Driving the Lincoln LS is a joy. It feels smooth but connected to the road, with much of that handling tautness we love in the best Japanese and European luxury cars. Handling is excellent. The steering is among the nicest of any car on the road; it gets stiffer the faster one drives.
The world-class handling of the LS comes from engineers who spent considerable time developing a rear-drive chassis with a nearly perfect 50/50 weight distribution (half the weight is on the front wheels and half is over the rear wheels). Most cars have a definite weight bias toward the front end. Lincoln managed this balancing act by, among other things, moving the battery to the trunk and making the hood and front fenders from lightweight (and expensive) aluminum.
The V8 engines feels smooth and sophisticated. It communicates with the transmission for smooth shifts. Punch it and it delivers strong acceleration performance. The automatic is a bit slow to shift at times, a trade-off for its smoothness.
When the LS was launched, we tested the V6 model with a manual transmission to see whether a Lincoln could be fun to drive. It is. The German-made Getrag manual gearbox is smooth and precise. Shifting gears is a joy, and straight-line acceleration with the manually shifted V6 is nearly as quick as that of the V8 with automatic.
The manual V6 comes with 17-inch wheels, low-profile tires and Lincoln's sports suspension. The LS V6 is as much fun to drive on windy mountain roads as any sports sedan.
A sporty driving experience is also available from an automatic V6 or V8 with the Sport Package, which includes the SelectShift option for the transmission. This is the first time a Ford product has used this type of transmission control, where the driver can select either fully automatic or manual shifting. In the manual mode, the driver changes gears by pushing the gearshift lever forward to shift up or by pulling it back to shift down. (A computer makes sure that the driver does not try to shift down when the car is going too fast. And it will shift up automatically if the driver forgets to shift when the engine reaches the redline.)
Enthusiasts groaned when the joint-development program was announced a few years ago, fearing that the traditional Lincoln personality would overwhelm the Jaguar. Instead, the opposite seems to have happened, and the LS drives more like a Jag than a traditional Lincoln. The Lincoln folks, meanwhile, would rather you think of the LS as a competitor for the BMW 5-Series; and while the LS is a little softer than the Bimmer, that's not an unreasonable comparison, either.
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Saturday, April 1st, 2006 AT 11:52 AM