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Lexus and Lincoln bring out the big guns in the midsize luxury sedan market

Lexus today introduced its all-new 2013 ES family of entry-level luxury sedans. The ES has long been one of Lexus' best selling models, so striking the right balance of style, performance, and features are critical with the new model.
 
Although Lexus is introducing the ES 350 which features a 3.5-liter V6 engine, it's nearly as technologically interesting as the first hybrid to wear the ES moniker: the ES 300h. The ES 300h features a 2.5-liter four-cylinder Atkinson Cycle engine combined with the Lexus Hybrid Drive. Although exact city and highway numbers aren't yet available, Lexus says that the ES 300h is good for 40 mpg combined.
 
For comparison, a 2012 Lexus ES 350 is rated at 19 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway (22 mpg combined).
 
Other new features include Lexus' second-generation Remote Touch Interface (RTI) to operate multimedia controls, available Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Departure Alert, and Pre-Collision System. The new ES also includes Lexus Enform that provides connectivity to Bing search, iHeartRadio, MovieTickets.com, OpenTable, Pandora, Yelp, and Facebook Places through the use of the driver's smartphone.


2013 Lexus ES 300h
 
“The new Lexus ES 350 and ES 300h hybrid combine technology, style and performance to please current ES owners and attract new buyers,” said Mark Templin, Lexus group vice president and general manager. “With the addition of the ES 300h, Lexus truly offers something for everyone in the entry luxury segment.”
 
In other luxury hybrid news, Lincoln has pulled the wraps off its all-new 2013 MKZ Hybrid. The MKZ is based on the all-new 2013 Ford Fusion platform and features that vehicle's hybrid powertrain. Lincoln isn't yet providing EPA estimates for fuel economy, but the 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid is rated at 47 mpg city/44 mpg highway.
 
We'd surmise that the heavier MKZ may reduce those figures slightly, but it should still be enough to put it ahead of the new ES 300h.


2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid
 
Like the ES 300h, the new Lincoln MKZ comes packed with technology including MyLincoln Touch, Lane Keeping Alert/Lane Keeping Aid, Driver Assist, and the Blind Spot Information System.
 
"The new Lincoln MKZ represents the future of Lincoln in both style and substance," said Jim Farley, Group Vice President, Global Marketing, Sales and Service. "It is proof of our commitment to deliver a new breed of Lincolns for a new generation of Lincoln clients – motor cars that are distinctive, elegant, full of technology and a delight to own."

Sources: Lexus, Lincoln



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RE: Meh
By JasonMick (blog) on 4/4/2012 3:07:13 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
While the MKZ is definately a move in the right direction for Lincoln with clear features like that huge roof and lack of a gear shifter (YES!) for automatics, they are both just reskins of the mainstream cars...

And your excellent comment hits on a general industry trend for consumer brands with luxury models attached (Nissan, Toyota, Honda, GM, Ford, etc.).

I think Audi and Land Rover are rarities in that its vehicles are wildly different from most Volkswagens, Tata cars, respectively.

In a way I appreciate that, but I can also understand for efficiency sake why others would go the route of reskins/merged platforms.

I like the Lexus's styling a bit more, but I guarantee you the Lincoln is more feature-loaded.

For those looking for true differentiation, turn to an exotic brand or one of the few remaining more differentiated luxury brands (e.g. Audi/Land Rover)


RE: Meh
By Keeir on 4/4/2012 5:42:26 PM , Rating: 3
Errr..

I don't really agree (for NA).

Lincoln by far is the worst. Thier cars have been for years slightly upgrade in materials on the basic ford design. This MKZ finally brings some real features to the table in terms of engine options (V6), exterior features (full panel roof), and interior features (missing shifter) from the base Ford. But the bones are clearly still the Fusion, both externally and internally. (GOOD bones and GOOD additions tis true)

However, if you look down the "midsize" GM lineup here...

CTS, Regal, Malibu
ATS, Verano, Cruze

Those are -three- different cars both outside and inside.

Lexus/Toyota well... the LS/Avalon are pretty different. The GS/Camry is fairly different. And the IS/Corolla is fairly different as well. The ES is the main exception here. Even the CT200/Prius is a very different feel.

