(© Rick Wait)

Lincoln MKZ Concept

The Ford product lineup has improved exponentially in the past couple of years, and sales and market share have experienced similar jumps. All the while, Lincoln, its more upscale cousin, has stayed mostly pat, with few new products and little to no excitement. Based on the concept car that Lincoln revealed here at the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, it looks as if Lincoln will be next to get the Midas touch. The MKZ Concept points toward a much improved future design language and a new-found passion for Ford's luxury brand.

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Lincoln MKZ Concept

Click to enlarge pictureLincoln MKZ Concept (© Rick Wait)

Lincoln MKZ Concept

Click to enlarge pictureLincoln MKZ Concept (© Rick Wait)

Lincoln MKZ Concept

Click to enlarge pictureLincoln MKZ Concept (© Rick Wait)

Lincoln MKZ Concept

Click to enlarge pictureLincoln MKZ Concept (© Rick Wait)

Lincoln MKZ Concept

What is it? A peek at Lincoln's much more exciting, next-generation midsize sedan.

What's hot? The current MKZ is just a gussied up Fusion and does little to inspire passion. This MKZ Concept is exciting, though, mostly because of an attractive, modern look that Lincoln calls "elegant simplicity." The car's overall shape is enhanced by a long, sweeping roofline. Up front, the split-wing grille -- which looks awkward on too many current Lincolns -- takes on an attractive, minimalist design that flows into tiny headlights made possible by LED technology. Inside, the MKZ Concept imparts a truly luxurious feel, with wood, aluminum, leather and ambient lighting. A sweeping instrument panel echoes the exterior appearance. Modern touches include a reconfigurable instrument display screen, the next generation of MyLincoln Touch with an 8-inch center LCD display, and a push-button electronic transmission.

What's not? With its full-length center console, the MKZ Concept has seating for four. A family sedan needs that rear center seat. The production version will offer front- or all-wheel drive, but we'd like to see Lincoln explore a rear-drive platform, a la the Cadillac CTS.

How much and when? Starting at about $30,000. By the end of the year.

MSN Autos' verdict: It's likely that the next MKZ will look very much like this, and that would definitely attract more buyers. Some of the details will certainly be changed: The roof won't be glass, the car will seat five instead of four, the side mirrors will be more traditional, and the standard wheels probably won't be 20s. If the production version shares the concept's larger dimensions, however, we wonder if it will crowd out the MKS.


Kirk Bell has served as the associate publisher for Consumer Guide Automotive and editor of Scale Auto Enthusiast magazine. A Midwest native, Bell brings 18 years of automotive journalism experience to MSN, and currently contributes to JDPower.com and Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com.