• Mar 20th 2006 at 12:00PM
  • 23

Lincoln is looking to jack up its street cred with the younger crowd, which for this company means anyone born after WWII, and it’s hoping the 2006 Zephyr with its sporty chassis, 221-hp 3.0L V6 and six-speed slushbox will bring more of that fresh blood to the fold. Problem is that Lincoln has already announced that the 2007 Zephyr will be renamed the MKZ and get Ford’s spankin’ new 3.5L V6 with more power, a newer six-speed transmission, AWD and a nip-tuck on the car’s nose. So where does that leave the 2006 Zephyr?

The Zephyr already had an uphill battle to fight with the buying public who knows a similar Mercury Milan or Ford Fusion can be had for thousands less, and the unveiling of the MKZ and its upgraded internals at the Chicago Auto Show this year signals to consumers that the Zephyr was only half-baked when it launched late last year. Did Lincoln need to keep this one in the oven a little longer or can owners of the 2006 Zephyr feel good about their purchase in the face of impending obsolescence?

In its current state the Zephyr is a tough sedan to cross-shop against similar vehicles. Buyers interested in the Zephyr, which carries a base price of $28,995, may also look at other similarly priced FWD entry-level luxury sedans like the Acura TSX, Buick Lucerne and Hyundai Azera.

While Acura stubbornly refuses to put anything larger than a 2.4L four-cylinder in the TSX, it manages to get away with it by infusing the sedan with RSX-like handling. The Lucerne in V6 trim has less power than the Zephyr but a lot more room inside thanks to 12.5-inches of extra length and 8.2 inches more room between the wheels. Then there’s the Azera that pulls the old Hyundai trick of offering more of everything (power, room and safety features) for thousands less. Some may cry, “What about the Chrysler 300C and Cadillac CTS?” We think comparing the Zephyr to these RWD sedans is an unlikely match up in the marketplace for anyone except those trying to shop strictly domestic. A vehicle’s drivetrain is often a fundamental feature that’s decided on early in the buying process, so vehicles that send power to opposing ends don’t usually end up on the same short list.

It seems that in every category of comparison the Zephyr gives up something to one or another of its competitors, so it’s clear the area in which Lincoln expects it to make up ground is style. While the Fusion and Milan are about as similar as a Taurus and Sable, the Lincoln is bedazzled with polished 17-inch aluminum wheels, a chrome waterfall grille and additional bits of shiny metallic on the rearview mirrors and dual exhaust tips. Whereas the Milan shares many visual cues with the Fusion, the Zephyr shares only a basic proportioning and doors with its two platform mates.

The Zephyr also offers an upgraded light show outside with available high intensity discharge headlamps and accompanying fog lamps, as well as LED taillamps within its oversized rear taillights. Unfortunately, those rear stop lamps go a long way in mucking up what might otherwise be an attractive derriere. Their grandiose size suggests they were meant for a rear end with a lot more surface area, like the tailgate of a Navigator. On the Zephyr they dominate the sheetmetal and reach too far inwards making the car look thinner than it actually is. We’re curious as to why Lincoln decided to refresh the Zephyr’s front end for 2007 and chose to leave this, its worst angle, alone.

Each of Ford’s trio of sedans offers up a different feast for the eyes, and while one of the bunch won’t please everyone’s aesthetic taste, as a group they’re managing to attract a good amount of clientele. The Lincoln’s exterior stands out with its totally unique front and rear ends, uplevel lighting and additional chrome trim. While no one’s directly accusing the 2006 Zephyr of simply being a rebadged Ford Fusion, it’s still not clear whether Lincoln has stuffed the sedan with enough differentiating content to make it a truly unique vehicle.

One part of the Zephyr that will carry over into the 2007 model year will be its interior. Stay tuned as we punch the code on Ford’s trademark keyless entry pad and venture into the quarters of Lincoln’s little sport sedan.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 9 Years Ago
      "Problem is that Lincoln has already announced that the 2007 Zephyr will be renamed the MKZ and get Fords spankin new 3.5L V6 with more power, a newer six-speed transmission, AWD and a nip-tuck on the cars nose. So where does that leave the 2006 Zephyr?"

      Is this brilliant brand management, or what?
      • 9 Years Ago
      I stil can't believe this thing doesn't have freaking stability control.

