For the past two decades, the only thing consistent about Ford's Lincoln division has been its inconsistency. To put it lightly, the brand has struggled to find it's place in the automotive landscape. The vehicles from Ford's premium domestic division haven't had a coherent look since the early '80s. Several of its models, such as the LS and the Navigator, have sold well at times, but the absence of a Lincoln DNA hasn't helped. In 2006, North American Design chief Peter Horbury set about changing all that. He gave his team the task of examining past Lincolns to determine what set them apart.

The first new model intended to set Lincoln on it's path to rebirth is the 2009 MKS, which is making its debut in production form at the LA Auto Show later today. The MKS first appeared as a concept at the 2006 Detroit Auto Show. It's based on the same platform as the Ford 500/Taurus, which originated at Volvo under the S80/XC90. When the concept first appeared it was reasonably well received as a pleasant if not daring design for the marque. Subsequently, Horbury's team began its quest for the soul of Lincoln and came up with a list of seven elements that would be part of future Lincoln designs. Most of these appeared on the 2007 MKR concept that we saw in Detroit. While most of the MKS was already locked in for production, after the show Ford management made the decision to adopt one of most prominent elements from the new MKR concept, its grille.

One of the keys to the brand's new look was to come up with something that was uniquely Lincoln and recalled the best days of the brand without in any way looking retro. The basic look of the grille dates back to the 1941 Lincoln Zephyr with its bow wave design. The design is unique to Lincoln and doesn't really borrow from any other brands of the moment. One of the advantages of this grille design is the space between the two halves that allows the Lincoln logo to stand on it's own without being lost in the chrome. Moving back from the nose, the basic look of the body remains very true to the original concept, although the larger fender vents that first appeared have now been replaced by smaller units that almost disappear within the Lincoln logos on the front fenders.

Along the sides, a sharp crease extends from the nose to the tail. On future Lincolns this look will be taken further with a chamfer along that character line similar to what was shown on the MKR. The MKS concept's taillights remain largely in tact, but they have been lengthened vertically a bit.

One of the driving forces in this design was to enhance this Lincoln's feeling of quality and fit and finish. To that end, conscious decisions were made to mitigate the impact of misaligned panels and trim pieces. One way this was done was to extend the door panels down under the rocker panels so that the lower edge and it's seam almost disappears. On the inside, a frequent problem is the glove box door. Again the door extends under the dash panel above and around the end of the dash so that there are no visible seams when sitting inside the car. The center console sweeps down from the top of the dash in one continuous surface reprising a look from the MKR but without the floating surface. The seats and dash are covered in leather that is chromium free and provided by the same supplier who that did the original Model T and the 1956 MK II. Overall the whole look is clean and uncluttered. We'll bring you some pics of the interior later today when the car officially debuts, but for now you'll have to use your imagination.

At launch the MKS gets a new 272-hp 3.7L version of the latest Ford V6 with 265 lb-ft of torque. About a year later, a new turbocharged, direct-injected V6 will be added to provide V8 power with lower emissions and fuel consumption. Although this matches the specs of the Twin-Force V6 in the MKR, Ford won't be using that nomenclature on the MKS. Filling the fuel tank will be accomplished using Ford's new Easy-Fill cap-less system that debuted on the 2008 Explorer. While this may seem like a silly luxury, the system actually helps to greatly reduce evaporative emissions during filling.

With the MKS, Lincoln hopes to attract loyal customers from the days of the Continental and LS. They also expect the MKS to have conquest sales ten percentage points higher than current models. Right now about 33 percent of Lincoln buyers are coming from other brands, and the brand expects that number to be 43 percent for this car. The MKS goes on sale in summer 2008 at a price of about $38,000 for the front-wheel-drive model and two grand more for the all-wheel-drive version. In all, Lincoln is targeting sales of about 40,000 annually.

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