The Lincoln brand has been in the doldrums for years now, but Ford's luxury arm is looking to stage a comeback (again) starting with the all-new Lincoln MKZ. The brand's mid-size offering will be arriving in dealerships later this year, and we're getting our first glimpse of what's to come with this, the MKZ Concept that makes its debut at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show.

The MKZ Concept features an all-new clean sheet design that head designer Max Wolff calls "simplicity with just a few strokes." The MKZ continues to feature the latest version of Lincoln's split wing front fascia, with a pair of tidy, multi-unit LED lights that flow out out of the grille. The body side design features a sharp crease at the beltline that helps the concept look wider and more athletic, and looking at the MKZ concept in profile reveals a sweeping roofline that looks unique and refined. We're big fans of the svelte side mirrors, which are about as thick as a strip steak and completely independent from the A-pillar. The concept also features a stunning, full glass roof that integrates into the body structure.

Lincoln MKZ ConceptThe mirrors and the lightly tinted glass roof won't necessarily make their way to production (along with those oversized wheels), but the proportions of this MKZ is likely a spot-on match for the production model. Lincoln tells us that the concept features a 112-inch wheelbase – five inches shorter than the 2012 model. The concept is also wider than the 2012 model by more than an inch.

The extra length should allow for a lot more interior volume, but many concept models show off a cabin that is more Buck Rodgers than production-ready. That's not the case with the MKZ concept, as Lincoln chose to show off duds that are likely very close to the model we'll soon find in dealerships. Among the interesting touches are a dash that features rich materials and beautiful wood accents, a new steering wheel design that features perforated leather and a new take on MyLincoln Touch.

The center IP ditches the analog gauges in favor of a ten-inch thin film transistor LED instrument panel with sharp-looking graphics. The center stack shows of an eight-inch LCD screen with the now familiar MyLincoln Touch graphics, plus a touch-sensitive and knob-free set of HVAC controls. The most interesting part about the center console is the absence of a shift lever. Transmission controls are instead aligned vertically along the left edge of the stack, clearing up oodles of space for front row occupants. The center console also houses the push-button start and glove box release buttons.

Ford hasn't given much information about the mechanicals under the hood of the concept vehicle, but the MKZ will feature the same Lincoln Drive Control and Continuously Controlled Damping adjustable suspension as the 2013 MKT and MKS. Hit the jump to read over the Lincoln press release, and be sure to peruse the high-resolution images in the gallery above.
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Lincoln MKZ Concept: Future Vision Today

DETROIT, Jan. 10, 2012 – The new Lincoln MKZ Concept, revealed today at the North American International Auto Show, signals a significant step in Lincoln's reinvention, providing a clear vision of its next-generation vehicles.

"With the Lincoln MKZ Concept, we are not introducing a new car. We are essentially introducing a new brand," said Derrick Kuzak, Ford Motor Company group vice president for Global Product Development. "The MKZ Concept is the next step in the reinvention of Lincoln, something we've been quietly but aggressively pursuing."

Lincoln MKZ Concept: Exterior
The MKZ Concept strongly hints at the production model arriving in dealerships later this year, as well as Lincoln's design future.

"The MKZ Concept's shape is a vision of simplicity completed with just a few strokes," said Max Wolff, Lincoln design director. "Our movement as a brand is toward something we call elegant simplicity. It's something warmer and more restrained, which is moving away from complex designs and traditional luxury." (View a video highlighting the main design elements of the Lincoln MKZ Concept here.)

Warm hues are evident in every aspect of the new vehicle's Cognac-colored exterior. The deep finish is achieved with a rich base coat covered in multiple layers of tinted clear-coat finishes.

By retaining key, recognizable brand design elements, the MKZ Concept remains clearly identifiable as a Lincoln. One example is the more refined interpretation of the split-wing grille, introduced on the 1938 Lincoln-Zephyr. (Click here for image.)

The sedan's profile is dominated by a long, sleek and sweeping roofline that allows the design to break away from the traditional sedan three-box shape. The lengthening of the roofline enables a more flowing, elegant and more naturally aerodynamic appearance. (Access Lincoln MKZ Concept specifications here.)

A panoramic glass roof spans uninterrupted from the windshield to the top of the backlight. Integrated into the sedan's aluminum and boron steel superstructure, the fixed-glass expanse extends to the side roof rails of the cabin, creating an airy, open interior. (Click here for gallery.)

LED technology enabled an extremely thin and distinctive full-width taillamp graphic. Exhaust tips are cleanly integrated into the rear fascia.
Lincoln MKZ Concept: Interior
The Lincoln MKZ Concept's four-seat interior is open, warm and inviting. "The front graphic is repeated in the dramatic sweep of the instrument panel, helping tie the interior to the exterior. These flowing forms create a comfortable and functional interior that particularly appeals to the younger, more diverse customers we are targeting," said Wolff.

Innovative interior features include push-button transmission gear selection, an open, tiered center console and liquid crystal instrumentation. The reconfigurable 10.1-inch Thin Film Transistor (TFT) LCD positioned ahead of the driver operates with the latest version of MyLincoln Touch™ as does the nearly flush-mounted center 8-inch LCD touch screen.

Responsibly harvested poplar wood, aluminum in bright and satin finishes as well as leather help create a sculptural, luxurious and comfortable interior space. Champagne-colored leather seats with dark taupe accents feature a champagne perforation pattern, so-called because the perforations on the seat backs conjure the image of champagne bubbles rising from the bottom of a glass.

Lincoln MKZ Concept: Engineering
The Lincoln MKZ Concept is a styling study that rides on an all-new midsize platform. The sedan is capable of utilizing multiple powertrain options in front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive configurations.

Like the recently introduced MKS and MKT with EcoBoost™, the Lincoln MKZ Concept features Lincoln Drive Control and the sophisticated Continuously Controlled Damping (CCD) adjustable suspension. (Click here for information on these Lincoln technologies and here for background on the Lane Keeping System, another feature integrated into the MKZ Concept.)

The Business of Lincoln
"Lincoln is an important part of our company's success," said Mark Fields, Ford Motor Company president of The Americas. "The luxury piece of the industry is significant. In any given year in the U.S., the luxury segment is 11 to 13 percent of overall sales, and it is important for us to win customers in the luxury market with strong new vehicles. That is a key reason we have invested so heavily in Lincoln."

During the past 14 months, Lincoln has built a dedicated team – including designers, engineers, quality and manufacturing experts as well as marketing and sales leaders. The team includes people from luxury brands, some outside of automotive.

"This team wakes up every morning thinking about Lincoln – and only Lincoln," Fields said. "These are the people committed to delivering world-class vehicles with a customer experience to match."

Many of the new team members begin working this year in the all-new Lincoln Design Studio in Dearborn, Mich.
Under Wolff's direction, construction of the 40,000-square-foot studio began in early 2011 and ultimately will house more than 180 modelers, engineers, stylists and designers in a space that encourages creativity and collaboration.

"This is the first time Lincoln has had its own studio since the 1970s," said Wolff. "Having our own space is critical to the continued development of the brand. We are passionate about creating beautiful, even seductive, vehicles – and the MKZ Concept marks just the beginning."