By Chris Chase, CanadianDriver.com
The Lincoln Zephyr was introduced in 2005, as a 2006 model, as a new entry-level model for Ford’s upscale brand. The car revived a name used on a 1936-1942 Lincoln model, and also a late-1970s Mercury based on the Ford Fairmont.
As with the Mercury Zephyr, the new Lincoln Zephyr was based on a Ford sedan, but in this case, the Fusion, which debuted at about the same time. Where the Fusion was offered in an entry-level, four-cylinder model, the Zephyr was sold in a single trim with V6 engine, automatic transmission, heated leather seats and dual-zone climate control.
The Zephyr’s engine was a 3.0-litre V6, shared with the Fusion, that made 221 horsepower and 205 lb-ft of torque.
After just one year on the market, Lincoln changed the Zephyr’s name to the less-memorable MKZ to bring it line with the brand’s new naming practice, and replaced the 3.0-litre engine with Ford’s 3.5-litre V6, which made a more impressive 263 hp and 249 lb-ft of torque. An all-wheel drive option was added as well.
The 2008 MKZ gained a number of standard features, including pushbutton start, SYNC communications system, perforated leather heated and cooled front seats, and rear park assist. In 2009, AdvanceTrac stability control became standard.
The Zephyr’s Natural Resources Canada fuel consumption ratings were 11.9/7.8 L/100 km. The MKZ’s larger engine was rated at 12.6/8.0 L/100 km with front-wheel drive, and 13.2/8.4 L/100 km with all-wheel drive. In 2008, the ratings improved to 11.6/7.0 with FWD and 12.7/8.3 with AWD; the 2009 FWD model’s ratings were 11.7/7.2 L/100 km, while the AWD car’s ratings remained the same.
As with the Fusion with which it shares most of its mechanicals, the Zephyr/MKZ has proven a very reliable car, with front-wheel drive earning a much better than average used car rating from Consumer Reports. All-wheel drive cars get a worse-than-average rating, thanks to a problem with leaking transfer cases.
There are a few trouble spots to watch for, which happen to be the same ones that affect the Fusion.
As mentioned, all-wheel drive cars suffer from leaky transfer cases, there have been some problems with automatic climate controls and there have been some complaints in the Fusion about a “loose-feeling” suspension.
Crash safety depends on what model year Fusion you’re talking about. Early 2006 models earned an “acceptable” rating in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) frontal offset crash test. 2006 models built after January 2006 added a piece of hard plastic near the gas pedal to reduce the risk of injury to the driver’s right leg in this type of crash. Without this added piece, the Fusion earned good ratings for the frontal offset test, save for a “poor” rating in right leg/foot injury measurements.
Cars with side airbags built before February 2007 earned an “acceptable” rating; changes to the side curtain airbags and door structure in early 2007 models contributed to that improvement in performance. Further changes made to the front door trim in 2007 models built after January 2007 improved the MKZ’s side impact rating to “good,” which helped the car earned the organization’s “Top Safety Pick” rating for the 2009 model year. Note that year of manufacturer doesn’t necessarily equate to model year; MKZs built after January 2007 (as noted above) were likely sold as 2008 models.
From the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the 2006 Zephyr earned four stars all around, save for a five-star rating for front seat side impact protection. Choose a 2008 MKZ to get the safety improvements Ford/Lincoln made in early 2007 and you get a car that earned five stars in all measurements save for rear-seat side impact protection, where four stars were awarded.
Used values, according to Canadian Black Book, range from $16,000 for a 2006 Zephyr to $28,275 for a 2009 MKZ AWD. A 2008 MKZ is arguably the best of the bunch, incorporating the safety updates that were made late in 2007 (for 2008 model year production), the more powerful engine added in 2007 and a bunch of extra standard kit compared to earlier cars, for $22,850 in base form. That’s a nice discount compared to the $39,499 MSRP. Adding all the extras for 2008 – power moonroof, chrome wheels and navigation – bumps the used value to $24,750.
The Zephyr/MKZ’s used values will be lower than those for import competitors (think cars like the Lexus ES and Mercedes-Benz C-Class), but higher than those for the similar Ford: a fully-loaded 2008 front-wheel drive Fusion (including moonroof, leather, a sport package and navigation) is worth $19,275, which used the smaller 3.0-litre V6 but had a nicer interior compared to the Lincoln’s dated-looking digs.
It’s important with any car to shop carefully for one that comes with service records, and that checks out with a trusted mechanic. That said, in the case of the Zephyr and MKZ, there’s relatively little to watch for. The all-wheel drive model is the closest you’d get to the performance of a European car in this class (which tend to be either rear- or all-wheel drive), but choosing a front-drive model will ensure fewer worries and lower expenses, both in repairs and fuel consumption, down the road.
The Zephyr and MKZ lack the distinguished appearance and name of many of its competitors, but for a comfortable and well-equipped luxury sedan, this Lincoln is one of the best deals to be had on the used market.
Black Book Pricing (avg. retail) October 2010:
|Year||Model||Price today||Price new|
|2009||MKZ (front-wheel drive)||$27,150||$36,499|
|2008||MKZ (front-wheel drive)||$25,350||$39,499|
|2007||MKZ (front-wheel drive)||$20,150||$37,899|
Crash test results
Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.
For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.
For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.
Chris Chase is an Ottawa-based automotive journalist. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).
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