Ford officials have said they thought about killing the Lincoln premium brand. Instead, they chose to remodel it top to bottom. The goal is to put Lincoln's lineup on par with Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi and Lexus.
The redesigned 2013 MKZ is just the start of a new-model blitz that also includes a restyled 2013 MKS, a possible small Lincoln crossover based on the 2013 Ford Escape mechanicals. For 2014, the MKX should be redesigned, as well.
Lincoln and Ford officials are careful not to tip their entire hand, but over the next two years Lincoln could introduce as many as seven new or significantly refreshed models. In all cases, the new Lincolns will share their basic mechanical underpinnings with similar-sized Ford models.
That means cars and crossovers will be based on front-wheel-drive One Ford platforms with all-wheel- drive an option. Some critics suggest this approach will undermine Ford's plan for Lincoln and they point to the basic rear-wheel-drive lineups at BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
Can a luxury brand be world-class using front-drive architectures as a starting point? The answer is yes. Just consider Audi. The world's No. 2 premium brand offers front- and all-wheel-drive Quattro models almost across the board. Audi is the Lincoln template.
Indeed, it appears that Ford is also following in Audi's tracks when it comes to powertrains. The 2013 MKZ will have a base 240-horsepower EcoBoost 2.0-litre four-cylinder – EcoBoost signifying direct fuel injection and turbocharging. The base engine in the Audi A4 is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder with direct injection and turbocharging.
Purists say rear-drive delivers better ride and handling than FWD, and while that may be true, most buyers can't tell the difference between FWD and RWD – and FWD-based vehicles come with fuel economy benefits. The world's auto makers use shared platforms across model lines in an effort to manage costs, so it makes perfect sense for Lincoln to base its new models on Ford's global platforms.
Lincoln is also unlikely to get its own dedicated vehicle platform, though the possibility exists. Perhaps Lincoln will revisit the idea of a rear-drive architecture of its own when the brand returns to selling 200,000-plus vehicles a year.