Putting Our Money Where Our Mouth Is

Auto journalists and motoring enthusiasts have, for years now, developed a rather demanding set of requirements for what they want to see in a car. This list often seems contradictory and even impossible. Attempting to tick all the checkboxes could easily drive an automotive designer straight to distraction, and this may indeed be the reason many of the most senior design executives always seem to be a little bit… off, if you know what I mean.
So what does this list entail? What are the must-haves that journalists and enthusiasts insist will make a top-notch car?
Well, first and foremost, the car must have ample power — preferably significantly more than ample power. A V8 would be ideal, but it has to be an efficient V8. It should be powerful, but with a small displacement, or some journalists will rabble on about how substituting massive displacement for design technology is just being lazy, particularly if the car happens to be a domestic. The engine should use the latest in engine technology available. Dual overhead cams, advanced fuel injection, variable valve timing and preferably made from aluminium. In addition to all that power, we demand fuel economy. Oh, we’re well aware that means we’re asking for the best of both worlds, but it’s not our job to worry about that, now is it? That’s what engineers are for. Oh and it shouldn’t be diesel, because many fucking idiots journalists think diesel engines are smelly, or noisy, or slow, or only suitable for large trucks…

Respectable, particularly for a V8…

Next up is the drivetrain. It must have a manual transmission option available, and it should be rear-wheel-drive. AWD is an acceptable alternative, but will still frequently be derided as “unnecessary extra weight”, or “extra complexity”. Oh, and if it’s not a longitudinally-mounted, rear-wheel biased AWD system, it will be dismissed as an “also ran”. How it performs is largely irrelevant when you’re writing an article and want to engage your audience.
Next, the car must be luxurious. There must be quality materials, leather, soft-touch plastics, plush carpeting. The seats must be comfortable but supportive, and there must be an absolute plethora of gadgets and gizmos. Oh, but don’t make those seats too supportive, for many auto journalists are well, well, well past their prime, and have allowed themselves to acquire rather generous posteriors that simply don’t fit into the sport seats that should easily meet those requirements. Ideally, the car will have a bench seat that will magically keep the driver perfectly in place no matter how the car is driven. Oh, but without feeling restraining or confining.
Also, the car should not be too heavy. Oh sure, we want every possible luxury option, every convenience and gadget imaginable, and we want to feel pampered and spoiled. We don’t want any chassis-flex, nor any road noise, nor any vibration of any interior pieces. But the automaker shouldn’t add any weight to the car in answering all those requirements. Also, the car must not only remain relatively svelte, but it must also look lean. Whether or not it actually is lightweight is only slightly more important than whether it looks lightweight. If the car looks large and bloated, then it doesn’t matter if it weighs the same as a Caterham. Oh, and it shouldn’t be too big, but it must have enough space to store anything you could possibly want, and haul home flat-pack containers from Ikea.
Oh, and it’d be great if it could be a domestic car. After all, the Germans figured out how to do most of that thirty years ago, so if their car ticks all those boxes, nobody really pays much attention anyhow.
So, then, what happens if there is a car that ticks all those boxes? Well, by all rights, it should be the most popular car ever released, selling hundred of thousands of copies a year. After all, we journalists and enthusiasts know better than anyone what makes a great car, right?
Well, yes and no.
Meet Frankie, my new (to me) 2005 Lincoln LS V8 Ultimate.

Now, I think we’re all well aware I’m an ardent European car fan. So what the hell am I doing buying an American luxobarge? Simple. I bought it for quite a few very good reasons.
Firstly, it was cheap. Why? Because, quite simply, it turned out that the car is not desirable. Lincoln had a hard time selling all the cars they built, and ended up throwing very heavy incentives at them to get them to move, and that resulted in rapid depreciation. But why wouldn’t it be desirable? After all, it ticks every box we could ask for!
Simply put, what the enthusiasts and journalists ask for, and what the general buying public want, are two very different things. That said, however, it’s clearly obvious that we, the enthusiasts, do absolutely know what makes an excellent car.
I have had about a week with the LS thus far, and I am beyond impressed. On first glance, and when you first get in and pull away in it, it feels like a classic Lincoln of yore. Soft, floaty, disconnected. But then… what’s this? Could it be responsiveness in the steering wheel? When driving over bumps, you feel actual feedback from the road. And when you take a corner, the body doesn’t roll like you would expect from an old Lincoln; gone is the sensation that the car is attempting to cock its rear tire sky-high like a Great Dane pissing on a lamp-post. Quite the opposite, in fact. While the ride is soft and extremely comfortable — almost too comfortable — the car somehow manages to go exactly where you throw it.
Somehow "Hot Rod Lincoln" has felt like an appropriate theme-song.

