When the 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid goes on sale this fall, it will have an updated version of the SmartGauge that debuted last year on the Ford Fusion Hybrid. The basics of the SmartGauge remain the same, with a pair of 4.3-inch LCD displays flanking a central speedometer. The LCDs can display several layers of information to help coach the driver to be a more efficient motorist.

The most obvious change is the color palette for the LCD gauges. They have been changed from a predominantly blue color scheme to what Lincoln officials describes as a more upscale-looking green and gold. The leaves on the right of the display have been present since the introduction of system on the Fusion and provide a graphical representation of the driver's short-term average fuel economy. The more thrifty your driving style, the more leaves you get. Behave like a lead-foot and they dissolve.

The SmartGauge in the 2011 MKZ Hybrid will also add some new flora to the mix in the form of a long-term fuel efficiency indicator. The indicator takes the form of apple blossom flowers (the state flower of Michigan) that appear amidst your tangle of digital leafs. If your average fuel economy is sufficient (Ford won't say what number you actually need), the first flowers will begin to appear after 4-6 weeks of driving. They first appear as buds and then grow into small and finally large flowers. More flowers appear over time, but the more you get, the more time it will take to earn more. If you earn all of the flowers, then you'll have saved about $8,000 in fuel costs and 30 tons of CO2 over the life of the car.

Aside from adding a whole new element to the game of achieving high MPG that we all play when behind the wheel of a hybrid, Ford's new long-term flower indicator also may serve a second, more practical purpose. If you decide to sell your MKZ Hybrid a few years down the road, a full bouquet of flowers in the SmartGauge proves you were a slow, careful driver and may fetch you a higher price on the used car market.

[Source: Ford]

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