What's New for 1997
Lincoln thoroughly updates this personal coupe, lighting the darn thing up like a Christmas tree in the process. The Mark now has high-intensity discharge front headlamps, cornering lamps, a neon rear applique and puddle lamps. Wow, you'll see this thing from miles away. The hood, grille and interior have also been slightly redesigned.
Since 1984, Lincoln designers have been suffering an internal struggle about the Mark. They've been non-committal about its role in the marketplace, and have been trying to decide if creating a stunning, radical new car will alienate 'traditional' Lincoln buyers. The 1984 Mark VII had a hint of greatness, but was saddled with lots of chrome and the vestigial rear tire hump. By the end of the Mark VII's run, it had gained more supportive seats, the 5.0-liter V8 from the Mustang GT, and an optional sport suspension. A monochrome look was available on the LSC, and the popularity of that trim level should have given the boys in Dearborn a clue. The Mark VII was a pretty good luxo-sport coupe before its demise in 1992, but the sheetmetal definitely needed an update.
The Mark VIII bowed in 1993, sporting an outstanding drivetrain and a radical new look. Unfortunately, the chrome remained, the tire hump was still affixed to the rear end, and the popular LSC model was canceled. Hmmm...still struggling. This year, the Mark VIII has been redesigned, now sporting more lights than the Flamingo Hilton. The front and rear ends have also been restyled, but there still doesn't seem to be a real direction for this car. Is it a great big sports car? A two-door limo? A Ford Tunderbird with lots of chrome? No one seems to be sure. Lincoln claims to have quieted the interior, but we liked it the way it was. What's the point of having that awesome engine if you can't hear it roar every now and again?
The Mark VIII is huge. Long front and rear overhangs contribute to the overall length, and parking this beast can be a chore. The styling is a sore point with us, but in certain dark hues, the Mark looks OK. If you're nuts over the styling, then chances are you'll like the rest of the Mark VIII.
We like Ford's modular 4.6-liter DOHC V8. It's perfectly mated to this big coupe, and goes a long way toward selling us on the car. The interior, like the exterior, is another love/hate design study, and our staff seems evenly split on the dashboard layout. Some find it reminiscent of Honda's Prelude and wish for a version of the Mercury Cougar's outstanding wraparound cockpit, others find the Mark just fine as it is. Some controls and displays have been reworked a few times since 1993, and fake wood has been affixed to the center console to provide some warmth to the techno-industrial interior ambiance.
Under the skin, the Mark VIII is unbeatable, and we think that buyers who like the styling of the Mark VIII will enjoy this quick, competent luxury coupe for many years to come.