Detroit – Interiors and the Lincoln MKC

Continuing my scant coverage of the most interesting Detroit Auto Show in years……

I’ve always felt that the interior of a car was crucial to its success – it’s where you spend all of your time, after all. So many car companies have been guilty of spending a disproportionate amount of time/money chasing an exciting exterior, leaving people with a dowdy interior as a result. (The C3 Corvette Stingray is perhaps the worst offender when it comes to exterior/interior divergence).

I’ve seen a few fantastic interior photos from the 2013 Detroit show. Shots that really piqued my interest in cars that I wouldn’t normally give a second glance to based on the exterior or the badge.

The first is the 4-series BMW interior. I’m not a fan of BMWs in general and the interiors have never grabbed me, but this makes me want to dive in to a pool of chocolate and bathe for hours. There’s some genuine warmth here.

OK, it’s a concept so the chances of it looking like this are only slight, but it’s a concept that looks very close to production-ready.

BMW-Concept-4-Series-Coupe

——

The next one is the interior of the Honda/Acura NSX Concept. Honda are renowned for having show cars that don’t change much at all for production. That’s good news for any potential NSX owners out there because this interior is spectacular in design, simplicity and execution.

Outstanding.

Acrua NSX

Acrua NSX

——

The final one I’d like to point out is the Lincoln MKC concept interior. This one’s the most dubious in terms of whether or not it’ll see production an a form that’s close to the show car, but it’s very nice indeed.

I’m not a big fan of fat central command centers so that’s not a favourite element, but the rest of the interior looks very nicely executed.

009-lincoln-mkc-concept

The MKC is actually a pretty important model for Lincoln, a brand that was left largely by the wayside while Ford concentrated on its short-lived Premier Auto Group. Now that Volvo and JLR have been sold off to others, Ford are trying to revive Lincoln as an upmarket brand in the US.

I got an email last week from a reader named Liari drawing my attention to Lincoln and the brand’s new MKZ sedan. Liari makes a point that’s not too dissimilar to one of Ford’s problems here in Australia.

First, the car…..

Ford is trying to relaunch Lincoln, which is critical for them for future profitability, and the MKZ is the first out of the gate. In a way, they are “finding their own road” by declaring from the outset that they’re not aiming to out BMW BMW, with Nürburgring hammering vehicles, in the fashion of Cadillac, Audi, and now Lexus. They want to find a blend of elegant simplicity, comfort, and sport with good fuel efficiency. Do those brand values sound familiar? Thus, the MKZ and its hybrid model with 45 MPG.

I think there’s a lot here for Saab fans to admire, and I think the car’s lines in person reminds me a lot of the late and too soon gone Saab 9-5 (while the interior has melted Volvo overtones). Considering that a 45 MPG hybrid stuffed to the gills with every luxury feature known to man (including the impressive panoramic sliding roof) rings in at $5000-6000 LESS than a Saab 9-5 did in 2010 with it’s sunroof deficiency, I think this is an enormous value calling out to Saab fans… Those who can swallow the brand, at least.

I’ve not had any experience with Lincoln whatsoever but I took a look at the Lincoln website after getting this email and I have to say, it does look like a lot of bang for the buck. The styling’s a personal matter, of course, but in terms of equipment it’s a decent package.

To the problem, then…..

What I think makes this interesting to YOU are the reviews that the vehicle has been getting. More interesting has been the questions those review prompt about what defines a luxury car. These are questions that Saab had in its recent past and that NEVS and all luxury cars makers will have in the future.

The reviews, to my eyes, read amazingly like prior Saab reviews. In fact, substitute “Saab 9-5” in for “Lincoln MKZ” into the text, and it could be 2010 all over again. From fretting over interior plastics, to inconsistent reviews of its seats (from “best ever” to “too firm”), to angst over platform sharing, to it being overpriced for its segment (despite a history of better prices at dealers than magazine quoted MSRP, just like Saab). Lincoln too seems to suffer from some of the same self inflicted wounds that Saab had as well. Despite early administrative insistence that they were aiming at the Lexus ES’s, Hyundai Azeras, Buick Regals, and Toyota Avalons of the world, some of the Lincoln PR grunts did not get the memo and suggested the Audi A6, BMW 5, and CTS were rivals. The media latched onto that and those direct comparisons in reviews were not kind.

The key question Liari asks is what defines luxury? and can/does anyone rely on car magazines to provide an objective evaluation?

I mentioned Ford Australia. The Ford Falcon, their large sedan here, has suffered dwindling sales for years and whilst it was once a best seller (moving around 85,000 units a year here at one stage), the Falcon wasn’t even in the Top 20 sellers in 2012.

Ford released a turbocharged 4-cylinder version of the Falcon last year, hoping that that would appeal to those buyers concerned with the price of petrol. The Ecoboost Falcon has been praised in review after review and yet during the model’s first three months on the market, Ford sold just 53 of them to provate buyers (and three times as many to Ford employees).

I guess this all goes to the mission that Ford will have with Lincoln. The MKZ looks like a very nice sedan and this new MKC SUV might be even more important given the growth in the segment. The big question is whether buyers and the motoring press will take the brand for what it is.

