Lincoln Zephyr is the glamorous sister in Ford’s trio of new midsize sedans. She is the prettiest and best dressed and comes standard with attractive features.

Ford brought out its 2006 sedans to a chorus of accolades, no doubt by those relieved that the struggling automaker had hit the mark. Other than the revamped Mustang and updated F-150, there had been few bright spots in the lineup.

The new sedans, based on a chassis from the Mazda6, land right in the sweet spot of U.S. auto sales, the midsize range populated by such stars as Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Ford Fusion is the basic sedan; the Mercury Milan is a step up in style and substance; and Zephyr is the luxury model. advertisement

The name Zephyr gets recycled from a car famously introduced in 1936 as a less-pricey model designed to lure luxury buyers during hard economic times. Now as then, Zephyr becomes the base model among the high-end breed designed to draw people to the Lincoln brand.

Whether this vaunted Lincoln Zephyr nameplate will resonate with today’s younger buyers remains to be seen.

I’ve driven Fusion and was impressed by its style and overall drivability. Zephyr is based on a slightly longer wheelbase and with the ride tuned toward comfort.

Like the Fusion, Zephyr performs well with few complaints. The only weak spot I see are the traditional styling cues, which may look upscale but fail to set Zephyr apart from the crowd. The target here should be the angular Cadillac CTS, an attention-getting sedan that has become a major part of Cadillac’s rebirth.

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The lowdown

PERFORMANCE: The 3-liter V-6 puts out plenty of horsepower but turns noisy and feels overworked under hard acceleration, foiling the luxury image. The same powerplant pulls all three of the new sedans, and the Lincoln could use an upgrade. A new 3.5-liter V-6 is reportedly in the future.

The automatic has six speeds, which has become a standard among high-end cars, and works flawlessly as it improves fuel mileage and throttle response.

DRIVABILITY: The ride may be tuned for comfort, but Zephyr handles competently with good rack-and-pinion steering and four-wheel-disc brakes. The steering is too light, though, and lacks connectedness.

Zephyr comes with a full contingent of safety features, including side-curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes and traction control. But it lacks stability control.

STYLING: The signature waterfall grille, which cascades across the Lincoln lineup, is a distinctive element of the classy-looking sedan. There’s a jewel-like quality to the fit and finish, adding panache and a look of high-end substance.

The designers should have stretched out a little more, though, and given Zephyr a more exciting shape, like the Cadillac CTS. What’s there is good, but it could have been more.

INTERIOR: Zephyr is beautifully furnished inside, with lush textures and tasteful applications of wood and leather. The interior feels bigger than the car’s midsize dimensions.

All the rich fittings come standard, including a superb audio system, full power front seats and dual-zone climate control. The only thing added to the test car was a pricey navigation system and seat heating and cooling.

BOTTOM LINE: At a base price less than $30,000, Zephyr is a solid value among luxury cars. In coming months, watch for several more Lincoln model introductions as Lincoln chases Cadillac’s newfound success.

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Vehicle type: Five-passenger, four-door sedan, front-wheel drive.

Engine: 3-liter V-6, 221 horsepower at 6,250 rpm, 205 pound-feet of torque at 4,800 rpm.

Transmission: Six-speed automatic.

Wheelbase: 107.4 inches.

Overall length: 190.5 inches.

Curb weight: 3,410 pounds.

EPA rating: 20 city, 28 highway.

Highs: Lush interior, moderate price, good drivability.

Lows: Light steering, engine roar, needs distinctive image.

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Base price: $28,995.

Price as tested: $34,040.


* Navigation system, $2,495.

* Chrome wheels, $895.

* Heated and cooled front seats,$495.

* HID headlamps, $495.

* Shipping, $665.

Read more: For more on the Lincoln Zephyr, go to

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