By now you will have discovered that the gift-wrapped lump beneath the tree was a life-size Godiva rhinoceros and not a 1993 Lincoln Mark VIII. No matter. Tomorrow is Boxing Day, that blessed legacy of feudal Britain when a munificent gentry boxed small gifts for distribution to a groveling but grateful peasantry. In much the same search for popularity, the Ford-Lincoln-Mercury motor companies often choose the day after Christmas to distribute their new boxes. Ford Taurus, Thunderbird, Escort and Lincoln Continental were all Boxing Day babies. And Saturday, the Mark VIII enters showrooms as a further test of Ford's expressed belief that people stuffed with warmth, peace, goodwill and dark meat are very likely to reward themselves by buying $40,000 luxury coupes. Especially if the best they do today is a Chia herb garden and a Salad Shooter. Yet even as a present to oneself, is the Mark VIII a gift that will keep on giving? Your call. Although this first new Mark in almost a decade certainly is a striking, powerful vehicle well qualified to occupy the high ground alongside today's large and luxurious, it isn't quite the unabashed, grand victor many had predicted. Ford may well have stubbed its toe on yesterday in its fixation on building a car for today's younger, more discerning, certainly more spoiled buyer. Dearborn's intent with the Mark VIII was to lower the buyer profile from a 53-year-old with a household income of $75,000--formerly hard-core Cadillac territory--to a 45-year-old with an income of $100,000--where Infiniti and Acura buyers and future luxury car sales live. In this, Ford was simply following the successful furrow plowed earlier this year by Cadillac with its lighter, brighter Seville STS and Eldorado. As with Cadillac, Ford marketeers knew that a junior clientele would be wooed to Lincoln only if velvet power and '90s lines were offered. Faithfulrepeat buyers could be retained only if Lincoln clung to a somewhat softer ride and styling traditions and therefore to the intrinsic elitism of the Marks. Yet if styling and performance poked too far into the '90s and not enough of the portly old guard was lost. . . . Or if too much of the ancient barge was retained until modern looks were reduced to mere accents. . . . Well, Ford could only bet on red, spin the roulette wheel and rien ne va plus. The result is a hybrid of ancient and modern, with success or failure of the ratio still up for argument. The Mark VIII has the shape of an aero soft-boiled ovoid associated with the Lexus SC400. But there are chrome strips down the side, a chrome grille and chrome accenting head and rear light assemblies, and that may be too much shiny stuff for modern, monochromatic eyes. The car's interior has been redesigned from Victorian front parlor into a sophisticated cockpit wrapping and cuddling a ll occupants. Just like the Nissan 300ZX and other imported sport coupes and grand tourers. But there isn't one scrap of richly polished wood to break up many square yards of a plasticized interior, so any sense of being in a luxury car is completely lost. Truth is, when encircled inside this leather-lined capsule, heavy on glass and F-16 nuances, one senses an eerie duplication of the new trio of cab-forward LH sedans from Chrysler. Which, it should be emphasized, is not all bad. Except this luxury coupe costs $20,000 more than an LH. One item bows deeply and sadly to King Kitsch while removing any doubts that the Mark VIII is a Rust Belt car: Its optional wheels are brushed aluminum pinwheels far too frilly for the dignity of a Lincoln flagship. The standard wheels are straight-spoked and imply much more nobility. Much has been made, mostly critical, of the Mark VIII's fantail with its spare-tire bulge, a Lincoln trademark from about the time Henr Ford was building three-engine airplanes. Chrysler has dumped fins, and Cadillac no longer offers mammary bumpers, goes the carping, so Lincoln is guilty of retro froufrou by designing a rear-deck bulge where a spare wheel no longer bulges. What critics seem to be ignoring is that as long as Rolls-Royce hangs on to square radiators and BMW sticks with twin grilles, where's the hurt in reprising the quasi-Quasimodo look of Lincoln's auspicious history? The same argument applies to the laid-back, chromium and vertically barred grille. Without it, the peasantry