Introduced for the 2000 model year, the rear-drive LS sedan is based on the same platform as the Jaguar S-TYPE, though the two cars do not resemble each other at all. The S-TYPE displays traditional Jaguar styling cues, while the LS has a conservative appearance akin to all Lincoln vehicles. Ford owns Lincoln and Jaguar, and both the LS and S-TYPE debuted in the same year. Lincoln hoped to attract younger, import-oriented buyers. That hope has proved to be successful and has boosted the brands sales, though the traditional Town Car is still the top-selling Lincoln model.
For 2002, LS models with the Sport Package get an Alpine Audiophile system with an in-dash CD changer. Brushed satin-finished aluminum seven-spoke wheels are standard, and polished aluminum wheels are optional.
A new Vehicle Communication System (VCS) is optional on all LS models. A hands-free, voice-activated mobile phone gives access to such features as 24-hour emergency service, e-mail, stock quotes, news, weather and sports. Lincoln includes free scheduled maintenance for the first three years or 36,000 miles.
Competitors include the Acura TL, Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, Lexus GS 300/430, Lexus ES 300 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Most LS sedans have an automatic transmission, but a five-speed-manual version also is available. A freshening is likely as early as 2003.
Lincoln keeps a family resemblance to the Town Car and Continental by giving the LS sedan a vertical-bar grille that is capped by a chrome strip. The LS has crisper lines and trimmer dimensions than its two passenger-car teammates. Unlike the rounded, sweeping shape of the S-TYPE, Lincolns LS has a gentle slope to its roof pillars and a slight wedge profile overall.
Riding a 114.5-inch wheelbase, the LS is nearly 194 inches long overall, 73.2 inches wide and 56.1 inches high. In contrast, Lincolns Town Car is more than 21 inches longer, while the Continental is almost 15 inches longer.
Other Lincolns come with bench seats so that six passengers can fit inside, but thats not the case with this model. The LS has front bucket seats and a floor-mounted gearshift lever. A power tilt/telescoping steering column helps tailor the driving position as needed, and the front seats have ample space for tall occupants.
Backseat passengers also get adequate room except for the middle position, which is higher, harder and marred by the tall driveshaft tunnel. Split, rear seatbacks fold down for additional cargo space. The rather shallow trunk has a long, wide floor and is easy to load, but it holds a relatively modest 13.5 cubic feet of cargo.
Under the Hood
Fords 220-horsepower, 3.0-liter V-6 serves as the base engine. Unlike other Lincolns, the V-6-powered LS can have a five-speed-manual transmission rather than the usual five-speed automatic. This feature makes it the first stick-shift Lincoln since 1951. A 252-hp, 3.9-liter V-8 is also available but is offered only with the automatic transmission. Both engines require premium fuel.
Side-impact airbags for the front seats, antilock brakes and all-speed traction control are standard. An AdvanceTrac electronic stability system is optional.
The V-8 engine is smooth and refined and delivers vigorous response. It is satisfying from a standstill, eagerly responsive on the highway and puts out terrific passing power. Although the automatic transmission functions smoothly most of the time, hard acceleration can produce some awkwardness or uncertainty, and response even under moderate throttle input isnt always perfect.
Thick pillars impair over-the-shoulder visibility, but the driving position is great. The seats are comfortable and roomy for long journeys, but the center rear spot ranks as nasty. Fuel economy, at least on the highway, isnt bad for a car of this weight.
The LSs suspension and tires are firmer than what you typically find in a Lincoln, especially when it is equipped with the optional Sport Package. Even if the ride suffers a little, this package gives the LS athletic and surefooted handling; but some luxury-car buyers might be troubled by the reduction in comfort. The difference is especially noticeable in urban driving, where the ride can get somewhat harsh. In regular form, the still-taut suspension delivers a beautiful ride without being slushy or loose.
With or without the optional Sport Package, the LS delivers the goods in performance, handling and passenger space, and it serves as a marvelous road car. Despite an imperfection or two, its a laudable rival to luxury sedans from Europe and Asia and boosts Lincoln to a fresh spot in the marketplace. For comfort and control on the road at a tolerable price, the LS is a luxury automobile for regular people, and its hard to beat.