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2000-2006 Lincoln LS V8 review

For years, it seemed like German companies had a lockdown on the true sport sedan segment. American car companies made half-hearted attempts to get a piece of this market, or simply used the word “Euro” in the model name as a marketing tool to trick people, but there were no serious challengers for a long time. Then, from the least likely source, a true competitor came to the forefront. From the company known for mainly providing blue hairs with transportation and supplying limo companies with chassis, in 1999 (2000 MY), Lincoln thrust their all new LS on the world aimed squarely at BMW and Mercedes. Could the company that was famous for land yachts like the Town Car and Continental beat the Germans at their own game?

Looking at the outside of the LS, Lincoln sure got the design cues right. The wheels were pushed out to the corners. The body was wrapped around the car with tautness, with short overhangs little wasted area. Parts of the body were made of aluminum to both save weight and evenly distribute it around the car. A V6 with (gasp!) a manual transmission was even available, and a V8/5 speed automatic combo was optional. In true sport sedan form the rear tires were driven by an engine in the front. All the luxury and safety toys were available, and as is true with most American models, the fully loaded price came in at or near the entry level price for the Euro sleds. The chassis was shared with Jaguar’s S-Type, which probably explains much of the European feel of the LS.

Stepping inside, the interior is no-nonsense and straight to the point. Everything is within reach, the seats are firm but comfortable, and the interior is slightly snug – just like its European competition. The only issues I’ve ever found with the seats are a lumbar support that always seems to stick out too far, and a bit more aggressiveness in holding the driver in place would be welcome. Yes, this is a Lincoln where grippier seats would actually be welcome; see driving impressions below for the reasons why. Storage space in the first generation models is quite tight – there just isn’t a lot of room for miscellaneous items. The center armrest might hold a pack of gum, and curiously the map pockets wouldn’t give maps a chance. Forget the glovebox in early models if it has the CD changer; Ford filled 99% of the glovebox with the player. It was freshened up in 2003 with a mid-life facelift and a few extra ponies under the hood (exterior pic is the revised model). The interior was also spruced up, more options were made available, and the gearing was slightly revised (interior pic here is of a 2005 model).

Driving the first series (2000-2002) of cars shows that Lincoln really tried hard to replicate the European driving experience, especially in their Sport package cars. By and large they succeeded. The LS has a firm and planted feel in its moves. You can attack curves with confidence. Execute a foolish move beyond its already high capabilities and the LS’ stability system will step in to save you from yourself. Even with the outstanding handling, the suspension never beats you up or becomes overly harsh. While Lincoln’s core customers will probably disagree, this car was about bringing new blood into Lincoln’s ranks. This same confidence-inspiring feel continued on in the second series of cars as well.

Power from the V8 was adequate. It moves the LS down the road with authority, and it flexible throughout its rev range. While you won’t win drag races if your competitor is packing a 540i or E430, the V8 LS certainly won’t embarrass you either. The transmission, though, is the one odd point of all the mechanical systems. In the early models, the 5 speed auto started off in second gear. First gear could only be called up by flooring the throttle and waiting for kickdown. But first and second were geared so close together it seemed semi-pointless. No doubt a Lincoln engineer could bore me over several hours why that decision was made, but this aspect of the car doesn’t earn the LS any bonus points. A manumatic option for the transmission was available in the sport model, but even that would start you out in second as well. Worse, in every model I’ve sampled, when trying to manually command the transmission down into second, there is a disconcerting clunk that accompanies that particular downshift. For the 2003 facelift, the gearing was modified so the spacing between first and second wasn’t quite so close, but I’ve still never grown to love the transmission in the LS.

Joining the relatively short list of demerits is general interior build quality. Again, in every model I’ve been in, the door panels vibrate when closing the doors, make them feel loose and cheap. While that may sound like nitpicking, ten year old Toyota’s and entry level Hyundai’s don’t exhibit this in their build quality. Interior storage, as mentioned before, was wholly inadequate on the first series, but was improved for 2003-2006. On the V8 models, a scan of consumer comments suggests that the ignition coils are a weak point that requires periodic attention. Back space is snug for adults if people over 6ft are up front, and the trunk opening seemed a touch small.

Overall though, the LS is fine piece. Any driving enthusiast can find a lot to like here. Best of all as long as you’re not the initial owner, depreciation has ravaged the pricing on these cars - even lower mileage ones - down below $20k. Yes there are some niggling issues, but not much worse than any other car model that you care to name. If your tastes run European but you want to support the hometown company, the LS is the best option that you’ll find.

Having said that, discontinuing this model is probably the dumbest decision that Ford has ever made. If they had kept revising the LS, Ford could have continued morphing it into a true, world class competitor. They had an excellent start, but like so many other good ideas and products they instead chose to let the LS shrivel up and die. There is a market to this type of vehicle, and Cadillac has proven it by choosing to press forward in making their CTS (review) what the LS should’ve become. All is not lost, however. If you like the chassis, a version of it became the current gen Mustang – probably a reason why I quite liked that car too (review here). But, instead, Lincoln has chosen to continue rebadging Ford sedans and SUV’s – and none of the current crop are very impressive. The LS stood out in Lincoln’s lineup for all the right reasons for a driving enthusiast, and could’ve become a catalyst to bring in younger buyers before all of Lincoln’s customers (literally) die off.

Please Lincoln, you’ve showed the world once what you can do when you really try. Resurrect the LS and show the world once again that an American car can take on the best from Europe. Otherwise, you deserve the fate that you get.

Photos property of Ford Motor Company

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