2004 Lincoln LSE V-8
Test car not exactly as shown. Click image to enlarge

by John LeBlanc
photos by Grant Yoxon

The concept of the original Lincoln LS luxury sport sedan was unique when it was launched in 1999, as a 2000 model. Here was Ford, with its Lincoln division, taking on the Europeans and the Japanese who had ruled this part of the market since wheels were round with a genuine, made-in-America, rear-wheel-drive import fighter.

Sized like a BMW 5 Series, but priced more like a 3 Series, the Lincoln LS handled well, had aggressive European styling, and came with top-notch engines. Heck, you could even order up a manual transmission – a sure sign Lincoln was serious about taking on the established players in the luxury sport sedan field.

Accelerate ahead five years, and the luxury sport sedan marketplace has become more competitive than ever. Is the 2004 Lincoln LS still a value compared against today’s newer and updated Europeans and Japanese? And what about Lincoln’s domestic competitors who have joined the battle with their own rear-drive luxury sport sedans?

To keep up, the Lincoln LS received more than 500 upgrades in performance, engineering, and luxury features just last year. New for 2004 is the LSE appearance package at $2,995, available with both the V-6 and V-8 engines. That added chrome wheels, distinctive front and rear fascias, fog lamps, grille, spoiler, and other LSE-specific trim pieces to my V-8 equipped test car. With additional options, its $51,825 base price ballooned to $64,855.

2004 Lincoln LSE V-8

2004 Lincoln LSE V-8
Click image to enlarge

Lincoln is certainly keeping up with the “sport” portion of the “luxury sport” equation by giving the buyers in this class what they crave: more horsepower. The 3.9-litre V-8 gained 28 horsepower last year, and now totals a very healthy 280. Torque is also up, to 286 pound-feet from 267, giving real ability to this 1,729-kilogram sedan for passing manoeuvres or finding holes in traffic.

Lincoln claims a half-second reduction in the 0-100 km/h sprint, to around seven seconds flat, bettering such six-cylinder competitors as the Mercedes Benz E320 ($71,350).

Forget the numbers, press the gas pedal, and the improved engine is immediately felt in a giddy appreciation of V-8s in general and the authoritative and muscular sounds coming from under the hood of my LSE.

All LS V-8 cars are fitted with the SelectShift automatic-manual transmission that allows drivers to swap gears on their own using the console shifter between the front seats. Unlike the auto-manuals found in many competitors, there’s no rev limiter, which means you can spin the engine to the redline without the electronic nannies kicking in with an awkward, unwanted upshift.

2004 Lincoln LSE V-8
Click image to enlarge

I highly recommend Lincoln’s stability control system, called AdvanceTrac ($1,195). It uses the brakes and the “drive by wire” throttle to help keep this powerful rear-drive car on the road when our Canadian weather conditions, or drivers, attempt otherwise.

Equipped with the V-8, the Sport suspension and the SelectShift transmission, the Lincoln LS has plenty of power, and can be fun to drive. But what about the “luxury” side of this sedan? After all, it’s a Lincoln, right?

Although the LS is not at Audi’s lofty standards, I was surprised at the level of fit and finish inside the car – quite an improvement from the original LS models. The interior was simple and elegant and had an easy-to-use control layout.

Despite the $3,700 cost, the new touch-screen, DVD-based navigation system was very user-friendly. No mice, no dials, just touch the screen. The LS cabin, being well insulated from wind and road noise, allowed the new 10-speaker THX-certified audio system to sound its best.

2004 Lincoln LSE V-8

2004 Lincoln LSE V-8
Click image to enlarge

In the back, there’s a luxurious amount of room for three adults, more comfortable than an Infiniti M45 ($62,000), or even the Lincoln’s twin, the Jaguar S-Type V-8 ($72,950). For utility, the rear seats fold down and the large trunk has 382 litres of golf-club toting capability.

Compared with much more expensive V-8 engined European and Japanese rivals, such as the BMW 545i ($77,700) or Lexus GS 430 ($69,500), the LS has a distinct price advantage. Unfortunately, that edge evaporates when the five-year-old Lincoln is compared to its newer domestic rear-drive competition.

If you agree with its cutting-edge styling, Cadillac’s more athletic CTS Sport ($54,035) is definitely worth considering over the Lincoln. But the one car that blows away both the CTS and the LS in price and performance is Chrysler’s new 300C sedan ($42,995).

With its aggressive looks, stirring Hemi V-8 and Mercedes-inspired suspension, the 300C has stolen some of the Lincoln’s thunder as a North American challenger to the imports in an ever more competitive class.

Still, if you can stay away from some of the pricey options that bloat the Lincoln’s base price, and the conservative styling is more your cup of tea, then the LSE V-8 could be your pick as a luxurious and sporty American-made sedan.

Technical Data: 2004 Lincoln LSE V-8

Base price $51,710
Options $11,960 (Advance Trac ($1,195); power moonroof ($1,595); heated rear seats ($520); DVD Nav/THX six-CD audiophile ($3,700); HID headlamps ($850); side air curtains, extended rear (radar) park assist ($1,105); LSE package ($2,995)
Freight $1,085
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $64,855
Type 4-door, 5 passenger midsize sedan
Layout longitudinal front engine/rear-wheel-drive
Engine 3.9 litre V-8, 32 valves, DOHC
Horsepower 280 @ 4,000 rpm
Torque 286 lb.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
Transmission Five-speed automatic with manual shift feature
Tires 235/50VR-17 Michelin HX MXM4
Curb weight 1,729 kg (3,768 lb.)
Wheelbase 2,908 mm (114.5 in.)
Length 4,925 mm (193.9 in.)
Width 2,035 mm (73.2 in.)
Height 1425 mm (56.1 in.)
Cargo capacity 382 litres (13.5 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City 14.2 l/100 km (20 mpg Imperial)
  Hwy 9.1 l/100 km (31 mpg Imperial)
Fuel type Premium gasoline (recommended)
Warranty 4 years/80,000 km, scheduled maintenance included

Connect with Autos.ca