Lincoln MKZ Hybrid vs. Lexus ES 300h

January 20, 2015

Lincoln is trying to regain its luster with cars like the MKZ Hybrid -- its pleasing blend of design and technology should certainly help. Lexus and the newly redesigned 300h, meanwhile, face no identity crisis but generate little excitement.

See a side-by-side comparison the MKZ Hybrid & ES 300h >>

Which tells the more compelling story to buyers of upscale hybrids?

What the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid Gets Right

The front-wheel drive MKZ Hybrid is powered by a 188-horsepower 2-liter inline four-cylinder gas engine yoked with an electric motor and mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The combination is good for a zero to 60 mph time of 8.4 seconds and an impressive 45 mpg -- 5 mpg better than the MKZ it replaced. Passing power is good for its class.

The cabin has a smooth, futuristic look -- most handles and buttons are cleverly recessed or replaced by touchpad controls. Drivers who crave high style will appreciate the revival of a 1930s-style Zephyr grille and ultramodern LED parking and turn signal lights.

What the ES 300h Gets Right

The ES 300h has three drive modes: Eco, Power and EV. The EV mode selects total electric operation for stop-and-go city driving. The electronically controlled Synergy Drive transmission constantly selects the best gear ratio during acceleration for the most efficient transfer of power. Shifting is barely noticeable. Acceleration from zero to 60 mph is accomplished in a spritely 8.1 seconds.

The 300h increased its wheel base by six inches over the previous model, which allows for more leg room in front and rear seats, as well as more cargo space. The suspension and steering have been improved over past years, and the 300h received five-star ratings in federal highway safety crash tests.

Which is the More Compelling Buy?

The MKZ gets good marks for exterior styling and fuel efficiency, but the interior -- especially the rear seat -- isn't suitable for taller passengers. MyLincoln Touch, which consolidates most controls, is also tricky to operate.

The ES 300h saves gas by operating in pure-electric mode around town. Its lengthened wheelbase increases cabin space and enhances a smooth ride. The quality of interior fit and finish, meanwhile, rivals that found in pricier Lexus models.

Our Verdict: Lexus ES 300h

The Lincoln is well worth consideration -- but can't overcome the ES 300h in head-to-head competition.

Take a closer look at the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid >>

Take a closer look at the Lexus ES 300h >>

Side-by-side comparison of features, pricing, photos and more!