A few weeks ago, we introduced Lincoln’s new Black Label experience. Meant to sit atop the already luxurious Reserve trim level on the MKZ sedan and soon-to-be-sold MKC crossover, it reminded us of the Designer Series of yesterday as it offered customers a distinctive and more personal option, replete with out-of-the-ordinary colour choices and exclusive materials.
One difference with the Designer Series is, well, the absence of renowned designers. This time, Lincoln hired a special team of in-house designers to create three different ambiances that reflect a more individual experience, closer to the values of our time. The demanding luxury buyer does not need to rely on an established fashion house to convey his status; his is empowered to do it himself.
As such, the Lincoln buyer will be able to choose between the classical “Modern Heritage” theme, the warmth of “Indulgence” or the drama of “Center Stage”. In this article we’ll see the uniqueness of each of these atmospheres, knowing that they build on the already solid foundations of the MKZ sedan in Reserve trim.
Modern Heritage, the connoisseur
Of the three Black Label MKZs, Modern Heritage is probably the more subdued one; after all, its exclusive tri-coat paint finish is called “Confidential White”!
Still, this MKZ lends itself to the discerning eye, the connoisseur who will stop for a double-take and look closer to see the sense of detail put into this theme: first of all, the almost pearlescent paint highlights every line of the stylish MKZ, giving it a futuristic look nowadays associated with technology and architecture or interior design (think Apple products or minimalist furniture). On the trunk, the black “Z” identifying vehicles ordered with Black Label stands in contrast and draws your eye, and tells you something special is happening here.
This white-on-black dynamic continues on to the wheels: an elegant ten-spoke design finished in dark chrome plants the car on the road and make the white body “pop”. This definitely is not the kind of white car that says you didn’t want to upgrade to a metallic paint!
Inside, Modern Heritage plays on a white atmosphere interrupted by a mostly black dashboard, to highlight the dual cockpit design and leather-clad floating console. “Vianca” white leather seats display a bright Lincoln star insert on the seatbacks and exclusive stitching that remind us of European leather goods: a center strip runs down the length of the seat from the Lincoln logo and divides the cushions in two sections of perforated leather. Lincoln has been playing around with perforated leather for a few concepts, and the Champagne bubbles of the MKC Concept are replaced here with a geometric design that is not too far from, say, a Louis Vuitton handbag.
The flowing lines of the console and dashboard are underlined by ice-blue indirect LED lighting and draw your eye to discreet, unique genuine wood inserts worked with metal flakes; this new trend, which can be found on other high-luxury automobiles, reveals some depth and sparkle underneath the gloss.
Finally, red stitching on the black leather sections of the dashboard, mostly on the upper door panels, help connect the quiet, relaxing interior scheme with the hustle and bustle of the outside world.
Indulgence, the epicurean
As is reflected by its name, the second theme in the Black Label series goes for a more sensual experience: it is openly inspired by the very unique relationship we have to chocolate, and how something as common as chocolate can be crafted to become one of the most exclusive foods available.
In the past few years, brown cars have been making a big come-back: mind you, we are not talking about earth-tones, which were popular in the 1970s, but about rich and deep browns that reflect our society’s growing interest in coffee, chocolate and leather. From earthy colours found directly in nature, we switched to hues crafted by specialists just for us. How individual an experience is it?
The Indulgence MKZ’s “Chroma Couture” exterior is of those rich brown colours, sparkling and yet deep enough to see it turn to dark brown or even deep purple depending on the light. Once again, the exclusive Black Label wheels are part of the overall appearance: here, the dark chrome finish of the ten-spoke alloys balance out the richness of the paint and complement its nuances when the sun appears or goes away.
Step inside and the organic feel and warmth of this ambiance are evident. Here, instead of contrasting, interior colours (appropriately called Truffle and Ganache) complement each other to envelop the passengers in a classic atmosphere not unlike that of a smoking parlour or a reading room.
This ensemble is only broken up by the matte smoked finish of the center stack and the brightness of its touch-sensitive controls, strips of indirect LED lighting and bright Ziricote wood accents. That new essence, also found in a different colour on the new Navigator, is usually used for luxury yachts and high-end guitars: here, its brightness and gloss offset the depth of the leather, even without any additional stain or dye.
With the Indulgence theme, your automotive experience can stimulate all your senses.
