Pros: handling, power(V-8), smooth ride, nice looking(w/ sports pkg), affordable
Cons: lack of interior storage, steep depreciation, interior materials
This is a review of the 2001 Lincoln LS. Since it was new for 2000, it has only a few changes for 2001. They include things like an improved cupholder, an additional powerpoint, available in-dash CD changer, a compass, a new 17" chrome wheel design on sport models, standard traction control on V-6 models, and several other minor modifications.
The Lincoln LS was a new design for 2000. It is obviously aimed at the sports sedan market currently dominated by the BMW 5 series and the Lexus GS 300/400. While it falls off a bit from their lofty status, it is a well balanced, quality car, and if you simply MUST have an American made automobile, it is a fine choice in lieu of the superior and more expensive European and Japanese sports sedans.
The LS comes in 3 basic flavors: It starts with the V-6 auto model, adds a (more expensive) v-6 manual that comes with a sports package included, and finally, the V-8 auto. The price range between models is huge, ranging from around $30K to over $40K depending on your choice of engine and options. This means the performance also varies a lot, so make sure you're comparing comparable models when test driving. Discounts are available now (spring 2001), so be sure to check real-world prices when shopping vs BMW's, which are available only at near-sticker price.
Exterior/Styling: The look is modern, yet it retains traditional Lincoln styling clues such as the vertical "waterfall" grill and the liberal use of crome accents. The paint is not of European/Japanese quality, but it is a notch above typical American car fare. When cleaned and shined, it looks fine, but it does not have the deep, lusterous look that you'll find on a Lexus, Mercedes, or BMW. I like the lines, especially in Black, but I do feel that tire/wheel selection is important to give it the aggressive look they were going for. My advice is to either go with the sports package and its 17" wheels and P235 tires, or stick with the stock suspension setup and spring for aftermarket 17" wheels and bigger tires. Undershod, it tends to look frumpy and weak, especially from behind.
Interior: Again, the look is modern, with no typical American old style knobs or gauges. Leg room is fine, though the center console intrudes somewhat on the driver's legs(a speaker is there). The seats are about the best I've ever sat in. Just the right combination of comfort and support. Others may prefer more lateral support, but I have a broad back and heavily bolstered seats are uncomfortable for me. Some of the plastics used in the dash are a bit shiny, but it is a step up for Lincoln, generally. Rear seat room is not typical Lincoln size. It's best for 4 passengers, and though it's not cramped, it's not a town car, either. Compared to the BMW 5 series and Lexus GS models, it's close enough to call it a draw. The stereo system is ok, but not in the class of the Lexus base or Nakamichi systems. The Cupholders are improved for 2001. The arm rest needs more padding, but I never found it uncomfortable.
Performance: With the V-8 model, acceleration is satisfying, though not breathtaking like with BMW's 540i V-8 or Lexus's GS 400. Shifts are smooth and you do get a feel of being in a very nice, very luxurious car. 2000 models have had some reported problems getting smooth shifts, but my experience on a test drive seemed fine. V-6 models are merely adequate sedans. You won't have trouble merging or pulling out in traffic, but you won't feel a rush of excitement either. It's in the range of a Honda Accord in terms of acceleration. The manual transmission is more fun to drive, and helps with the power situation some, but let's face it, you will get creamed at resale time buying a manual tranny Lincoln. (then again, any Lincoln is going to hurt you if you sell it after only a few years of ownership) Most drivers will put up with the hassles of driving a manual in traffic if they get either fantastic gas mileage or lots of driving fun, but not with this car. Buy the V-8 auto. I have noticed a lot of V-6 models for sale, and I suspect it may be because their owners have realized they want a little more "sport" in their sport sedan.
Handling is finely balanced, with good grip in the sport mode, and a softer ride with the regular suspension(though the sport ain't bad). It is more than adequate for any driver, but doesn't reach the high levels of driver feel and control that you can find on almost any BMW model. But then again, I find the Lincoln to be a bit more comfortable and easy to enter/exit, so as a daily driver, the LS more than holds its own. A vehicle yaw control system is available as an option. This is a standard feature of the BMW and Lexus lines.
Braking is fine, with abs on all 4 wheels. It stops when you want it to, and quickly.
This, I must emphasize, is not a "race car" type vehicle like the BMW, but again I must say that it is more than adequate for daily driving use. Unless you drive at illegal speeds, in an unsafe manner, it is all you could really ask for, except that it does not possess blistering acceleration.
Dealers/Reliability/Intangibles: One problem luxury buyers will find with the LS is that many of them are sold at Ford dealerships, which possess neither the high-end sales or service attitude. You may not receive the extra high level of service you get with a BMW, Mercedes, or Lexus vehicle. If you can live with this, fine. But don't expect to be pampered.
Lincoln reliability, while not terrible, has never equaled that of the Japanese or European brands. Many new LS owners have reported problems that are typical on new designs, so hopefully the 2001 models will improve on 2000 model reliability. Again, you will get adequate, though not outstanding reliabilty. It is simply not in the same class as the Lexus and Infiniti brands.
While Lincolns are considered luxury vehicles, in reality they possess none of the cachet that a BMW, Mercedes, or Lexus has. Being the traditional choice of the over-60 crowd doesn't help, either. But it is a good looking car, and may well put Lincoln back on track to become a real luxury vehicle line.
The bottom line: A fully equipped LS, with all the goodies, can be obtained for just over $40,000. A V-8 LS really compares more with the 6 cylinder BMW And Lexus offerings, the 530i and GS 300. For comparison, a comparably equipped 530i is available in the mid $40's, and a V-8 540i can run up to $55K. The GS 300 will cost you about $42K, and the GS 400 about $49K. So, as far as purchase price, the LS is a tempting bargain. Especially if you can live with a more modestly equipped V-6 model in the low to mid $30's. Honestly, I feel that the majority of luxury sedan drivers really care more about image, comfort, and looks than performance, so at this price it truely is a bargain.
One flaw in this "buy a bargain" strategy is resale value. Lexus and BMW currently possess phenomenal resale value, but past Lincolns have dropped like a rock in value. It's hard to say how the LS will fare (probably better than past Lincolns, but not in BMW/Lexus/Mercedes territory), but when you factor in inferior resale, it may not be as big a bargain as you think. So compare closely. I suggest using the resale information available at Carwizard.com or other sites to find out projected resale values.
Overall, there is no reason not to buy a Lincoln LS, if you are in the market for this class of car. But for pure value/performance/luxury/comfort/utility, take a look at the Acura TL type S first. If you want a upscale car you'll own for 10 years and pass on to your kid, you may find yourself better off in the long run with an Acura or Lexus.