Road Test Follow Up - 2003 Lincoln LS8 Sport

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, Apr 12, 2003.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Getting Better All the Time

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    By Neil Dunlop
    Date posted: 04-10-2003

    When we had a 2000 Lincoln LS V8 in our long-term test fleet, we praised its handling, looks and engine performance. However, we had some serious misgivings about its transmission, which we berated for its reluctance, clunkiness, lack of durability and general incompetence. We also didn't care for the lack of storage in the Lincoln's cabin, where there was barely room for a stick of gum and a hairbrush. And we took issue with its low-grade interior materials.

    So when we got a brand-new 2003 Lincoln LS for a week of testing, we were eager to see if it had been improved in the three years since. Recall that we already had a brief opportunity to drive the '03 model and came away impressed. After a week with the car, we can tell you that the good things are still good, very good. The bad things are not as bad. And some stuff still needs improvement. The LS has definitely matured, but before we suggest you choose it over the BMW 5 Series, there are a few things that still need to be addressed.

    For a car that debuted in 1999 as a 2000 model, the LS has evolved quickly and has some surprisingly good attributes. Start with the all-aluminum 280-horsepower, 3.9-liter V8, which, thanks to some engine tweaks now gets 28 more horsepower than the 2002 model. Torque has also been boosted to 286 pound-feet (from 267 in 2002) and 250 lb-ft are available from 2,500 rpm through to 5,800 rpm, meaning the LS has guts from the get-go and onward.

    The power improvements are a result of a combination of factors, such as new variable camshaft timing, which essentially allows the engine to breathe better and burn fuel more efficiently to generate more torque and power. The exhaust manifolds for the V8 were also changed for better airflow and improved torque. And the mechanical throttle linkage was replaced by an electronic "drive-by-wire" system, which provides immediate response and seamless integration with other drive systems such as traction control and cruise control. What this means to you is that when you press the gas pedal, the car's electronic systems respond immediately, resulting in better throttle response, vehicle control and stability.

    And that transmission we hated so much has been vastly improved. The gearbox in our '03 tester had none of the bugaboos that so thoroughly vexed us before. Upshifts are smooth and quick and downshifts are judicious and timely — with none of the confusion, clunkiness and delays between shifts we noted in previous test vehicles. The shift points of the five-speed automatic have also been lowered by several miles per hour for each gear, which provides more power sooner — a change made possible by the improved torque output.

    But the most fun is to be had using the SelectShift, Lincoln's automanual mode. Unlike other manufacturers' automanuals, there's no redline limiter so you can take the rpm right into the red zone without interference from the car's electronic management system — that is, a premature upshift. SelectShift has also been adjusted for 2003 to allow you to select first gear at launch, putting more control in the driver's hands.

    All of these improvements make the LS a blast to drive.

    When you press the throttle, the V8 surges to life and springs the 3,755-pound sedan to speed in a hurry. It makes even routine driving fun. It's a good feeling to know that you have power to burn when passing or merging, especially if you live in a place with aggressive drivers. With the LS, there aren't a lot of cars you can't out-gun.

    We found ourselves searching for empty, curvy sections of road to let it loose. And when we were able to find a suitable stretch and use the SelectShift, it was as much fun as we've ever had in a four-door sedan, especially when you consider that its $45,315 (as tested, base MSRP is $40,060) sticker is well below that of other eight-cylinder sedans (including the BMW 540i, Lexus GS 430, Mercedes-Benz E500 and others).

    Lincoln engineers also worked hard on improving the exhaust note, which is a satisfying baritone growl that conveys a sort of primal, mechanical yearning as if the engine wants to rip up asphalt — good stuff.

    Thankfully, the LS's considerable power is well harnessed by its suspension and braking systems. Due to its nearly perfect 52/48 front-to-rear weight distribution, stiff chassis and improved toning of the four-wheel independent suspension, handling is superb and the car responds well to driver input. The suspension on the LS V8 Sport is also stiffer for sharper response and feel than that of the V6 model's. The net result is that there is very little body roll or unwanted movement around corners. Really, you can chuck the LS around like a sport coupe. And you can sense what the car's doing through the seat of your pants — a desirable attribute for any vehicle with sporting aspirations.

    Our test car was equipped with optional ($735) AdvanceTrac, Lincoln's stability control system, which uses selective braking and throttle control to help keep the car stable on slippery surfaces or on dry roads when your right foot exceeds your ability to handle the car. The system uses seven sensors to monitor steering wheel angle, throttle position, wheel speed and body roll every seven milliseconds to ensure the LS is headed where you're pointing it. If the system detects oversteer, it applies the brakes to the outside front wheel to help stabilize the car. Or, if the system detects understeer, it applies braking to the inside rear wheel. If needed, it can also cut throttle.

    AdvanceTrac is a good system that can keep you from getting in too deep without cutting in on the fun unnecessarily. And if you really want to rip it up out there, you can always turn the system off, which, unless you're on a closed track, is unadvisable.