Infinitis are fairly well seperated from thier Nissan cousins. Acura as well (though the interiors on Acuras really give the game away, the exteriors at least are "different")

I am hoping Ford works hard to give away features on this MKZ Hybrid to build back some brand equity and then launchs a truely different Lincoln Car... maybe some kind of AWD/RWD C segment 3 Series/A4/ATS compeditor? And that sparks them to reach towards the Mercedes/BMW/Caddy/Audi/Lexus levels


RE: Meh
By Spuke on 4/5/2012 11:59:54 AM , Rating: 2
I really don't care if the two cars Fusion/MKZ are the same platform as long as there is substantial product differentiation between the two (there is finally). Maybe sometime Lincoln will be able to have their own identity but I don't think that's necessary to be successful in that market. Quite frankly, you might get a few extra features because of the cost savings of sharing platforms.


RE: Meh
By Keeir on 4/5/2012 3:11:33 PM , Rating: 3
I disagree. I think in the long term for a premium car company to be successful, they need to be the "drivers" of the group. Why do you think Audi displayed the new MBQ A3 before VW's Golf? The Golf will sell multiple times more units. The Golf might even generate more profit. But the higher margins that Audis command depend on the perception of a superior brand.

If Ford had been serious about reviving Lincoln, they should have went with the MKZ before the Fusion. Then people would perceive the Fusion as reaching up to the level of MKZ rather than the MKZ as a top trim level of the Fusion. That's a really different mindset.

Now from a consumer of a 2013 MKZ standpoint, I agree. I want the most for the least possible, and sharing not just the platform but the major dimension points. But from a general market consumer, I would prefer a healthier more compeditive Lincoln that drives compeditors and lowers market prices.

(The 2013 MKZ is better than a sticker treatment of the 2013 Fusion. But if you lay the interior/exterior on top of each other, you'd notice very little difference I think. While the 2013 Fusion had a very nice interior and exterior treatment, small changes are a disappoint from Lincoln. At least they didn't make it FUGLY like they have in the past. The MKZ Interior + Fusion Exterior would be the best though...)


RE: Meh
By Spuke on 4/5/2012 3:56:49 PM , Rating: 2
You make some good points if you're an enthusiast buying a luxury car. But 99% of people buying cars of any type are NOT enthusiasts and don't read Car and Driver. Most will not know the MKZ is based on the Fusion. As an enthusiast, I would prefer a separate platform with RWD and different engines to boot but I'm not Lincoln's bread and butter customer. That customer is going to compare features and price between the MKZ and its competition and if they find Lincoln a good value, they'll choose them. They may not even know that the MKZ is FWD or the Lexus is RWD. I had a friend that drove a mid 90's V6 Pontiac Firebird. He thought it had a V8 in it. It took me some doing to convince him he did not. He REALLY thought they ALL had V8's. Not saying people are stupid (he clearly was) but they're not enthusiasts.


RE: Meh
By Keeir on 4/5/2012 5:17:25 PM , Rating: 2
All those words... they can be used to justify badge engineering.

People buy premium cars expecting to have a new unique experience they can't get in the standard market segment. Car makers make premium cars to cash on high margins and unit profits.

This MKZ is a good step for Ford. But its still too little. The car is still a slight reskin of the Fusion, which will be obvious if the cars are parked next to each other and people can see both insides. The base MKZ primary compeditor will be the upper end Fusions. Thats not a good position to be in (I think). Lincoln is planning to make MKZs with Turbos 4 with no moonroof. How is this different than a Ecoboost 2.0 Fusion? No gear shifter?!? Okay, thats nice. Heck the MKZ is slated to come in 9 different colors. 7 of which are identifical to the FUSIONS colors. And the two "different" colors are an off black and an off white.

Now, yet again, the Fusion is a great car. The lines, drivetrains, and base technology appears on paper to be superb. The MKZ is the first Lincoln where the grill is not hideous! And it has special non-Ford gimmicks. Lincoln though has much farther to go if they want to sell market to market.

For example, the current MKZ AWD V6 has the same MSRP as the A4 2.0T Premium Plus Quattro model. But it takes nearly 3,000 incentive to sell in SMALLER numbers. Will this new MKZ sell at the MSRP? Will the MSRPs be similiar to the Audi pricing level (which is already lower than BMW/Mercedes/Lexus)? I really don't know, but my opinion is no, this car doesn't go far enough to actually compete for top spot with the other luxury cars.


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