2006 Lincoln Zephyr
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Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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Although ‘Zephyr’ might seem like an odd name for a luxury car, it’s a name that goes back a long way in Lincoln’s and Ford’s history. The first Zephyr in 1936 was an “affordable” Lincoln with streamlined styling, unit body construction, and a 4.4 litre V12 engine. The Zephyr name was dropped in 1942, but was revived on some premium, but not very memorable European Fords and American Mercurys in the 60s, 70s and 80s.

‘Zephyr’, by the way, means “a gentle breeze”.

The Zephyr wafts into 2006 as a front-wheel drive entry-level luxury sedan in the $37,000 – $45,000 range, essentially taking the place of the now-discontinued Lincoln LS V6. However, the Zephyr is not a performance-oriented sedan like the LS V6 was. While the LS V6 offered a nicely-balanced rear-wheel drive chassis based on the same architecture as the upscale Jaguar S-Type, the Lincoln Zephyr is based on the front-wheel drive Ford Fusion family sedan platform which itself is derived from the Mazda6 platform.

Compared to the Fusion, the Zephyr offers distinctive styling, more luxury features, more standard safety features, a quieter cabin, and an improved ride. It’s also about $8,700 more than a top-of-the-line Fusion.

2006 Lincoln Zephyr
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The Zephyr comes with the same V6 engine available in the Fusion: a 221 horsepower 3.0-litre DOHC 24 valve V6 mated to a new 6-speed electronic automatic transmission. The 4-cylinder engine offered in the Fusion is not available in the Zephyr. Like the Fusion, the Zephyr has a 4-wheel independent suspension, 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS, and variable-assist power rack and pinion steering.

In Canada, the Zephyr comes in one “V6 Luxury” trim level for a base price of $36,999. Standard features include heated leather seats with 10-way power driver and passenger adjustment, 60/40 folding rear seatbacks, leather-wrapped steering wheel, power windows,

2006 Lincoln Zephyr
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AM/FM/6-disc CD/MP3 player, dual-zone electronic climate control, genuine wood interior trim, cruise control, keyless entry with remote and keypad, speed-sensitive wipers, automatic headlights, heated mirrors with puddle lamps, dual exhausts with chrome tips, traction control, and P225/50R-17 inch tires on 17-inch aluminum wheels.

Also standard are six airbags: two front, two seat-mounted side airbags, and two curtain airbags. The curtain airbags have a new design that compensates for passengers who may be out of position during a collision.

My test car had most of the available options: power moonroof $1,595; heated/cooled front seats $595; HID headlamps $625; 17-inch chrome alloy wheels $1,100; and a THX II Audiophile sound system and navigation system $3,195. With options, Freight and A/C tax, the as-tested price of my Lincoln Zephyr came to $45,359.


Interior


2006 Lincoln Zephyr
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By modern standards, the Zephyr has a rather high, imposing dashboard with smaller instruments and controls. In fact, it looks slightly retro – perhaps even old-fashioned. Still, the dash is nicely-finished with real Maple or Ebony wood trim on the dash, doors and steering wheel, aluminum-look trim in the centre console, a small round clock in the upper dash, and large round chrome vents. The leather-wrapped steering wheel features wood inserts, bright trim, and controls for cruise, radio, and heating on the steering wheel hub.

2006 Lincoln Zephyr
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I found the standard leather upholstered driver’s seat to be very comfortable. The front seats feature power seat adjustments including height, rake, and lumbar support, and the steering wheel tilts and telescopes allowing the driver to find a good driving position. My front seats had the optional heating/cooling functions which are very useful in a car with leather seats. Leather gets awfully hot in the heat of the summer and icy cold in the middle of winter.

Equipped with the optional moonroof, I found front headroom to be only adequate, even for my height of 5′ 9″, with the power seat in its lowest position. The rear seats have generous legroom, and headroom is better in part because the headliner is carved out to create more space. At the rear are fixed head restraints, and a folding centre armrest with two cupholders.

2006 Lincoln Zephyr
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My car had the optional THX II Audiophile system and DVD-based navigation systems which include a 6.5-inch colour touch-screen. The THX audio system includes eight speakers, two amplifiers, two subwoofers and a fast loading 6-disc CD/MP3 player with multi-channel equalization and digital signal processing. The sound is awesome, and sometimes I’d go for a drive in the Zephyr just so I could crank up the stereo and enjoy the subtleties of this great sound.

The optional navigation system has a screen that’s a bit smaller than average. The system includes most of the popular functions that allow you to program in an address or popular destination and receive visual and oral directions to the destination. In the Zephyr, you can even program areas to avoid.

2006 Lincoln Zephyr

2006 Lincoln Zephyr

2006 Lincoln Zephyr
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The screen is a touch-screen that can also be used to operate some radio functions, such as ‘Scan’, Fade, Treble, Bass, Fade, etc. But some functions, such as ‘Scan’ can only be adjusted on the screen, while others like ‘Seek’ and ‘Tune’ have manual buttons.

