When it comes to engine choice, Americans have been faced with little more than your tried-and-true gasoline-powered set of wheels for most of the last decade. As rising global energy prices have reduced the demand for larger cylinders (Rolls and Bentley and their W12s aside, of course), the general trend among manufacturers has seen V8s become V6s—if not smaller—in the name of fuel economy. Now hybrids are more common stateside, offering buyers an actual choice in their daily commute. The question is, how likely are we to choose a hybrid over a traditional engine if the body is identical? We gave both the 2014 Lincoln MKZ and MKZ hybrid a spin for this week’s comparison review to find out.

*TRADITIONAL: *The 2014 MKZ features two dealer-ready engine choices, depending on how hard you’re looking to push this stylish luxury car on the freeway. The economy option is a modest 2.0-liter four-cylinder EcoBoost engine that produces around 240 horses with 270 pound-feet of torque. The performance option, which we had the pleasure of driving, is a larger 3.7-liter V6. This more impressive variant’s horsepower is boosted up to 300, with a slight increase to its torque at 277 pound-feet. Both engines feature a six-speed automatic paddle shifter.

*HYBRID: *The 2014 MKZ hybrid steps into the ring with a 2.0-liter Atkinson-Cycle I-4 engine that produces 141 horsepower, which, combined with the electric motor and lithium-ion battery system, offers a total power of 188 horses. A specially designed two-speed electronic continuously variable transmission (E-CVT) is used to link the engines, which allows the system to match the correct gears and power for a smooth ride.

*WINNER: *Traditional. The MKZ hybrid barely holds a candle to the 3.7 V6, with over 100 horsepower separating the two. Against the 2.0-liter, the difference narrows by half, but the traditional engine still leads.

TRADITIONAL: The entry-level front-wheel drive EcoBoost four-cylinder has a combined EPA rating of around 26 MPG, hitting 33 on the freeway and 22 in the city. The premium all-wheel drive 3.7 V6 isn’t too far behind in this category, with a combined MPG of 21: 18 in the city, 26 on the freeway. Both figures are decent—especially considering their engine sizes—but when compared to a hybrid, it’s always going to be a tough competition.

HYBRID: The MKZ hybrid wipes the floor with both the four-cylinder and the V6 with a perfect EPA trifecta of 45 MPG combined/city/freeway. Considering the money you’ll save—an estimated fuel cost of $1,200 per year—perhaps it really is worth the performance-to-fuel tradeoff.

*WINNER: *Hybrid. It’s clear the hybrid takes the cake in this showdown. Bonus points awarded for being the most fuel efficient luxury sedan in America.

TRADITIONAL/HYBRID: As the first vehicles out of Lincoln’s new dedicated Design Studio, the MKZ twins are virtually identical in every respect. While a number of elements relating to engine technology, control and systems make the hybrid a lot more like its corporate cousin the Ford Fusion hybrid, the choice between the gas-powered and hybrid MKZs should not be based on looks. Overall, the vehicle is stunning, taking cues from Lincoln’s historic past as a purveyor of both style and substance, allowing it to stand as a modern interpretation of the brand’s legacy. It’s no Continental rebirth, but it is a solid launching pad for future luxury sedans.


*TRADITIONAL: *The 3.7 AWD MKZ exceeded expectation with its larger performance engine. The additional torque made it extremely fun and responsive traversing both city roads and freeways, making the ride feel like a classic performance car. Whether accelerating to change lanes, navigating a more intense patch of twisted country roads or giving you that extra boost when slicing through before the lights changed, its extra power and torque made an impressive difference.

*HYBRID: *The MKZ hybrid came to life with little more than a quiet purr reminiscent of the Cadillac ELR—you’re not quite sure whether it’s actually on. Lincoln has transferred their entire shifter to the front dash as push buttons, making changing gears a somewhat complicated affair. On the road, the hybrid handles superbly on corners and offers a comfortable, relaxed ride. However, the hybrid’s engine is perhaps a little too quiet for our liking and the reduction in torque means it doesn’t feel quite as responsive as the V6.

WINNER: Hands down, the traditional driving experience felt much more in line with the MKZ’s image and presence as a Lincoln vehicle. On top of this, the 3.7 V6 was much more exciting to drive despite the hybrid’s advantage of visiting the pump less often.

TRADITIONAL/HYBRID: At the end of the day, price has been—and most likely will continue to be—one of the prime deciding factors in buyers’ car choices. However, Lincoln has pulled a fast one with the MKZ, pricing both the four-cylinder EcoBoost and hybrid at a reasonable $36,190. This may be due to ongoing price wars with its biggest hybrid competitor, the 2014 Lexus ES 300H (which retails for $2,880 more than its traditional model, the Lexus ES 350), but we don’t mind being caught in the crossfire. The premium 3.7 V6 model will cost you a few grand more (around $38,080) but is pretty impressive.

All three of these vehicles have surpassed our expectations due their consumer-friendly features, pricing, overall fuel economy and performance on the road. While we favor the 3.7-liter V6 as the most exciting and pleasurable of these vehicles to drive, we’re nonetheless impressed with the hybrid model and think it lays the groundwork for more exciting things to come. For example, Lincoln’s revamped marketing featuring Aloe Blacc, who recently signed on to help represent the brand (catch the MKZ at the end of his “Love Is the Answer” video above).

For more information, visit: Lincoln.com