Ford certainly didn’t waste any time assimilating the 1-year-old Zephyr into the brand’s alphanumeric fray while at the same time addressing some of consumers’ biggest issues with the car.

The Zephyr will forthwith be known as the MKZ, or Mark Z. In addition to the new abbreviation, the entry-level luxury sedan also gets a mild facelift up front, the availability of AWD and most importantly Ford’s new corporate 3.5L V6 that produces 250 hp.

While none of these changes themselves are significant, they do allow the Zeph... (dammit) the MKZ to distance itself from its more mainstream siblings, the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan, and thereby further justify its higher pricetag.

We'll have some live shots of the MKZ from the Chicago Auto Show up at some point on Wednesday, but until then there are more official pics and Ford’s full press release after the jump...

[Source: Ford]



LINCOLN MKZ: MIDSIZE LUXURY SEDAN RECEIVES POWER UPGRADE, AWD AND A FRESH FACE


Entry-level Lincoln: Attracting a new generation of luxury customers to the Lincoln showroom
Power and performance: More powerful, efficient, 250 horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 paired with a smooth-shifting 6-speed transmission; more engaging, performance oriented driving character; added confidence of available intelligent all-wheel drive.
Added confidence: Available intelligent all-wheel drive (AWD)
Hallmarks of luxury: Refined waterfall grille and front fascia; new 17-inch, 8-spoke, machined aluminum wheels; available THX® II Certified audio system and SIRIUS satellite radio

The 2007 Lincoln MKZ has a more powerful 3.5-liter V-6 and a newly designed front end.

LUXURY SEDAN REBORN

Following the strong sales launch of the Lincoln Zephyr in the autumn of 2005, the entry-level luxury sedan is reborn for the 2007 model year with a new, more powerful 3.5-liter V-6 engine, a newly designed front end, more traction with available all-wheel drive (AWD) and a new name – Lincoln MKZ.

"Customer demand for Lincoln’s mid-size luxury sedan has exceeded our expectations," says Al Giombetti, president, Ford, Lincoln Mercury Marketing and Sales. "We have taken a brand-new, well-received car and significantly improved it to draw a new generation of customers to the Lincoln brand." Lincoln Zephyr has become an immediate sales success. "Judging by reaction in the showroom, customers are clearly ready for an American entry-level luxury sedan," Giombetti says.


POWERFUL NEW V-6 ENGINE DESIGNED TO DELIVER
Ford Motor Company’s all-new Duratec 35 V-6 engine paired with a premium 6-speed transmission delivers 250 horsepower and 240 pounds-foot of torque. The result will be smooth power and a confident, comfortable ride.



All-new Duratec 35 delivers 250 hp and 240 ft. lbs. of torque.

"Our new 3.5-liter V-6 coupled with an advanced 6-speed automatic provides an innovative solution for better fuel efficiency, more refinement, more power and clean emissions, without any sacrifices," says Barb Samardzich, Ford vice president of Powertrain Operations.

A strong, lightweight die-cast aluminum block and lightweight 4-valve direct-acting, mechanical-bucket valve train provide smooth, refined operation at high engine speeds. The intake was designed as a system all the way from the throttle body to the intake valves. This incorporates a dual-plenum intake manifold and intake variable cam timing to help ensure a smooth idle and broad torque curve for improved power. A 10.3:1 compression ratio and improved close-coupled catalysts reduce emissions.

The Lincoln MKZ is able to respond readily to its driver’s demands, thanks to the premium 6-speed automatic transmission. A torque-based electronic throttle control works with the electronically controlled transmission by adjusting throttle plate movement to tailor torque to the timing of each shift. In this way, the transmission is able to deliver smooth, barely perceptible gear changes.

CLASSIC, UNDERSTATED ELEGANCE
The exterior design of Lincoln MKZ incorporates classic elements of Lincoln style that have become essential to the visual heritage of the brand. Further refinement of Lincoln’s traditional waterfall grille, additional bright work and distinctive lighting gives the Lincoln MKZ an even more distinctive look.


17-inch alloy wheels are available with a machined-aluminum or chromed-aluminum finish.
The Lincoln MKZ’s profile features chromed trim at the beltline and on the mirror caps, set off by the wheels. The 17-inch alloy wheels are an important design element, available with a machined-aluminum appearance or a new chromed-aluminum finish. Low-profile tires reinforce the low, purposeful stance of the car.

The rear bumper surface is nearly flush, contributing to the clean, uncluttered lines. Twin chrome-tipped tailpipes are set wide apart below thin horizontal reflectors in the lower fascia, similar in placement to the front fog lamps. Together, the flush bumper and chrome-tipped dual exhaust communicate a subtle athleticism.

INSIDE: UNPRETENTIOUS LUXURY
The Lincoln MKZ uses genuine materials, including real wood, high-quality leather, satin nickel and chromed trim. White electro-luminescent lighting illuminates the round, chrome-ringed gauges, complementing the interior’s white lighting, which uses white light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to backlight controls and switches at night.


The instrument panel features a horizontal band of contrasting trim in either wood or satin nickel, which gives the interior a more "technical" appearance. When equipped with wood, interior choices are: Dark Charcoal or Light Stone with Ebony wood or Sand with Figured Maple wood.

