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In 1983, Toyota Chairman Robert Simpson summoned a secret meeting of company executives, to whom he posed the question, "Can we create a luxury vehicle to challenge the world's best?" This question prompted Toyota to embark on a top-secret project, codenamed F1 which resulted in the Lexus division of luxury vehicles.
Ford's "premium" car lineup is engaged in a deadly game of last brand standing. Now that Jaguar, Range Rover and Aston Martin are casualities of war (i.e. someone else's problem), it's down to Volvo and Lincoln. Official denials aside, Volvo's the next to go. Lincoln must carry that weight (a long time). And so we meet the front wheel-drive-based Lincoln MKS, Ford's first post-Carmageddon (karmageddon?) luxury car. Has Lincoln's sibs' dismissal finally liberated the brand from badge-engineered mediocrity?
2009 Lincoln MKS Review Car Review Rating
Last year’s Zephyr was the automotive embodiment of all that’s wrong with Ford and Lincoln. The barely badge engineered Ford Fusion hammered yet another cheaply gilded nail into the once mighty Lincoln brand’s coffin. So now Ford has given the Zephyr a new name, engine and front end; an MP3 audio jack and [available] all wheel-drive. Is it enough to lift the Lincoln into some semblance of dignity, or does Lincoln still need to reach higher?
What became of the ninth-generation Lincoln Mark series? Somewhere in the Lincoln brand's twisted nomenclature there is a missing link: a connection between the rip-snorting Mark VIII and Lincoln’s cute-ute Mark X. I mean MKX. While no one at Lincoln's brand-awareness roadshow bought this Houstonian's sly attempt to realign the disjointed Mark series, they still handed me a set of keys to their latest crossover vehicle and told me to go play. Well fair enough.
Ford’s in trouble. Headlines talks of cuts, cuts and more cuts; and new product that might bring the automaker back from the brink. Meanwhile, mad props are in order for the party responsible for not killing the venerable Lincoln Town Car. This website has long argued that Ford’s failing car business isn’t about new product. It’s about neglecting existing product. Whether or not a resurrected Town Car aids an ailing FoMoCo is an open question, but refraining from reinventing the wheel at every regime change is the short answer.
Before these days of endless, shameless bling, V8 sedans of a sporting nature took their job seriously. Flat black trim outsold chrome and wood by a hefty margin. Intrusive electronic nannies, TV screens, time-wasting joysticks and promiscuous style were notable by their absence. Q-ships owners reveled in their car's ability to speak softly and carry a big stick. Fast forward a decade and the sporting sedan's standard bearers have been desecrated; tainted by electronic frippery and morphed into cartoon caricatures of their dignified selves. Even more improbably, the genre's sole survivor was made by the hand of Lincoln.
To see it is to know it. The Lincoln LS Sport's purposeful creases, beefy haunches, short over hangs, and wikkid fast C-pillars seem carefully crafted to win the hearts and minds of Bangle-aversive buyers. The car's hunky proportions and aggressive stance also make a strong case against chop-top chic, and for the design firm of Longer, Lower and Wider. Mind you, the LS' generic taillights and frumpy deck lid are reverse Viagra for anyone under 65. Luckily, squinting HID projectors, 17' chrome wheels and a timeless monotone paint treatment keep the Mitsubishi Diamante references at bay. A new front bumper with a drop-jaw intake, fog lights, and chrome accents lightly spices the plain Jane front fascia.
Remember when the words 'luxury' and 'pickup' went together like "reality" and "television?" Well neither does Ford. These days, Ford offers the F150 in three levels of lavishness. There's the understated luxury Lariat, the b-b-b-bad to the bone Harley-Davidson and the steakhouse on wheels known as the King Ranch. So when Lincoln charged its badge engineers with creating a replacement for the ill-conceived, ill-fated Blackwood pickup based on a pre-swanked F150, they figured– sensibly enough– that the road to success was paved with bricks of bling.
To distance the Mark LT from its genetic twin, Lincoln's retrofitters substituted a gigantic version of their "waterfall' grill for the F150's demure nose. The end result is bold– in the same sense that a sledgehammer slamming through a plate glass window is aggressive. Just in case you missed the big Lincoln's spizzarkleprow, the LT also rolls with half-chromed side mirrors and chrome appliqués running from the front bumper along the entire length of the lower body sides. Ditto the oversized badges on the grille, fenders and tailgate. If you're a pickup driving homie who thinks that too much of a good thing is a good start, you can option-up 18' chrome wheels, shiny bed rails and dazzling step bars. It's OEM pimpery, Lincoln style.
Badge-engineering. You know the drill: take a run-of-the-mill bog standard plain Jane vanilla sort of car, add some external bits and internal pieces, tweak the ride, slap on a more prestigious badge and jack-up the price. More specifically, the "new" Lincoln Zephyr is a Ford Fusion with a modified grill, wood trim, floatier ride, Lincoln logo and an inflated sticker price. So rather than badge engineer my Ford Fusion review, I'm going to tell you what Ford– sorry, Lincoln, should have done with this car.
The obvious answer is nothing. Lincoln needs a front-wheel-drive mid-size sedan like Hummer needs a camouflage SMART (unless they use it as an H2 escape pod). Even if we ignore Lincoln's illustrious past– first betrayed in 1936 by a funny-looking car called a Zephyr– the brand's recent history sets the standard. Exhibitionist A: the Lincoln Continental Mark IV: a huge, thirsty, poorly-built, foul-handling beast from a time when jeans had bells at the bottom. While the infinitely smaller [modern] Zephyr is so safe and reliable it Hertz and boasts twice as much everything room than the old Mark, Lincoln's '70's luxobarge holstered a 7.5-liter V8 with more swagger than Ludacris at a Kapp Alpha Theta. Now THAT'S what I'm talking about.
So there we were, barreling down the highway in a Lincoln Navigator. The music on the DVD suddenly swelled, filling the cavernous SUV with orchestral thunder. The kids were watching The Pirates of the Caribbean; the bit where Captain Jack Sparrow enters the harbor on a sinking skiff. Although the scene is played for laughs, the music is magnificent: grand yet lyrical, suffused with romance and adventure. Grasping the big Lincoln's wood and leather helm, I felt like the captain of a huge vessel heading for the open sea. At that moment, the SUV's enormous size and endless creature comforts made perfect sense. I was piloting a first-class ship of the line: safe, fast and well-provisioned. The only cloud on the horizon was…
The Sierra Club. SUVs may own the road, but Gaia's guys and their media minions have captured the moral high ground. Where unlimited consumerism was once considered a good thing, Americans are now instructed that their family truck triggers global warming, kills Bambi and endangers US troops. Never mind that many anti-SUV crusaders live in air-conditioned mansions with heated pools. SUVs are bad. The bigger they are, the badder they be.