A Cross-Generational Discourse by Fleetwood Brougham and Cocoa Efficient
After an over-extended love affair building massive chrome-clad trucks, Lincoln has refocused its efforts on the automobile side of the business. With the LS sedan soon to be history and the aging
Town Car one step away from retirement, Lincoln desperately needs a new car to battle long-time rival Cadillac, as well as the latest competition from Lexus, Audi and BMW. Enter the all-new Zephyr, a modest luxury sedan with a sub-$30,000 price tag and a big dose of Lincoln style
As a luxury car, the Zephyr scores decent marks. Its exterior is clean and contemporary with a hefty helping of Lincoln’s trademark styling evident in the polished wheels and shark-gill grille. Though not nearly as bold as the Chrysler 300 C, the Zephyr’s high beltline gives the impression of strength and security. At $29,660, the Zephyr comes well equipped and includes such niceties as a tilt/telescopic steering wheel, heated power operated leather seats, cruise control, side-curtain airbags and automatic climate control. You can add the industry’s only THX audio system, GPS navigation, heated and cooling seats, HID headlights, chrome wheels and power sunroof to bring the total to $35,435. That’s not too shabby when you consider before options, the Lexus ES 330 starts at $32,995 and the Cadillac CTS at $31,235.
I had the misfortune of spending an entire day with the old gas bag. Of course I’m referring to Fleetwood, not the Lincoln. There is little joy spending the day with a 60-year old, burrito-eating queen slathered in Grey Flannel. By day’s end, the Zephyr’s new car aroma deteriorated from fresh leather to Georgia pulp mill. On the upside, I regained something I’ve not had since age 16: my gag reflex. Now, about the Lincoln; overall, I like the Zephyr. Its exterior is sharp and clean and the big chrome grille looks particularly menacing. At night, the Zephyr is a beacon of light, with illumination streaming down from below the side mirrors to show you where not to step. The car behaves like a perfect gentleman, unlike someone I know. The Zephyr’s big butt is a bit high, making it tough to see what’s behind you when backing up, but what the hell, that’s why we pay for insurance, right?
Lincoln chose the Ford Fusion as the template for its newest luxury sedan. It’s a good choice in as far as the Fusion is roomy, stylish and handles well. Though the roomy and stylish part has made the leap without damage, the handling part missed the boat. Where the Fusion feels taut and connected, the Zephyr’s luxury suspension and steering feel vague, with too much body roll when pushed hard. In straight-line driving, the Zephyr delivers a smooth and controlled ride making it an excellent highway cruiser. I found the Zephyr’s 3.0-liter V6 engine provides enough power to move the car briskly, but lacks the strong mid-range punch needed for passing at high speeds. It also sends noticeable vibration through the pedals and steering wheel at idle. The six-speed automatic, on the other hand, performs admirably, delivering seamless shifts at just the right moment.
Again, Mr. “nothing’s ever good enough for me” strikes again. The Zephyr is not a sports sedan, but its handling is more than adequate for highway onramps and sudden sharp curves. The steering is a bit heavy, a trait most noticeable when parallel parking. I found the V6 to have plenty of pep, but I must agree with Fleetwood that it’s not as refined as a Lexus or Audi V6. I noticed an audible dose of clatter and whine at idle, and there was a tiny vibration felt in the pedals and steering column. In any case, it will all be a moot point as rumor has it Lincoln plans to drop a new, more powerful 3.5-liter V6 into the Zephyr mid way through the 2006 production run.
Inside, Lincoln’s attempt at luxury runs hot and lukewarm. The Zephyr’s interior is nicely designed, with a dual-cowl dash and real maple trim. White LEDs serve as the backlighting and look particularly sharp at night. My big butt found the seating firm and comfortable, and the heating and cooling features worked flawlessly. The radio and headlight switches are easy to see and operate, but the heating controls are too low and difficult to read in bright daylight. Rear seat legroom is above average for this class, as is trunk room.
Somebody take Truman Capote to the optometrist. Yes, the pictographs on the heating controls are too small and the LED on/off indicator lights wash out in bright sunlight, but most people quickly familiarize themselves with these controls after just a few weeks. Personally, I love the Zephyr’s interior. The materials are first rate and the dual-cowl dash, chrome door handles and wood trim exude the feeling of Jackie-0 elegance. Where’s my pill-box hat, damn it! The white LED’s in the dash are just gorgeous to view at night and are easy on the eyes. Careful of the rear seat overhead dome light, though. It’s so bright I nearly fried a retina.
The bottom line is I like the Zephyr, but I don’t love it. It’s not that I’m another foreign car snob bashing American cars; quite the contrary. My love affair with Lincoln goes back decades. But in my eyes Lincoln should be the preeminent American luxury car. Lincoln cars should be bold and sophisticated and uniquely American, just like the old Continentals and Marks of the past. What Lincoln has given us in the Zephyr is nice car, but not a great one. And though I can see it parked in the driveways of any number of hard-working, upward climbing Americans, I just can’t see it in mine.
Oh for God’s sake, Fleetwood, get your head (and your wardrobe) out of the past. You want every Lincoln to be a classic 1966 Continental. But that’s waxing romantic. The ‘66 Lincoln handled like a pig in heels, had a nice metal dashboard to smash your face against in an accident and was saddled with ‘suicide’ doors. They didn’t call them that for nothing, you Old Spice wearing homo! The Zephyr is fine piece of work. It’s an entry-level Lincoln with a big dose of style, luxury and safety. Any car that’s not good enough to grace Fleetwood’s trailer-park home drive is certainly more than welcome in mine. Go test drive the Zephyr, I’m sure you’ll be impressed
Lincoln is a gay-friendly company.
Read other Lincoln reviews by Gaywheels.com’s writers