Lincoln LS

Instead of saying the new Lincoln is based on Jaguar S-Type, I’d say vice versa. Although the S-Type went into production earlier, the LS was first shown to the public in the Detroit motor show in early 1998, in then even UK journalists had little knowledge about the secret project of S-Type. However, insiders said quality problems delayed the production for nearly 2 years until recently. 

Sharing platform with the Jaguar, Ford obviously wants to upgrade the image of the Lincoln brand. Not to attack the BMW 5-series or Mercedes E-class because that is the mission undertaken by the Jaguar. Instead, it is intended to be a cheaper alternative with ability matching 90% of the European excellence. This would also please those used to complain the European luxury as too expensive compare with local products. 

Compare with Jaguar, how did Lincoln make the LS a lot cheaper while retaining 90% goodness ? Firstly, builds it in the US; Secondly, uses fake wood in the cabin plus instruments, controls and equipment coming from Ford’s parts bin; Thirdly, get rid of the variable valve timing and other sophisticated features from both engines. 

Like the S-Type, there is a V6 and a V8 to choose from. The 3-litre V6 is built in Cleveland alongside the Jaguar version and Taurus’s Duratec V6 on which it is based. With dohc 4-valve heads and 2-stage variable length intake manifold (Jaguar has 3 stages), without VVT, this all-alloy unit pumps out 210 hp and 205 lbft, marginally more than Taurus’s 200hp / 200 lbft but unable to match Jaguar’s 240 hp and 221 lbft. 

The V8 is modified from Jaguar’s AJ-V8, also aluminium head and block but with cast-iron cylinder liner replacing the more sophisticated Nikasil coating. The additional thickness of the liner reduces the engine capacity from 3996c.c. to 3950 c.c. In the absence of variable valve timing, power drops from 281 hp to 252 hp, torque reduces from 287 lbft to 267 lbft. Further cost reduction is implemented by building the engine in the US. 

If you’ve read my S-Type report, you won’t expect the Lincoln to be as fast as the 5-series or Lexus GS. Because the DEW98 platform is larger than competitors (at 2908mm it is nearly 80mm longer than the 5er in wheelbase !), the LS weighs 1633kg in the form of V6 or 1723kg for the V8, hence handicapped its straight line performance. Road & Track took a V8 and recorded 0-60mph of 7.3 sec, 0-100mph in 18.2 sec and estimated the top speed of around 140mph. No matter the Lincoln or the Jaguar are difficult to keep pace with BMW 540i, Audi A6 V8 and Lexus GS400. The V6 version, despite with optional 5-speed manual made by Getrag, must be even slower, especially is under 4000rpm where not more punch available to cope with the weight. With reference to the S-type V6, I estimate it needs 8.3 seconds for 0-60. 

In terms of handling, the Lincoln is definitely a surprise to those who use to drive American luxury sedan. Well, we know how poor American cars performed in this field and how many years it lag behind the foreign competition. For example, independent suspension has just already been standardised in most American cars but not yet all. Among them, many GM cars still ride on semi-trailing arms at the rear, which is deemed to be outdated in Europe and Japan. So comparing the new Lincoln with other old Lincoln or Cadillac is pointless.  

Therefore we have to compare it with the foreign competitors. First to be compared is the sister car S-type. Both share the same rigid chassis, with rear-wheel-drive configuration, good weight distribution (for Lincoln, 51 : 49 between front and rear for the V6 or 53 : 47 for V8, thanks to the all-alloy engines and aluminium bonnet) and double wishbones suspension all round. Both are offered with an optional Sport Suspension Package which includes 17-in 235 tyres, firmer dampers, thicker anti-roll bars, harder brake pads and a heavier power steering. However, the Lincoln’s suspensions have been tuned stiffer and sharper while the Jaguar bias towards ride comfort on bumpy roads. The former rolls less in corner, with heavier but less sensitive steering feel. Therefore it is is more driver-bias (is it really a Lincoln ?) and pass the first test. 

But facing the BMW is not likely to be so easy. The S-type has been proved to be inferior to the 5-series, both in terms of handling and ride quality. All American journalists told us a favourable road test impression about the Lincoln, saying it handles as good as the best German sedans on twisting roads although the basic steering tendency is understeer. Well, we heard the same before for the Cadillac Seville but when it came to Europe the journalists over there gave us another comment. The biggest problem is, American drivers as well as testers rarely drive their cars on the most demanding narrow roads and never drive them to the limit. When did you see their photo shows a car power slide in a tight corner ? (they always slide the car on their super smooth race track or the skidpad.) That’s why they are still insisting the BMW M Roadster as the best roadster.  

The same applies to the battle between BMW and Lincoln LS. We may wait for the Lincoln to be exported to Europe, and then more reliable road test will be conducted. However, Ford is now rethinking about its introduction to Europe because of the recent acquisition of Volvo. To avoid conflicting with the Swedish luxury brand, Lincoln might not be exported to there. 

At last, we briefly look into the styling and interior. There’s not much to praise the Mitsubishi-like exterior styling, which is more radical than other Lincolns but less interesting than foreign competitors. The cabin looks very mainstream, covered with Ford’s grade of plastic moulding and fake wood. Seats are quite good, with generous space front and rear. Headroom at the rear is better than Jaguar. The styling of dashboard is very boring - that hemi-circular instrument panel mirrors the design of Jaguar’s center console, that means both of them look odd. 

Given the price advantage, given the 90% competence, the LS is a good buy. Ultimately it might not be the most desirable - the design, the cabin, the performance and the handling at the limit - but you can’t get the last 10% and the bargain price simultaneously. At least we can call it the best American-built sports sedan. Lincoln hopes to sell 65,000 units in the US in 2000. 

The above report was last updated on 2 Dec 99. All Rights Reserved.

Late 2002 Update

In late 2002, Lincoln LS received the following improvements: 
  • Engine: both V6 and V8 gained variable valve timing and drive-by-wire throttle like their sisters in Jaguar S-Type. Now the V6 pumps out 232hp (up 22hp) while the V8 produces 280hp (up 28hp).
  • Suspensions: modified setup softened the suspensions a little to improve ride comfort. 
  • Interior: better quality plastics, metal decoration, more storage spaces and more luxurious equipment are employed.
  • Exterior: a facelift so minor that few people noticed.
The above report was last updated on 28 Dec 2002. All Rights Reserved.


Lincoln LS V6
Lincoln LS V8
Front-engined, Rwd
Front-engined, Rwd
L / W / H / WB: 4925 / 1859 / 1453 / 2908 mm
V6, dohc, 4v/cyl,
variable intake manifold
V8, dohc, 4v/cyl
2967 c.c.
 3934 c.c.
232 hp
280 hp
220 lbft
286 lbft 
5A with manual mode
All wheels double wishbones
235 / 50 VR17
235 / 50 VR17
1633 kg
 1723 kg
Top speed
124 mph (claimed)
137 mph (claimed)
0-60 mph
8.3 sec (claimed)
 7.4 sec (claimed)
0-100 mph

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