    The only disappointment in the Lincoln's driving dynamics was its speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering, which we found a tad too soft and overboosted. Lincoln switched to a new steering rack for 2003, and in the process, lightened up the turning effort. This may be fine for most drivers but enthusiasts won't be as happy. The updated rack does provide crisp turn-in and precise tracking, but we'd like a little more resistance and more road feel to come through the steering wheel.

    Likewise, the brakes, while effective, are a touch soft. There's too much of a pillow feel when they're pressed. It would convey a better sense of sportiness and confidence if the pedal had a tighter, more progressive feel.

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    Also, while the LS is fun to toss around and can handle the curves, the seats are not quite up to the task of holding you in place. While they are covered with thick, soft leather and are comfy enough for highway cruising, they do not cradle your body enough. They allow too much movement, like an armchair. We'd like them to have deeper buckets and tighter bolstering, at least on V8 sport models. However, we do appreciate the seats' very effective three-level heating and three-level cooling. The latter function blows cool air on your body and eliminates that unpleasant stuck-to-the-seat feeling on long trips.

    The interior design is slick and modern, restrained in its lack of frivolous decoration, but the materials are still too plasticky and dull-colored. We especially don't care for the standard grayish, pin-pricked, nickel trim on the dash, center console and doors. You can get genuine burled walnut, instead; it's a $495 option on the V8 Sport and standard on Premium models. And despite the simplicity of the climate control, it's still hard to operate without looking, and any time with our eyes off the road is not good.

    We do, however, love the new touchscreen DVD-based navigation system (a pricey option at $2,995). The nav system is as user-friendly as any we've tried, and the ease of touchscreen capability makes it even better. Who wants to fiddle with a bunch of buttons?

    And the new THX-certified audio system provides great sound. THX has made its name in movie theater sound systems (you may recall the short ads that appear before films in THX-equipped theaters), and this is the first time the company has designed a car stereo. It employs 10 speakers, four 50-watt amplifiers and two 32-watt subwoofers to deliver distortion-free, crystal clear sound up to most people's tolerance levels. It helps that the LS cabin is well-insulated from wind and road noise.

    Lincoln has also partially addressed the woeful interior storage capacity of the earlier models. Designers moved the six-disc CD changer from the glovebox to the dash and freed up some much needed space. They also replaced the parking brake lever with an electronic parking brake to create more storage space in the center console. It's a start, but the various door bins, cubbies and other storage space don't come close to providing adequate capacity for even the lightest traveler.

    One place there's plenty of room is in the backseat. Even six-footers will find that head-, leg- and foot room are generous when two people are sitting back there, providing the driver and front passenger don't insist on being fully reclined. Three in back would be tight on anything but a short ride. Also, the trunk is large with a gaping opening that looks like it could easily swallow four tournament golf bags. And the rear seats can fold down in 60/40 sections to accommodate longer loads.

    Our test vehicle was equipped with the optional ($295) Rear Park Assist. Lincoln's version of this useful system, which warns you of obstacles when you're parking, uses sonar and radar sensors and boasts a longer range than other systems. This is good and bad. It's disconcerting to get an audible warning when you're still 10 feet from the curb. It makes you feel like you missed something. But we can't help but feel that it's good to be made aware of all your surroundings. Like other systems of its kind, this one increases the intensity of its audible warning with the possibility of contact. We like those systems (such as on some Mercedes-Benz vehicles) that also provide visual cues like ascending light bars to let you know how close you are to denting or scraping your investment.

    And we'd hate to see the LS banged up or scratched. It's too handsome to suffer so. The exterior design of the LS still pleases us: its aggressive wedge shape; high rear deck; square, broad shoulders; narrow grille; and 17-inch alloys that fill the wheel wells give it an athletic look.

    We were also pleased to note that our test vehicle seemed well built, too. All seams and joints were tight, and the door, trunk and hood gaps were narrow and uniform.

    Although we're not quite ready to recommend the Lincoln LS over time-proven leaders in the entry-level luxury sport sedan market, it's making great progress toward that goal. We like driving it, and with an MSRP many thousands of dollars less than similarly equipped European and Japanese nameplates, it's worth a good, hard look.

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    Ups: Strong V8, great handling, roomy interior, cool DVD-based nav system.

    Downs: Some materials still need work, not enough storage, overboosted steering.

    The Bottom Line: The Lincoln LS is better than it was and a terrific attempt to compete with the European and Japanese marques, but there are still a few things that bother us.

    MSRP of Test Vehicle: $45,315

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  2. JustGod

    JustGod New Member

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    It's missing something...
     
  3. It's still a piece of crap, and will continue to have dismal sales..
     
  4. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Piece of crap?

    Reading comprehension owns you.
     
  5. I can read, and it's still a piece of crap.. American made, not even really considered by people shopping in that segment, and have TERRIBLE resale value. Good concept, bad execution.
     
  6. Big_Luke

    Big_Luke serious as dick cancer

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    my folks have owned a 00 LS V6 and 02 LS V6 and are great all around cars. The only problem I have with it is I cannot fit in it very well. But it has held up very well. We have a very rough driveway too so it has to go up and down ever day. But they are great cars IMO.
     
  7. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    So much for credibility. :greddy:
     
  8. lsondubz

    lsondubz Guest

    your folks got lucky.....
     

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