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Dynamically, Lincoln has nailed the suspension and steering we love in European sport sedans, and with BMW 5 Series size at a 3 Series price, we see why the LS is winning entry-luxury buyers over. But there is work to do, namely with regard to the automatic transmission and weak interior materials.
Confident steering and handling, choice of either a V6 or V8 engine, comfortable and roomy interior, clean exterior design.
Acute lack of interior storage space, V8's transmission isn't as good as expected, questionable build quality.
Available LS Sedan Models
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The LS' already handsome appearance can be further enhanced with the LSE appearance package that includes 17-inch two-tone Blade Grey wheels, a unique front fascia, round foglights, modified Blade Grey grille with color-keyed upper trim piece, side rocker panels and rear valance, low profile spoiler, dual stainless-steel exhaust tips and LSE floor mats. Lincoln makes an in-dash CD changer standard for 2002 (with Alpine Audiophile components on Sport models) and restyles the 16-inch alloy wheels on non-Sport V6 and V8 versions. A Vehicle Communication System, which provides a voice-activated Motorola Timeport mobile phone, is optional and includes safety and security services, route guidance and access to weather reports, stock quotes and sports scores. Three new colors replace three old ones.
Is it possible to create a car that melds American luxury with European driving dynamics? Sure. Lincoln proves it with the remarkable LS.
One of our favorite entry-level luxury sedans, the LS is Lincoln's most advanced vehicle in terms of technology and engineering, and it is attracting a much younger clientele than Lincoln dealerships are traditionally used to seeing.
While many entry-luxury sedans are just warmed-over versions of lower-level cars (for example, the Infiniti I30's basis is the Nissan Maxima), the rear-drive LS shares its platform with the more upscale Jaguar S-Type.
From the start, Lincoln aimed the LS squarely at the European brands and, specifically, BMW buyers. Total success eludes them, but the LS is closer to the bull's eye than any domestic offering in history.
Buyers can select from one of two engines that both meet LEV standards. The first is a 3.0-liter V6 that produces 210 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 205 pound-feet of torque at 4,750 rpm. It is offered with either a five-speed automatic or a five-speed manual transmission. But with a 3,600-pound curb weight, the LS V6 is somewhat underpowered (given the car's sporting intentions). Fortunately, Lincoln also offers an LS V8.
That car's DOHC 32-valve 3.9-liter eight-cylinder generates 252 horsepower at 6,100 rpm and 261 lb-ft of torque at 4,300 rpm. Power delivery is smooth and linear. Zero-to-60 acceleration with the V8 is a quick 7.2 seconds. The standard five-speed automatic hobbles the engine, however. It is often befuddled, and shifts made using the Sportshift automanual mode (available with the Sport package) lag noticeably. Lincoln has been trying to fix this confused five-speed autobox since the LS' introduction, but during our most recent drive of a 2001 LS V8 Sport model, it still wasn't shifting entirely right.
Handling ability is very good, especially when the LS is equipped with the optional Sport package. The steering is quick and communicative. Ride quality can sometimes be harsh, but overall, the Lincoln strikes a nice balance between luxury and performance. Traction control is standard, and the AdvanceTrac stability control system is optional.
Inside, the LS offers a decent selection of luxury features. The usual suspects are all present, from leather seating surfaces and premium sound to dual-zone climate controls and a driver-preference memory system for seats, mirrors and the steering wheel. Lincoln also offers a standard six-disc in-dash CD changer. A navigation system is MIA, but for 2002, buyers can opt for a new Vehicle Communication System (VCS), which offers route guidance, stock quotes, weather reports and sports scores. VCS also notifies authorities when you need help if you press the overhead "SOS" button, and does so automatically if the airbags deploy.
The Lincoln's looks are derivative of sporty European sedans, which means that it's attractive. This year, opting for the LSE appearance package means modifications to the front fascia and the addition of rocker panels, two-tone wheels, a rear spoiler and dual exhaust pipes.
Primary gripes, other than those associated with the automatic transmission, surround the quality of the materials that go into the construction of the LS and the meager cabin storage space. Minor points aside, the LS is an impressive car. Plunk down $30,000 to $40,000, and you basically get a European sedan with a domestic nameplate and copious interior space. If every American carmaker that tried to take on the Europeans succeeded to the extent the LS does, maybe the Big Three's market share wouldn't be eroding at such an alarming rate.
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