[Disclaimer: batteries in my camera were dead and I forgot to get new phones so I had to make-do with my phone. I apologize in advance for the quality of the pics! It was especially difficult to get a good shot of the spinning MKC… All photos Copyright Adrien Tillet, 2014]
As usual, the New Year brings means the Auto Show circuit gets moving again. But while the North American International Auto Show may take most of the spotlight away and on Detroit, the commute for me would be a long one and it is always with a lot of excitement that I wait for the Salon International de l’Auto de Montréal: while it does not reserve the same surprises as its American cousin, it is an opportunity for us to see some new models and take the pulse of the Canadian market.
Indeed, this year, a few exclusives found their way to our noble city: Mitsubishi revealed its Mirage G4 sedan and Nissan unveiled its Micra city hatchback, both Canadian-market only. Chevrolet also displayed the value-oriented Orlando compact minivan, which was denied access to the American market fearing it would steal sales away from their Equinox crossover. This does show that the Canadian market is a frugal one where economical vehicles enjoy a great deal of success; I do not think it is because we are cheap, I think it is a combination of higher costs for both gas and cars themselves. On this last point, it is in my opinion mostly a legacy from times when the Loony could not keep up with the American dollar, and it is artificially kept that way by manufacturers and dealers always eager to milk Canadian customers.
Maybe are we too polite to rebel?
Still, I paid the Lincoln stand a long visit. Well, not as long as I wish it had been: this year, the stand was diminutive in design and in the number of cars showcased. For the 2013 edition we were treated to three MKZ sedans, a stunning black-on-black MKS sedan and an MKX if I remember correctly. This year, the stand used the same design and only gave access to an MKX and a pair of MKZ sedans while it kept the new MKC on a spinning platform away from prospects. Staff was also difficult to find.
I think it reflects the position of Lincoln on the Canadian market, which seems to favour Japanese and German luxury brands more than American ones. It seems as though GM is intent on pushing both Cadillac and Buick on the Canadian marketplace, thanks to impressive displays at the Auto Show and comprehensive English- and French-language advertisement campaigns on television and in print. Lincoln, by comparison seems to be virtually absent of French-Canadian markets. I could give them a few tips if they wanted to strengthen their position in Québec!
In person, the MKC crossover looked absolutely stunning. Proportions are spot-on and under the bright lights of the Auto Show, its lines really stood out. It is impossible to detect that its underpinnings are shared with the Ford Escape, and surely stands up there with the premium German competition. A taut-looking crossover it is!
The design of the headlights is really intricate and flows naturally into the front-end design. The grille, especially seen dead-on, is very good-looking and really fits the wide stance of this crossover.
In person, the full-width tail gate and lights also look pretty striking. That’s when you realize the advantage of the clam-shell design Audi first introducted on the Q7 a few years ago: on top of being particularly practical, it allows for unperturbed lines. I sure hope they keep pushing this sculpted light-bar design at the rear of the next MKS too. Individual LEDs were hardly noticeable and the glow was very rich-looking.
I could not get close to the interior but even from afar a few elements caught my attention: the matte-finish wood inserts look beautiful and reminded me of rich furniture. The treatment of the floating console design is very interesting and the two knobs on the center-stack looked shiny and glass-like in material. It seemed like a nice place to be!
This ice-blue MKZ was a Hybrid and the colour was absolutely beautiful especially among the quiet earth-tones of the Lincoln stand. The photo probably does not do it justice but it had almost a pearlescent quality to it, a shimer that changed according to where you stood. Once again I found the design of this car to be striking and well proportioned, definitely coupe-like in appearance. The fact that it was spotless and that the chrome trim (from the grille to the mirror stands) sparkled under the neon lights really allowed you to notice all the little details: the hood lines, the character line that goes from the tip of the headlights to the rear and matches exactly the width of the mirror stands, sculpted side skirts and all.
Attention to detail could also be traced to wheel designs: I think this 19″ graphite aluminum wheel with bright highlights looked great on press shots and gives the MKZ presence on the show floor too. This year, both MKZs showcased this wheel but last year they also had one with the beautiful 18-spoke 19″ design.
This pearl one was a 3.7L V6 with AWD. Again, a beautiful colour that shows off the car’s lines.
People probably wondered why I went as far as kneeling in front of the car for a head-on picture but this one really shows off the grille. I guess it’s still controversial among journalists but I think it looks amazing. If I had to make one complaint, I’d say the Lincoln logo deserves a little more attention but I think they’re going for the strategy adopted at Jaguar: a discreet logo at the front, and the brand name boldly lettered out on the trunk.
The V6 MKZ was equipped with the panoramic roof, which you can see retracted here. People were stopping and commenting on the size of the thing but also seemed worried about how it would behave at high speeds or in case of high winds. I am sure the user manual must have a few disclaimers about that but the mechanism and fit and finish of the roof appeared very good. Also of note (by comparison with the ice-blue Hybrid in the background) is that ordering the panoramic roof sends the radio antenna to sit on the rear fender. It is not too bad though.
Let’s step inside the V6 MKZ, shall we?
This shot really highlights the floating console. Seats were, as always, upholstered in high quality leather and sported a very comfortable, wrap-around like design. The steering wheel was thick, offered a clear view of the gauge cluster and driving position was really nice. Also, while the push-button gear selector did return a little “click” noise when pressed (akin to that of a good computer mouse), buttons didn’t rattle and felt tightly secured to the mechanism.
Unfortunately, the car was powered off (except for seat adjustment) and the center console consequently remained completely dark. It’s a pity because it pays to see it come to life, and would probably allow people to try the volume and fan speed sliders by themselves and see how they react. Also, a big plus of this car is MyLincoln Touch which was also in these conditions unavailable. The touch screen in the center console was covered in finger prints so I’m guessing the car was on at some point, maybe during press days?
Still, the cabin was very cozy. Brown leather seating and highlights lit up the interior, but wood inserts were still a little too glossy and too rare to my taste.
I see quite a few MKXs in town, so the aging crossover probably earned its place on the show floor this year. I still missed the MKS I got to sit in last year! Overall, it was a nice visit to the Lincoln stand but I wish they had taken a stand and made it bigger with more cars on display and an available MKC. Staff was also limited for a saturday afternoon, with only one salesman and one hostess in sight the whole time I was there – you’d also think they would have come to be, seeing how many detailed pictures I was taking of their cars. Oh well!
The Acura and Infiniti stands were not much more fun, but by comparison the Buick area hit all the right targets. On top of having every model on display, they had a coffee shop handing out free mochas topped with cocoa that was passed through some an instrument shaped like the Buick logo. The result? Cocoa powder arranged in a Tri-Shield on top of your drink! They also had a live show presenting the Encore and all cars were powered on enough to show off their digital gauge clusters and infotainment systems.
I also noticed something nice after enjoying my coffee:
The facelifted Enclave sported etched Buick logos in its tail-light lenses! It reminded me of the good old days when the Lincoln Star could be found on the Town Car’s rear lights or on the Mark’s front parking light assemblies. To be fair, before it was facelifted, the MKX was available with a special decor package that included a Lincoln star etched right into the high-beam lense. It was pretty neat.
Here’s to next year, a buoyant Lincoln stand and a lot of new cars to present!