First of all, let’s be clear on one thing. This ain’t no grampa car. Stodgy has been replaced with slick. The rakish burgundy Lincoln was more Donna Karan than Betty White, with creamy leather upholstery, stylish wood accents, and swoopy dashboard. To say nothing of a sunroof the size of Alberta, so that even back-seat passengers can enjoy the view.
Naturally, the MKZ was loaded with all kinds of tech toys, which were mostly accessible through the touchscreen. Heated seats front and back, and even a heated steering wheel. And, wonder of wonders, a push-button transmission! Yes, the touch-pads were lined up along one side – just like my dad’s 1963 Valiant. In fact, all the controls for stereo volume, tuning, climate and fan were touch sensitive. I suppose buttons and knobs are passé. Driving along Queen’s Quay, I saw a Tesla roadster go by and wondered longingly if he had any buttons or knobs in his fancy car.
And if I wanted to parallel park, it was like having an attentive butler at my disposal. All I had to do was sidle up to a likely looking spot, press the park assist touch-pad, and the car took over. The touchscreen gave genteel commands to go forward and back, and the steering turned this way and that, completely on its own. Yes, you read that right. Handsfree. No hands, ma. The car parked itself, and all I had to do was a bit of braking and accelerating. A noisy sensor system judged the distance and those pesky angles for me.
It was surreal, having a car park itself, watching the wheel spin. At first, I couldn’t quite trust it, and kept a wary eye on the touchscreen. When it was done, it would announce “park assist finished” with a flourish.
And the butler, oops, the MKZ, would politely pull the seat back and raise the steering wheel when I stopped the car to get out. Thank you, Jeeves. And then restore the seat and steering wheel as soon as I started it up again. That will be all, Jeeves.
Of course, it would have been nice if the MKZ could actually sniff out a parking spot for me in the packed streets of downtown Toronto. Or interpret the impossible legalese on the parking signs. And maybe even pick up the tab. But even a real butler wouldn’t do that.
And then there was the matter of the keyless entry. A fob will lock and unlock the car, but there’s also a numerical keypad on the outside. Which I didn’t realize was as ultra sensitive as these keypads come. Unsuspecting, I leaned up against it and immediately locked myself out. When I heard the click, my stomach sank into my knees. Fortunately, a kind young couple lent me their cellphone so I could call the CAA, and a lock whisperer (not quite a butler) skillfully jimmied the door open.
But that didn’t stop me from tearing around town and parking the MKZ wherever I could. Like a classy butler, he obeyed every time, no matter how impossible the spot. We parked uptown, downtown, in the Beach, even in Parkdale. It was mesmerizing to watch the wheel turn this way and that, all by itself, while I whistled a happy tune.
I watched other, less luxurious cars go by, and almost wished I could share my bag of tricks with them. Give them a little piece of sunroof. A Sinatra tune, or a couple of parking sensors.
But no, I kept it all to myself. I don’t know why I was suddenly so selfish.
I guess – the butler did it.