What about the engine? Oh yes, it’s the critically-acclaimed 3.9L Jaguar AJ-V8, and now it’s the version with variable valve timing, conservatively rated at 281 horsepower and 286 torques. The engine manages to be so quiet that, were it not for the obnoxiously loud (and very generic-Ford-sounding) starter motor, you wouldn’t know if the car had started if the HVAC fan was going at all. Yet when you stomp on the gas, there is a wonderful V8 rumble that I can only say I wish were louder. In addition, it somehow manages to achieve very respectable highway fuel economy. In almost two weeks of driving, I’ve managed to average about 9.5 L/100km. (I’ll let you lot sort that out to your stones-and-livestock measurement system.)
The car has every luxury appointment you can think of (for 2005). Satellite navigation, heated and cooled leather seats in front, heated seats in the back. Memory power seats, HomeLink, automatic HID headlights, a ten-speaker THX sound system. The seats are flat and comfortable, but softer in the centre so that you sink into them. As a result — and when combined with the large centre console and door panels — there is ample lateral support for all but the most aggressive manoeuvres. And the interior materials are surprisingly excellent. I have minor beefs with the way the shifter for the automatic actually selects a position, but it is certainly on par with that in some Mercedes-Benz cars I’ve driven. And yes, Lincoln only offered an automatic in the V8 models, but I don’t mind a slushbox in a largish luxury car, and furthermore the sport-shift mode is actually surprisingly good. It will likely allow you to run the engine all the way past the red-line and blow it up if you so desire. It has never yet shifted for me if I didn’t want it to. In fact, much like the Infiniti FX45 I drove a year or so ago, the car is somewhat tepid when driven as an automatic, and downright exciting when driven in manual mode.
Amusingly, the CD changer seems to have a significant bias towards the "Sopranos" theme-song, when placed in "shuffle" mode.

And regarding its size; believe it or not, the car is smaller than most competitors. It’s roughly the same size as a current Toyota Camry, based on eyeball comparisons, and significantly smaller than a Chrysler 300 — and over 600 lbs lighter than some versions! Heck, it’s even smaller than a Challenger. Why? Because Lincoln made extensive use of aluminium in both the engine block and body of the car to cut down on weight, and as a result the V8’s curb weight is roughly the same as a 2011 Mustang.
A visual comparison is surprising.

So why didn’t it sell? Simply put, most buyers weren’t interested in a Lincoln that could run with the Germans. Lincoln buyers wanted staid and traditional. German buyers weren’t interested in a Lincoln. So a truly excellent car went largely un-noticed. Unless you, like so many of us, think that this was probably the motivation for Cadillac to take the development of the CTS so seriously. It’s proof that yes, Americans can make excellent cars when they try. It’s just too bad their customers can’t recognize it.

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44 responses to “Putting Our Money Where Our Mouth Is”

  1. Deartháir Avatar

    Wow… the last photo didn't look that blurry in preview mode…

    1. tenbeers Avatar

      The blurriness makes it look as if you parked like shit, too.

      1. SirNotAppearing Avatar

        Damn, only ten minutes late with the joke. I reed slo.

      2. Deartháir Avatar

        I did, but I actually had the common decency to go back and fix my terrible parking job after I snapped the photo. I basically just centred my car between the Challenger and the other car, then realized the Challenger was parked way over.

    2. SirNotAppearing Avatar

      I bet parking didn't seem so hard when you put it on the line either. Zing!
      Just kidding, I'm master of the 7-point parking maneuver.

      1. Deartháir Avatar

        Pfft, I slid into that spot sideways. Considering that, I think I did okay. 😉

    3. BGW Avatar

      Watch out for lifted Type 2s. They're most dangerous when it's blurry out.

  2. notford Avatar

    Friend has one. Won't do a brakestand, but I agree with all that you said. Good choice.

  3. Deartháir Avatar

    You know, I had never really hunted for one. I just stumbled upon this one and snapped it up.

  4. ptschett Avatar

    +1, these are nice cars. They were on my list when I was thinking of a used car, before the new Mustang was announced. Then I decided that I wanted to stick with a 2-door, wanted to get a manual, and needed something bigger than a Mustang, and this followed me home…
    <img src="http://i37.tinypic.com/2zia5ow.jpg&quot; width="500">

    1. Eggwich Avatar

      Nice! I'm not a chrome wheel kinda guy, but I am a blue Challenger kinda guy. People say the Challenger is big, I say so what?

      1. ptschett Avatar

        Yeah, those wheels wouldn't have been my first choice; not only are they plastic-chrome-clad, they're also 20" with a 45-series tire, which I think is too short of a sidewall for this car. I might order a set of the SE Rallye package wheels which are 18" and have a more classic look, and offload these to someone who wants to bling out a Charger/Magnum. The nice thing about the wheels is that on a manual car they're packaged with the 3.92 axle ratio, while an 18" wheel, manual R/T would have 3.73's.
        Re: the size of the car, I really can't complain. It's replacing a '96 Thunderbird and it's a few inches shorter in overall length, about the same width, maybe a few inches taller, and 300 lbs. heavier per a state weigh station's scale (4100 vs. 3800 for the T-bird.) That does make it a very large coupe, but since it's based on a large sedan I just don't see how Chrysler could have done it much differently.

