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Sarah Tew/CNET

Lincoln adds a hybrid

At the 2010 New York auto show, Lincoln launches the 2011 MKZ Hybrid.

Lincoln MKZ Hybrid
After fitting its platform-mates with hybrid systems, Ford gets around to building the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid. Sarah Tew/CNET

NEW YORK--In one of the bigger no-brainer moves in recent memory, Lincoln gave its MKZ model a hybrid drive train, launching it at the 2010 New York auto show. The MKZ uses the same platform as the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan, both of which got hybrid versions for the 2010 model year. In addition, the Ford Fusion Hybrid won the 2010 North American Car of the Year award, making the MKZ Hybrid a likely success.

Lincoln is touting its first hybrid as the most fuel-efficient luxury sedan in the world; a reasonable claim as the MKZ Hybrid, like its baser counterparts, should get around 40 mpg. The hybrid system in the MKZ is based on a 2.5-liter four cylinder Atkinson cycle engine, complemented by an electric motor, nickel metal hydride battery pack, and regenerative braking. As in the Ford Fusion Hybrid, this power train lets the car run under electric power up to 47 mph.

The MKZ Hybrid gets the SmartGauge instrument cluster first seen in the Ford Fusion Hybrid, which uses LCDs on either side of the speedometer to show user-configurable information about the hybrid system. SmartGauge is the predecessor to the MyLincoln Touch system shown at the 2010 Detroit auto show, although that interface will not be available on the 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid.

As a Lincoln, tech amenities include a THX audio system, navigation that shows traffic, fuel prices, and weather, and Sync, providing excellent voice command for MP3 players and Bluetooth phones. The cabin is more upscale than the Ford Fusion Hybrid or Mercury Milan Hybrid, with heated and cooled seats, thick leather, and wood trim.