Home » Lincoln Once Built A Full-Fledged Sports Sedan, Then Everyone Forgot About It

Lincoln Once Built A Full-Fledged Sports Sedan, Then Everyone Forgot About It

Lincoln Ls Beige Sleeper Ts1
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While it’s commonly thought that Lincoln sedans have been in a slump since the 2000s, that certainly wasn’t the case for the first half of that decade. Roughly twenty-five years ago, Lincoln did try, and while the result was a car that drove great for the money, it didn’t reinvent the brand for the 21st century. For seven model years in the early 2000s, the brand mustered up a car that challenged BMW, and then everyone seemed to forget that it ever existed. That car was the Lincoln LS, and it was way better than you remember.

Would a full-fledged sports sedan help Lincoln now? Given the strength of crossovers, it’s unlikely, although perhaps a sedan could succeed in the EV segment. While our crystal balls are cloudy, hindsight is 20:20, and the Lincoln LS had all the right organs, garnered all the right praise, and yet didn’t quite land with the American public.

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Welcome back to Beige Cars You’re Sleeping On, a weekly series in which we raise the profile of some quiet greats. We’re talking vehicles that are secretly awesome, but go unsung because of either a boring image or the lack of an image altogether.

Forming the bones of the Lincoln LS was the same DEW98 platform you’d find underneath the Jaguar S-Type, which meant that Lincoln got double-wishbone front suspension and a quad-cam V8 architecture to play it. However, instead of creating a smaller Town Car, Lincoln decided to draw a bullseye on the BMW 5 Series. [Ed Note: Autopian contributor Huibert Mees led the suspension design on the LS, so you know it’s good. -DT]. 

[Mercedes’ Note: This car was also the subject of a Holy Grails! -MS]

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2000 Lincoln Ls 7

As a result, the LS landed with your choice of a 210-horsepower three-liter V6 or a 252-horsepower 3.9 liter V8, although only the former was available with a manual gearbox. Power was sent exclusively to the rear wheels, and even the base models got V-rated tires. The result was impressive on the road, with Car And Driver lauding how good of a car the LS was for the money.

The Lincoln LS is not as engaging to drive as a BMW, but it is much more so than the Cadillac Catera or any other Yank-badged Euro-pretender. It is a superb choice of mount for reeling in miles of macadam, and with its current base price of $36,305 we’re as convinced now as we were at the end of our many thousand-mile runs that this is the best-driving V-8 sedan for the enthusiast dollar.

That’s strong praise, but why is this midsize sports sedan forgotten today? While a me-too name likely didn’t help, it’s possible that part of the problem stems from how Lincoln seemingly forgot to style the LS.

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On first glance, there isn’t much to suggest the capability and competency that lies beneath this sedan’s sheetmetal. Teetering on a line between anonymous and frumpy, the LS slides completely beneath the radar, with the early chrome-slathered models being some of the more homely. There isn’t a huge air of premium or sport to the styling, and while that’s good if you want to keep a low profile and enjoy the purr of a V8 to yourself, it’s not exactly a recipe for sales success.

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Lincoln Ls Interior 1

On the inside, things improved. Sure, you had a fair quantity of typical Ford switchgear in the cabin, but by the standards of the day, this was a nice place to be with a padded vinyl-covered dashboard, comfortable seats, and oh-so-aughts shiny wood trim. Amenities were also quite good, with dual-zone automatic climate control, an Alpine premium audio system, rain-sensing wipers, a hands-free car phone, and a six-disc CD changer all appearing on the list of standard or available equipment.

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While 2001 was largely a carryover year, 2002 brought in a few meaningful upgrades. The V6 got an extra ten horsepower to total 220, while the LSE trim added a body kit with the hopes of amping up the visual sportiness. If you’re looking for a manual Lincoln LS, a 2002 V6 LSE is your holy grail, because the row-your-own option was discontinued in 2003.

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However, 2003 didn’t bring all bad news. In addition to new headlights, a new trunklid, and revised bumpers, the LS gained some substantial powertrain upgrades. The V6 gained variable camshaft timing on the intake cams, a new intake manifold with variable runner length, and another 12 horsepower for a total of 232, but the big story was that the 3.9-liter V6 saw a substantial boost in output. With the addition of variable camshaft timing on the exhaust cams, output jumped to 280 horsepower and 286 lb.-ft. of torque, while zero-to-60 mph times fell substantially. In addition, all LS models got an electronic parking brake, while a THX-certified sound system joined the options list.

