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Lincoln LS benefits from added features

April 03, 2004|by JASON STEIN/Wheelbase Communications

When it was first introduced in 2000, the Lincoln LS was designed not only as a domestic alternative to upscale European sport sedans, it was meant to be a demographic lightning rod.

Lincoln saw the average age of its buyers creeping toward retirement; it needed some new buyers . . . and the vehicles to woo them.

Four years after the LS's introduction, Lincoln dealerships are finally noticing something different: the clientele is getting younger. After numerous tweaks under the hood and inside the cockpit, Lincoln promises the package is getting better.

In 2003, the rear-wheel-drive LS received a complete redesign. Horsepower was boosted in the 3.9-liter V-8 and the 3.0-liter V-6 (now 280 and 232, respectively). Interior improvements were meant to give the LS a more upscale ambience. Real walnut trim found its way onto the option list along with a high-grade stereo and an on-board navigation system.

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For 2004, Lincoln says it has sharpened the LS even further by reducing noise, vibration and harshness.

Why all the attention to detail? The competition is cutthroat. Lincoln has aimed the LS squarely at BMW and Mercedes-Benz buyers, consumers who are some of the most discerning in the market.

After a few years of tweaks, tugs and pulls, Lincoln hopes the LS finally makes a convincing argument.

For starters, Lincoln has simplified the packages.

Buyers now have the choice of a V-6 in either Luxury or Premium or a V-8 in Sport or Ultimate models.

All are smartly appointed and, even in V-6 form, come with standard or optional equipment you would expect when you have to compete with the big Europeans. Things like a power moonroof, rain-sensing wipers, heated and cooled front seats covered in perforated leather, power-folding outside mirrors and an in-dash six-disc CD changer.

Step up to the V-8 Sport and you'll get most of the features of the Luxury V-6, but with 17-inch wheels and an automatic transmission that lets you manually shift without a clutch.

Or there's the option of going all-out with the V-8 Ultimate (formerly V-8 Premium Sport). The Ultimate adds Xenon headlamps and a sport-tuned suspension. A Euro-look LSE version (pictured) with chrome wheels, a unique front fascia and wood trim rounds out the line.

Other options include a DVD-based navigation system and a THX-certified 10-speaker audio system. THX is the digital surround sound usually found at your local movie theater. Combined with real wood, faux titanium and chrome accents, the interior is another way Lincoln strives to keep up with the competition.

But to really compete with the European makes, you've got to have all the technology, so Lincoln made sure to stock the LS with other "essentials," such as traction control, which is standard across the line.

Stability control is standard on the V-8 Ultimate (optional on all other trim levels), while the four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes are equipped with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and BrakeAssist. Brake what? Brake who? Both systems provide one common element: control. In emergency situations, the systems are designed to help the driver maintain control of the LS so that they can steer clear of danger.

The exterior of the updated LS includes a new interpretation of the Lincoln grille with a full-perimeter of chrome and new lamps. All LS models now have dual chrome exhaust tips.

It's a package that offers something for just about everyone, with a twist. Lincoln has always sold itself as a domestic alternative to European luxury.

With its buyers getting younger and its products covering a broader spectrum, the LS just might finally be the right sport sedan at the right time, for a new generation.

© 2004, Wheelbase Communications

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