Pedro Arrais review: Luxury and economy can co-exist

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The 2018 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid holds the promise of a long and happy marriage between luxury and fuel economy.

Everyone loves to be pampered — but typically the premise of luxury also meant a powerful car with less-than-desired fuel economy.

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Lincoln is the latest luxury brand to wade into the waters, with a hybrid version of its entry-level car, the MKZ.

The MKZ comes in two trim levels, the Select and the more fully equipped Reserve. I drove a nicely optioned example of the Reserve.

Most manufacturers charge a premium for a hybrid — some times a very hefty premium. Lincoln has chosen to go against the current thinking, choosing to add only $263 to drive the most fuel-efficient model.

The deal was so good, I had to check my figures twice.

Yes, there is a catch. Although the price difference between the MKZ and MKZ Hybrid is $263, the gas-fuelled car is an all-wheel drive, compared with the front-wheel-drive-only drivetrain of the electrified car.

That’s a worthwhile tradeoff, in my estimation, because its nearest competitor, the Lexus ES 300h, is also just FWD.

What that means is that you can get into a MKZ Hybrid for as low as $43,400 (my tester, the Reserve, has a list price of $48,450). Currently, Lincoln is running an advertising campaign with a discount of more than $9,000 off that suggested selling price.

The other catch is power.

Although both conventional and hybrid models come with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder under the hood, they differ in what supplemental aids they use. In the regular vehicle’s case, the engineers have added a turbocharger to boost power to keep up with the competition.

In the Hybrid, engineers have mated the gasoline engine to a parallel electric motor fed by a 1.4-kWh lithium-ion battery behind the rear seat, for a total of 188 horsepower.

Remember, this is not a plug-in hybrid, so there is no need to charge the battery. It recharges every time you take your foot off the accelerator, through regenerative braking.

Although it’s less powerful than its oil-burning brethren, the Hybrid doesn’t lack oomph under normal driving. It takes off from a stop on pure electric power and can maintain that at low speeds. The gas engine kicks in to seamlessly assist when power is needed.

The only time you feel the lack of power is when you are accelerating hard and rushing to merge into traffic.

If you know ahead of time that you will be needing extra power, make sure you don’t select Eco mode, which slows things down considerably (albeit returning better fuel efficiency).

Enthusiasts are not likely to not warm up to the powerplant as, along with a lack of power, it is equipped with a continuously variable transmission. The regular MKZ six-speed automatic, with its smooth shifts, is really missed.

But if you are looking at spending quality time in the lap of luxury, the Hybrid delivers on all the conveniences the Lincoln nameplate promises.

The cabin is serene, especially so in the city, when the car defaults on electric mode as much as possible. Sound dampening insulates occupants from the din of the outside world.

If you appreciate flowing lines and graceful forms, this is your dash. The designers have eliminated any protuberances — including the start button and shift lever — one would normally come to associate with a car dash.

The start button and gear selector are grouped to one side of the centre console. The first time I got behind the wheel of a MKZ, I literally sat there for five minutes looking for the start button.

It makes the Volvo, long considered avant garde in automotive interiors, look busy by comparison.

Fit and finish is beyond reproach, with a good selection of pleasing surfaces to view and touch.

Cutting-edge technology is on display as well, with a digital instrument cluster that gives you feedback on driving, efficiency and a screen with virtual leaves and flowers to reward you for driving in a responsible manner.

It being the smallest Lincoln, rear legroom can be at a premium if the front occupants have long femurs. In its defence, the MKZ is no smaller than others in the same segment.

The addition of the batteries does cut into cargo capacity, leaving the electrified car with a 314-litre trunk — 122 litres less than the conventional car.

In any marriage, the union involves embracing the things you love about your partner while accepting their shortcomings. The MKZ Hybrid would make a wonderful companion for those seeking luxury — as you drive off (frugally) into the sunset.

THE SPEC SHEET

Type: Luxury mid-sized four-door sedan front engine, front-wheel drive

Gas engine: Atkison-cycle 2.0-litre four cylinder, 141 hp at 6,000 r.p.m., 129 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,000 r.p.m.

Electric motor: Permanent AC synchronous 118 hp at 6,000 r.p.m., 177 lb.-ft. of torque

Combined: 188 hp

Battery: 1.4 kWh lithium-ion, 35 kW

Transmission: CVT

Dimensions (mm): Length, 4,925; width, 1,864; height, 1,475; wheelbase, 2,850

Curb weight (kg):

Price (base/as tested): $48,450/ $62,500 (includes $2,000 freight and PDI and $100 AC tax)

Options: Panoramic roof $2,000, Technology package $2,450, Luxury package $5,500, magnetic package $1,000, all-weather mats $250, multi-contour seats $750

Tires: 245/45 R18 on alloy wheels

Fuel type: Regular

Fuel economy (L/100km): 5.7 city/ 6.2 highway

Warranty: Four years/80,000 km new car, six years/110,000 km powertrain and roadside assistance

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