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2012 New York Auto Show - Lincoln

Lincoln MKZLincoln MKZ
Lincoln MKZLincoln MKZ

The Lincoln brand has languished in limbo for years, offering only the ubiquitous Town Car and badly blinged, badge-engineered vehicles thinly disguised from their Ford cousins. While the Japanese brands were seizing market share, and Cadillac was reinventing itself as a bold, brash competitor against the German marques, Lincoln plodded towards extinction, seemingly just one more bad quarter away from the ax.

The 2013 MKZ is the first bit of proof that Ford actually cares about the Lincoln brand and intends for it to survive. Rather than serving up another Fusion with lipstick, Lincoln has finally presented a vehicle that has a style uniquely its own. Whether that style will be well-received is almost beside the point. The key here is that we know they're actually trying.

Further proof of Ford's commitment to Lincoln is their show booth. For the first time in memory, it is completely separate from the Ford booth, located near the other luxury brands, and rather artfully designed.

As for the styling of the MKZ, say what you will about that grill (I'll say it looks like Salvador Dali's mustache) the overall design is unique and won't be mistaken for anything else on the road. And that, above all else, is the most important thing for the Lincoln brand: Establish a clear identity. It has worked for Cadillac, it's starting to work for brands like Buick and Hyundai, it can work for Lincoln.

The MKZ will feature a host of luxury conveniences, including the Lane Keeping System, SYNC with MyLincoln Touch, and a massive retractable panoramic glass roof.

Not all is perfect here; despite the bespoke skin, there's still a front wheel drive Ford Fusion under there (AWD is available). That's not a disaster by any means; people will cross shop this with the Buick LaCrosse, Lexus ES350, Acura TL, front wheel drive all. But if Lincoln wants to go up against the heavy hitters like BMW and Mercedes, a RWD platform is mandatory. Again, Cadillac has recognized this; Lincoln must as well.