive touch buttons in a BYD or a Volkswagen.
In terms of material quality. The Lincoln finds itself in the same category as the other mainstay of American luxury, Cadillac. What that means is there's plenty of soft touch materials throughout, but material quality declines below the hip point.
The Zephyr has nearly all the features you'd expect in a Ford, and then some. That includes a heads-up display, Ford's Co-pilot 360 safety and driver assistance system, and highly adjustable, heated and cooled real leather and Alcantara wrapped seats. It also has a 13-speaker Revel audio system that outdoes the ten-speaker Bang & Olufsen system in the Fords.
The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed the word “nearly”. While the Lincoln has 128 different colors for its interior mood lighting (vs. the 7 different colors in the Fords) and even a fragrance dispenser, it doesn’t have the augmented reality instrument cluster found in the Evos and Mondeo. We found that feature to be useful, so we were left scratching our heads as to why the Zephyr goes without it.
The wheelbase of the Zephyr is 2930 millimeters, or 1.5 centimeters shorter than that of the Mondeo and the Evos. Not a huge difference by any means, but we found it interesting that what is ostensibly the “luxury version” of the Mondeo actually has a shorter wheelbase. That doesn't mean the back seat of the Zephyr is cramped by any means, both leg and headroom are more than adequate.
Rear seat passengers also have a fold down armrest with cupholders and storage area, small vanity mirrors integrated into the ceiling, and two USB ports (one type-C and one type-A). There are AC controls, however, there is no third, separate climate zone. That means adjusting the temperature in the back seat will adjust it for everyone in the car.
At 481 liters, the Zephyr’s trunk is very generous. Larger, for example, than the 456 liters of a Lexus ES. However, it’s actually smaller than the new Mondeo, which measures 520 liters, despite the fact that the Lincoln is slightly longer overall and shares the same multilink rear suspension. The Lincoln does not have an electronically closing trunk, which is forgivable, but the trunk lid rattles when closed in a way that feels very cheap.
More Power, but Less Sporty
While the US -market MKZ could be optioned with a turbocharged V6 making around 300 kW or 400 hp, the sole engine option in the Zephyr is a turbocharged four-cylinder making 181 kW and 376 Nm of torque (246 hp and 278 pound-feet). That engine is backed by an 8-speed automatic transmission putting power through the front wheels.
Front wheel drive usually isn't part of the formula for a good sports sedan, and indeed, “sporty” is not a word that we would use to describe the way the Zephyr drives, despite the fact it has very weighty steering and a serious power advantage over similarly priced German competitors. Then again, one doesn’t go to Lincoln for sports sedans, you go to them for comfortable cruisers. The Zephyr’s MacPherson strut front suspension doesn't provide the same level of handling performance as a BMW 3-Series. However, its multilink rear end and a smooth shifting eight-speed transmission provide a comfortable driving experience both in town and on the highway.
As we see it, the Zephyr has three main advantages over it’s German rivals. The first one, as mentioned above, is power. In order to have a similarly powerful engine in a BMW 3-Series, you would have to pay an additional 6,000 USD over the Zephyr’s asking price. Even if you did pony up for the more powerful 3-Series, it still wouldn’t help you overcome the Zephyr’s other advantages; size and features. The Lincoln has more interior space than even the long wheelbase, China-only versions of Germans sedans, like the 325Li and C200L. They also can’t provide the same combination of massive display and driver assistance and safety technology.
Many of you reading this might not care about massive screens or driver assistance systems, and place a greater significance on driving dynamics. But there are plenty of mainstream buyers who think quite differently.
The Zephyr is everything that a Lincoln should be, namely, a more upscale, more sophisticated version of a Ford. Unfortunately, it also suffers from some of the more traditional weaknesses of Lincoln, i.e., those luxury details that aren't quite up to snuff. There is also the fact that it is missing features that are found in more affordable Ford models. Even taking these issues into account, you are left with a handsome, comfortable sedan. If sporty driving isn’t your main priority, the Lincoln would make a fine choice in it’s segment.
Engine: 2.0T 4-cylinder
Power: 181 kW, 376 Nm
0-100 km/h: 6.8 seconds
Fuel Consumption: 7.4 (L/100 km NEDC)
CDM Price: 37,500-50,000 USD