      • 9 Years Ago
      I agree with G. Snyder, most consumers have no idea about mechanicals. Ever do an online search for BMWs for sale? I guarantee you will find at least a couple advertising front wheel drive as a feature. Some from dealers who don't have a clue, and some from people who don't have a clue as to which wheels were driving the car they just owned for 5 years.
      • 9 Years Ago
      I keep wondering if I'm out of touch with other people as far as cars because my first thought was this thing is a tragedy. So out of curiosity I sent this around the office asking if anyone liked this car and might consider it for their next car.

      Out of 28 who replied
      23) no.
      4) He-- No.
      1) maybe for $10K less.
      • 9 Years Ago
      Just rented a Zephyr while on business. The car has plenty of power for a sedan, but the engine feels and sounds so.....unrefined. As always with Lincoln, the dash is overdone. The leather interior looked like 60k miles at only 8k miles.
      Not a bad rental car, but that's all this Lexus driver would consider.
      By the way, wasn't the Zephyr a Mercury version of the Ford Fairmont in the 1980's. What a pathetic reference to drag up.
      • 9 Years Ago
      It also has a god awful interior; cheap with design straight out of the '70s.

      And while we're on the subject of quality, try pulling on the door handles. Couldn't be more flimsy.
      • 9 Years Ago
      I found it very instructive to drive the Lincoln Zephyr and Mercury Milan back-to-back. The two cars feel quite different, with the Lincoln feeling smoother, quieter, cushier, and generally more like a luxury car should. It's not just a matter of different front and rear styling. The Zephyr is as different from the Milan as the ES 330 is from the Camry.

      Now if they'd just get the new 3.5 into both cars. The 3.0 produces enough power for most people, but it sounds quite gruff compared to competitors' engines.

      My reviews:

      Zephyr: http://www.epinions.com/content_208166555268

      Milan: http://www.epinions.com/content_208597061252
      Al Mallozzi
      • 3 Years Ago
      Recently, (last 15 yrs) I have owned 1 Caddy, 3 Town Cars, and 1 Chevy Imp. My present ride is a 2006 Lincoln Zephyr. I callit my "baby Lincoln" I hug the car each time I enter it because I love it so much. No, I'm not a nut, nor do I work for the Ford Corp. The car rides smooth,quiet, and very economical. Driving to Florida, on cruise, 68 MPH, in 1 lane if possible and not trying to pass other cars, windows up, air on , I got as high as 29 MPG, and 20 MPG city. On 78 octane. Not bad for a mini luxery car. One more comment. Of the cars I have owned in the past, this car has attracted more favorable comments than all of the others. Its just gorgious and I love it. I'm 83, with a lifetime in the auto service business, so believe me, its a great auto. c '
      • 9 Years Ago
      "Fine-tuning" is probably a mild way to put it. As Car and Driver put it in their April issue, this is just not a very compelling package. Especially considering that they once had the rwd LS in their lineup. Lincoln needs to take a page out the Cadillac book and do something drastic to turn their fortunes around. The MkZ and MkS (concept) do nothing for me. The new MkX looks okay, and the new Navigator will certainly have an audience, and the Town Car needs to be euthanized and replaced with something...something...ANYTHING! I know they still want to cater to the fleet and livery companies, but good GOD - it's time to move out of the 70's and get with it!

      Just my $0.02
      • 9 Years Ago
      I compared the Zephyr to the Acura TL and Audi 4 and the Volkswagen Passat. With what it is lacking in pick-up,fit and finish and likely re-sale value, I would have to see it in the low to mid 20's after the MKZ comes out for it to make any sense as a good buy. Now once the MKZ comes out were talking some serious competition in my view. But.. again how will it be priced and appointed. Even though it will be technically its second year I would imagine it will viewed as a "new model" with no track record vs its competition in the near luxury category.
      • 9 Years Ago
      I used to hate the rearend of this vehicle but the more you see it on the road the less obtrusive it becomes (same with the Milan rear for me). They tend to blend in more.

      I drove one recently and the power is not an issue IMO. The 3.5 will be a great addition but I think the current powertrain is fine. Most of the buying public aren't looking for a car that does 0-60 in 6 seconds. If the car "feels" quick enough to get into traffic safely, then their needs are met. And this car does that effortlessly.
      • 9 Years Ago
      The rear-end looks quite awkward.
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