might not know this was a luxury Lincoln. Now for the great news. The Mark VIII comes with Ford's new, 32-valve, 4.6-liter V-8 that is a mighty match for the Northstar engine GM uses in its reborn Cadillacs. The Ford power source issues 280 horsepower--10 short of Northstar, but more than Infiniti Q45 and Lexus LS400 and 30% more than the departing Mark VII. Horsepower, however, doesn't mean much until intelligently mated with fuel induction, engine management and transmission systems. Most important is that power must come on very early in the acceleration cycle and not flag until forward progress fringes on the insane. In the Mark VIII, 90% of the torque is available almost from the get-go, so what once was a blundering bus is good for 0-60 times of 7.7 seconds--on a par with Infiniti Q45 and quicker than Lexus SC400. In the mid-ranges--from 50 m.p.h. on up, where the majority of freeway klutzes seem to be doing their worst--the Mark VIII digs out like a scalded Tow missile. How fast is that? Under sponsorship of Ford's Specialty Car Development Group, a mostly stock, only lightly modified Mark VIII recently ran the Bonneville Salt Flats at an average 181.7 m.p.h. The new Lincoln's chassis has been borrowed from the well-blooded Ford Thunderbird of established stiffness and polite handling. The ride remains softer than most--another gesture toward the traditional Lincoln buyer--although stability is enhanced by self-leveling, speed-sensingair springs that raise or lower the car almost one inch. Steering, however, is the pits. It's speed sensitive--which lightens turning pressures at slow speeds and weights them for higher speeds--but the steering feels spongy. Finding center and precise wheel setting is a grope. Over-steering, then over-correcting, is a frequent problem, particularly during smarter lane changes. Or when holding position in lane between two other cars. The Mark VIII is longer, wider and approximately the same weight as the Mark VII. It feels shorter, narrower, much lighter and as nimble--here it is again--as Chrysler's LH line. The styling of the interior--with its terraced dash and console panel for radio and climate controls canted toward the driver--is very contemporary. But some parts of the design are flawed. For taller drivers, the comfortable seats do not travel far enough to the rear. Also, the rear-view mirror is set midway down the windshield, a huge distraction blanking about 30% of the driver's right-side visibility. Standard equipment--driver- and passenger-side air bags, anti-lock brakes, leather seats, alarm system, remote power locking, automatic climate control--is everything you would expect to find on a luxury coupe. Overall, the Mark VIII is an honest luxury car of genuine high performance. It clearly deserves a center-stage role as the domestic industry improves its competitiveness against luxury imports. Still, the car will require some refinement before assuming a lead in its class. Ford has said that will be done three years hence, a drastic shortening of the standard redesign cycle--another lesson Detroit has learned from the Asian punch-up. Meanwhile, Ford can take much comfort from elevating its Mark class from overstuffed muscle cruiser to prime inter ational threat. 1993 Lincoln Mark VIII The Good Contemporary looks and technology for 50-year-old marque. Retains luxury cachet and equipment. Competent alternative to imports and priced to compete. Gutsy, muscular engine. The Bad Spongy steering. Over-chromed for today's tastes. The Ugly Fussy wheels. Cost Base: $36,640 As tested: $39,489 (includes leather upholstery, driver- and passenger-side air bags, automatic climate control, anti-lock brakes, traction assist, alarm, keyless entry and cellular phone). Engine 4.6 liter, 32-valve V-8 developing 280 horsepower. Type Five-passenger, rear-drive, luxury coupe. Performance 0-60 m.p.h., as tested, 7.7 seconds. Top speed, governed by fuel cutoff, 130 m.p.h. Fuel consumption, EPA city and highway, 17 and 25 m.p.g. Curb Weight 3,750 pounds.
Closest Dealers Listing this Car
Featured Services for the Lincoln Mark VIII
- Sell your current car quickly and easily on Cars.com.
*Invoice prices are made available by Cars.com and are not dealer advertising. All prices are subject to regional variations. Prices last updated 9/23/10. Click here for more information.