Pros: A near-BMW made by Lincoln
Cons: Still needs work in acceleration, manual tranny availability, and styling
Before I purchased my 1997 BMW 328i sport in September 99, I test drove several cars. The 2000 Lincoln LS V8 was one of them. Now that I've owned my BMW 328i for over a year, I have decided to write this comparison of both cars.
It may surprise some, but I would give this category to the LS. The LS sports an easy-to-use, ergonomic control layout. The BMW's control layout consists of lots of little buttons that are hard to identify quickly. I also thought the quality of materials used in the LS were better than most cars I had tested. Furthermore, I'm pretty sure than the LS stereo system has the BMW's factory stereo beat by a large margin. The Bimmers' stereo is very poor.
This one goes to the BMW. It looks small outside, but is actually quite roomy, comfortable and accomodating inside. The LS suffers from the huge drivetrain tunnel running between the driver and passenger seats. This creates a somewhat claustrophobic feel. The LS also suffers from a serious lack of cabin storage areas and pockets. The BMW is not much better, though.
Both cars feel extremely solid while driving. The LS really excels here, as it feels just as solid as the BMW, whose build quality is legendary.
STEERING AND HANDLING
Here's another area where Lincoln just really hit the mark dead on. The LS feels very BMW-like in this area, which is high praise indeed! The LS has wonderfully responsive steering, and tackles corners with almost no body lean and feels very capable. The 328i still comes out on top because it weighs less, which makes it easier to maneuver through corners.
This is the LS' major weakness. Even with the V8 engine, it simply does not have the aggressive acceleration of a BMW straight-six. The BMW engine pulls like a rocket sled all the way to redline. The BMW also carries less weight, hence better acceleration from less power. Still, the LS V8 is not weak by any means. It simply doesn't produce that instantaneous, full-throttle "body slam" acceleration that the BMW engine does from any RPM.
This category is subjective, so this is just my opinion (well, it's *all* my opinion, but this especially is :-P). I love the styling on my 328. It is low-slung, rakish, elegant, and very European in its character. Every line, curve, and contour exists in harmony with the cars design as a whole. It's a beutiful car. The LS, on the other hand, looks pleasant in a generic way from most angles, but looks completely awful from the rear. Lincoln must get off the fence on the styling for this car. Either it is marketed to Lincolns traditional audience of wealthy retirees, or it is being marketed to the younger BMW buying audience. One thing is for certain, BMW buying customers have no love for cheap, flashy chrome accents.
A true performance sedan comes available with a manual stick shift transmission. Every automotive enthusiast knows this. Until Lincoln offers *every* LS model with an optional stick, most enthusiasts will scoff at it and take the BMW with a stick.
The LS is truly a landmark car for Lincoln. I can't recall there being any other American car that could come so close to matching the strengths of a BMW. I only hope that Lincoln aggressively pursues a plan to strengthen the LS' market identity further and addresses the areas where it falls short of BMW. A viable American competitor for BMW can only be a good thing for both Lincoln buyers and BMW buyers as well.