For generations of drivers, the Lincoln name has stood for big ultra-plush luxury sedans. But as the age and expectations of luxury car buyers have changed, Lincoln has been forced to adapt to a whole new market. The most recent sign of that is Lincoln’s luxury SUV model, the Navigator. Well, now Lincoln is again moving into new territory with its first European-style sport sedan, the LS. What would great Grandpa think, if he could see where Lincoln is going now?
He’d probably say that it’s about time! After years of watching European and Japanese makers pull customers away from traditional American luxury brands, Lincoln has successfully countered with, first the Navigator, and now the all new 2,000 LS luxury-sport sedan. But, Lincoln did have some offshore help, sharing much of the LS’s engineering with the new Jaguar S-Type.
Still, Lincoln didn’t completely abandoned its roots. The LS wraps its sophisticated new chassis in steel and aluminum that steps away from luxo-boat tradition, while still retaining essential Lincoln styling cues. Such as the shield shaped grille, that echoes those of both the Navigator and the Town Car.
But with an overall length of only 193.9-inches, and a wheelbase of 114.5-inches, the mid-size LS will never be mistaken for a behemoth. Though the somewhat bland tail could be attached to any number of import competitors. 16-inch alloy wheels are standard, with larger 17-inch hoops part of the optional sport package.
Power for the LS comes from a pair of twin-cam engines, both down about 20% on power compared to the S-Type. Ford reworked their 3.0-liter 24-valve Duratec for the LS, nudging horsepower up to 210, and torque to 205 pound-feet. But the most important part of the V-6 drivetrain is not the engine, or the 5-speed automatic transmission, but Lincoln’s first manual transmission, a smooth 5-speed, since the 1950s.
The top-line drivetrain consists of Jaguar’s 3.9-liter 32-valve V8, the only V8 in its price class. It delivers 252 horsepower, and 267 pound-feet of torque. The V8 routes its power through an all-new 5-speed automatic that can provide some manual feel with the SelectShift option.
We tried out the sportiest V-6 manual at our Maryland test track, and recorded a consistent 0-to-60 time of 8.5 seconds. The quarter mile took 16.6 seconds, ending at a speed of 87 miles-per-hour. The V6 engine revs freely, and makes good power above 2,000 rpm, hitting hardest at 4,000 rpm and up. Lincoln’s wide gearing produced a noticeable drop in revs between second and third gears, but otherwise, the gearbox is light and very positive.
Handling is even more impressive, thanks to a new short-and-long-arm suspension. With our car’s firmer sport tuning, standard with the V6 manual, it reminds us of the excellent Lexus GS400. Turn in is quick, with very little body roll. There is some front end plow, but it arrives very late in the corner, and is easily controlled. As is the oversteer that we experienced in sharp maneuvers. The steering is very responsive, though more feel to this well balanced effort would be welcomed.
Braking is accomplished by standard anti-lock-equipped 4-wheel discs. We averaged 134 foot stops from 60 miles-per-hour. Stability is sport-sedan solid, with a soft but very positive feel to the brake pedal.
Out on the civilized road, the LS is still a lot of fun to drive, with its spirited engine and sharp handling. Too bad Lincoln expects the V6 manual model to only make up five-percent of LS sales. So, the majority of LS models to leave showrooms will be equipped with the V-8 which we drove extensively at the press introduction in San Francisco. Overall, it’s about a second quicker than the V-6.
Lincoln engineers have done a superb job with this drivetrain, too. It’s as refined as anything from Lexus or BMW, with gobs of power on demand, and a ride that comfortably bridges the gap between traditional Lincoln smoothness, and the solid Teutonic feel of a BMW or small Mercedes. Other drivetrain features likely to be ordered on the LS V8, include Lincoln’s new yaw-sensor AdvanceTrac stability system, while all-speed traction control is standard.
There are plenty of comfort and convenience features, as well. The LS interior is packed with the sort of luxury that we expect in a Lincoln. Like plenty of attractive wood trim on the dash and doors and a full range of power accessories. The standard leather seats are firmer than those in larger Lincolns. They offer plenty of support for all kinds of driving, as well as optional heaters and power lumbar adjustments, but face a rather sparse set of analog gauges that unfortunately would also look at home in its European competitors.
The standard cassette stereo is well designed and positioned high in the dash. While the optional 6-disc CD changer is intelligently located in the glove box. The automatic climate controls offer dual temperature zones, to keep both driver and passenger happy on long trips. While an optional hands-free cellular phone will keep you in touch while out on the highway.
You can also take grown friends along, thanks to surprisingly ample head and leg room in the back seat, which splits and folds, to provide extra luggage space to the wide, but shallow, 13.7 cubic-foot trunk. Overall, the LS offers buyers a real domestic alternative to the products of import brand luxury-sport sedan purveyors.
And one that’s priced to sell! Base price of the Lincoln LS V6 automatic is $31,450. That’s very close to the benchmark Lexus ES300. Our test V6 manual, with its standard sport package, starts at $32,250. While the top-line V8 automatic carries a base sticker of $35,225.
You’d have to pay 10-grand more for a mid-size imported luxury-sport sedan with such a great V8. After decades of defining the full-size American luxury car, Lincoln’s release of the import-themed mid-size LS is a real, and very welcome, departure. One that, along with other forward thinking products like the Navigator SUV, takes America’s newly crowned luxury king to a whole new level, and a whole new audience.
Engine: 3.0-Liter 24-valve Duratec V-6
Torque: 205 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 8.5 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 16.6 Seconds @ 87 MPH
60-0 MPH: 134 Feet