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Lincoln LS: A Princely Powerhouse

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White Knuckle Ride

In evaluating the Advance Track, the vehicle's electronic yaw control system, at Ford's Michigan Proving Ground, a few cautious laps turned into a full-bore, pedal-to-the-metal, edge-of-adhesion rocket ride.

And despite the rain-slicked surface, the unruffled LS never gave an inch. Even Joe Meyers, the head of stability system development, sat unfazed in the back seat as the LS was propelled through white knuckle territory with his system tested to its presumed limits. Call that confidence.

Forget dive and yaw and all that uncomfortable stuff that can create enough jerk and roll on a winding road to make even a roller coaster advocate a little queasy. A fast, tight slalom can't outdo the LS's ability to stay at its level best. There's no sliding toward the opposite door in a tight curve in this one. Imagine that same control during a fast lane-to-lane switch to avoid a freeway pileup, and you've got a reason such stability was built in.

Not A Screeching Halt

Even a two-footed stomp on the brakes from a blast of speed fails to lift the vehicle's rear in a forward pitch. There's no wavering, no discernible instability. It just stops.

And despite flooring it with the automatic stick shift engaged, the transmission won't jump out of first gear. That keeps it stable in a corner that might be overrun by a lesser, less agile automobile.

Lincoln put a new 3.0 liter V6 and 3.9 liter V8 into the LS that should appeal to driving enthusiasts. Both are tight and responsive during acceleration, with plenty of low-end thrust in those engines' torque curves. The V6 delivers 210 horsepower and 205 pound feet of torque, while the V8 builds up to 252 horsepower and 267 pound feet of torque on a trip toward redline territory.

It's obvious the folks at Ford had fun putting this vehicle together. It's as if company officials finally said, "OK. See what you can give it and don't worry about justifying the cost."

With tire-smoking intensity, Ford's Lincoln-Mercury officials set out to prove the LS has the entire luxury package of ride, handling, style and - yes - comfort, not just pieces of the whole. In a gutsy dare that measured attributes against some prime, comparably-priced foreign competitors in the high 30,000 dollar range, LS came out on top. It easily could have taken on their top-of-the-line versions with no apologies.

So what is Ford losing if it sticks with domestic status for the LS just at a time it is re-introducing the Lincoln name to the world?

A Rite of Passage

How about a rite of passage achieved through rigorous real world testing during its trip through pubescence as the LS hunkered down with the best of them on Germany's infamous Autobahn and refused to become a speck in the rear view mirrors of the Ferraris, Porsches and other pedigreed stock that claim that road as their inalienable territory?

What about its tortuous climb on harrowing trails toward the peak of Mt. Fuji in Japan normally negotiated by that country's mini cars.

And what about being halted in mid-traffic by normally blase Detroit drivers accustomed to seeing a steady stream of future year models on the street, but who were tantalized enough to gape.

That's a lot of hard-won status to simply write off as irrelevant, especially in a vehicle with all the qualifications that brought it coveted "car of the year" honors.

In an atmosphere where being branded an American oftentimes has been construed as derisive in luxury car circles and forced domestic companies to think more internationally, Ford has a chance to show it means business in its role as world conqueror.

American luxury? To borrow from recent advertising history, it should say: "Lincoln LS. The car that made the Europeans call 911."


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