By Jeremy Cato
The Lincoln LS near-luxury sedan arrived for the 2000 model year with a mission: give buyers who would never think about a Lincoln, buyers most likely to opt for a BMW or a Mercedes, a North American choice.
Well it’s worked. According to Lincoln officials, 70 per cent of LS owners were first-time Lincoln buyers. This all-new model for 2000, riding on a platform shared with the Jaguar S-Type, has become a nice little success story.
Now for the used car buyer, the LS has done reasonably well on the quality front. There have been only three safety recalls and of the technical service bulletins, those related to the powertrain control module (PCM) seem the most noteworthy. Overall, the car has held up reasonably well. Better still, for those looking for value in a slightly used sports/luxury sedan, the LS offers quite a bang for the buck.
I should note that for the 2003 model year Lincoln made many, many improvements – enough to considerably separate 2000-2002 cars from the 2003s. The 2003 LS is the nicest, most desirable Lincoln I’ve seen in a quarter century.
In particular, the updated 2003 cabin is quite beautiful and very well put together. Ford Motor Co., Lincoln’s parent, has gone to great lengths to improve vehicle interiors across the range, and the LS shows the success of that effort.
As for the driving dynamics, for 2003 Lincoln reworked and upgraded the speed-sensitive, variable-assist steering, four-wheel disc brakes and independent suspension. The newest version feels surprisingly nimble for a domestic luxury car, with no compromise in ride quality.
Also for 2003, Lincoln hiked the output on the twin-cam 3.9-litre V8 by nearly 30 horsepower, to 280 horsepower. All in all the 2003 upgrades – from road manners to safety features – have been noteworthy.
Still, a slightly older LS is a very nice car, and as I say, a superb value (look at the Red Book prices). Richard Parry-Jones, Ford’s top product development executive called the 2000 Lincoln LS “an American original,” not a German wannabe or Japanese copy.
He meant this front-engine, rear-drive executive sedan is a new twist on an American luxury car. Lincoln officials, in fact, touted the original LS as a sedan that can drive like a BMW 5-Series, but is bigger and less expensive. Well, I’d argue the LS doesn’t drive quite like the current outgoing version of the 5-Series (an all-new 5-series comes for 2004), but the LS is very good and it’s definitely bigger and cheaper.
At launch, Lincoln sold two main versions of the LS: a V6 available with a manual transmission since discontinued and a V8. The 3.0-litre V6, which traces its roots to the overhead cam V6 in Ford’s Taurus, produced 210 horsepower at launch, while the all-aluminum 3.9-litre V8, a Jaguar derivative, was first rated at 252 hp.
The V8 is a fine, smooth engine with lots of torque for quick start-ups. Best of all, the mid-range power you need for passing and merging into traffic is well matched with the five-speed autobox.
Speaking of Jaguar, for the record, about 40-45 per cent of parts are shared between the LS and the S-Type, although most of the things you “see, touch, feel or smell” are unique to each automobile. Obviously, comparisons of the LS and S-Type are inevitable, so let’s deal with them – especially given a used luxury car buyer might want to cross-shop the two.
For looks, the LS is more upright than the S-Type, there’s less power from both engines, and unlike the S-Type in North America, a five-speed manual gearbox was originally available with the LS V6.
In addition, the LS has all along had more aggressive suspension tuning, the styling is considerably more bland inside and out, there are fewer elaborate luxury features and the look and feel of cabin materials are clearly a step down from the Jag.
Still, the LS is no second-rater. For instance, its most noteworthy high-tech feature is AdvanceTrac, which is a computer controlled system that helps keep the driver from spinning out in high-speed cornering. It works by applying braking effort at the appropriate wheel to correct slides and keep the car heading where it’s aimed. It’s a major benefit in rain or snow, but also comes into play on dry roads when you find yourself over your head in a tight corner. I’d recommend looking for it.
The LS has also come with a very advanced five-speed automatic transmission with a clutchless manual shift mode. Without doubt, this transmission is one of the car’s strongest points. Meanwhile, full automatic shifts are quick and clean.
The handling and overall road manners of the LS will surprise anyone who’s driven anything else from Lincoln in the last eight decades or so. Ford recruited young engineers with plenty of racing experience to tune the suspension and it shows. Imagine that! A Lincoln from race-bred engineers.
If you find a used car with the Sport package (standard with the V6 manual) you’ll get the 17-inch wheels, harder brake pads, quicker steering and high-performance tires. They raise the performance bar. Whichever version, the LS is quiet and composed, the product of an excellent chassis, a rigid body structure and tight, thick sealing both around the glass, at the doors and along the floor.
Finally, a few words about the competition. The near-luxury segment has been very busy these last few years, so you have some options. Among them consider a used Lexus GS 300, along with an Audi A6, BMW 3- and 5-series, the Mercedes-Benz C-class and E-class cars, the Infiniti I30 and Q45 and Acura’s RL.
Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.
For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.
For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.