2006 Lincoln Zephyr
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
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.
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
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
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.
Major controls can be easily used, and dual-zone climate control should help keep occupants of the supportive, heated power front bucket seats comfortable.
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.
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.
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.