2003 Lincoln LS
This 2004 review is representative of model years 2003 to 2006.
By Ann Job of MSN Autos
Sigh. Sometimes it's tough to change an image.
In calendar 1999, when Lincoln introduced its midsize LS sedan, there were signs—hopes, perhaps, is the better word—that this new Lincoln car would be embraced by a younger audience.
After all, the LS came with modern road manners, not the cushioned, wallowy ride of large Lincoln cars of old. The LS also shared its platform with Jaguar's then-new S-Type sedan and had pleasing looks.
To drive home the point the LS was a different kind of Lincoln, it was even offered with a Getrag manual transmission, marking the first time since the 1951 Cosmopolitan that a Lincoln had an optional manual gearbox.
Alas, the hoped-for younger, enthusiast buyers haven't migrated in droves to the LS, as evidenced by the fact the manual tranny is gone this model year because of a lack of demand.
Meantime, Lincoln reports that LS sales have been declining since calendar 2000, and buyers, while younger than the Lincoln Town Car crowd, have been in their early 50s.
More than 500 updates
Additionally, despite the fact the manual transmission is gone, the Lincoln LS still has a sporty personality, especially when its improved-for-2003 V8 is under the hood.
In fact, buyers will find more than 500 new or updated components this model year that give the LS a quieter interior, more precise steering, slightly refreshed front and rear styling, several new features and improved center console storage.
It's the biggest group of changes for the LS since its debut.
Manufacturer's suggested retail price for the base 2003 LS with V6 was lowered to just under $32,000. This puts it closer to competitor base pricing such as the 2003 Cadillac CTS. The '03 CTS is offered only with a V6.
Starting price for the top-end LS—with V8 and sport-tuned suspension, among other things—is up, rising to more than $43,500 for the LS V8 Premium model.
This still is far less than the starting MSRP of more than $49,000 for a 2003 Jaguar S-Type with V8. The S-Type uses the same rear-drive platform and similar engines as the LS. Parent company Ford Motor Co. owns both Lincoln and Jaguar.
Still can shift it yourself
This transmission allows the driver to shift the forward gears himself, sans clutch pedal.
In the test LS V8 Premium sedan, the power was instantaneously noticed. Just a nudge on the accelerator pedal, and the car would shoot forward.
In more aggressive driving, I and my passengers could feel our backs and heads pressed back into our seats, and not too subtly, either.
Horsepower is up to 280 from last year's 252 in the 3.9-liter double overhead cam V8. Torque rises from 261 lb-ft at 4300 rpm to 286 at 4000 rpm. Powertrain changes include new variable valve timing, revised intake and electronic throttle control.
While the new LS performance numbers don't match those of the S-Type with naturally aspirated V8—Jag also offers a supercharged V8 in the S-Type—the LS has improved its 0-to-60-mph time. The car feels sprightly as it moves efficiently past other cars on city streets and on highways.
As you'd expect, though, fuel economy isn't the greatest for a car this size.
The government rating for an LS V8 model is just 18 miles a gallon in city driving and 24 mpg on the freeway. I averaged 19 mpg in combined driving on the test drive.
The 3.0-liter double overhead cam V6 in the LS has more power this year, too, with horsepower up to 232 and 220 lb-ft of torque at 4500 rpm.
Shifts in the test LS V8 were smooth during regular driving. However, when I pressed the car, I would sometimes notice abrupt shifts in the automatic mode.
Sporty sense to the ride
The suspension on the tester was sport-tuned, so the ride was not floaty as some might expect in a Lincoln.
Rather, I and my passengers felt quite a few vibrations, even over manhole covers on city streets. On some sharp road bumps, the suspension even made unpleasant noises.
The car, which rode on uplevel 17-inch tires, remained quite well-controlled. Traction control and AdvanceTrac stability control were both standard on this top-level LS.
Special audio technology
For example, the cymbals in one song came out so clearly, it made me realize I had scarcely noticed them before.
Too bad, though, that the only reminder that the THX technology is there is that one instant when "THX" flashes on the nav display screen when the car is started.
Mostly quiet ride
The LS is easily maneuverable and proved easy to get into parking spaces. Getting out was a bit harder, as the rear window pillar and rear head restraints can block some of the view.
Still, even though updated, the outer styling of the LS makes it look a bit too much like an older person's vehicle, in my opinion.
I noticed that blinkers were rather loud and clickity-sounding.
There's a sizable hump in the rear floor with which the middle person in the back seat must contend.