Below the screen are buttons that provide trip information, such as distance to empty, average fuel economy, and average speed. There is also a button that allows the driver to turn off the “Traction Assist” function.

My biggest complaint with the Zephyr’s controls are the difficult-to-read heater controls. The letters and symbols are quite small, and I was unable to read them at a glance while driving. When the headlights are turned at night, these buttons are backlit, which makes them much easier to read. A separate digital display that shows temperature, ventilation and fan speed is very easy to read, day or night.

The Zephyr’s large 15.8 cubic feet fully lined trunk has a wide opening and 60/40 folding seatbacks, something that’s not available on all luxury cars in this class. The trunk lid can be opened remotely via a button on the key fob.


Driving impressions

Having driven both the Fusion and the Zephyr, I can attest to the Zephyr’s quieter cabin and smoother ride. The Zephyr has more sound insulation, Michelin 17-inch tires with a quieter tread design, and a revised suspension with re-tuned shocks, spring rates and bushings. The net affect is to make the Zephyr feel more luxurious on the road.

2006 Lincoln Zephyr
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Though its 221 hp 3.0-litre, twin overhead cam, four-valve per cylinder V6 is not a particularly large or powerful engine, the Zephyr is surprisingly quick. It’s variable cam timing gives it more flexibility at different engine speeds, plus improved emissions and fuel economy. 0 to 100 km/h takes just 8.0 seconds, according to independent tests conducted by AJAC (Automobile Journalists Association of Canada), and
100 km/h to 0 braking distances of about 40 metres is competitive with other mid-size cars in this category.

With front-wheel drive and traction control, the Zephyr is more sure-footed on wet and snowy roads than the LS V6 was.

2006 Lincoln Zephyr
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Ford’s new 6-speed electronically-controlled automatic transmission provides crisp but barely-felt shifts. The Zephyr responds well when you put your foot down from a standing start, however the transmission seems a bit tardy when you’re really in a hurry to pass somebody.

The Zephyr is a great highway cruiser, with the quiet V6 engine turning over only 1,900 rpm at 100 km/h in sixth gear. Fuel consumption, helped by the high gear ratios of the 6-speed automatic transmission, is a reasonable 11.7 L/100 km (24 mpg) city and 8.4 L/100 km (34 mpg) highway.

With a fully independent suspension and Michelin 225/50R-17 inch tires, the Zephyr soaks up the bumps well and feels stable and controlled, but it’s not nimble or sporty like the LS V6. There’s nothing wrong with the handling, but it’s not a ‘driver’s car’.

2006 Lincoln Zephyr
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I liked the forward visibility � the driver can actually see the end of the hood which makes it easier to park. The rear deck is high and that’s exacerbated by a third brake light housing in the middle of the rear parcel shelf that obstructs rear vision even more.

Overall, the Zephyr is essentially a quieter, more luxurious version of the Fusion with unique Lincoln styling. This strategy of upgrading Ford models into Lincolns and Mercurys has been tried before with limited success: remember the Lincoln Versailles, Mercury Zephyr, and Mercury Bobcat? To its credit, the Ford Fusion is a very good car in the first place, which gives the Zephyr an excellent base to make an even better car.


Competitors

The Zephyr’s closest competitors would include the Cadillac CTS 2.8, Buick Allure CSX, Hyundai Azera, Kia Amanti, Volvo S60 2.5T, Audi A4 2.0T, BMW 325i, Infiniti G35, Jaguar X-Type 3.0, Lexus ES 330, Mercedes-Benz C280, Saab 9-5, VW Passat 3.6, and possibly top-of-the-line Toyota Camrys, Honda Accords, Hyundai Sonatas, and Mazda6s.


Verdict


2006 Lincoln Zephyr
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A roomy and well-equipped mid-size family sedan, the Lincoln Zephyr has a quiet cabin, a comfortable ride, and decent performance, but the heater controls are difficult to read, and equipped with a moonroof, front headroom may be a problem for taller occupants.


Technical Data: 2006 Lincoln Zephyr

Base price $36,999
Options $7,110 (Power moonroof $1,595; Heated/cooled front seats $595; HID headlamps $625; 17-inch chrome alloy wheels $1,100; THX Audiophile and Navigation system $3,195)
Freight $1,150
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $45,359 Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives
Type 4-door, 5-passenger midsize sedan
Layout Front engine/front-wheel-drive
Engine 3.0-litre V6, DOHC, 24 valves, VCT
Horsepower 221 @ 6250 rpm
Torque 205 @ 4800 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Tires P225/50R-17 performance
Curb weight 1545 kg (3406 lbs)
Wheelbase 2728 mm (107.4 in.)
Length 4839 mm (190.5 in.)
Width 1834 mm (72.2 in.)
Height 1453 mm (57.2 in.)
Cargo capacity 447 litres (15.8 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 11.7 L/100 km (24 mpg Imperial)
  Hwy: 8.4 L/100 km (34 mpg Imperial)
Fuel type Regular unleaded
Warranty 4 yrs/80,000 km
Powertrain Warranty 4 yrs/80,000 km
Assembly location Hermosillo, Mexico

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