No matter how fine the car is, Australians just don’t seem to want a 4-cylinder Falcon. I hope Ford has more success with Lincoln because the new models look pretty nice and the world needs more automotive variety, not less.

000-lincoln-mkc-concept

You may also like

10 Comments

  1. The finest thing about that BMW interior is the manual transmission stick…. hope for the future in a sea of automatics or ‘flappy paddle’ transmissions.

  2. The 4-series interior follows a scheme, which makes it easier for BMW fans to classify the different series.

    This 4-series has some details from the 6-series but with a less exclusive finish. This makes it a little bit more cluttered, with two many lines with no continuation. In the 6-series the interior is more coherent, sorry but I’m not sure if this says what I mean.

    And I think the MKC looks rather good, I only have to et used to that Lincoln grille.

  3. All four are horrible to me. The least horrible is surprisingly the Lincoln one, which could signal that the brand is not that full of confidence at the moment. I don’t understand whats wrong with designers when it comes to car interiors. It is like all common sense and taste went away, and the only goal was to create as many disparate shapes and objects as possible. Even in my 2010 9-3 I had to put black paint on a “metal” stripe stupidly placed on top of the dashboard where constantly gave a extremely irritating reflection right across the windscreen in front of the driver. I would love for the employee at Saab that were responsible for that to explain in what way that “metal” stripe was a good idea and what they thought it actually added to the driver experience.

    1. Which metal stripe?
      I now own a 2008 9-3 conv, and I haven’t seen anything too annoying, although we had only a grey sky since. Do you mean the silverish surroundings of the dashboard panel?

  4. Good post and could not agree more about the importance of the interior.
    Although this isn’t a Saab site I have to say the BIGGEST reason for the brand’s trouble has been the perception interiors have stamped on the overall product.

    It was the main reason that prevented me from buying a NG900 and getting any vibes from a base OG9-3. God all mighty the 900 looked awful in -93 with its greyish and blueish panels. Even a 5 year old French cars looked more premium.
    Same thing unfortunately again with the dark grey NG9-3, OG9-5 and NG9-5. Don’t know if it is a Swedish thing but it got to change if THN wants to sell cars by the numbers worldwide in this day and age.

    When NEVS comes out with a new vehicle the base offering better have a quality feel like the 9-4X concept http://www.saabsunited.com/wp-content/uploads/console9-4x.jpg after everything the brand has been through or I’m afraid the auto press won’t be very kind.

    Personally I don’t like red or chocolate interiors but it’s important that people will be given the chance to customize their cars if they’re willing to pay the price.

  5. I am not a formula 1 driver. Hence, I will refuse to sit in a car that encases me and resticts my freedom of movements like the above three samples would do. I have first seen this new trend in the Jaguar XF, and immediately disliked it.

    Design wise, all three dashboards look very glued together. Instead of providing a simple, homogenous look, they just assemble diverse, non related design features.

  6. Lincoln is an interesting case. Their focus keeps shifting from being a “fully loaded” Ford for the blue hair set, to being a cutting-edge style icon.
    They were dragged-down for the past 20 years by the success of the Town Car and, to a lesser extent, the Navigator. Both were hugely profitable, but they almost killed the brand in the eyes of luxury buyers.

    It doesn’t help that their other offerings are obvious badge engineering quickies and that their new naming convention is alphabet soup. MKS, MKZ, MKT, MKX, it’s all a big jumble, and it’s easier to keep track of them by calling them “Lincoln Fusion, Taurus, Flex and Edge,” which are their Ford equivalents.

    Their last spurt of creativity was in the late 1980s. The Mark VII was a very stylish and competitive coupe, and the Continental was a very imposing and advanced luxury sedan. It was based on the Taurus platform, but you could not tell. The interior was a spot-on execution of American luxury: acres of room, tons of leather, endless gadgets, and a killer stereo (if you ordered the JBL option).

    I really wish them well for their latest re-birth. That being said, they will never be a true premium brand in my eyes, and for one reason alone. Ford in North America does not support cars after 10 years with OEM parts. That means that any fairly recent Lincoln is one breakdown away from the junk yard. Evap failure? Ford doesn’t have the little rubber bit that you need, the car fails its emissions test, and now you can’t get it licensed. I did a quick survey in my area, and 10 year old Lincolns sell for $5K, whereas a similar Mercedes will be in the $15-20K range. 15 year old Lincolns sell for not much more than scrap value. That’s an insane difference, and it explains why Lincoln is a “not-quite” brand.

  7. Swade,

    On a related note, I would love to read your thoughts on the Mercedes CLA. It looks like it’s slotted into the exact same market segment as the old 9-3 in terms of price ($30K start), size (4.6m) and tech (2.0 fwd turbo). They even claim a best-ever drag coefficient of 0.23, which is something Saab could/should have done with the 9-3 replacement.

  8. Got picked up at Dallas airport in a Lincoln sedan 2 years ago. Inside and out looked like something fron the 80’s. Only had few hundred miles on the clock. Guy’s new work car. Can’t be sending mixed signals.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *