2006 Lincoln LS

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2003 Lincoln LS

This 2003 review is representative of model years 2003 to 2006.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

Still mostly for the buy-American sports-luxury sedan crowd.
Pros:
  • More power
  • Improved handling
  • Interior upgrades
Cons:
  • Forgettable styling
  • Shallow trunk
  • Manual transmission gone

The Lincoln LS sports-luxury sedan has major improvements, but continues to lack the pizzazz to be truly competitive with foreign rivals such as BMW and Jaguar.

Lincoln says that more than 500 LS parts are new or redesigned for improved performance, more refinement and greater comfort and convenience.

Significant changes to the 2003 model include revised styling, more powerful V6 and V8 engines, a revised interior and improved handling and braking. There's also more useful standard features, such as power-adjustable pedals and a Jaguar-style switch-operated parking brake.

The LS was introduced in 1999 as a 2000 model and was meant to be a competitor to foreign sports-luxury sedans; however, styling was ordinary, and the car's V6 was underpowered. The interior was almost painfully plain.

American Feel
Nevertheless, the LS has attracted a fair number of new and younger (but still 50-plus) auto buyers to Lincoln. Sales have slipped since the car's first year on the market and it still has more of an "American" feel than the "European" feel sought by many buyers of sports-luxury sedans.

That's somewhat curious because the LS has the same basic platform as the Jaguar S-Type and has a rear-drive layout and nearly 50-50 weight distribution for good balance. One problem is that the LS can do things such as tackle twisting roads, but doesn't really encourage sporty driving, as does a BMW.

It's also questionable if the majority of Lincoln dealers know how to properly sell the LS, especially when it's in showrooms with the gigantic Town Car sedan—and when the average age of Lincoln buyers is approximately 65.

Manual Transmission Gone
The LS was the first Lincoln to offer a manual transmission since 1951 because rivals offered one. The manual gearbox has been dropped for 2003 because few LS buyers wanted it, which indicates that most never considered the LS to be a genuine foreign car fighter.

The LS now is offered only with a responsive 5-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift feature—not the same thing as a "pure" manual.

More Power
The old 220-horsepower 3-liter V6 needed the manual gearbox for acceptable acceleration, but horsepower of that engine has been increased to 232 and it provides more torque. The 3.9-liter V8's horsepower has been increased from 252 to 280, and it has additional torque.

I drove the LS with both dual-overhead-camshaft, multi-valve engines—and found that the V6 provides much livelier acceleration. The previously acceptable V8 delivers stronger acceleration.

Variable valve timing and electronic throttle control help provide smoother and more accurate power delivery.

Most Want V8
Most LS buyers opt for the V8, another indication that the car isn't especially regarded as an import fighter. However, the lighter V6 version—preferred by many women—is more nimble and costs less.

Estimated fuel economy is decent with either engine: 20 mpg in the city and 26 on the highway with the V6, and 18 mpg and 25 with the V8.

Improved Handling
While the LS has always had good handling, the latest version does better thanks to speed-sensitive steering, larger shock absorbers and retuned suspension components. An anti-skid system provides added control in emergency situations. It's standard on the top-line Premium Sport and $735 extra for other LS trim levels.

The LS V6 comes in base $31,860 trim and $37,420 Premium trim. The V8 is sold in $40,220 Sport trim and as the $43,520 Premium Sport sedan.

Lots of Equipment
Even the base LS has nearly all the comfort and convenience items expected in a sports-luxury sedan, including those power-adjustable pedals. However, the V6 versions really are "near-luxury" cars because of their price range.

The V8 versions add a sport suspension and slightly larger wheels and tires to more capably handle the added horsepower. Those items don't much affect the car's comfortable ride.

Good Roadability
Steering is quick and accurate, but has the artificial feel that characterizes some speed-sensitive units. Electronic brake force distribution and brake assist come in handy during emergency stops, and the pedal has the right amount of firmness.

The Premium Sport has a power sunroof, wood interior trim and chrome alloy wheels. Those items are optional for other trim levels.

Other options include a $2,995 navigation system, which isn't as complicated as some such systems, along with $400 heated rear seats and a $295 rear-obstacle detection system.

Among safety features are front side air bags, anti-lock brakes and optional side curtain air bags.

Styling Changes
The new LS looks much like its predecessor, although there's a new grille, fascia and headlights. The trunk lid, taillights and rear fascia look cleaner. Wheels are new, and all trim levels have dual chrome exhaust tips. However, the car still doesn't visually stand out.

The spruced-up interior is a definite improvement, with available burl walnut and satin nickel trim, but some materials aren't as good as those in rivals. The available wood-and-leather steering wheel looks good, but its wood surface is slippery. The cockpit is quiet, although wind noise is noticeable at highway speeds.

Roomy Interior
Large door handles make it easy to enter the LS, although rear door openings should be larger. There is good room for four 6-footers.

The power front bucket seats are supportive and come heated and cooled in all but the base trim version. Gauges can be read quickly, and the ignition switch is easily reached on the dashboard.

A small parking brake release lever in the console replaces the traditional hand brake lever. It looks like an ashtray cover and frees console space for a fairly deep storage bin and sliding center armrest—and two good-sized cupholders.

Climate controls are large, but there is no radio-tuning knob, and sound system controls are only moderately sized.

The long trunk has a low opening, but only small suitcases can sit upright and bulky manual lid hinges eat into cargo space.

It remains to be seen if the LS improvements will increase the car's sales. It's definitely improved, but is in a very competitive market.

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BB04 - 4/16/2014 12:05:03 PM