Center Stage, the unapologetic
So far we’ve seen two kinds of exclusivity: one that is subdued and pure, and one that is more outgoing and sensual. What if you want to share your passion? What if you are looking to make a splash, all the while keeping it in good taste? For that kind of luxury, there is the “Center Stage” ambiance, modelled after the dramatic scheme of a classic Opera lodge or of a welcoming movie theater. Here, emotions unfold!
Outside, the MKZ puts on its best outfit yet. Actually, its aptly named “Black Tie” exterior paint goes for the sheen of silk instead of the sparkle of the regular MKZ’s “Tuxedo Black”. Fit for the Red Carpet at the Oscars, it absorbs and reflects light like no other black paint in the segment, showing off each crease of the MKZ’s sharp suit and mirroring spotlights and camera flashes along the car’s smooth sides and curves.
With a paint colour this deep, chrome accents act as jewellery, from the split-wing grille to the window mouldings and rearview mirror pedestals, on to the chromed handles and integrated double exhaust outlets. The Black Label wheels, by comparison, seem discreet in this particular theme, and their classy design wrap up the overall look like a pair of classy shoes.
Open the door, and it’s clear that passions run high. A unique Foxfire Red Alcantara-brand suede headliner dramatically opposes a Jet Black leather interior, but manages not to overrun the cockpit: unlike red seats on a black interior, this splash of colour can only be seen from the interior and remains privy to the driver’s eyes, like a well-kept secret, and the rest of the interior still retains a coherence that allows the eye to focus on details.
And there are plenty of details: the soothing blue LED lighting of the other two ambiances is here replaced by invigorating red lighting which, along with the bright headliner and red suede accents on the floating console, reflect in the gloss black wood trim pieces to create an ever-changing show of light. On the seatbacks, the inset Lincoln logo leads your eye to a strip of red and black leather that divides the seating area in two sections of perforated Alcantara; unlike the other atmospheres, which hinted at quiet luxury, this design is a clear reminder of speciality seats such as Recaros, often found in sports coupes and high-end performance sedans.
Overall, but it is true for the other two themes as well, no surface is left unchanged and even the gauge cluster “cap” and armrest cover are spruced up with special stitching patterns.
Bonus: the Lincoln MKC Concept in Modern Heritage
When the Black Label line-up was revealed, back at the 2013 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the MKC crossover had not been shown in production form yet. Still, a hot entry in the autoshow circuit, its Concept version lent itself to the Black Label treatment and made quite a splash.
Outside, the MKC Concept wore a Chroma Flame paint scheme, probably as fiery as the Foxfire Red headliner available on the MKZ sedan with the Center Stage theme. This bright colour, halfway between burnt orange and crimson, made every crease of the sheet metal stand out: the folds on top of the front and rear fenders of the MKC Concept, which were largely preserved on the production version, caught light and reflected it, highlighting the stance of the vehicle.
The wheels were carried over from the “regular” Concept but worked well with the Black Label theme: a seven-spoke design, they associated a gloss black painted finish with thin superposed chromed bars. Here, their darker appearance helped showcase the depth of the paint, not unlike on the recent Infiniti Q50 “Eau Rouge” Concept.
There is no doubt that the production version of the MKC will be another perfect subject for the Black Label treatment, which it should receive in the coming months.
Inside, of course, we were treated to the dashboard design of the Concept, although the production version once again preserved its main design cues. This vehicle being treated to the Modern Heritage theme seen above, we find the same combination of white leather, metal-infused wood accents and subtle red stitching. The only major difference seems to be the stitching pattern on the seats, which seem tailored for comfort rather than speed.
Once again, it is clear that the interior production MKC Black Label will be a perfect recipient for the Modern Heritage treatment, especially since the quality of its assembly and materials has already been acknowledged by the press.
Conclusion: A Sharp Dressed Car
When it hired a dedicated team of designers to conceive exclusive version of the MKZ, MKC Concept and soon every model of the Lincoln line-up, the brand surely knew it was ready to go all out. In terms of materials and designs, these three themes of the Black Label line deliver on their promise: they take a mainstream luxury car and bring it higher yet by providing the level of personal luxury and identity usually offered by speciality makes.
After all, isn’t that what Lincoln has always been about?
In the next and final part of this article, we’ll oppose the Black Label line and strategy to what can be found at Lincoln’s competitors and see that the trend of higher-grade “sub-brands” is here to stay.
Photo credits: Lincoln Motor Company, Alcantara is a registered trademark of Alcantara SpA.