Lincoln is a brand which has a history dating back almost to the beginning of the commercial automobile industry. In the 1920's, they became part of the Ford Motor Company and assumed the role that they still hold today as the luxury division of the Ford empire. Lincoln has been able to build some of the most stylish, technologically advanced and elegant cars to have ever graced the world's roads. While they have dallied in convertibles, coupes and SUVs, the company remains primarily known for their sedans.
Perhaps the most iconic of the Lincoln sedans in the public consciousness is the Lincoln Continental built from 1961 to 1969. With its slab-sides, long straight lines and suicide doors, the Continental captured the hearts and minds of an entire generation of car buyers, becoming the very embodiment of luxury, grace and class on wheels. Unfortunately, Lincoln would not be able to maintain the momentum that the Continental sedan had generated once the 1970s had rolled around. Increased competition from imported marques had wealthy car buyers questioning what a luxury car's characteristics should be, and the boat-like, wallowing sedans that Lincoln released throughout that decade drove a series of nails into their sales coffin. In the 1980s, Lincoln moved back from the land yachts that had dominated their lineup for so long, and charted a course towards producing cars that were still big, but not unmanageably so. The Town Car would emerge as the flagship of the company's sedan offerings, and this vehicle would become a cornerstone of Lincoln showrooms for decades.
While the brand had traditionally restricted their product offerings to just a few models, by the year 2000 Lincoln had opened up the doors when it came to trying new directions in sedan design. For the first time, the company offered an entry-level four-door called the LS that was not quite compact but instead hovered just below the mid-size segment, attracting buyers from both worlds. The replacement for this vehicle, the Zephyr (later renamed the MKZ) would venture more boldly into the mid-size market, targeting drivers more accustomed to slipping behind the wheel of a BMW 5 Series or an Acura TL. Lincoln also managed to position their Town Car as the go-to vehicle for livery companies, corporate fleets and upscale rental agencies.
This article examines the 3 best used sedans available from Lincoln - the LS, the Town Car and the MKZ - and explains how each occupies a special niche in the Lincoln lineup and why used car shoppers would do well to add these vehicles to their list of inexpensive, value-oriented secondhand luxury vehicles.
2000 - 2006 Lincoln LS
When Ford decided to explore the benefits of platform sharing at the end of the 1990s, both the Lincoln and Jaguar luxury brands benefited from an influx in design dollars and vehicle renewal. The 2000 - 2006 Lincoln LS was the first small rear-wheel drive car that Lincoln had offered in many decades, and it was positioned as a sporty alternative to European premium brands, boasting impressive power and good driving dynamics when compared to some of the full-size sedans normally sold by the domestic automaker.
One of the most interesting aspects of early editions of the Lincoln LS is the availability of a manual transmission. All V-6 versions of the car built between 2000 and 2002 had the option of a 5-speed standard gearbox, a component not seen in a Lincoln vehicle since the company's very early days. The 6-cylinder engine displaces 3.0-liters and generates 210 horsepower (with a 10 horsepower bump for 2002). It can also be had with a 5-speed automatic. The next step up is a 3.9-liter V-8 engine that cranks out 252 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque. Although it is mated exclusively with an automatic transmission, it provides the LS with a sizeable dollop of acceleration, especially when compared to the competition. Both engines received a huge power boost in 2003, with the V-6 jumping to 232 horsepower and the V-8 seeing a jump to 280 ponies and 286 lb-ft of torque.
The chassis of the 2000 - 2006 Lincoln LS is well-engineered to not only handle this generous power output, but also provide excellent composure and comfort to all riders. The interior of the vehicle continues this trend, with a restrained use of plastics and the prevalence of soft touch materials that are less reminiscent of the Lincoln of old and more in tune with the luxury market's current direction. Heated and cooled leather seats, automatic climate management and an intuitive set of gauges and vehicle controls make the Lincoln LS a pleasure to drive.
The 2000 - 2006 Lincoln LS is an olive branch from the company to younger drivers who crave driving excitement in a used sedan, and it doesn't compromise on luxury in order to deliver on its promise.
2003 - 2007 Lincoln Town Car
The Lincoln Town Car is a vehicle which has remained very faithful to the 1998 re-design. This is largely because the Town Car is one of those rare products with a built-in market - older drivers who routinely buy this sedan over and over again because they enjoy its power, its comfort and the feeling of safety that is inherent in its size. When Lincoln chose to update the automobile in 2003, they made sure that their improvements didn't upset the delicate balance of features that had seen so many buyers return to the well again and again.
There are several different trim levels and special editions of the 2003 - 2007 Lincoln Town Car. In addition to the base Executive trim, there are Signature, Signature Premium, Cartier, Cartier Premium and Cartier L versions of the car, and that is just for the 2003 model year. Over the course of production, new trims were swapped in to replace those which had fallen out of favor, which can be somewhat confusing when it comes time to purchase. With minor exceptions, most trims are merely specific equipment levels that mix and match different standards of luxury. The L editions of the Town Car see the passenger compartment stretched for more rear passenger room, making them popular as limousines. Generally, the Town Car can be ordered with an astonishing number of comfort features, ranging from exclusive leather seats to fine wood trim to a wide range of power options that even includes trunk-closing assistance.
Regardless of which type of Town Car is ordered, all receive the same running gear. A 239 horsepower, 4.6-liter V-8 is the only option, paired with a 4-speed automatic transmission. Performance is not exactly startling, but the Town Car has all of the motivation it needs to navigate through modern traffic. The vehicle's chassis has been improved so that body roll and understeer are minimized while still providing the trademark isolation from the road that Town Car drivers are used to.
The 2000 - 2006 Lincoln Town Car is a big, comfortable used sedan that doesn't pretend to offer anything other than a solid and safe luxury ride, making it a good choice for families not interested in an SUV or a minivan.
2006 - 2007 Lincoln Zephyr / MKZ
Despite the confusing mid-cycle name change, the 2006 - 2007 Lincoln Zephyr / MKZ (hereafter referred to as the MKZ) is the most modern sedan available from Lincoln on the used market. The MKZ was meant to provide an upscale vehicle based on the same platform as the Ford Fusion, a well-received mid-size four-door. Visually, the MKZ bears a unique front end, but it is still quite similar in terms of general shape to its more pedestrian counterpart, relying upon interior luxury to help set it apart from the Fusion in the minds of consumers.
The passenger compartment certainly succeeds in being radically re-styled when compared that of the Ford. An attractive two-pod arrangement dominates the front dash, with a wood grain line cutting across horizontally and a vertical climate and audio control stack dividing the front of the vehicle's interior in half. The general theme of the MKZ's passenger compartment is one of calculated formality, bringing to mind the Mercedes-Benz sedans of the 1970's. Of course features abound, such as leather seats, a voice-enabled navigation system, surround sound entertainment and heating and cooling for the front buckets. HID headlights and traction control contribute to the safety of all occupants.
While the first year of production saw the MKZ limited to front-wheel drive only, in 2007 all-wheel drive became an option and is highly recommended to get the most out of the sedan's driving experience. The first year vehicle also saw a significantly less powerful engine when compared to those that followed it: a 221 horsepower 3.0-liter V-6 as opposed to a 263 horsepower 3.5-liter unit. Both motors are matched with a 6-speed automatic transmission, but if throttle response is an important consideration when deciding on which car to purchase, it is definitely recommended to stick with the later edition of this car.
The 2006 - 2007 Lincoln Zephyr / MKZ marks a turning point in Lincoln design, and as such it makes an intriguing option for used sedan buyers who want to sample something new.