Buying a 19951/2 Lincoln Mark VIII LSC can almost feel like investing in a piece of fine art. There's the fact that it's one of only a limited run of 5,000. There are stark artsy touches like no chrome on the bodysides or bumpers. And then there's the Picasso-like price tag $43,550. But like any piece of art, the LSC (for Luxury Sport Coupe) evokes powerful emotional responses both positive and negative.She: When I slid behind the wheel of that Mark VIII I wished the teacher who expelled me from Wendy Ward Charm School when I was 11 could see me now $43,000 would be a small price to pay for that kind of pleasure. She'd realize what a terrible mistake she made and what a big success I am now. You can't tell me that people don't buy cars for their retributive value. Besides, what was so awful about pelting her with atomic fireball candy from the back row? He: You Catholic school girls are all the same. So the rebel inside you wants to show off with a glitzy luxury car? Why not buy a Jaguar or a BMW? She: Those are far too low key. What I liked about the Lincoln are things that might turn off some buyers. The vestigial tire hump may be too much for some people. Same thing for the chrome grille. Granted, they've toned down the chrome a bit on the LSC, but in my case, I wish they'd have kept it. I also really fell in love with the "opal opalescent paint job. Doesn't that sound like some kind of great nail polish? He: You've just made the perfect case for my greatest concern this car is going to seem far too girlish and feminine for many male prospects. Imagine, for a moment, that you could drive the LSC without looking at the gaudy exterior, including that hideous phony spare tire. The Mark VIII really is a sensation to drive. It has a superb chassis, with self-leveling air suspension and front and rear stabilizer bars to limit body roll. The twin-cam V-8 has been goosed to nearly 300 horsepower, and it's eager for you to put your foot into it. Although the car weighs nearly 2 tons, the speed-sensitive variable-assist steering is crisp and responsive, providing you with a surprising amount of feedback from the road. Too bad they couldn't have wrapped it in a more macho set of clothes. She: You lost me on the feedback from the road part. I only concern myself with feedback from old charm school teachers. But I can get beyond that, too. Some luxury cars leave you feeling great on the outside, but cold on the inside. But the Mark VIII's perforated leather seats and redesigned instrument panel and console, in fact, the entire wraparound look of the cabin, made me feel like I was in a hot tub. And I wasn't the only one who had that impression. One female passenger told me that Lincoln should give out bath salts with each purchase, because she had the same sensation, too. He: They should give out sunglasses to any male buyers so your friends won't recognize you. She: Gee, you wouldn't have lasted a minut e at Wendy Ward. While you're preening and worried about what other guys will think of you, let me clue you in. The Lincoln not only does a lot for your psyche, but also it's easy on the wallet. You can expect to pay $10,000 to $20,000 more for a comparable performance package in one of the imports. And for such a heavy car, the LSC gets terrific gas mileage up to 25 mpg on the highway. He>: You've given me terrific gas in this test drive. And aren't you forgetting little annoyances, like the fact that you have to pay $215 extra for traction control? You'll never get through a Michigan winter without it in a heavy, powerful rear-wheel-drive car like the Mark VIII. In a $40,000 car, why would Lincoln want to nickel-and-dime you for the difference? She: That was not a big concern to me. What bugged me was the memory seat settings. They reminded me of my VCR which I have yet to learn to program properly after 10 years. I know, I know. Read the manual. But I don't have tim r that and the seat and mirrors were constantly moving into the wrong position when I got in. He: That's because I read the manual, so every time I got in the car, I just punched in my own memory setting. Too bad they don't write a manual on how to balance your checkbook, huh? Or is that a sexist crack? She: You're just not in touch with your feminine side. And when I was 11, I wasn't in touch with mine either. But I am now, so the Lincoln feels right. He: Does that mean I have to pay a visit to Wendy Ward before I can learn to love the Lincoln? Anita's rating: (outstanding) Paul's rating: (outstanding) What we liked: Great performer; good value; zippy engine; lots of rear seat room What we didn't like: Forgettable styling; generic cabin; watch out for blind spots; no ABS on test car. What we liked: More power than you need; supremely comfortable; glitzy cockpit and instrument panel; love the phony spare tire (Anita). What we didn't like: Too much of a soft, feminine look (Paul); lose the phony spare tire (Paul); traction control should be standard; may be too gaudy for some. Type: Front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, four-passenger luxury/sport coupe. Price: Base, $38,800; as tested, $43,550 (including a $640 destination charge). What's new for 1995: LSC edition, redesigned instrument panel and audio system. Standard equipment: Perforated-leather power seats, power heated mirrors, alloy wheels, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift lever, full-length center console, burl-walnut inlays, rear defroster, door map pockets, tilt steering column, trip computer, automatic climate control, AM-FM stereo with cassette, four-wheel power disc brakes, tinted glass, automatic headlamps, keyless entry system, power door locks, power windows, cruise control, power steering, air-spring suspension and intermittent wipers. Safety features: Dual air bags, antilock brakes, anti-theft alarm system and traction control (optional). Options on test vehicle: Electronic traction control ($215), tri-coat paint ($300), power moonroof ($1,515), LSC package ($1,300), electrochromatic auto-dim mirror ($215) and premium JBL audio system ($565). EPA fuel economy: 18 mpg city/25 mpg highway. Engine: 4.6-liter V-8; 290 horsepower at 5750 rpm; 295 lb.-ft. of torque at 4500 rpm. Transmission: Four-speed automatic. Competitors: Cadillac Eldorado, Buick Riviera, Lexus SC400, Acura Legend Coupe, BMW 840Ci, Jaguar XJS and Mercedes-Benz E320. Specifications: Wheelbase, 113 inches; overall length, 207.3 inches; curb weight, 3,768 pounds; legroom, 42.6 inches front/32.5 inches rear; headroom, 38.1 inches front/37.5 inches rear; shoulder room, 58.9 inches front/59.5 inches rear. Where built: Wixom, Mich. 12-month insurance cost, according to AAA Michigan: $1,556 *Rates based on an average family of four from the Livonia area whose primary driver is aged 40 with no tickets who drives 3-10 miles each way to work. Rates reflect multicar discount and, where appropriate, discounts for air bags and seat belts.
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