Full 2006 Lincoln Zephyr Review
What's New for 2006
The Zephyr is an all-new midsize luxury sedan from Lincoln. An upscale twin of the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan, it offers unique interior and exterior design elements.
Lincoln is on a mission to attract younger buyers with modern machines styled with traditional understated elegance. For 2006, the company hopes to accomplish this with its all-new Zephyr midsize sedan. The Zephyr, the name of which Lincoln also used for a series of pre-World War II cars, is the least expensive model in the Lincoln lineup. Like the Fusion and Milan, the Lincoln Zephyr rides on a stretched and widened version of the highly acclaimed Mazda 6 platform. Because the Zephyr is both wider and longer than the Mazda 6, it combines a confident on-road demeanor with ample interior space for five adult passengers.
To help differentiate the Lincoln Zephyr from its less expensive Ford and Mercury siblings, the Lincoln car is equipped with stylish center stack design and upscale interior materials such as standard leather upholstery and aluminum-finish trim that contrasts with a buyer's choice of either light- or dark-colored wood. On the outside, the Zephyr features a traditional Lincoln grille, standard 17-inch wheels and LED taillamps. Unique features not found on the Fusion and Milan include HID headlights, a navigation system and ventilated seats. Zephyr power comes from a 3.0-liter, 221-hp V6 hooked up to a six-speed automatic transmission.
Among this trio of new midsize sedans, the 2006 Lincoln Zephyr is the most luxurious in terms of features and design. Viewed purely from this standpoint, it's the best of the three. But given the Zephyr's higher price and luxury nameplate, we think that some shoppers will find it to come a bit short in performance and premium features compared to the competition.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The midsize Lincoln Zephyr sedan comes in one basic trim level. Standard features include 17-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather seating, wood trim, an MP3-compatible six-speaker audio system with an in-dash CD changer, 10-way power-adjustable front seats with driver memory, a split-folding rear seat, an analog clock, cruise control, full power accessories and keyless entry. Options on the Lincoln car include a DVD-based navigation system, power moonroof, HID headlamps and ventilated seats. A unique THX-II audio system is also available that features a 600-watt amplifier driving 14 speakers.
Powertrains and Performance
The front-wheel-drive Lincoln Zephyr comes with a 221-hp, 3.0-liter V6 mated to a standard six-speed automatic transmission. This transmission shifts well enough, but we wish it had a true manual-shift mode instead of just two forward-gear gates ("D" and "L").
Four-wheel antilock disc brakes are standard on all Zephyr models, along with traction control. Oddly, stability control is not offered. The Zephyr includes standard front-seat side airbags and head-protecting side curtain airbags for all outboard occupants.Additionally, the B-pillars (between the front and rear doors) are reinforced to direct side-impact energy down and away from passengers during a crash. The roof structure is similarly reinforced to pass proposed rollover crush standards that won't take effect until 2009. In NHTSA crash tests, the Lincoln Zephyr posted four stars (out of five) for frontal impact, while side-impact testing yielded five stars (front) and four stars (rear).
Interior Design and Special Features
The Zephyr's upscale interior offers an effective blend of premium materials and traditional design elements. The look is clearly Lincoln, which should satisfy those with traditional tastes. Satin aluminum-color trim is standard, along with a choice of either dark ebony or light maple wood accents. A DVD-based navigation system is available, along with a THX II-certified audio system with 14 speakers. Base and optional audio systems are MP3-capable, and the split-folding rear seat, along with a 15.8-cubic-foot trunk, adds to the Zephyr's utility. Most buyers will find the Lincoln Zephyr suitably roomy with ample head-, shoulder and legroom for adults to ride comfortably in the front or back.
With its responsive steering and quiet ride, the 2006 Lincoln Zephyr is as nimble on back roads as it is comfortable on the highway. Wind and road noise are effectively quelled at highway speeds, and the transmission offers crisp upshifts and downshifts, although we wish it provided manual access to gears. Overall performance is sufficient, but the Zephyr's acceleration pales in comparison to the similarly priced Maxima and Passat.