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While 2004 and 2005 models were largely carryover, the 2006 model simplified the lineup to mark the end of the LS sedan’s run. The V6 was gone, all models got an LSE-style appearance package, and that’s all she wrote. On April 3, 2006, Lincoln’s dream of a rear-wheel-drive sports sedan was dead, with the Ford Fusion-based Zephyr (later called the MKZ) called on to carry the entry-level luxury torch.

2006 Lincoln Ls White 1

These days, you can pick up a Lincoln LS for a song. For instance, here’s a 2006 Sport Package V8 car with just under 106,000 miles on the clock up for sale in Dallas for $5,495. Sure, the headlights could use a polish, but it looks like a reasonably nice car for the money and a definite left-field choice in the world of used luxury sports sedans.

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2000 Lincoln Ls Ivory 1

If you go a bit older and search a bit harder, you might find an even nicer example for less money. Here’s a rather nice 77,000-mile example from the inaugural 2000 model year up for sale in Virginia for $4,900. The leather’s immaculate, the ivory paint is oddly charming, and the whole car just looks right for the asking price.

Now, there is a catch to these cars, and it’s one that befalls many competitors of this era — the timing chain components on the V8 cars don’t last forever. While the parts themselves aren’t terribly expensive, it’s a labor-intensive job, and one that’s sure to have sent a few examples to the scrapheap. However, if you’re feeling ambitious, DIY replacement is well-documented, so feel free to get stuck in.

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Overall, the Lincoln LS is a better car than you might expect. It was an intriguing experiment with promising early results, only made possible thanks to the mergers and acquisitions mess that was Ford’s Premier Automotive Group. Without Jaguar bones, it’s possible we could’ve ended up with a Lincoln-badged Contour, or yet another Lincoln-badged Taurus. More importantly, the Lincoln LS showed gumption, for an attempt at an America 5 Series while the legendary E39 was still in production wasn’t for the faint of heart.

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(Photo credits: Lincoln, TrueCar sellers)

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Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
2 months ago

I always liked these, whereas the Jaguar version looks horrible in my eyes – trying to drape a swoopy, Jaguar-style skin over the LS’s square-rigged architecture made for a miserable half-measure.

MikuhlBrian
MikuhlBrian
2 months ago

While I have always enjoyed that Ford put out the Lincoln LS, I have often heard that they are pretty unreliable. Hindsight being 20/20, I think Ford shot themselves in the foot for relying too heavily on the Jaguar bones especially with the engines. Sure, it was a Lincoln with a manual, but only available for the V6 and not the V8. I remember reading back in the day that the engine bay was too narrow to fit any of the existing Modular V8 engines in it. (this was why when the S197 Mustang came out it was on a heavily modified version of the DEW98 Platform, so modified that it got a new chassis code… it was so that they modular engines could fit).

Imagine if Ford had designed the platform to fit the wider mod V8s in it. Lincoln had already used the DOHC “Intech” V8 in the Mark VIII. That would have been a better (and more reliable) engine choice than the Jag V8. Easily could have had it backed with the manual transmissions from the Mustang. A couple years later, a 400HP Supercharged 4.6L DOHC Terminator in that engine bay would have been a blast as an LSC version.

Dennis
Dennis
2 months ago

Love the way they drive. I still have mine. Lowered 2 inches Roush racing suspension and exhaust custom tune!

Marc Smith
Marc Smith
2 months ago

Quality control in the LS was terrible!!!! That car was a junkbox!!!! That’s why it’s gone now.

PajeroPilot
PajeroPilot
2 months ago

“Lincoln seemingly forgot to style the LS.”

You can say that again! The front looks like the bastard son of a Mitsubishi Magna (Diamanté) and a Hyundai Sonata… and what the hell is with the shape of the grille cut out of the top of the bumper? The arse end looks like a first gen Lexus IS, but less imaginative. It’s one of those GTA type designs, with elements of cars that look familiar but that you can’t quite place.

Norman Freeman
Norman Freeman
2 months ago
Reply to  PajeroPilot

I came here to say the exact same thing that it looks like a Galant or Diamante. There was not individual styling direction and they did not develop a look that make anyone aspire to own it. As a matter of fact that’s all that Lincoln has done with Continentals is make them look like a Seville, then a Jaguar and lastly a Bentley.

