• Mar 22nd 2006 at 12:00PM
  • 17

The 2006 Lincoln Zephyr is on a quest to stand out not only from its less expensive sibs, but also from the crowded entry-level luxury segment at large. As we went over in the first part of our review, the exterior is handsome yet doesn’t step outside that safe, conventional styling box where powerful impressions are often made by the daring stroke of a designer’s pen. And that tail borders dangerously on being a liability.

The Zephyr, however, does have one secret weapon in its pursuit of a peerless quality: its interior. Having driven a number of Fusions, we thought we knew what to expect after unlocking the Zephyr’s doors via its key with integrated lock/unlock buttons. But after stepping over the classy Lincoln sill plate and nestling into the comfy perforated leather seats we gazed up at a most unexpected site – the interior of the all-new 2007 Lincoln Navigator!

Read on to find our impressions of the Zephyr’s inner sanctum after we double-checked the monroney to make certain we were in the right vehicle.

The angularity and deep relief of the Zephyr’s dash is a bit shocking at first sight. Our general sense of déjà vu that followed resulted from sitting in Lincoln’s next-gen Navigator at the Chicago Auto Show in February. Both interiors feature symmetry on either side of the center console that’s highlighted by this pair deep concavities with soft-touch frames. Truth be told we were ready to pan the Zephyr’s interior early in the week for feeling too sharp, flat and truck-like. So many of today’s interiors, however, feature flowing curves and flush everything that Lincoln’s approach has grown on us and stands apart as one of the vehicle’s defining features. Not everyone agrees with our interior assessment, however, as a straw poll conducted with friends and family resulted in an even split. But that’s the purpose of a polarizing design: attract attention and create strong emotions in its audience either for or against.

At this point we’re comfortable with the interior’s aesthetics and feel downright stylish behind the wheel. But style often succeeds thanks to the failure of function, so it was important we start pushing buttons, twisting knobs and yanking levers. The HVAC controls located at the bottom of the center console are standard Fusion fare, except for class perks like controls for the heated and cooled seats. The Zephyr also gets extra points for controlling the climate of the seat backs as well as the cushions.

Dominating the center dash is Ford’s familiar touch screen nav system with GPS mapping that’s only available in combination with the superlative THX  II sound system. Fourteen speakers, including a prominently placed center channel speaker on top of the dash, divide the outgoing acoustics into distinct channels of audible bliss. A pair of amplifiers also ensures that you can thump bass with the best of them. We’re familiar with the nav system and have praised it in the past for not requiring an IT department to operate, but are dismayed at the rather large fitment gaps around the unit.

Our tester eschewed the standard polished wood trim for the optional Satin Aluminum package ($195), which replaces the bands of bark normally encircling the cockpit with ribbed aluminum trim that better compliments this interior’s color palette. A silver analog clock a lá Infiniti has been placed between the two center vents to add a touch of class, despite a digital clock residing less than six inches away on the nav screen.

Once you stop smudging the nav screen with you fingertips your hands will come to rest on the Zephyr’s steering with integrated cruise and audio controls that are easy to operate via your thumbs. Peering through the wheel you’ll find the Zephyr’s white-on-black gauges and an information display nestled between. Fortunately the Zephyr deviates here from the new Navigator, which features square gauges that resemble geriatric timepieces.

As was previously mentioned our testers seats featured both heating and cooling functions. The captain’s chairs up front earned our favor for their long cushions and comfy foam. While spirited driving will quickly have you crushing the compliant bolsters, the 10-way power adjustability on both front seats at least ensures any size driver can find a comfortable position. The Zephyr’s rear seats are large enough for two average adults to travel in comfort, though its 37-inches of legroom don’t come close to approaching the Buick Lucerne’s 41.4-inches. The Zephyr’s trunk, however, only gives up a single cubic foot to the Lucerne’s rear cellar (16 vs. 17 cu. ft.) though gains it right back by using gas struts to support the trunk lid instead of the Lucerne’s space-robbing hinges.

