2003 Lincoln LS Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
Significantly improved for 2003.
The Lincoln LS has been significantly improved for the 2003 model year with more than 500 new or redesigned parts. The LS now boasts increased horsepower, torque, and smoothness, thanks to variable valve timing and electronic throttle control. Chassis refinements promise more precise steering and a smoother, quieter ride.
Comfort and convenience have been enhanced for 2003 with power-adjustable pedals, a softer feel for some of the controls, and by an electronic parking brake that frees up storage space in the center console.
The LS is the most youthful of the Lincolns, and the Lincoln that's the most European in its temperament. In fact, the Lincoln LS shares its chassis architecture with the Jaguar S-Type. Like cars from Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Jaguar, the Lincoln LS uses rear-wheel drive. Driving enthusiasts prefer rear-wheel drive over front-wheel drive for its superior driving characteristics.
The Lincoln LS rides smoothly, yet feels connected to the road. It compares favorably to luxury sports sedans from Europe and Japan, yet it is priced far below them.
Two engines are available for the 2003 Lincoln LS: a 3.0-liter V6 and a 3.9-liter V8. The V6 is offered with base or Premium trim, while the V8 comes with Sport or Premium Sport trim. All come standard with a five-speed automatic transmission. (Last year's Getrag five-speed manual gearbox is no longer available.)
The base V6 model ($33,860) is equipped well, with 16-inch wheels and tires, all-speed traction control, power-adjustable pedals, black lacquer interior trim and leather seats with eight-way power and three-position memory for the driver (plus six-way power for the front-seat passenger). V-6 Premium trim ($37,260) adds a power moonroof, a premium sound system, walnut burl interior accents and other comfort and convenience features.
V8 models account for about two-thirds of all LS sales. For 2003, the V8 models are designed to offer a sportier driving experience. V8 models come with a stiffer suspension and a SelectShift five-speed automatic transmission that allows manual shifting. V8 models come in two trim levels. V-8 Sport ($40,060) comes standard with a 12-speaker, 180-watt audiophile sound system, and climate-controlled seats. Satin nickel accents replace wood in the interior.
V-8 Premium Sport ($43,360) adds high-intensity discharge (HID) headlamps, walnut interior trim, AdvanceTrac traction and stability control, and a power moonroof.
Options include a new THX-certified audio system with an in-dash six-disc CD changer, 10 speakers, and a four-channel Class-H amplifier. Also optional is a touch-screen navigation system that stores maps of the entire United States and Canada on one DVD. The system's 6.5-inch screen lifts electrically for access to the six-disc in-dash CD changer. Another new option for 2003 is an Extended Rear Park Assist that sounds a warning chime if an obstacle is detected while reversing. The system uses two ultrasonic sensors and a radar sensor to sweep the area behind the vehicle, and has a field of coverage up to 15 feet.
Lincoln LS presents a classy profile, with its long wheelbase and chunky rear end. With its angular lines the LS shares little in appearance with the rest of the Lincoln family, apart from its Lincoln badge and waterfall grille.
LS styling has been updated for 2003. The grille trim, front fascia, exterior mirrors, rear deck lid, tail lamps, license plate trim and wheels are all new this year. The new look is complemented by dual chrome-tipped exhausts on all models. Also new for 2003 is a keyless entry keypad on the driver's door, a feature long-time Ford and Lincoln-Mercury buyers like. New folding side mirrors incorporate puddle lamps, which illuminate the front door area when a door is unlocked with the key fob or keypad, or when a door is opened
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. There are no gaudy trim pieces. Instead the interior is cozy and cockpit-inspired. The leather seats feel cushy in the Lincoln tradition. They are comfortable, though not as supportive as the seats found in a Mercedes-Benz or BMW. The driver and front passenger seat offer power adjustments, with three-way memory for the driver. The tilt-and-telescope steering wheel and exterior mirrors are tied into the memory seating system. 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.
A canopy shields the instruments. On Premium models, real burled walnut trim brightens the doors and the area around the controls. Sound system and climate controls lie in a large center stack, easily accessible by either driver or passenger. Most controls work well, and many have been upgraded for 2003. A new center console features expanded storage, two power points and improved cup holders. A new sliding armrest moves back and forth, adjusting for the position of the driver's seat. 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, and rear-seat headroom, according to Lincoln, is as good as in any car in this class. We found the legroom is reasonable as long as the front seats are not pushed too far back. Reading lamps have been added for 2003.
The rear seatback splits 60/40 and can be folded down to expand the trunk, unusual for a luxury car, but a great convenience for carrying longer items. The trunk offers a reasonable amount of space, though some wish it was larger.
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. Rear-wheel drive contributes to the handling of the LS. The LS offers a nearly perfect 50/50 weight distribution. Most cars have a definite weight bias toward the front end. To help achieve this balancing act, Lincoln moved the battery to the trunk and used lightweight aluminum for the hood and front fenders.
The LS rides smoothly but still feels connected to the road. 2003 models come with a stiffer front crossmember and re-tuned shock absorbers and suspension bushings.
For 2003, the V8 and V6 engines feature variable valve timing for improved horsepower and torque. Lincoln claims they run smoother as well. For the V8, output has been raised to 280 horsepower and 286 pounds-feet of torque (from last year's 252 horsepower). The new V6 develops 232 horsepower and 220 pounds-feet of torque (up 12 horsepower from last year). Those figures better BMW's 3.0-liter straight-six, and place the LS among the most powerful V6s you can buy.
The automatic transmission shifts smoothly, but is a bit slow to shift at times. V8 models come with SelectShift, which allows the driver to manually change 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 brakes are excellent, easy to modulate for light or heavy braking. Pedal feel has been improved for 2003. Models equipped with AdvanceTrac stability control also feature Electronic Brake Assist, which can detect sudden braking and shorten stopping distances.
The Lincoln LS has been significantly improved for 2003. The V8 and V6 engines are smoother and more powerful, and the suspensions have been returned for a smoother, quieter ride and more precise handling. A host of interior refinements make life in the Lincoln more comfortable.
The Lincoln LS offers good acceleration performance and handling. Its rear-wheel-drive layout gives it the handling feel of a European luxury sedan. It offers a strong value when compared with fine luxury sedans from Europe and Japan.
V6 base ($33,860); V6 Premium ($37,260); V8 Sport ($40,060); V8 Premium Sport ($43,360).
Options As Tested
V8 Sport ($40,060).
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