Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
American luxury with a dash of European flavor.
The LS is not only the least expensive Lincoln, it's also the most youthful, with tailored, modern styling and crisp road manners. It's the most European in temperament of the Lincolns. Like luxury sedans from Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Jaguar, the Lincoln LS uses rear-wheel drive, giving it that classic driving feel. It rides smoothly, yet feels connected to the road.
The V8 engine delivers strong acceleration performance, while the standard V6 has been revised to deliver more power for 2002. The Lincoln LS compares favorably to luxury sports sedans from Europe and Japan, yet it is priced far below them.
Two engines are available: a 3.0-liter V6 and a 3.9-liter V8. The engines form the basis for the model line, but for 2002 both come with a range of available trim levels.
The standard V6 model ($33,045) is very well equipped. It comes with leather upholstery, side-impact air bags, automatic air conditioning, a five-speed automatic transmission, eight-way power driver's seat, premium sound with an in-dash six-disc CD player, fog lights, and 16-inch alloy wheels.
A V6 Convenience Package ($1185) adds a memory feature for the driver's seat, automatic dimming rear-view mirror, speed and rain-sensitive wipers, and a universal garage-door opener. Opt for V6 Premium Package ($3290) and you get a 12-speaker Alpine Audiophile stereo, premium Nudo leather, 17-inch chrome wheels with P235/50VR17 all-season tires, carpeted floor mats, a cargo net, and other features.
The V6 Sport Package ($1985) comes with P235/50VR17 tires on special wheels, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio and cell-phone controls, leather shift knob, and color-keyed bumpers; the Alpine Audiophile stereo can be added at no extra charge.
A Sport V6 model comes with a Getrag five-speed manual transmission and retails for $35,055.
V8 models start at $37,220, and come equipped similarly to the V6 Convenience Package. There's also a V8 Sport Package ($855) and a V8 Premium Package ($2175), both equipped similarly to their V6 analogs, except that the manual transmission is not available with the V8.
New for 2002 is the $735 All-Season package, which combines heated front seats with Advance Trac stability control. The Alpine sound system is offered as a stand-alone option for $575. A power moonroof costs $1005, except on Premium models, where it is a no-cost option.
New for 2002 is a $1295 Vehicle Communication Package. This includes a hands-free, voice-activated, digital/analog, Motorola Timeport phone (a Sprint PCS plan is required), plus voice-activated news, weather, sports, and stock quotes. A Safety and Security Services (SOS) button summons emergency roadside assistance (it activates automatically if the air bags are deployed), and an information button connects owners to route guidance.
Lincoln LS presents a classy profile with its long wheelbase and chunky rear end. Its angular lines suggest a cross between a BMW and a Mitsubishi Diamante. It is refined without being flamboyant. The LS shares little in appearance with the rest of the Lincoln family, apart from its Lincoln badge and the trademark waterfall-style grille.
Lincoln LS shares some of its chassis architecture with the more expensive Jaguar S-Type. The two cars do not share bodywork, however, so they look nothing alike.
The interior of the Lincoln LS is understated, in a more European style. The seats feel cushy in the Lincoln tradition. They are comfortable, though not as supportive as seats found in Mercedes and BMW sedans. There are no gaudy trim pieces. Instead the interior is cozy and cockpit-inspired.
A canopy shields the instruments. Sound system and climate controls lie in a large centerpiece, easily accessible by either driver or passenger. Most controls work well, though the switchgear does not feel as refined as that of a Mercedes. Also, the LED indicators are too bright in relation to the analog instrument lighting. The six-disc CD changer can be mounted in the dash or in the glovebox. Storage space in the center console is limited.
Realistic burled walnut trim brightens the doors and the area around the controls. All seats are finished in leather. The driver and front passenger seat offer power adjustments. Opt for a trim level with memory seats, and when the ignition is switched off, the driver's seat automatically moves to the back of its track, which makes getting in and out easier. The memory function also maintains seating positions for two people. The remote key fob can be used to open all windows for quick ventilation on hot days.
Rear-seat passengers are taken care of nicely. The rear seats are slightly raised for a better forward view, yet rear-seat headroom, according to Lincoln, is as good as in any car in this class. Legroom is reasonable as long as the front seats are not pushed too far back.
The rear seatback can be folded down in a 60/40 split for access to the trunk; that's unusual for a luxury car, but a great convenience for carrying longer items. The trunk offers a reasonable amount of space.
Driving the Lincoln LS is a joy. The steering is excellent, among the nicest of any car on the road. Steering effort increases smoothly with speed. The LS rides smoothly but still feels connected to the road. By luxury car standards, however, there is a fair amount of road vibration transmitted through the seat and steering wheel. The front suspension doesn't react well to sharp bumps.
Rear-wheel drive contributes to the handling of the LS. The LS offers a nearly perfect 50/50 weight distribution (half the weight is on the front wheels and half is over the rear wheels). Most cars have a definite weight bias toward the front end. To help it achieve this balancing act, Lincoln moved the battery to the trunk and used lightweight (and expensive) aluminum for the hood and front fenders.
The V8 engine feels smooth and sophisticated. It communicates with the transmission for smooth shifts. Punch it, and it delivers strong acceleration. The V8 is rated at 252 horsepower and 261 pounds-feet of torque. The throttle is sensitive to tip-in, making it easy to lurch off the line when taking off at intersections.
The V6 now develops 220 horsepower and 215 pounds-feet of torque, up 10 horsepower and 10 pounds-feet from last year.
The automatic transmission shifts smoothly, but is a bit slow to shift at times. Sport models come with a feature that allows the driver to choose either fully automatic or manual shifting, called SelectShift. In the manual mode, the driver changes gears by pushing the gearshift lever forward to shift up or by pulling it back to shift down. A computer overrides any human slip-ups that might damage the driveline.
The available manual gearbox is a German Getrag five-speed manual gearbox. It's smooth and precise. Shifting is satisfying and it helps the V6 deliver straight-line acceleration that is nearly as quick as that of the V8 with the automatic. This makes the LS V6 fun to drive on windy mountain roads.
The brakes are excellent, easy to modulate for light or heavy braking.
Lincoln LS delivers good performance and handling. It offers a strong value when compared with fine luxury sedans from Europe and Japan.
Mitch McCullough contributed to this report.
V6 ($33,045); V6 Convenience ($34,230); V6 Sport ($35,030); V6 Premium ($36,335); V8 ($37,220); V8 Sport ($38,075); V8 Premium ($39,395).
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