So far the Zephyr’s inner sanctum has pleased both our sense of sight and touch. The dash design is unique and while off putting to some stands as the sedan’s most defining feature. Love it or hate it, that dash just won’t be ignored. The black and silver colors that separate the soft touch materials from the hard plastic and aluminum trim also satisfy our aesthetic tastes. While some may niggle over the HVAC’s placement at the bottom of the center stack (a common Fusion complaint) and points are deducted for the large gap surrounding the nav unit, the Zephyr’s interior is at least one of the car’s components that lives up to the entry level luxury standard set by its competitors.

We’ve got one more review to go in which we’ll be cranking the seat heaters and heading out on the open road to learn whether this platform’s capable handling characteristics have been faithfully transferred into Lincoln’s littlest luxury sedan.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 9 Years Ago
      "Hopefully you guys really like that interior, cause you're paying 7 grand for it. Other than that interior this car is just a V6 Fusion."

      Look up 'Lexus ES' @ Google.

      • 9 Years Ago
      I remember sitting in a then-new 2nd gen Navigator during press days at the Detroit Show, with another guy in the passenger seat. Finally, after looking around the I/P, I couldn't help myself and pronounced that it was the best Lincoln I'd seen, at least from an interior standpoint, in years and that if they could only do a true Lincoln passenger car, they'd really give Cadillac a run for it's money. After talking about it some more with him, I asked the other guy who he worked for and he responded "Cadillac"... It was obvious, then, that he agreed that this interior theme was one of the more authentic American interior themes around. Ironically enough, I mentioned that part of what made the Navigator so impressive was the fact that it fit the American model of "bold, audacious luxury" better than any passenger car had in a long time... a feel that, soon after, Cadillac was featuring on all of their new cars. If anything, while this interior theme is all that, the exteriors are downright flaccid and nowhere near up to the standard set by the interiors or cross-town rival Cadillac's exteriors. Step up to the plate, Lincoln, and you'll find that you can succeed.

      Now about those powertrains...
      • 9 Years Ago
      They should have had the edges of the Nav system go parellel with the contours of the center stack, rather than be a square. This would better fill out the stack, and then the shape of the buttons could also reference the shape of the more angled buttons on the stearing wheel.
      • 9 Years Ago
      Good lord! Think they could cram any more buttons onto that steering wheel?
      • 9 Years Ago
      It has got to be one of the worst interiors I've seen in a while. Looks like it's straight out of the 80's. As for the rest of the car, I hated it when I saw pics, but I've seen them in person and they're not as offensive as I though. Still bad but not horrible.
      • 9 Years Ago
      Is the "gap" around the nav unit uneven or crooked? 'cuz it looks like it's intended to provide shadow detail. From the photos it just doesn't look as bad to me as you harp on.

      And I realize the Lucerne brackets the Zephyr in price, and both Lincoln and Buick are damaged brands, but are people really cross-shopping a full-size barge and a mid-size personal sedan?
      • 9 Years Ago
      Excellent review. Great work on the detail in the photos too.
      • 9 Years Ago
      Hopefully you guys really like that interior, cause you're paying 7 grand for it. Other than that interior this car is just a V6 Fusion.
      • 9 Years Ago
      That really is an impressive looking piece, congrats Lincoln!

      Now if they could just make a rwd car that looks even better than the 66 Continental...
      • 9 Years Ago
      Beautiful and different from the rest of the BMW/Lexus clones out there.
      • 9 Years Ago
      I am a fan of the Fusion/Milan/Zephyr group of cars, and I think Lincoln did a fine job with the interior of this car, except for two things: The gauges and the shifter. I think that Lincoln would do well for itself if it updated the look of the gauges and the shifter to the look of a car that is worth $30k not one of $20k. Other than that, I think the interior is well done and well designed.
      • 9 Years Ago
      i like the interior a lot better than the exterior (the rear is horrible, basically), and it has a lot of the features my TL has. it'd be nice if autoblog did a review of a TL and compared it to this car...i'd like to see how they measure up.
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