"The figured maple gives the interior a fresh and exciting look," says Peter Horbury, executive director, North American Design. "The dark ebony is classic elegance for a traditional sense of luxury. The satin nickel, with its lightly raised ribbing, is technical and modern. We were able to establish three completely different ambient settings through use of these materials."

The Lincoln MKZ is designed for comfort, too, with more than three feet of rear-passenger legroom. The spacious feel of the cabin was achieved by stretching the width of the base architecture by 30 millimeters and the wheelbase by 55 millimeters.

The Lincoln MKZ features a large 15.8-cubic-foot trunk (largest trunk in its class) with a flat load floor and a low lift-over height. The deck lid has compact hinge mechanisms that won’t impinge on trunk volume or crush cargo. The rear seats feature class exclusive standard 60/40-split backs that individually fold flat with a convenient spring assist, giving access to the trunk and affording cavernous storage space.

Thanks to a rigid and robust structure, the quiet interior is the perfect environment for the industry’s first THX® II Certified audio system. Optional on the Lincoln MKZ, the system features surround-sound worthy of an upscale cinema. The system features 14 speakers, including two subwoofers with 600 watts of power and a sophisticated processor that inputs bandwidth, peak audio levels and coverage uniformity to deliver a smooth spectral balance and wide dynamic range. An MP3 audio input jack and factory-installed SIRIUS satellite radio are also available.

To ensure that drivers and passengers always travel with the right directions, a new DVD-based navigation system is optional and features a sharp 6.5-inch-wide screen and text-to-speech technology with travel directions in English, Spanish or French.

QUIET RIDE, NIMBLE HANDLING, AVAILABLE ALL-WHEEL DRIVE

With the addition of the Lincoln MKZ, Ford will offer more than 20 vehicles with all-wheel drive in 2007. Total annual sales of AWD vehicles for Ford alone are expected to exceed 500,000 units a year starting in 2007, making Ford an industry leader.
Lincoln MKZ’s chassis is tuned for a quiet, comfortable ride with confident, responsive handling. All aspects of the fully independent suspension – dampers, spring rates and bushings – have been specially selected and tuned with an emphasis on ride comfort without sacrificing precise and nimble response.

The standard 17-inch tires were selected to complement the suspension tuning and for their quiet tread design. The rack-and-pinion steering system was tuned to be in harmony with the suspension and tires. Utilizing the car’s stiff structure, the Lincoln MKZ mounts the steering gear to the front perimeter subframe for reduced noise and vibration. This lets the driver better experience the car’s relationship to the road via the steering wheel, whether it’s a parking maneuver or a high-speed lane change.



Lincoln MKZ’s independent rear suspension is tuned to deliver a precise and nimble response.

The available intelligent all-wheel-drive (AWD) system is tuned with an emphasis on luxury performance and confident all-weather driving. The system actively and seamlessly delivers torque to all four wheels, even before wheel slippage occurs. An active on-demand coupler delivers the precise amount of torque needed to the rear wheels. Paired with available traction control, intelligent AWD can transfer torque front-to-rear and side-to-side.


SAFETY: THE ESSENTIAL LUXURY

Lincoln MKZ features a number of highly advanced safety technologies. It was designed with Ford’s Personal Safety System™ and a body structure optimized to help manage energy in a crash.

Lincoln MKZ’s safety system includes standard driver and front passenger air bags, seat-deployed side air bags for thorax protection, and three-point safety belts at all seating positions, with front-seat pretensioners and retractors. A full-length safety curtain provides head protection over the length of the window glass area – from A-pillar to C-pillar.


The new air curtain can prevent both front and rear occupants from hitting their heads on the side window or roof pillars in a severe side collision. In addition, the side-curtain air bag can help block glass splinters or other objects that could cause injury in a side impact.

Lincoln MKZ’s two-row air curtains also feature "roll-fold" technology – an exclusive in the midsize segment. If an occupant is resting his or her head against a window, the air bag is designed to slide between the glass and occupant as it fills. Typical side air curtains unfold like an accordion. Lincoln’s roll-fold keeps the air curtain against the glass, even when the occupant is out of position.

Lincoln MKZ features four-wheel disc brakes with a four-sensor, three-channel anti-lock braking system (ABS) and electronic brake force distribution (EBD). By measuring brake force and directing braking to the wheels that have the best grip, EBD helps achieve shorter stopping distances even before ABS activates. Traction assist also is standard.

QUICK SPECS
POWERTRAIN
3.5-liter, DOHC, 24-valve, 60-degree, V-6
• 250 hp @ 6250 rpm
• 240 lb. ft. @ 4500 rpm
• Standard 6-speed automatic transmission
CHASSIS
• Wheelbase: 107.4 in.
• Length: 190.5 in.
• Max width: 72.2 in. (excluding mirrors)
SUSPENSION
• Front -     Independent short and long arm (SLA) with rearward-facing lower control arms; 24-mm stabilizer bar
• Rear -     Multilink fully independent with coil-over shock and lower control arms; 17-mm stabilizer bar