  5. Texan_Idiot25 Avatar

    It's a Jag with a Lincoln badge!
    Now, invest in a real camera. iPhones don't count.

    1. JayP Avatar

      If that is the case, then I'd run from the Lincoln until my legs were bloody stumps.
      Experience with the S-Type has me frightened to even consider shared platforms.

  6. Cynic Avatar

    Well, for me, I want something puny, comfortable only in the sense that the seating is good, and with all the square-cube-law benefits that come with driving a sub-megagram car.

    1. Cynic Avatar

      But then again, I'm not an American consumer.

  7. Charles_Barrett Avatar

    As a former owner of a 1988 Lincoln Continental, I approve. Since I also like the Jaguar S-Type, which shares many of the underpinnings with the LS (right?), I doubly approve. Happy travels, my friend…!

    1. tonyola Avatar

      I actually like the LS's styling better than the S-type. The latter was a mess of retro cues that didn't work as a whole.

  8. SeanKHotay Avatar

    Counterpoint:
    I'm banging my head on the header in the LS, almost as bad as in an, ick, Probe…but I have a long torso. There's MUCH better head room in the last gen Focus…
    I'd go for a Marauder before an LS…
    But NOW I know what the V8 badge pic was attached to… 😉

    1. Eggwich Avatar

      I like the Marauder, too. Not sure if I like it more than the LS, maybe a little more cuz it's rarer to see one around here. Only black Marauders for me, though, I've seen burgundy ones too, and I think they came in grey, but that car was made to be painted black.

    2. Syrax Avatar

      Now I feel worried that haven't seen a single LS ever (I don't even think there's one here) I knew what it was.

  9. Eggwich Avatar

    Nice Camero man!
    Seriously though, great purchase, I've always liked these Lincolns. The V6 with a manual is the highly sought white whale amongst The Car Lounge members, though it seems they built about a hundred of them, ever. Nothing wrong with a full-sized RWD cruiser. A size comparison shot featuring a Challenger is kind of like the semi-fat girl that takes a bunch of pics with her fatter friend to look better, though. (No disrespect to the Challenger, I love them; but they do have some massive proportions. I thought of getting one but I felt like a Cabbage Patch Kid behind the wheel.)

    1. tonyola Avatar

      It's funny. Yesterday I parked my '94 LeSabre (a fullsize car by any post-1985 standard) next to a new Challenger at the supermarket. I could have sworn that the Dodge seemed as big as my Buick. I looked up the numbers when I got home and yep, I was pretty much right. The Dodge is 2 inches shorter, 1 inch wider, 1.5 inches higher, and a minimum of 350 pounds heavier than my "big" car.

  10. tonyola Avatar

    The LS also failed because Lincoln kept jacking up the prices as the years went on. What seemed a good buy at a little over $30K in 2000 became a ripoff at close to $50K in 2006, especially since the car didn't change that much. I've driven the V6 version at some length and it was quite nice. I must warn you to keep an eye out for some electrical gremlins and transmission troubles. These cars are not cheap to fix because of the shared Jag innards.

    1. Deartháir Avatar

      From what I've been able to find, that's a bit of misleading info. Ford's changes over the life of the car was to add higher and higher top-end LS's and keep dropping the lowest-trim LS's. So yes, the price climbed, but model-to-model, the price stayed pretty close to the same. In 2000, for instance, the basic V8 was the highest trim. In 2006, when it was discontinued, it was the lowest trim.
      Also the transmission troubles largely evaporated in 2004 with the introduction of new transmissions, and from what I've been able to find out from the Lincoln dealership across the street from my work, with the exception of the engine block itself, virtually everything else is fairly standard-issue Lincoln stuff. So if I need an engine rebuild, it's pricey. Everything else is bargain-basement price stuff.

  11. Jo Schmo Avatar

    I am not insulting you or your car at all, but dead hooker storage is not 1/5th of what it was in the 90's.

    1. bzr Avatar

      No matter how well this Lincoln handles, those dead hookers are still gonna throw off the 50/50 weight distribution.

  12. Jo Schmo Avatar

    There is no reason to be ashamed of being a grandpa. On the contrary, you should be proud!

  13. Balestra Avatar

    I had a sof spot for them when I lived in the US.
    They're different, uncommon…
    And I once read, back in 2004, if I'm not mistaken, that handling was tuned in conjunction with McLaren.
    Does the info proceed?
    Great choice man.
    I know you guys would probably loathe it, but my only change would be the wheels. I love me some deep dishes, kinda like the 'Vette Grand Sport ones, not just a flat deep dish. makes it look more powerful. Plus I love different offset wheels. And the stock ones remind me too much of the Navigator wheels.

