The dream of almost every domestic auto manufacturer has been the vision of an American luxury sedan going toe-to-toe with the high-visibility European sports sedans. There have been many models cast in this mode over the last decade or two from Buick, Olds, Pontiac and Cadillac, but ultimately these attempts have been disappointing.
The new rear-wheel-drive Lincoln LS is by far the nearest shot to the bull’s eye and a fine motor car. However, despite press raves and the car’s selection as Motor Trend’s Car of the Year, it still falls a tiny bit short of the lofty goal of equality with Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
On the other hand, the Lincoln LS significantly undercuts the pricing of the best European and Japanese luxury cars. Our loaded press vehicle had a retail sticker price of just $39,000. Try and match that for an eight-cylinder European sedan! The six-cylinder version just breaks the $30,000 price range. The Lincoln LS is the best value in the luxury field by some margin.
There certainly is a lot to like in the new Lincoln LS. Its highlights are a V-8 engine that delivers gratifying power, a suspension that meets the standards of Europe’s best in terms of ride and handling. Also to be lauded is the car’s outstanding structural integrity that provides a stout and stable platform for the car’s performance potential. And finally, the Lincoln LS delivers the kind of comfort that U.S. luxury car buyers demand.
The V-8 version of the Lincoln LS won’t take a back seat to the foreign set when it comes to power. With 252 horsepower, the LS is quick off the line and can accelerate briskly at any reasonable speed. The eight-cylinder LS will scoot from a stop to 60 miles per hour in about seven seconds , not quite in the super sedan category, but fast enough to satisfy. The engine is also smooth and quiet in operation.
But it’s the suspension that really sings a new tune for an American luxury sports sedan. Our test car had the optional $1,000 Sport Package which includes a tuned suspension and 17-inch alloy wheels shod with wide grippy tires. The resulting car has exceptional handling characteristics and a ride quality that smothered all major and minor road imperfections.
In fact, the LS is at the forefront of mid-priced luxury sedans in this critical category. Purists would say that rear-wheel drive is a defining element in the new Lincoln’s performance arsenal , and for good reason. Lincoln has not sacrificed an iota of ride comfort to produce a car that provides quick, positive turn-in and excellent steering feedback.
One element, however, seems to rob the Lincoln LS of an outstanding mark in overall performance , its automatic transmission. In comparison to the five-speed transmissions currently resident in the best European sedans, I detected some slack in the transmission , like it wasn’t tightly coupled to the engine.
I also found the transmission somewhat slow to respond in what I would call the transitional phase of high performance driving. Just like in basketball or hockey, in driving there are situations that call for a radical change from one mode to another, such as when you are poking behind slow traffic and then want to call on the car for an instant switch to full-throttle. The automatic transmission in the LS was often slow to respond to a call for action.
While the Lincoln is not an unattractive car, it also falls a bit short in the styling game. The car’s exterior design seems devoid of much character, despite the fact that the grille is a reminder of its Lincoln heritage.
But put the Lincoln LS beside the new Jaguar S-Type, a BMW 5-Series or an Audi A6 and you see that the Lincoln represents a rather generic approach to design. I also feel that the roofline is rather bulky and ungainly. And in so saying, the Lincoln lacks not only dynamic design but also the sense of refinement offered by the best the European sedans.
The Lincoln’s interior has its pluses and minuses. First off, the car is quiet and devoid of any unwanted harshness or squeaks, vibration or detectable structural problems. The interior of the LS feels quite roomy for a midsize automobile. The seats are also very comfortable.
The center console, however, is not quite up to contemporary design standards. Not only is the console devoid of much style, but the graphics used to denote the knobs and switches are generally too small for easy and immediate recognition.