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
2 months ago

It was a good attempt, but the decision to have the good engine with the bad transmission, and the good transmission with the bad engine cemented it’s place in history as an also ran, instead of something worth considering.

EricTheViking
EricTheViking
2 months ago

The LS was “destined” to be the first Lincoln model to be officially sold in Europe through Ford sales channel. The 2000–2002 LS had all of requisite ECE symbols on the lighting units, windows, etc., and first Lincoln car with amber turn signal indicators in the taillamps for the US market. LS was also to be first Lincoln to be sold in the United Kingdom as right-hand-drive.

However, lot of Europeans didn’t know what Lincoln represented. The British associated Lincoln with the famous cathedral. So, LS was doomed from the start.

Craig LeMoyne
Craig LeMoyne
2 months ago

I had a 2001 V6 manual. It was a great car: fun to drive, comfortable, and soaked up the miles. I paid around $15,000 for it with 35,000 miles in 2005

John E
John E
2 months ago

The whole “Mitsubishi Diamante” did it first style guaranteed its failure. Also, as Cadillac has learned since then, people who want a European style sport sedan buy a European sport sedan. People who want a midsize luxury/sporty sedan buy a Lexus. This might have worked as a Ford but Lincoln buyers certainly didn’t want it. It was a bad idea.

CUlater
CUlater
2 months ago

Really liked these and the under the radar styling and reputation and resulting rapid depreciation put it on my consideration list when shopping recent year used sport sedans. Ultimately went with the G35x which was slightly more engaging in driving dynamics. My mechanic also recommended the Infiniti as having better reliability which was the final deciding factor. A friend had an LS, which turned out to be fairly reliable, save the coil packs which did fail regularly but were reasonably priced and pretty easy to replace. Oh, and the LS buckets were interesting in that the bottom cushion height adjusted separately from the seat back, like they weren’t connected. Also later had a 2003 Seville SLS, which was avery much larger car, so I wouldn’t have thought of them as contemporary competitors.

Capo Di tutti capi
Capo Di tutti capi
2 months ago

As a kid, I used to admire these cars for their sleek design, especially when compared to the land yacht models that Lincoln was known for. However, as an adult, I wouldn’t own one myself, but it definitely brings back memories of this car setting itself apart from Lincoln’s usual bland copy-paste routine during that era.

Christopher Evert
Christopher Evert
2 months ago

I realize that we’re in a post -Trump world and nearly 50% of society are fiending for fantastical, dramatic misinformation…
…but a heavy grandpa car with a flintstonemobile chassis and a lukewarm motor is not a sport sedan – in any bizzaroworld alternative dimension.

Since it shares parts with a million taxis, at least it’ll be cheap to maintain, I guess. Too bad about the slippery, hot-in-sun, cold-in-cold mom-mobile leather and plastic dash.

Ben Chia
Ben Chia
2 months ago

There were apparently plans to build this in RHD too, opening it (and the Lincoln brand) up to markets like the UK, Australia, Japan etc.

Somehow that never came to fruition, but maybe if it did Lincoln might have been a very different company today. Or not.

SooperDooperPooperScooter
SooperDooperPooperScooter
2 months ago

Just adding to the chorus of folks saying I knew one of these that quite literally fell apart around me. Fun for the first 40k though.

Vic Vinegar
Vic Vinegar
2 months ago

I’m old enough to have known about the LS when it came out, but it didn’t take long for it to get a reputation for not being reliable. And ultimately, they aren’t special enough to bother with in that case.

Arrest-me Red
Arrest-me Red
2 months ago

My parents had a LS, it fell apart at 10k. Leather came off the the seats, constantly in the shop. It felt like a 200k car by the time my parents got rid of it.

Logan King
Logan King
2 months ago

The problem with these is that they were underbaked, seemingly deliberately. Yeah, they were better than the completely avoidable disaster that the Catera was and “blandly handsome” is a lot better than “looks like a Malibu,” but that’s not much of a hurdle to clear and it’s no surprise that they were slaughtered by the CTS as soon as it came out when Ford never did anything to improve the car to make it competitive with it.

It stands out even more as its contemporary Jaguar brother (that the LS was already a fair bit cut down from to the extent of making it a questionable purchase to begin with) was updated fairly extensively at the same time but the LS only got just enough that Ford could claim they weren’t ignoring it and no more. The LS with the 240HP V6 attached to a stick and the 300HP V8 both attached to the 6 speed automatics could still have been reasonably competitive.

Last edited 2 months ago by Logan King
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