2006 Lincoln Zephyr

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2006 Lincoln Zephyr

By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

Surprisingly good midsize premium sedan.
Pros:
  • Luxurious
  • Strong V6
  • Sporty
Cons:
  • Rather high trunk opening
  • Several small gauges
  • Old-style hood prop rod

The Lincoln Zephyr is the most luxurious member of Ford Motor's new midsize sedan trio, which includes the entry Ford Fusion and midrange Mercury Milan.

Lincoln is reviving an old name because the first Lincoln Zephyr was a medium-priced 1936 model that pulled luxury Lincoln through the desperate 1930s Depression.

The new Zephyr also is meant to halt Lincoln's sliding auto sales. It's sized and priced beneath the larger, rear-wheel-drive Lincoln LS, which has only been a moderate success mainly because it lacks the cachet of rivals. However, the European-style LS has sort of paved the way for the Zephyr.

The aerodynamic 1936 Zephyr, which had aircraft-style construction and a 12-cylinder engine, was more advanced than the medium-priced Cadillac and Packard models, which also helped those luxury automakers make it through the Depression.

Tops Trio
The $28,995 Zephyr has the highest base price of the front-wheel-drive Fusion-Milan-Zephyr trio. Ford controls Mazda, so the trio is based on a modified Mazda6 sporty sedan platform, with Ford design and engineering. The trio was the biggest surprise at the start of the 2006 model year; reviews were good, and the cars got off to a good sales start.

The Zephyr is generally softer than the Fusion and Milan, befitting its luxury status. It thus isn't as much fun to drive quickly as the harder-edged Fusion and Milan, which have sharper reflexes and invite being driven in a sportier manner.

Not that the Zephyr is sloppy—it has the same taut, basic design as the Fusion and Milan, which have a European sports sedan feel although derived from the Japanese Mazda6.

The Zephyr is fairly large, being 190.5 inches long and weighing 3,406 pounds. Its cleanly styled exterior is fronted by Lincoln's signature "waterfall" grille. Lincoln considers the car's rather large 17-inch alloy wheels an important design element; they're offered with a machined aluminum look or a chromed-aluminum finish.

One Trim Level
There is only one Zephyr trim level. Unlike the Fusion and Milan, it's not offered with a 160-horsepower 4-cylinder engine, but only has a 3.0-liter 221-horsepower V6, which is optional for the Fusion and Milan.

The V6 provides strong acceleration, but isn't as smooth as a Honda Accord or Toyota Camry V6.

The Zephyr V6 has chromed dual exhaust outlets to enhance the car's sporty image. It works with a responsive 6-speed automatic transmission, which has one more forward speed than its major rivals, the Camry and Accord.

Decent Fuel Economy
Estimated fuel economy is decent: 20 mpg in the city and 28 on highways. Only 87-octane gasoline is required.

Steering is quick with the tilt-telescopic wheel and isn't as heavy as Fusion and Milan steering. A supple, fully independent suspension shrugs off bumps and provides a soft, well-controlled ride and adroit handling, enhanced by the large wheels and wide 50-series tires. Traction control is standard.

Smooth stops from the anti-lock disc brake system, which has electronic brake force distribution for surer quick stops, is allowed by a progressive-action brake pedal.

Upscale Interior
The Zephyr has the nicest interior of the new Ford Motor trio. It's quiet and nicely executed with real wood, high-quality leather and satin nickel and chrome trim. Electro-luminescent lighting illuminates the gauges—although the fuel and engine coolant temperature gauges are so small they almost seem like an afterthought. White lighting backlights controls and switches to make them easy to find at night.

Major controls can be easily used, and dual-zone climate control should help keep occupants of the supportive, heated power front bucket seats comfortable.

Fairly Roomy
Four tall adults have decent room in the leather-upholstered seats, but a long-legged passenger behind a tall driver with his seat shoved about halfway back will want more leg room. The rear seat's hard center is best left to the fold-down armrest, which contains dual cupholders.

Doors have storage pockets, but they don't hold much. The glovebox isn't roomy, either. But the covered front console storage bin is fairly large, as are the dual front cupholders. Thankfully, the power windows don't race up and down when activated and can be easily stopped from going completely down or up by touching a window control switch.

Large Trunk
The trunk is large, but has a rather high opening. Curiously, it has no interior pull-down feature to prevent hands from getting dirty on the outside of it.

The 60/40 split rear seatbacks have trunk releases to prevent thieves from gaining entry to the trunk from the back seat. The seatbacks flip forward to enlarge the cargo area, but don't sit entirely flat when folded forward.

The Zephyr is well equipped, with all sorts of power features and such items as cruise control, remote keyless entry, an AM/FM radio with in-dash 6-disc CD/MP3 changer, a classy analog dashboard clock and heated power outside mirrors.

Safety Features
Standard safety features include front-seat side airbags and head-protecting side-curtain airbags.

The heavy hood must be held open with an old-fashioned prop rod, instead of modern hydraulic struts, if owners want to, say, add engine oil. Fluid filler areas can be reached fairly easily and are located around a large plastic engine cover.

There are relatively few options. They include a new $2,495 DVD navigation system, $1,200 power sunroof, $495 premium perforated leather/cooled front seats, $995 THX premium sound system and powerful $495 Xenon headlights. Chrome alloy wheels are $895.

The Fusion and Milan are nicely tailored for their markets, and the same can be said for the upscale Zephyr.

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BB04 - 9/2/2014 2:47:28 AM