    1. Deartháir Avatar

      Agree completely. I have yet to find a set of wheels that will work well for it, mostly because 5x108s are not exactly easy to stumble across, but the "Navigator Junior" wheels have got to go. If anyone sees a nice set of 19", understated, preferably different-offset wheels for a LS, be sure and let me know.

  14. bzr Avatar

    Cool. One of my good friends has one, Borla exhaust, new wheels, and this grille, which I think looks kinda cheap but they like it (obv):
    <img src="http://memimage.cardomain.com/ride_images/1/2041/81/5100040171_large.jpg"&gt;
    It's the pre-facelifted version with a V8. And yes, it can certainly shove a bit…great car, understated, and definitely future classic. If not on account of its rarity, then on account of its goodness.
    Oh, and now you'll have to look into superchargers!

  15. tenbeers Avatar

    There's a white LS on my parking deck at home, and even though I know what it is and the guys had it for a couple years now, I STILL initially think it's a Mitsubishi every single time I see it out there.

  16. CJinSD Avatar

    I suspect the LS didn't sell well because of Ford brand management and somewhat generic styling. Using Ford and GM logic, the LS was released with engines that had lower specs to protect the premium Jaguar S-types that shared the platform. As a result, the early V8 cars had performance comparable with 6 cylinder would-be competitors. I didn't even know that they ever got around to producing this 281 hp model, because the cars that were sold when magazines were testing them had about 30 less hp to protect the Jaguar's price premium. For some reason Ford and GM never consider that their cars aren't just sold against each other, but also against competitors from other companies that don't short change some customers to protect a silly brand strategy.
    As for the styling, a neighbor of mine had a couple LS Lincolns and a Mitsubishi Diamante. They looked more alike than different, and nothing about the body design of the LS really said Lincoln. While people who read car magazines may have been turned off by intentionally reduced performance, people who weren't reading car magazines were unlikely to notice the LS in traffic. It was pretty much incognito compared to the S-type or the 300.

  17. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

    In almost two weeks of driving, I’ve managed to average about 9.5 L/100km.
    Which, as it turns out, is approximately go fuck yourself miles per eat a gallon.
    Of dick.
    (I've never done better than 10L/100KM on a tank. In a car with less than three-fifths the displacement and half the cylinders, not to mention less than half the power and smaller dimensions [save for height, which is comparable].)
    That's it, Deer-There, you've made me want a Lincoln. Damn you! Daaaamn yooooou!

  18. blueplate Avatar

    What a great purchase — I'm lobbying a good friend of mine to pick one of these up, stat. The V6 versions with manual transmission are incredibly hard to find.

  19. FTGDHoonEdition Avatar

    I always liked this car, actually came this close to buying it used. I liked the way it handled and all the conveniences (not much more than my SVT Focus though), but the biggest draw back was (and is), the lack of a stick shift. This was about a 2 years ago, and I was 25 at the time, just couldn't see myself driving an auto.

  20. engineerd Avatar

    There's a tan LS that I occasionally see on my morning commute. I look at it now and think, "You know, those are still some damn nice cars."
    If they made a wagon version I'd buy one in a heartbeat.

  21. Clashtastic Avatar

    I almost bought a V6/5 spd version a while back….missed out still on my list of potential cars to buy
    There was a point in time that I really wanted my dad to get a new LS V8 Sport (last model year)…because they were giving them away basically..especially with a-plan…

  22. Joe Pasquale Avatar

    I have the last year for this LS—2006—and not one recall–the only service bulletin is for the rear parking sensor
    This car is a polished gem–

  23. PowerTryp Avatar

    I've been swooning over that car ever since I started at Ford and this only makes me want one more.

  24. MadKaw Avatar

    I've had a bit of a soft spot for the LS for some time now. I definitely agree that it is a hugely underrated car – I first realized that fact probably 7 or 8 years ago, and seriously considered buying one then, but my ever-present love for wagons led to the purchase of a Volvo 850 instead.

  25. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

    Seriously, the more I think about it, the more I can see myself in one of these in five years.
    I'll be 24 and driving a Lincoln.
    Damn. Well, I am looking at adding a second Volvo to my stable, so maybe it's not such a huge shift.

  26. Van Sarockin Avatar

    So, it's an upmarket Contour? I enjoy what you were heading for. Not sure I can support the decision. But let us know how it goes.

  27. Feds_II Avatar

    Nice pick. I liked these cars except for the whole "manual transmission only on the stripper v-6" issue.
    A friend of mine had one for 5-or-so years out of school. Apparently front ball joints are non-replaceable, and you have to replace the whole upright. Something like $1000 at the dealership. Watch for that.

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